Bipartisan support for the equality reforms passed its first test during a Senate vote last Thursday and was repeated in the lower house on Monday.
The amendments to family law recognise children of co-mothers and co-fathers in federal law, considered by many MPs to be the most controversial aspect of the equality package, and are expected to be passed again during a final vote on 10 November.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said de facto same-sex and opposite-sex couples will have access to the federal Family Court for property and maintenance matters after all states except South Australia and Western Australia referred powers six years ago.
-œThese reforms are long overdue. They will end current arrangements which place a huge administrative and financial burden on separating de facto couples, McClelland said.
-œConsistent with the Government’s policy, the legislation will not discriminate between opposite-sex and same-sex de facto couples. Nothing in the legislation will alter marriage laws.
Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull and shadow attorney-general George Brandis were singled out for praise by gay and lesbian lobbyists for holding together the Coalition’s support for the reforms -” despite vocal opposition from some back-benchers. Last week Sydney Star Observer revealed Turnbull was working behind the scenes and held a party room -œshowdown to demand unity.
-œIt’s fantastic to see the Opposition supporting the Government’s move to recognise same-sex parenting, however it’s disappointing that Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership is yet to unify the party to the point where it doesn’t require spurious amendments to remove the word parent, Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Corey Irlam told Southern Star.
-œWe’re concerned that future amendments by the Opposition in the name of having a unified Liberal party position may lead to delays into 2009.
Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Hayley Conway said each victory was worth celebrating, even as the reforms were yet to catch up to same-sex rights in other developed countries.
Some Opposition members voiced their support for an education campaign to make same-sex couples aware of their new rights and responsibilities that has been suggested by the Opposition.
-œOne issue that is mentioned in the report is the effect that this legislation could have on some same-sex couples who currently receive Centrelink benefits in that they may be worse off financially under the proposed suite of legislation than they previously were, Senator Sue Boyce told Parliament.
-œWe need to develop a lot of educational material and provide a lot of support to assist those people to ensure that they are no more disadvantaged than is absolutely necessary in achieving the results of uniformity that we are now looking for in the treatment of all relationships, especially the treatment of children of those relationships.
Labor members used their debate time to praise Grayndler MP Anthony Albanese and Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby for their campaigning on the issue while in opposition.
Three more bills covering superannuation, spousal immunity from testifying in court, and the omnibus bill removing same-sex discrimination in other areas are yet to be put to a final vote.