The Australian Government has finally set a timetable for when it will remove anti-gay discrimination from more than 100 pieces of federal legislation. Legislative changes will begin their passage through parliament in May 2008 with the goal that all the planned changes will take effect by the middle of 2009.
The announcement signals that the Rudd Labor Government will keep it’s election promise to remove financial and entitlement discrimination against same-sex couples. This occurs after some scare tactics on budget funding from some quarters stating that the proposed changes might carry a price tag as high as $500,000,000. The sub-textual argument being that cost would be an acceptable reason to derail these changes.
There have been so many stories written on this move by the government that it is hard to wade through them all. For a sample, I recommend ”Gay rights a critical first step in ending discrimination", this Rodney Croome Op-Ed piece, and ”Reforms for gays are ‘incomplete’ ” as a good start.
I'm pleased that the Australian government has finally addressed the “back-office” component of discrimination. I think of this as the largely financial kind that same-sex couples fret about in private over the kitchen table doing financial planning, monthly budgets and at tax time.
It’s disappointing that the government missed the opportunity to address the equally vital “front-office” elements of discrimination. These are the things that affect how same-sex couples are permitted take part in society, present themselves in the human family, and how they are treated by society.
They aren’t considered legitimate couples or families because they can’t be married, can’t adopt, and can’t get access to IVF technology like everyone else.
I read the following from a Reuters article covering the changes with some shock, but little surprise:
"The government believes that marriage is between a man and a woman so it won't amend the marriage act," Attorney-General Robert McClelland said on Wednesday in announcing the changes.
"But in all other areas that we've identified, the issue of discrimination against same-sex couples will be removed," McClelland told reporters.
Stop and read that again because, like the Purloined Letter, the truth is hiding in plain sight.
The Australian Attorney-General publicly recognized that by failing to change the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples, Australia still discriminates against same-sex couples.
He doesn’t seem quite as aware that discrimination on adoption and access to IVF technology also remains.
As an Australian living abroad who has been in a same-sex relationship for almost 10 years, I want to know if an existing marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership from another jurisdiction means that's I'm covered.
I’ll take these rights, as soon as it’s clear how I get access to them, but it’s plain that even once these changes are enacted I’ll still be discriminated against.
And according to Prime Minister Rudd and Attorney-General McClelland, that’s just they way they want it.