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Same Sex: Submissions

Kelly & Samantha Pilgrim-Byrne


13 April 2006

Same-Sex Inquiry

Human Rights Unit

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

GPO Box 5218

Sydney NSW 2001

Via email:

Dear Sir/Madam

National Inquiry into Discrimination against People in Same-Sex Relationships: Financial and Work-Related Entitlements and Benefits

Thank you for the opportunity to submit to this critically important national inquiry. It is timely given that our recent claim of discrimination with HREOC against Medicare has been rejected by HREOC based on Medicare acting within legislation regarding the Medicare SafetyNet provisions. Whilst we understand why HREOC has chosen not investigate our claim, we maintain that the federal legislation itself discriminates against us as a same-sex couple for the purposes of Medicare. We will be investigating our options regarding a complaint to the United Nations on this matter.

This issue of Medicare will be addressed specifically as it affects us as a couple, however, we also note that federal legislation currently discriminates negatively against same-sex couples and their children in a multitude of other areas as well, namely; the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, taxation, superannuation, social security, veteran's benefits and defence forces.

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.

We have been in a de facto relationship for 12.5 years and for the past 2.5 years we have been trying to conceive our first child through a fertility clinic in Perth. Without going into great detail, I have been diagnosed with medical infertility and have needed to resort to IVF treatments. Last year alone we spent $20,000 on treatment and medications. Because we are not recognised as a couple for the Medicare SafetyNet, 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 SafetyNet would allow us to be able to claim a higher rebate much earlier if we were considered a couple, thereby enabling us to access more treatment than we currently can afford. 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. All over the world countries are legalising same-sex relationships in the form of equal marriage or civil unions and here in Australia, the Government can't even see fit to recognise our relationships under basic provisions open to all other couples and families, let alone entertain the idea of legally recognising our relationships.

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 Security 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.

Yours sincerely

Kelly & Samantha Pilgrim-Byrne