Gay and lesbian equality has become the latest political football in the Australian Capital Territory, with the territory government calling on the federal government to take legislative responsibility for de facto and same-sex couple property rights. However, the Green and Democrat members of the Legislative Assembly have accused Chief Minister Jon Stanhope of stalling Labor’s proposed program of lesbian and gay law reform.

The only MLA to vote against the proposal to refer legislative responsibility for same-sex couple property rights to the Commonwealth was Democrat MLA Roslyn Dundas. She argued that more gay and lesbian law reform work should be done in the territory, and that referring more legislative responsibility to the Com-monwealth could in fact further entrench discrimination against same-sex relationships.

But the Labor MLA John Hargreaves, who proposed the motion, in turn attacked Commonwealth Attorney-General Daryl Williams.

The Commonwealth has indicated that it is willing to accept a reference of power in respect of heterosexual couples but refuses to accept a reference in relation to same-sex couples, Hargreaves said. This is an astounding statement from the attorney-general. To continue to ignore the rights of people in same-sex relationships is an appalling position of which no government ought to be proud.

While supportive of Labor’s proposal, Greens MLA Kerrie Tucker said there was more gay and lesbian law reform work to be done in adoption law and the recognition of non-biological parents.

Asked about Labor’s progress on gay and lesbian law reform matters on Canberra radio 2CC last month, ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said that his government was continuing to look at gay and lesbian issues.

It’s something that we’re working on but it’s not our highest priority, Stanhope said. We can’t do everything at once but it’s on the program.

Stanhope also told the ACT Legislative Assembly last month that he had requested briefings on the lesbian and gay law reform measures recently passed in Western Australia.

The most progressive of the legislation that exists in Australia at the moment is that just passed -¦ by the Western Australian government, Stanhope said. I am not inclined to reinvent the wheel in terms of state-of-the-art legislation. I have asked for details of that legislation. I have received significant briefings from the [Justice] department. This work is in hand. We will, of course, carry through with it.

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