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2008 Media Release: Delaying Same Sex Bill will unnecessarily continue discrimination and distress

Commission Commission – General

4 June 2008

Delaying Same Sex Bill will unnecessarily continue discrimination and distress

The Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Graeme Innes, expressed his disappointment today at the potential delay to the first Bill to remove discrimination against same sex couples.

Media reports have suggested that the Coalition will send the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws – Superannuation) Bill to a Senate Committee, which means that the legislation will not be considered by the Senate until the spring session of Parliament in September.

“Discrimination against same-sex couples is both emotionally and financially distressing, particularly to older couples who are concerned about the financial security of their partners, should they die before the discrimination is removed,” said Commissioner Innes. “This further delay adds to that distress.”

It appears that the Bill is to be delayed so that the issue of its application to interdependent relationships can be considered by the Senate Committee.

“This issue was thoroughly canvassed in our Same-Sex: Same Entitlements report last year, which identified 58 Federal laws that discriminated against same-sex couple in financial and work-related areas, including superannuation,” said Commissioner Innes.

“Coverage for interdependent relationships is bad policy - firstly because it diminishes the regard in which a same-sex relationship is held, and secondly, because the broader group of people in interdependent relationships is much harder to define.”

If the Bill is not passed until September, Commissioner Innes called upon the Coalition to publicly commit to an amendment ensuring that the new law would apply from July 1 this year.

“This legislation is urgent - that is why it was introduced before the remainder of the same-sex reforms,” said Commissioner Innes. “People in same-sex relationships who lose a partner after July 1 of this year should be able to receive their partner’s superannuation benefits.

“People in same-sex relationships have waited far too long for economic justice.”

Media contact:  Brinsley Marlay (02) 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529