Australian Senate delays gay equality legislation

The Australian Democrats have accused opposition parties of homophobia after they used their Senate majority to delay legislation on same-sex discrimination.

In April Attorney General Robert McClelland announced that the Labour government would introduce legislation to remove same-sex discrimination from some 100 laws.

The government had hoped to have parliament pass the legislation by July 1st.

But the opposition-controlled upper house has referred the government bill, which is based on the recommendations of a Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report from March last year, to the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee for further scrutiny.

The committee is to examine the definitions of “couple relationship”, the “child” and “child of the couple relationship” and will report back to the Senate by September.

It will hear evidence from a range of groups including the federal attorney-general’s department, the Law Council of Australia and the relationship registries of Tasmania, Victoria and the ACT.

Democrats Senator Andrew Murray said there had been some advocates of equality and fairness within the coalition, but homophobic tendencies still linger around.

“This is filibuster by committee,” Murray told AAP.

“It is putting off something you do not want to happen, to the never-never, and I think it’s outrageous.”

The new bill will give gay couples in long-term relationship same rights as married couples in areas such as taxation, pensions and welfare payments.

The removal of these laws will cost the government £176 million.

However, there are no plans to allow gay couples to marry.

Attorney General Robert McClelland said in April:

“We made it clear before the election that the government regards marriage as being between a man and a woman and we don’t support any measures that seek to mimic that process.”