Australia LGBT WIN!

December 9, 2008 at 2:31 pm 2 comments

Information below totally and gratefully gacked from the GLRL newsletter. Thank you to everyone who lent a hand or passed the word. For your reading pleasure, here are the second reading speeches in the Senate (PDF) on the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws – General Law Reform) Bill 2008. So we didn’t get the M-word, no worries. It’ll happen. Kudos to the Rudd government for fulfilling its election mandate.



58 ‘08 Campaign Win:
Same-Sex Reforms Pass


5808-accomplished

Australian Parliament passes reforms granting equality to same-sex couples and their children.

Highlights from Parliament:

The last family I wish to refer to in support of this legislation is one that is very close to home—my own family… Coming from a country town, it was difficult to come out of the closet but that is what my youngest brother did. … I hope that one day my darling brother, Nick, will be the beneficiary of the legislative changes we have placed before the House. The Hon Graham Perrett (Member for Morton). House of Representatives, 4 June 2008.

I have lived long enough as a gay member of the Australian community to have seen enormous changes: from the period when it was a crime, at least for male homosexuals, to have a loving relationship, which was punishable by many years in jail, to this historic day, where discrimination on the basis of sexuality is being removed from the statute books by the parliament. I congratulate all parties who are contributing and who have worked so hard towards this. Senator Bob Brown, Senate, 12 November 2008.

I am very pleased with the substantive legal equality for couples irrespective of the gender, identity or sexuality of couples that this bill implements. However, personally, I hope that one day there is a majority in this parliament to remove discrimination against all couples in relation to marriage. Senator Louise Pratt, Senate, 12 November 2008.

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58 ’08 Campaign Comes to a Close

The Australian Parliament has finally passed the same-sex reform bills, granting equality to same-sex de facto couples and their children in almost all areas of federal law. The changes ensure equal treatment of same-sex couples with opposite-sex de facto couples in areas including taxation, superannuation, Medicare, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, social security, aged care, family law and child support, migration, veterans’ and defence entitlements, and workers’ compensation.

The passage of the reforms brings the GLRL’s 58 ‘08 campaign to a close. During the court of the campaign, over 1,000 personal stories of discrimination and letters of support for the reforms were delivered to the Commonwealth Attorney-General. In the lead up to the Senate debate on the reforms, the GLRL presented select politicians with a heart-felt selection of the letters in a collected titled, Australian Love Letters.

“The 58 ‘08 campaign will go down in the Lobby’s history as one of its biggest and most influential campaigns. The campaign has seen over a thousand people write in support of the reforms which has armed Lobby representatives with heartfelt and real stories to present in our meetings with politicians and policy-makers,” said GLRL Spokesperson, Peter Johnson.

“Thank you to the hundreds of Australians who responded to our call to send a letter to the Attorney-General demanding equality in 58 laws by the end of 2008. You ensured the Rudd Government kept its word, and helped secure cross-party support for this reform,” added Johnson.

Want more information? The GLRL will be launching an education campaign on the new changes in the New Year funded by the City of Sydney. The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department has also launched a website with some information on the changes.

OTHER CHANGES OF INTEREST –  contact glrl@glrl.org.au

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Centrelink, Child Support and Medicare/PBS Changes

Centrelink has set up a special information hotline (13 62 80) to assist same-sex couples in finding out what the same-sex reforms will mean for their circumstances. Same-sex couples will be able to declare their relationship status to Centrelink from March 2009. However, no changes to payments will occur until 1 July 2009.

Whilst most same-sex couples and their children will benefit from the reforms, some changes in social security law may provide both advantages and disadvantages to same-sex couples on welfare payments and concession cards. Same-sex couples will be treated and assessed in the same way as opposite sex couples for the purposes of social security.

Same-sex couples may now have access to new partner-based payments and assessment. For example, same-sex couples will have equal access to bereavement benefits, partner concession card benefits and recognition as ‘independent’ for Youth Allowance in some cases.

From 1 July 2009, in calculating eligibility for benefits, the income and assets test for a person who is ‘a member of a couple’ takes into account the income of both parties, and the couple’s combined assets. Therefore, same-sex couples who are assessed to be ‘a member of a couple’ may be paid a partnered rate, which is less than two singles rate. In some cases, this may result in reduced welfare payments or benefits, or a cancellation of benefits altogether.

Importantly, not all same-sex couples will be affected by the social security changes. To be assessed as a couple for the purposes of social security, same-sex couples will need to be living together in a de facto relationship. A de facto relationship is more than a casual relationship; it involves some demonstration of living together as a couple (i.e. not simply housemates). To assess whether two people are living together in a de facto relationship, all the circumstances of the relationship are considered on a case-by-case basis. Centrelink will consider a range of factors, including:

· The financial aspects of the relationship e.g. whether both names are listed on leases or bank accounts, whether major assets are jointly owned etc.

· The nature of the household e.g. whether the persons share a bedroom, division of household chores, children of the relationship etc.

· The social aspects of the relationship e.g. whether the persons present themselves as a couple to friends, family or other associates, whether the persons share leisure and holiday plans etc.

· The presence or absence of a sexual relationship

· The nature of the commitment e.g. the existence of emotional support and caring giving, the existence of long-term planning about the future, demonstrated mutual commitment to the relationship etc.

Importantly, none of these factors are conclusive on their own. All the evidence of a relationship must be weighed up and balanced. People who are separated but living together under one roof or are simply living together for companionship should get specific advice on their situation from the Welfare Rights Centre on how to show Centrelink that they are not ‘a member of a couple’. For more information, contact the Welfare Rights Centre on 1800 22 60 28 or the Centrelink Hotline on 13 62 80.

Concurrent changes in taxation law, child support and Medicare/PBS safety nets may also mean that same-sex couples and their children are eligible for new entitlements and benefits not previously available, such as the dependent spouse tax offset, family tax benefits, child support payments, and the ‘family’ Medicare and PBS safety net thresholds. The Medicare and PBS changes will commence on 1 January 2009, whilst the majority of these remaining changes will commence from 1 July 2009.

From 1 July 2009, same-sex couples will be also eligible to apply for child support from a non-resident parent (including from most same-sex co-parents).

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Same-Sex Adoption

Following on the heels of NSW reforms which recognised lesbian co-mothers as legal parents earlier this year, the NSW Government has announced an inquiry into whether same-sex couples should be eligible to apply for adoption.

At present, NSW allows individual lesbians and gay men to apply for be assessed for adoption, but not same-sex couples. The GLRL welcomed the inquiry into same-sex adoption, describing the present discriminatory legal anomaly as “ludicrous”.

Adoption reform would ensure that children in gay and lesbian families not covered by recent parenting reforms could have two legally-recognised parents for the purposes of medical consent, inheritance and parental authority. In particular, adoption reform would be essential for same-sex couples who are long-term foster carers, and for some same-sex step-parents and co-parents.

Adoption reform may also open limited opportunities for lesbians and gay men wanting to create new families. However, very few children are available for adoption in Australia and international adoption is not currently available to same-sex couples due to the laws of overseas ‘sending’ countries.

To make a submission: Submissions to the adoption inquiry can be submitted online here. Submissions must be received by 13 February 2009 and can be as long or as short as you like. Personal stories are encouraged.

Some talking points for your submission may include:

· All the credible research confirms that children are not disadvantaged by having lesbian and gay parents. See our report here

· Discrimination against same-sex couples hurts children with gay and lesbian parents by denying legal and social recognition to their families. Legal recognition would give same-sex parents the power to consent to medical treatment for their child, sign permission notes and exercise parental authority without question or the need for court orders. Children can also miss out on inheritance entitlements.

· It makes no sense to allow individual lesbians and gay men to apply for adoption, but not same-sex couples.

· Same-sex couples have been actively recruited for many years, and provide wonderful foster care for children in need.

· Discrimination against gays and lesbians in adoption law perpetuates hurtful myths that lesbians and gay men pose a risk to children. This reflects unfairly on the valuable contributions of many same-sex parents, and all lesbians and gay men who work with children as teachers, youth workers and carers.

· Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory have same-sex adoption equality. Tasmania also allows same-sex couples to adopt a partner’s child.

· Since 1999, NSW has progressively removed all discrimination against same-sex couples – adoption being the last significant area of discrimination.

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New Lesbian Parenting Laws Commence

On 22 September 2008, the new NSW lesbian parenting laws came into effect. This new laws mean that when a child is born to a lesbian couple through assisted reproductive technology, the lesbian co-mother will also be automatically recognised as a legal parent to her child, so long as she consented to her partner’s fertilisation procedure at the time of conception.

The new laws apply retrospectively to include children already born – as well as children born in the future. They apply to families which are intact, as well as families which have separated.

Lesbian families can also apply to have their child’s birth certificate amended to list both mums. Although this is not necessary for the laws to take effect, it can make it easier to prove your parental status to hospitals, schools etc.

To amend the birth certificate, parents should contact the NSW Births, Deaths & Marriages Registry on 1300 655 236.

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NSW Surrogacy Inquiry

The Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby made a detailed submission to the NSW inquiry into altruistic surrogacy and was invited to give evidence at a public hearing.

More hearings and the final report are due next year.

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Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby
www.glrl.org.au

58’08 – Demand equality in 2008: www.glrl.org.au/58

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Entry filed under: Equity, Legal, Queer. Tags: , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. lesfriendly  |  December 10, 2008 at 12:36 am

    hurray! finally some good news!

    Reply
  • 2. evecho  |  December 10, 2008 at 12:44 am

    Will try to bring you more good news!

    Reply

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Evecho’s newsy bits

News, updates and links from the lesbian and publishing ‘verse that interest me, my current projects, keeping up with authors and sharing musings on middle-class life, gourmet adventures and comparisons between East/West perspectives. My opinions will likely be linearly logical and gayly bent, as they tend to be.