Sunday, 13 May 2007

Vic Anti-Discrimination Chief welcomes changes

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission welcomed State government moves to put same-sex relationships on the agenda.

Commission Chief Executive Officer, Dr Helen Szoke said the State Government's announcement that it would investigate a relationships register for same-sex couples was "a critical step in reducing discrimination in practice but Federal laws are standing in the way of true equality for gay and lesbian couples across Australia who have to contend with partial social acceptance and limited legal protection."

"The State Government's proposal to investigate a register for Victoria represents another hurdle cleared in ending discrimination," she added.

"While the relationship register gives couples a certificate which will allow them to better navigate and negotiate processes and systems, the reality is while gay and lesbian couples are more equal today, they are still not equal enough."

The Federal government is responsible for areas such as life insurance and superannuation laws but federal law make no provision for a registered domestic partner, referring only to a "spouse" or a "dependent".

The "announcement underscored the State government's commitment to the pursuit of equality before the law but Victoria is still lagging behind Tasmania and the ACT who have adopted formal opt-in models of recognition such as a civil union scheme that would establish a legal relationship between the partners".

"This further emphasises the need federally for the broader recognition of same-sex couples, more protection from discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation, and greater recognition and implementation of Australia?s international human rights obligation in the form of an Australian Bill of Rights".

"While in Victoria, the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities will provide significant protection for same-sex couples in respect of future legislative reforms, government actions and policies affecting rights and lives in Victoria, it cannot protect same-sex couples from discriminatory Commonwealth laws and reforms." she said.

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