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Same-Sex: Same Entitlements: Appendix 2

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Same-Sex: Same Entitlements Report [ 2007 ]


Appendix

2: Selected Personal Stories

The Inquiry collected a large number of

stories outlining the personal experiences of discrimination faced by same-sex

couples and their children.

The following is a

selection of extracts from these

stories.[1] The stories demonstrate

the compound effect of discrimination against same-sex families in the area of

financial and work-related entitlements.

Many

more personal stories can also be found on the Human Rights and Equal

Opportunity Commission’s website:

Anthony

Pannuzzo and Daniel Milano:

discrimination in visas, Medicare, tax, social

security and family

law[2]

In the year 2000 I was ready to settle down. As they

say ‘get married, buy a house and have some kids’. I was a 26 year

old Australian travelling the world who had met his American partner in New York

City.

My American partner in all pretences is

my husband and my wife. He has been my domestic partner in New York City, my de

facto partner in Victoria, my interdependent relationship under Australian

immigration law, my husband under Canadian law, and finally not recognised under

Australian [f]ederal [l]aw.

We knew from the

beginning that we would have to jump many legal hurdles just to stay together.

Neither of our countries recognises our relationship to the extent of our

heterosexual unmarried citizens.

The

interdependency path [to obtaining a visa] would take at least a year before we

could even consider it. Recognition was only an option after a whole year of, in

effect, living together and sharing a life, even though neither of our countries

offered such a visa. We had made the decision to be together forever but did not

have the option of a fiancés visa like ... heterosexual [couples].

We started collecting information from the

beginning, information that would prove our interdependency. We collected

letters and cards addressed to us both (including envelopes as the [I]mmigration

[D]epartment loves to see post marks – legal proof), we collected legal

documents, bank statements, leases, wills drawn up in each others names. What we

would have given for a marriage licence. Or any form of federally recognised

paperwork stating we were a couple who shared each other’s

lives...

I cried tears of joy [when] the

Victoria State Government ... passed legislation recognising same sex

relationships to the level of de facto... This gave me hope; the Victorian

government had made wonderful progress. My home country was making

progress.

So after a year of living together in

New York City we posted our 9lbs or 4.5kgs of paperwork to the immigration

officer in Washington DC. Within 2 months, a near record, Daniel had received

his Australian temporary residency status. We had to tick the box of

interdependency. All the paperwork was the same as for the de facto couples but

we had a different box to tick...

The next

discrimination we faced was being left out of the changes to the [F]amily [L]aw

[A]ct, such that unmarried heterosexual couples were now able to use the family

court to settle disputes. As a homosexual couple we can not access the [F]amily

[C]ourt if we break up but instead have to use the civil courts.

The federal government next passed some laws

allowing families to access the Medicare safety net for medical bills, [and]

pharmaceutical benefits. We are not a family under this legislation, and have to

spend twice as much as a heterosexual unmarried couple, to receive such a

benefit. I administer such benefits everyday as a pharmacist. Families listed on

a Medicare card or registered with Medicare are able to access these ... safety

nets. Homosexual families can not. My family can not.

Next came our visit to our accountant. When we

have to submit our tax forms or consider our superannuation options we have to

employ specialist accountants or legal professionals to get the right advice.

The advice that we got in this regard is that we just don’t have any

rights in either regard...

[W]hen Daniel

applied for AusStudy, he informed Centrelink of my income only to be told that

he would not be eligible for AusStudy as my earnings were too high. He then told

them I was a man, and they informed him that he was recognised as a single and

was entitled to AusStudy.

Unfortunately you

are never quite sure [which box to tick]. [O]ften legal advice is required or

you face breaking the law or being told you are not entitled to this or that,

only to be told something untrue or

incorrect...

Are we married or are we single?

[A]re we de facto or domestic partners? That depends on the level of government

we have to deal with.

Thankfully we are now

recognised by federal government legislation when it comes to terrorism and

superannuation (unless you have a federal fund).

Discrimination is an insidious thing. It eats

away at your determination. You can fight for it for only so long. A country

like Canada which gives us full marriage rights is one which is calling for

immigrants like us. Like us, gay and lesbian married couples, are recognised and

respected the same way everyone else is. Australia’s lack of law reform in

this area will see us consider our future in this country. We can only hope that

an [I]nquiry like this one will result in changes that make for an improvement

of recognition of our rights as citizens of this nation.

Bryce

Petersen:

a parent’s perspective of the discrimination faced by his

daughter in family law, parental leave, Medicare, tax and social

security[3]

I am here as a father of four. [My] eldest daughter

Sacha lives in Melbourne with her partner Anna and they [have] a daughter, Mabel

who is 11 months old.

I intend this submission

to be based on what ... I consider the differences between my daughter [Sacha]

and her sister Lauren, who also has a [male] partner and they have 2 children, a

son 4 and a daughter 19 months.

Firstly, to

have a baby, my daughter [Sacha], the biological mother, after much research of

the options available, opted for Artificial Insemination. This procedure is not

available to gay couples or single women that are not in a committed

relationship in Victoria, unless they have a problem with fertility, so they had

to go interstate. This procedure is an expensive and mentally draining exercise.

Part of the procedure is to have counselling of at least 2 sessions to prove you

are ready and suitable to have children.

How

many parents male/female would even consider this as an option before starting a

family, and what would be their reaction to such a

suggestion?

Sacha was treated as a single

mother throughout the pregnancy, but was totally supported by Anna the entire

time. Many of the costs involved are not claimable, either due to the nature of

the procedure or threshold limits.

My other

daughter [Lauren] and her partner have had their two children, the fact that he

is male [means] no explanations are required, therefore their relationship is

proof enough to satisfy the system. [Y]et Sacha has to constantly explain the

situation, which shouldn’t be an

issue.

After the birth of Mabel, Sacha and

Anna, to ensure the future welfare and care of their daughter, had papers drawn

up to cover a, b or c etc. [This] cost $1500.

Another major purpose of these papers is to

show Anna is just as much a parent as Sacha but that is still not acceptable to

the system. Adoption by Anna is not

possible...

While these papers go a long way

towards helping solve some of the problems that may or may not occur, if they

are put to the test, how credible are they? If separation occurs, my daughter

could be left totally supporting herself and Mabel, and if something happens to

Sacha where does that leave Anna as a parent, let alone financially. Ironically

even fathers who don’t pay maintenance are still recognised as

parents...

[O]ne of the plus sides of the

situation is that [Sacha] is entitled to all [social security] benefits as a

single mother, regardless of her living circumstances. [H]er partner could be a

millionaire but in the system this is not considered. I guess while this can be

seen as a plus, I know they would swap these benefits if it meant they were both

recognised and treated as parents with [the] same rights as male/female

parents.

Anna has supported their family

financially and was entitled to 2 days maternity leave and took annual leave

after the birth.

As far as Medicare is

concerned they are treated as a family for Sacha and Mabel, and a single for

Anna. [T]herefore the combination of costs if they reach the Medicare threshold

is not possible.

This also applies to tax

rebates; Anna is not entitled to claim either of them as dependants, unlike my

other daughter’s partner. If you choose to stay at home once your paid

maternity leave has run out, surely as [a] couple you should be entitled to

the same rebates.

Recently while visiting my

daughter, Anna came home form work in pain and distressed with a bad ear

infection. [B]efore departing to go to the emergency room, I couldn’t but

notice sadly that Sacha gathered together all papers that states their

relationship. [Y]et when we got there, that was one of the first questions

asked, their relationship status, to be able to tick the right category, to

which my daughter replied they are a couple and it was up to them to which

category they thought was applicable.

My other

daughter only has to be there with her partner, no further questions are needed,

and the Medicare card says it all.

Due to their

relationship these papers are taken everywhere there is a remote possibility

they may be needed. [A]s we all know not all families totally support their gay

children, so couples need to be able to make decisions for each other if

required without fear of a legal or family ramification...

[A]s parents we want the best for our children

and admire them for their academic/career and personal triumphs in life and

don’t want to see them disadvantaged because of their

sexuality.

While Sacha and Anna do come across

sympathetic people in the system and with a strong network in the gay community,

this all certainly helps; this doesn’t compensate the injustices brought

about by the system.

As a parent and a

grandparent when talking to family, friends and colleagues about these things,

many of them are unaware ... but agree that the inconsistencies should be

righted and are pleased they don’t have to face the same

problems.

What a pity people don’t see

what my grandson [Lauren’s son] sees, while he may not be old enough to be

able to understand the whole situation, he just sees a cousin with two

mums.

Why should Mabel grow up with any less

right either legal or financial than her

cousins?

Are we pushing the cause for equal

rights for all regardless of sexuality?

Eilis

Hughes:

discrimination in parental leave, workplace agreements, social security

and the law more

generally[4]

My name is Eilis Hughes, and my partner Kristen and I

will celebrate three years together next

week.

We’re now entering a new phase in

our lives and our relationship where we hope and expect to become parents within

the next year or so. That is one of my motivations for making a submission to

this Inquiry – I don’t want our baby to be born into an invisible

family.

As ‘out’ as I may believe

myself to be, the truth is we all have to make decisions every day about coming

out in different circumstances. In the community the default assumption is

heterosexual, and we are always having to mak[e] decisions about whether to

correct that assumption and make ourselves more visible and expose ourselves to

discrimination.

The best example of this

happening in my life – and it’s not one lead by the federal

government – is our employment contract at my workplace. It gives us an

entitlement to ‘non-birth-parent leave’ as opposed to

‘paternity leave’. There is no unnecessary gender-specific language

like father, husband or wife in our contract. Of course, these entitlements are

important and we’re grateful for them. But even more important is the

tone or culture that they set for the workplace. It makes our family visible and

equal. This meant that I knew – before I even sat at my desk on my first

day – that it was [okay] to be open and proud about my family at work. I

put Kristen’s photo on my desk, and my boss smiled and asked ‘Is

that your family?’ I didn’t have to make that coming out

decision.

I was also grateful for the people

who came before me to negotiate that agreement. What happens when we have to

negotiate individual agreements? Do we feel confident and safe to negotiate

‘non-birth-parent leave’ and similar on our own? This should have

been protected in WorkChoices, rather than keeping the old-fashioned paternity

leave.

My workplace contrasts with

Kristen’s workplace earlier this year. She worked for a very small family

business where she was the only employee who wasn’t a member of the

strongly Christian family. The many pictures of Jesus smiling down at her from

the walls kept her silent about our family. She would never have asked for

carer’s leave to look after me if I was sick. She had no idea how she

would ever ask for non-birth-parent leave if and when the need should arise. And

there was no way she was going to put a photo of me on her desk and tell them I

was her family.

Society needs leadership to

change culture.

Kristen has since left that job

to start her own business via the NEIS scheme, which involves applying for

Newstart from Centrelink. Factors affecting eligibility include whether she

lives with someone of the opposite sex. My ability (or inability) to support

Kristen financially is not recognised. Similarly, when I give birth to our child

I will be seen as a single parent and will be eligible for single parent

payment.

This is the aspect of this Inquiry

about which I had mixed feelings. I was worried about drawing attention to the

apparent advantage we can enjoy in these circumstances. I know that there are

people who don’t want to lose these benefits, and there are cynics amongst

us who think that this [I]nquiry might end up with Centrelink recognising our

relationships to reduce the welfare payments they need to make, but that other

areas of disadvantage won’t change as

quickly.

But let me tell you, those small

Centrelink benefits are poor compensation for the disadvantages we face in

taxation, Medicare and other areas you’re investigating in this Inquiry.

We’d rather have equality.

Put simply, I

want the same rights and responsibilities as all of my straight friends –

to form a family and support it and nurture it. I want Kristen to feel as secure

in her parenting role as any other parent – without the uncertainty that

comes with not being on the birth certificate, not being able to be on the same

Medicare card, not being able to be seen as a family for tax purposes and so on.

And I want our child to be born into a visible family – where there are

categories for us on forms and our type of family is named in policies and the

general community follows that example and accepts our family alongside everyone

else’s and coming out becomes a moot point. And this needs to start with

some leadership by our federal government which says it believes in human rights

and equal opportunity.

James

Kim and Brian McKinlay:

discrimination in federal superannuation

schemes[5]

We are old enough to remember when ... it was very

much more difficult for gay and lesbian people than it is today. We experience

little in the way of overt discrimination against us in our life together

– which, for us, makes superannuation a glaring

anomaly.

We are 60 and 58 years of age. We are

both members of the Australian Public Service and contributors to the Public

Sector Superannuation Scheme. We wish to provide security for each other.

However, we are unable to do this through superannuation death

benefits.

We have been together for over eight

years. We are certain that we will be together ‘until death us do

part’ and we are planning accordingly. We hold all our debts and assets in

common – house, mortgage, car, bank accounts, furniture, insurance, etc.

We are the principal beneficiaries of each other’s wills. Superannuation

is the only asset of importance that we cannot

share.

Changes to Commonwealth legislation have

allowed members of same-sex couples contributing to some schemes to nominate

their partners to receive superannuation death benefits. However, as this

Inquiry is very well aware, this does not apply to Australian Government

employees. We find this an extraordinary and hurtful discrimination by the

Australian Government against its own employees. Are we any less committed to

each other than members of a de facto opposite-sex couple or people

employed in the private sector? ...

The

Government’s policy is to encourage retirees to take pensions rather than

lump sums – if for no other reason than to reduce the call on Social

Security. But the present situation forces CSS and PSS members in permanent

same-sex relationships to do just the opposite – to take lump sums and

reinvest them. This doesn’t make much

sense.

This inconsistency between policy and

law creates a considerable problem for James and me. What is the best way for us

to ensure each other’s financial

future?

At some stage the Government may permit

us to move to another scheme that pays benefits to same-sex couples. But the

financial cost of this to us could be

considerable.

We could take our PSS benefits as

lump sums and reinvest them. But, again, the whole-of-life financial loss could

be considerable.

We could seek out

redundancies, cash-out our benefits and then return to

work.

These options would be to [our] advantage

if we knew that one of us was to die young. But if, as we both confidently

expect, we are to have long lives, they would be financially disastrous.

Pensions would be preferable; if there was a reversionary death benefit,

which there is not. Should we be forced to make such choices, simply because we

are two people of the same sex?

But there are

even more uncertainties for us to worry

about.

The 2003 legislation allows trustees to

pay reversionary benefits to members of same sex couples, but only at the

trustees’ discretion. Thus, even if James and I were able each to transfer

to a non-government scheme, it would by no means be certain that death benefits

would be payable. These arrangements for private funds are most unfair and

discriminatory - they allow (even require) trustees to make moral and other

assessments of the quality of

relationships.

Commonwealth superannuation

recognises de facto opposite-sex couples. It would be rudimentary to

legislate to recognise same-sex couples in exactly the same

manner.

The Government has long promised to

address anomalies in superannuation for same-sex couples but has singularly

failed to do so.

Janet

Jukes:

discrimination against children, workplace leave, Medicare, tax and child

care[6]

My partner and I have been in a committed relationship

for 13 years. We have two children, Hannah aged 3, and Ava aged 1.

I wanted to make a submission to this Inquiry

to outline some of the areas of law that my family experience discrimination

because our same-sex partnership is not legally recognised. Specifically, I

wanted to focus my submission on discrimination that my children may experience.

Firstly, it is important to note that because

we each conceived one of our daughters, we are not considered the legal parents

of both our children. In Victoria we are not allowed to adopt our children to

remedy this fact. In order to minimise the discrimination that this causes we

have obtained court orders that give residency and contact responsibilities to

us as a couple and limits the donor’s responsibilities. Although this

remedy has been invaluable in dealing with the hospital system, childcare and

other service systems, it is inadequate because it does not and cannot make

Hannah my daughter nor Ava Marion’s daughter in law. Further, a

court order is only relevant while the girls are minors, once Hannah is 18 years

old she will have no legal relationship to me, nor Ava to Marion. Although our

daughters have the same father, they are not considered sisters by law and their

birth certificates do not recognise the existence of each

other.

Workplace leave entitlements

When Ava was born, Marion was required to

use her holidays so that she could attend the birth and support me in the days

that followed. If Marion had been my husband, then she would have been able to

claim paternity leave.

Nine months after Hannah

was born I resigned from my work to care for her full time while Marion returned

to work. If we were in a heterosexual relationship I would have been entitled to

take unpaid parental leave up to her first birthday under my award. In my case

it was up to the discretion of my employer if they would allow unpaid leave.

Medicare and PBS

As the federal government does not

recognise our family, and considers each of us as single mothers, we are not

able to financially benefit fully from the Medicare Safety Net or the PBS. One

of us can register with both dependent children and the other must be considered

as an individual. This means that the individual cannot contribute to the family

reaching the safety net threshold, and [has] to spend considerably more money

before they are able to benefit from the two schemes.

Child care

Childcare is another area where our family

is not recognised. Both of our children attend childcare three days a week,

however, we are treated by the childcare centre as two families. This is because

the federal government does not recognise our family structure. This means that,

because Marion is working full time, we receive almost no government assistance

for Hannah’s child care. As I work 3 days a week we receive about 78%

benefit. I don’t know if this results in our being better or worse off

financially than if we were considered in the same way as a heterosexual couple.

In any case we experience, yet again, a lack of recognition of our family

structure that has resulted in confusion at the childcare centre and a reminder

of our legal non recognition.

Tax

Because we are treated as singles, we also

experience financial disadvantage in the tax system. [W]e are not able to claim

each other as a dependent spouse. This was particularly relevant while each of

us took a year off to have our children and was fully supported by our partner.

During this time, our partner was not able to claim us as dependent.

In dealing with government agencies and

service providers we have to explain our family structure and try to work out

what the best arrangement would be for our family. At times we have received

incorrect or conflicting advice because some government officers are not clear

about the level of recognition in this area. This is a constant stress other

families don’t even have to consider. Indeed when heterosexual friends and

work colleagues are told about these problems they are shocked that

discrimination continues to affect our relationship and our children.

Jim

Woulfe:

general discrimination in the law and aged

care[7]

At the outset I’d like to say that quite

frankly, it confounds me that we need to be going through this process in

Australia, in 2006. We live in an essentially tolerant and inclusive society, so

you’ve got to wonder why people like my partner Andreas and me are still

waiting for equality...

We’re productive

members of our society. We’re both employed, so we contribute to society

with our taxes, and with our work we contribute to the organisations that employ

us. We serve the community in other ways as

well.

We’ve been together now for

nineteen years, so like every couple we’ve had the opportunity to share

some incredibly joyful times, and to support each other through painful ones. We

fully intend to spend the rest of our lives together, and our commitment to each

other is deep, genuine and ongoing.

Just like

our straight friends we contribute to the life of our society, our families and

each other. Just like our straight friends, our relationship, and our expressing

it by living together, is utterly lawful.

Yet,

in spite of this we face arbitrary discrimination in a number of areas, almost

all of them because our Federal Government refuses to recognise our

relationship.

It’s not like the

government gives us a choice in these matters. We can’t opt out of the

Medicare Levy or superannuation. Given the compulsion in the tax, Medicare and

superannuation systems, it’s reasonable to expect that having contributed

at the same rate as everyone else, we’ll get the same benefits – but

we don’t. Very simply we believe that forcing us to contribute to a system

which discriminates against us is just plain

wrong.

Just one more example from the aged care

system that to us, underscores the meanness in this discrimination: where a

member of an opposite-sex couple is incapacitated and requires nursing home

care, the means test for an accommodation bond excludes the family home.

However, if one member of a same-sex couple requires residential nursing care,

then that person’s share of the family home is treated as an asset. What

this means for us is that if either of us were ever incapacitated, we would face

the possibility of being forced to sell our home out from under the other

one.

Fortunately, it looks like there will be

plenty of time to fix this problem before it affects us, if ever. But of course

it’s happening to other couples

now.

Andreas and I strongly believe that by

retaining the inequalities, and refusing to recognise same-sex relationships,

our Federal Government maintains an environment in which hate and homophobia can

thrive. It validates the views of the very few in our society who would attack

us because of our sexuality. The government treats gays and lesbians

differently, they say, so why shouldn’t

we?...

A great power to end the discrimination

and neutralise the homophobes resides with our Federal Government. Granting

equality for same-sex relationships would rob the people who attack us of their

phoney justification – it’s the single biggest step our government

could take against homophobic harassment and violence....

Kelly

and Samantha Pilgrim-Byrne:

discrimination in Medicare, superannuation, tax and

family

law[8]

The issue of Medicare will be addressed specifically

as it affects us as a couple.

Areas which have

personally had a negative financial impact on us (other than Medicare) include

superannuation and taxation.

We have been

unable to take up our employer’s recent offer of superannuation splitting

as it is available to heterosexual de facto couples only, not homosexual de

facto couples. This will prevent us from enjoying financial benefits now and in

our retirement. We have also been unable to gain from taxation provisions which

allow for off-sets and the like.

Because we

are not recognised as a couple for the Medicare Safety Net, we are required to

meet out-of-pocket expenses as two single people. In 2006 this figure will be

$1,000 each (effectively $2,000 combined). If we were a heterosexual couple we

would be considered a family and this figure would be $1,000 combined ($500

each). The variance in this Safety Net would allow us to be able to claim a

higher rebate much earlier if we were considered a couple ... We are also

unable to register as a couple for the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and once

again pay twice the amount a heterosexual couple pays for

medications.

This is clearly discriminatory in

nature and manifestly unjust. Not only are we unable to gain financial benefits

through taxation or superannuation, we are required to pay twice the

medical expenses as heterosexual de facto

couples.

We cannot understand what possible

justification there is for such blatant discrimination. In Western Australia we

are considered a de facto couple for all state legislation; however, federally

we exist only as two single people.

Not only is

this financially damaging, it is also an emotional burden that we

shouldn’t be required to carry...

We have

cared for one another for over a decade, we have legally changed our surname to

adequately reflect our family status within our community and still the

Government steadfastly refuses to acknowledge us as being interdependent

emotionally and financially.

Our concern

extends to any children we may be fortunate enough to have. Although in Western

Australia we will both legally be parents, federally only the birth mother will

be considered the child’s parent. Social [s]ecurity will categorise us not

as a family but as a single mother with child. The non-birth mother will cease

to have any relationship with the child for all federal legislation. This is

financially and emotionally crippling to all concerned.

We are a family unit - our family

acknowledges it, our work colleagues acknowledge it and our community

acknowledge it; why then, can’t the Australian Government do the same by

affording us the same rights as heterosexual de facto

couples?

We sincerely hope that the Government

will, as a priority, rectify the areas of federal legislation where same-sex

couples are consistently treated as second-class citizens of Australia.

Same-sex, same rights.

Michael:

discrimination in veterans’ entitlements and

superannuation[9]

I am a serving member of the ADF [Australian Defence

Force], and whilst there have been significant changes to entitlements following

the decision to recognise interdependent relationships in the military in

December 2005, I am still concerned regarding the lack of change to

superannuation and Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) benefits should

something happen to me on an overseas deployment.

I am very pleased with the fact that the

military has finally recognised the partners of gay and lesbian serving members

... Prior to the change occurring, I certainly had been materially and

financially disadvantaged in terms of postings, housing, allowances, travel, and

work opportunities, let alone the effect on my

relationship.

The remaining barriers to be

overcome are in superannuation and DVA benefits. Whilst life is better in the

military as a serving member, should I die in service, then my partner will be

financially disadvantaged compared to if we were in a recognised heterosexual

relationship.

I am continually bemused at the

federal government's concern that giving recognition to same-sex couples is

going to disintegrate the moral fabric of society. The implementation of changes

in the military came with a minimum of

fanfare...

The same could apply for the general

community, and I would hope that the outcome of this Inquiry will identify the

futility of continued discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. We're not

asking for new and unusual benefits, just to be treated in equality with those

in heterosexual relationships.

Sharon

and Natasha:

discrimination against children in family law, Medicare and federal

superannuation[10]

We are ... a same-sex couple and the parents of a

1-year old boy...

Just by way of some

background – we have been partners for 4 years. We cohabit in our

mortgaged home, are financially interdependent, and share equally all decisions

about our family. We are a genuinely happy and unified couple and believe that

we contribute positively to the fabric of our community. However, there are many

areas in which we do not receive equitable treatment under federal

law.

Before our son was born, someone told us

that we’d never experience the impact of discrimination as acutely as when

it affected our children and how right they were. I’d like to start by

saying that in the eyes of the law, our son has only one legal parent –

his birth mother, Natasha. We have recently undergone lengthy and expensive

legal proceedings (incl. the hiring of a [s]olicitor) to have parenting orders

granted via the [Family Court]. Although we are very proud of this successful

application, the order simply tells us what we knew already to be true –

that our son is loved and cared for by his two mums, that he resides with us in

our home, that we are both economically responsible for him, that we share every

single decision about his care, welfare and

development.

To secure the order we had to lay

bare information about how Natasha and I met, our living arrangement, our

financial position, our professions and working hours, how we came to have a

son, how we decided who was going to be the birth mother, how we look after him

given our working commitments, our plans for our son’s education, not to

mention the materials our house is constructed from, and after all of that our

son has ended up with less legal security than his counterparts with

heterosexual parents. At the end of this process Natasha and I have been granted

a watered down version of what heterosexual couples acquire

automatically...

We don’t think we can

underestimate the importance of the State and Territory based legislative gains

that our community has fought so hard for – we’d like to illustrate

this by reference to another personal example. Unlike in Western Australia where

Parent 1 and Parent 2 appear on a child’s birth certificate thus

recognising the diversity of families, in QLD Natasha and I were unable to both

appear on our son’s birth certificate. We were allowed to leave the

‘father’ section blank (vs. having the word ‘unknown’

inserted in there) after Natasha swore an affidavit, again providing intensely

personal details that are no-one else’s business.

Every time I look at that document I feel

angry - upset that I’m invisible as a parent to my son because it denies

my rights, upset at the pressure that it puts on Natasha because it denies my

responsibilities, but the real pain comes in thinking that every time our son

looks at that document he is going to be reminded that he and his family are

pariahs in the eyes of the law.

And this is

where these issues hit home the hardest - when we look at our precious son at

this age where he’s no longer a baby but still not quite old enough to be

called a toddler and think ‘this little boy is being discriminated

against’ and we wonder how on earth we're going to begin to explain this

to him. No explanation makes sense because denying same-sex families rights is

not a decision based on good evidence or sound practice or logic or even what is

or who we are. It’s based on the personal conviction of conservative

politicians...

Two areas that have impacted on

us significantly are the Medicare and Pharmaceutical safety nets. Again our

relationship is not recognised under [f]ederal law and this means we spend twice

as much as heterosexual couples before we get any rebates.

This has had a significant financial effect on

us as I am undergoing IVF procedures in order to conceive our second child,

which is a very expensive process involving significant amounts of medication

and medical procedures...

[Natasha

continues]

For almost 6 years Sharon worked as

[a psychologist] for the Royal Australian Navy...[T]he bulk of Sharon’s

Superannuation is with the Commonwealth scheme. In the event of her death and as

the nominated beneficiary I will incur a 30% tax rate on our money as I am not

recognised as her spouse.

All of these

constraints place enormous pressure on same-sex families and we are of the

belief that this contributes to the break down of relationships in our

community...


Endnotes

[1] Many of these stories have been edited for

length.

[2] Anthony Pannuzzo and Daniel Milano, Submission

72.

[3] Bryce Petersen, Opening Statement, Launceston Forum, 25 September

2006.

[4] Eilis Hughes, Opening Statement, Melbourne Hearing, 27 September

2006.

[5] James Kim and Brian McKinlay, Opening Statement, Canberra Hearing, 20 October

2006.

[6] Janet Jukes, Submission

276.

[7] Jim Woulfe, Opening Statement, Sydney Hearing, 26 July

2006.

[8] Kelly and Samantha Pilgrim-Byrne, Submission

13.

[9] Name Withheld, Submission 55. The author of this submission has given the

Inquiry permission to publish his submission under his first

name.

[10] Sharon and Natasha, Opening Statement, Townsville Forum, 12 October

2006.