365Gay.com: Gay Partner Legislation Stalls In Australia

Friday, August 24, 2007

(Canberra) Any improvements in benefits for same-sex couples appear to be a long way off in Australia following a raucous cabinet meeting this week in Canberra.

Conservatives within Prime Minister John Howard's Liberal government have managed to delay the introduction of a bill to provide limited rights to gay and lesbian couples until after the next federal election.

Cabinet moderates had been pressing to bring in the bill as soon as possible.

In the end the cabinet decided to leave it up to Howard when the bill would be presented to Parliament and just how far the reforms would go.

Putting the issue solely in Howard's hands will mean no possibility of either same-sex marriage or civil unions. The prime minister has consistently said he would not consider either.

But he has said that he believes gay and lesbian couples should have some rights similar to those of married couples in areas such as health care and pensions.

Australia lags behind other major industrial nations in providing rights to same-sex couples.

In 2004 Howard's government passed federal legislation limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Two states have domestic partner registries - Tasmania and Victoria.

In February for the second time Howard's government quashed an attempt by the Australian Capital Territory to enact civil union legislation. (story) The government said that it violated the gay marriage ban.

Last year after Howard's government trashed the first ACT bill the federal Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission began an investigation into inequities faced by same-sex couples. The commission held hearings across the country. (story)

Commissioners heard from dozens of gay couples in hearings across the country of how partners have been cut out of wills because they have not legal status, how children in same-sex relationships are harmed, and how federal pension law hurts one partner when the other dies.

In its report to the government in June the Commission urged passing laws guaranteeing rights for same-sex couples.

Earlier this month the Howard government unveiled a bill to to prohibit the recognition of adoptions of foreign children by same-sex couples. (story)

Under the legislation any child adopted legally overseas would not be granted a visa to enter Australia.

Gays and lesbians have frequently gone abroad - mainly to Asian countries - to adopt.

©365Gay.com 2007