Australian laws “discriminate against gays”

An audit by the Australian National University has revealed that the federal system in the country is proving a barrier for gay equality.

The Australian federal government is trailing behind some of its state and territory counterparts, where gay families are accorded the same rights as heterosexual ones.

The inquiry considered the impact of legislative and policy frameworks, as well as social attitudes that affect the rights of gay families in Australia, while measuring the country against other comparable countries.

The audit found that even though being LGB is not a direct hindrance to being successful, there are issues at the legislative level which are unfair and fail to give same-sex families the same recognition.

Sarah Maddison, of the University of New South Wales, who was involved in the study, cited the example of a high court judge, Michael Kirby, whose partner of 38 years is being denied a access to the judge’s pension after Mr Kirby dies, unlike his heterosexual counterparts.

“These laws cover a wide range of fundamental entitlements, including carer’s leave to look after a sick partner, access to the Medicare, superannuation and workers’ compensation death benefits for the same-sex partners of federal government employees,” Ms Maddison told The Age.

Mr Kirby, one of Australia’s most respected judges, was told by the Australian Attorney General that the new pension plan arrangements for spouses currently being discussed will not extend to same-sex partners.

This means that non-heterosexual families do not have the same federal protection in areas such as inheritance, child support, contact and parental authority.

LGB couples are denied some basic financial and work-related entitlements.

According to a similar report from the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), there are as many as 58 federal laws which fail to tally and cost LGB family the rights that heterosexual families take for granted.

Human Rights commissioner Graeme Innes said the HREOC provided further evidence of the need to change legislation which discriminated homosexuals.

The federal govenment have promised to consider the issue before the general election later this year.