Yesterday the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws – General Law Reform) Bill 2008 passed through the Australian Senate. The definition of a de facto now includes same-sex couples and allows us to leave superannuation entitlements to our partners. We are also guaranteed equality in tax, social security, health, aged care and employment.
“Today is an historic day,” said NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby spokesperson Peter Johnson yesterday. “The Australian Senate has finally and firmly given its nod to equality for our relationships and families. Our partners and our children can look forward to equality in almost all areas of federal law, from taxation to health and aged care, from immigration to family law.
“Same-sex couples and families are witnessing the tearing up and rewriting of almost all Commonwealth law to finally recognise the truth that all love is equal and nurturing all relationships, regardless of the gender of partners, is important.”
The Bill rewrites legal definitions of ‘couple’, ‘partner’, ‘parent’, ‘child’ and ‘family’ to include all couples and their children. The changes will grant equal access to entitlements and benefits in federal laws relating to taxation, superannuation, Medicare and health entitlements, social security, veterans’ and defence benefits, migration and workers’ compensation.
“We congratulate the Rudd Government for honouring its election commitment to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Australians. We acknowledge the Coalition, Greens and Senator Xenophon whose principled and practical support helped ensure the passage of these reforms through the Senate,” added Johnson.
The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby will continue working with community organisations, Government departments and legal experts to ensure same-sex couples and their children understand and are prepared for the reforms.
Some of the changes will take effect sooner than others. Medicare and PBS changes will commence on 1 January 2009. Some changes, including social security payments, some family tax benefits, Australian passport changes and veterans’ affairs entitlements will commence from 1 July 2009.
No social security payments will be affected until 1 July 2009, even if same-sex couples declare their relationship status to Centrelink. Same-sex couples will be able to contact Centrelink from March 2009 to find out what the changes will mean for their payments.