The Age believes Attorney-General Robert McClelland will announce today that he will introduce amendments to Parliament as early as next month to alter around 100 federal laws.
The changes will not allow gay marriages or same-sex couples to adopt children, and the issue of access to the Family Court for same-sex couples is still being resolved.
Some of the changes would take effect immediately, but many financial laws — such as social security, tax and veterans’ affairs — would be phased in by mid-2009. But first the changes will have to be passed by the Senate, where the Coalition retains its majority until July 1.
Even after then, Labor will need the vote of conservative Christian and Family First senator Steve Fielding and independent senator Nick Xenophon if it cannot clinch Coalition support.
Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson has signalled he backed the principle of removing discrimination against gay couples but has yet to secure formal support from his colleagues.
This is the sort of situation that led to my rabbiting on so much about the importance of balancing the Senate in our last election. I’ll bet on Fielding voting against this bill, in which case unless the Liberals support it it won’t go through.
The other option is a conscience vote, but I don’t know how often the Senate has practised that option. So, if you have a Liberal Senator in your state, contact that senator and register your support for this bill. It’s a dead cert that many social conservatives will be contacting them to register their opposition. Your calls /letters/emails might make the difference to a wavering politician, stiffening their spine to formally support Nelson’s backing of the principle of the bill.
For more information on the rights and responsibilities for married and de-facto heterosexual couples which are currently denied to same-sex couples under Federal Law, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has a section devoted to the issue.