This week the Australian Senate debated the first raft of same-sex reforms in light of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s final report on the bills. Unfortunately, the Senate Committee divided along party lines.

ALP senators recommended sensitivity training for Commonwealth service providers to ensure the equal provision of entitlements to same-sex couples following the reforms. In line with our recommendations, they also suggested a streamlining of parent-child definitions to ensure our children will be equally recognised across all federal law in a consistent fashion.

The Coalition senators took issue with recognising children as having two mums and two dads. Describing the inclusive definition of parent as radical, the Coalition was concerned with giving approval and recognition to procedures which deprive the child of either a father or a mother. This resulted in an offensive Coalition recommendation to withhold the legal terminology of parent from lesbian co-mothers, gay fathers and same-sex step-parents, while still ensuring children in same-sex families received the same practical entitlements.

Meanwhile, the Greens said the reforms did not go far enough. Amongst other reforms, the Greens recommended the recognition of overseas registered relationships and allowing same-sex marriage.
The outcome of the Senate Inquiry highlights the deep political divisions on the issue of giving same-sex couples symbolic -” rather than practical -” recognition. The debate has seen senators walking a ridiculous tightrope on the issue of terminology. The ALP and the Coalition continue to grapple with their parties’ doublespeak on same-sex equality (i.e. equality for all but marriage for some).

Worse still, the Coalition continues to weasel around the issue of gay and lesbian parents. This week, it introduced amendments to the Family Law Act which would give children born outside wedlock a symbolic second-class status in legal terminology.

Meanwhile, thousands of same-sex couples and their children continue to wait for some politicians to face the reality of Australian family life in 2008.

Stop the delay. Pass the bloody reforms.

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