Last edited: April 29, 2004

Tassie Gives Gays New Rights

The Australian, 25th September, 2002
GPO Box 4162 Sydney NSW 2001 Australia

By Carol Altmann

After years of derision as a hotbed of homophobia, Tasmania is poised to have the nationís most progressive laws for same-sex couplesóand just about every other variety of significant personal relationship.

Under the proposed reforms, gay and lesbian couples, elderly couples in close but not necessarily sexual relationships, partnerships recognised under Aboriginal or ethnic customs, plus carers and those they care for, will be among those granted the same rights as married or de facto heterosexual partners.

The Bacon Government used the first day of the 45th state parliament yesterday to make the surprise announcement of the amendment to more than 12 0 pieces of legislation.

The revised laws would cover a range of rights including property transfers, child maintenance, organ donation, guardianship, access to a partner in hospital, superannuation, funerals, wills; and various parenting, family and carer leave entitlements.

"The Tasmanian law in relation to many areas is deficient and discriminatory when dealing with parties to non-traditional personal relationships," Attorney-General Judy Jackson said yesterday.

"This is not about morality. Itís about human rights and the respect for the equal dignity of all persons without discrimination," she said.

Male homosexual sex was illegal in Tasmania until 1997, when the anti-sodomy law was finally repealed.

Liberal Opposition Leader Rene Hidding said he retained an open mind on the reforms, but was keen to see the scope of the legislation before indicating his position.

"The concept of a relationship being put forward ranges from a woman in a wheelchair who may have a male carer, through to gay marriages with the ability to adopt children," Mr Hidding said.

"Now that is quite a broad range, and we will be interested to see just how far this current Attorney-General wants to go with these reforms.

There are some extremely serious matters contained within this."

The proposed reforms grew from a joint select committee report last year into relationship discrimination that recommended amendments to the De Facto Relationship Act.

Veteran Tasmanian gay rights activist Rodney Croome said the reform package would place the state at the top of the nation for relationship rights.

"The real beauty of this is that it takes the best from other states and combines them into one package," he said. "This puts Tasmania ahead of the rest of Australia."

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