Later this year, the GLRL will launch a campaign for formal relationship recognition.

Since 2006, when the GLRL conducted community consultations around NSW, the community told us two things. Firstly, that gays and lesbians need practical equality in the form of de facto relationship recognition -” that is, substantive equality across all areas of law, such as superannuation, tax, Medicare, migration, employment benefits, etc. This side of the equality equation is what the federal Government introduced last November.

The second aspect of equality our community demanded was formal relationship recognition -” that is, the ability of same-sex couples to celebrate their love and their relationships in front of friends, family and under the law, in the same manner as their heterosexual counterparts.

We congratulated the Government on implementing the first part. Now they are going to need our help to show them the wider Australian population believes the time for formal equality is now. In a few months time, we will launch a community grassroots effort to make all Australians aware their same-sex brothers and sisters continue to be treated as a different class of citizens based on who they love.

The federal Government’s actions thus far on formal relationship recognition have been paltry at best, and insulting at worst. State-based relationship registers don’t fool anyone in their pretences of equality. We already have practical equality. We don’t need an added layer of bureaucracy that will allow us to register our relationships with our state Government, but nothing more.

Politicians have told me that one of the major obstacles that stands in the way of overturning Howard’s Marriage Ban of 2004 is religion, and because of this, marriage remains the one -˜untouchable’ issue our community should not go near. Granted, marriage has many historical and current associations with religion. However, at its core, marriage is a secular institution. Our community does not seek to storm the churches, the synagogues and the mosques demanding religious leaders bless our relationships.

What we do demand, though, is that the Government overturns the ban on allowing same-sex couples to have access to the institution of marriage -” secular, civil marriage.

Emily Gray is co-convenor of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.

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