Australian PM may support some gay rights

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A series of measures to ensure equality for gay and lesbian Australians is to be considered by the country’s Cabinet later today.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Prime Minister John Howard may be persuaded by colleagues to support legal and financial rights for same-sex couples.

An MP from the ruling Liberal party, Warren Entsch, supports gay rights.

Last week he presented Mr Howard with a petition signed by 25,000 Australians demanding that the law be changed in favour of equality.

He told the paper that he has been swamped with emails from evangelical Christians objecting to equal treatment.

Despite those objections, several leading Cabinet ministers are in favour of amending 58 laws that discriminate against gay and lesbian Australians.

Prime Minister Howard is reported to be “quite supportive” of the changes.

A report from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) was presented to the federal parliament in June.

It listed the 58 laws that need to be changed to grant gay, bisexual and lesbian Australians equal rights.

Despite hopes that those inequalities may be addressed by the Howard government, gay marriage is still off the agenda.

Not only is it not supported by the Liberals but last week the opposition Labour party came out against any form of gay unions.

The HREOC report found that same-sex couples and families in Australia get fewer leave entitlements, less workers’ compensation, fewer tax concessions, fewer veterans’ entitlements, fewer health care subsidies, less superannuation and pay more for residential aged care than opposite-sex couples in the same circumstances.

The report traced this pervasive inequality back to how lesbian and gay couples are excluded from federal law’s definitions of couples, partners and spouses.