National Inquiry into Discrimination against People in Same-Sex Relationships: Financial and Work-Related Entitlements and Benefits
Murray Bridge Consultation - 29 August 2006
[Murray Bridge is 74.8 km south east of Adelaide]
Tuesday 29 August 2006
6.30pm - 8.00pm
No audio files were available for this forum.
Seven people attended the community forum in Murray Bridge and discussed a range of issues.
The following is an overview of the comments made during the community forum.
These comments reflect the views of the participants in the forum; they do not necessarily represent the final conclusions of the Inquiry.
Aged Care and Ageing
The forum heard of the difficulties experienced by same-sex couples in accessing appropriate aged care, including:
- Concern about the heterosexual environment of aged care facilities. The forum was told of one older couple who drove around looking for a nursing home that would recognise their relationship. This was after one of them experienced a serious health problem.
- Difficulty in accessing Aged Care Assessment Packages and Domiciliary Care by older gay and lesbian people.
- A woman in her eighties with dementia was placed in a secure nursing home, where the nurses presumed that she would wear dresses. When her ex-partner visited she was horrified as her partner had never previously worn dresses. However she did not know how to approach the nurses about this issue.
- Difficulty with the aged care assessment process. A person with dementia cannot insist that their partner is involved. Their partner would need an enduring power of attorney.
The forum heard that a number of people have spoken seriously about wanting laws to legalise euthanasia. They do not want to go into a heterosexual nursing home. They feel that there will still be discrimination regardless of laws.
Same-sex couples cannot adequately report their relationship on the census form.
Lets Get Equal encouraged couples to report as a de facto couple. This combined with the fact of two males or two females living in the household shows the relationship. However this is not how many people wish to be recognised.
Health and Medical
The forum heard from a woman who was hospitalised last year. Her partner rode in the ambulance with her and stayed with her while she received treatment. However when consent for further treatment was needed the hospital had to find her sister. Everything goes fine until the laws kick in and then the same sex partner is excluded.
Documents showing enduring power of attorney have to be taken everywhere with you to prove that you have a right to give consent.
The forum also heard that same-sex couples:
- are unable to claim the PBS safety net as a couple
- cannot renew ambulance cover as a couple (however one person mentioned that they had taken the cover as a 'household')
Private health insurers will recognise same-sex couples as a family.
Same-sex couples are not considered a family for the Medicare safety-net and have to achieve the safety-net thresholds separately. One couple had a lot of medical bills and made gap payments of $150 a fortnight.
Marriage and Civil Union
Many lesbian feminists find talk about marriage and civil union challenging. They argue that 'our relationships are different', and do not want to reflect a heterosexual institution.
The forum heard that people thought this issue is used as a 'red herring' by the Government. If gay and lesbian people are focussed on marriage and civil union, they won't notice all the other areas in which they are being discriminated against.
The forum heard a range of concerns about leave:
- Parental leave (paternity leave) does not allow for a non-biological parent to care for partner or child.
- Bereavement leave excludes same-sex partners.
- Access to different types of leave often depends on your boss and their attitudes. More often than not a non-biological parent has to fight for time off.
You have to know which lawyers to go to. Gay or lesbian lawyers know what your rights or lack of rights are, whereas heterosexual lawyers often do not know. It will cost more money while they research this information.
One person mentioned that her daughter is the legal next of kin for her son as the biological father is not safe. Her partner noted that she had only been in the relationship for a couple of years and would be happy to support the sister as guardian as the brother and sister are very close.Parenting and Children
Adoption and Foster Care
The forum heard concerns about gay and lesbian couples who can provide foster care but are unable to adopt.
Gay and lesbian couples arguably make better parents as they can care for and parent the most difficult children through foster care.
One person mentioned that she cannot adopt her partner's children and does her best not to get upset by this. One of her children asked why she had not adopted them and she had to say because the law says I can't.
Participants agreed that they want the option to be able to adopt and to go on a waiting list.
Assisted reproductive technology is not available to lesbian women. In order to fall pregnant they may either have a casual relationship or use an unscreened donor. Both options pose risks to the woman's health if she is not sure of the health status of the donor.
It was commented that a single woman can be eligible for IVF if she had previously had a heterosexual relationship and did not get pregnant.
A non-biological parent can not be named on the birth certificate in South Australia. The importance of having both partners' names on the certificate is partly a symbolic recognition of the intention of the couple to raise the child.
Centrelink demands that if a relationship ends that child support is sought from the non-custodial parent. However this cannot be done in a same-sex relationship.
Impact on children - education
Many participants at the forum reported the impact of their relationships on their children's education:
- Participants reported that they try to choose schools and services that are LGBTI friendly.
- One couple explains the situation in their family each time their child has a new teacher. They state that the non-biological mother is the person to be called in an emergency or if the school cannot contact the biological mother.
- One couple's son doesn't understand the reaction of some people to same-sex couples. He tells everyone that he has two mums.
- In one school a teacher discussed same-sex relationships in sex education classes. The teacher said that he would not have done this if he had not met this couple.
- The schools are running pilot programs dealing with sexual health and relationships. Kids who attend are very accepting about other kids having same-sex parents. There has been a backlash against the program from fundamental religious groups seeking to have the gay and lesbian information removed.
- At one school a parents' meeting is held at the start of each year for parents to introduce themselves to each other. People introduce themselves as a child's mother or father. One person commented that they introduce themselves by saying 'this is my family and list the names of everyone in the family'. Others are very accepting.
One couple noted that they are better off with Centrelink as they are counted as two singles. The forms only ask whether there is an 'opposite sex partner' in the house.
A lesbian couple in their sixties who are about to retire reported that they do not want the laws to change. If they are recognised as a couple they will receive less in pension payments than if they are paid as two single women.
Same-sex couples are required to pay stamp duty when transferring property into their partner's name while heterosexual couples are exempt.
Participants reported that they are unsure of what tax concessions heterosexual couples get and that it is hard to know what they are eligible for.
A same-sex partner cannot claim the dependent spouse rebate or other concessions.
One participant commented that you can only imagine the financial entitlements a same sex couple in a relationship of 25 years have missed out on.
It cost one couple $2000 to make wills whereas for a heterosexual couple the estate is automatically passed onto the partner.
You can't state in your will that people can not have things.
The forum heard of a couple in their eighties where it took the surviving partner 12 months to access her partner's bank account. It was an additional cost for the lawyers to get this access.
There may be problems when your or your partner's family is opposed to your same-sex relationship. When a will is made there have to be numerous addendums to ensure that children are protected and not sent to the family or father.
Both heterosexual and same-sex couples can have their wills contested but as a same-sex couple you feel more vulnerable.
The younger generation don't care as the issues don't affect them. They don't know that they don't have the same rights. It is when young GLBTI people start interacting with the world and the various systems that the discrimination hits.