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Same-Sex: Same Entitlements: Executive Summary

Same-Sex: Same Entitlements Report


Executive

Summary

Download Summary [ PDF] [Word]

At least 20,000 couples in Australia experience

systematic discrimination on a daily basis.

Same-sex couples and families are denied basic

financial and work-related entitlements which opposite-sex couples and their

families take for granted.

Same-sex couples are

not guaranteed the right to take carer’s leave to look after a sick

partner.

Same-sex couples have to spend more

money on medical expenses than opposite-sex couples to enjoy the Medicare and

PBS Safety Nets.

Same-sex couples are denied a

wide range of tax concessions available to opposite-sex

couples.

The same-sex partner of a federal

government employee is denied access to certain superannuation and

workers’ compensation death benefits available to an opposite-sex partner.

The same-sex partner of a defence force

veteran is denied a range of pensions and concessions available to an

opposite-sex partner.

Older same-sex couples

will generally pay more than opposite-sex couples when entering aged care

facilities.

This is just a small sample of the

discrimination caused by the many federal financial and work-related laws which

exclude same-sex couples and their children.

It

is not just Australia’s same-sex couples who suffer discrimination; it is

their children too. Approximately 20% of lesbian couples and 5% of gay couples

in Australia are raising children. The financial disadvantages imposed on

same-sex parents will inevitably have an impact on their children.

This discrimination breaches human rights. And

it can be stopped. All it takes is a few changes to the definitions in some

federal laws.

Same-sex families; second-class

citizens

The Same-Sex: Same

Entitlements Inquiry spent more than three months travelling around

Australia holding public hearings and community forums to hear, first hand,

about the impact of discriminatory laws on gay and lesbian couples. Those public

consultations, and some of the 680 written submissions received by the Inquiry,

clearly describe the financial and emotional strain placed on gay and lesbian

couples who are trying to enjoy their lives like everybody else in the

community.

A same-sex couple from Adelaide

said the following:

We are an average suburban family. We are working hard

and contributing to our community. We don’t want special treatment –

just what others can expect from their legal and social community. Our rights

are denied simply because of who we love. We just want

equality.

A lesbian parent in Sydney made a

similar plea:

I am not a second class citizen and resent my family

and I being treated as such. All I ask is to be treated equally, no more and no

less than any other Australian. Just

equal.

A gay doctor put it like

this:

I am a first-class taxpayer but a second-class

citizen.

Federal laws breach human

rights

The Same-Sex: Same

Entitlements Inquiry conducted an audit of federal laws relating to

financial and work-related entitlements in order to identify those which

discriminate against same-sex couples and their children.

The Inquiry has identified 58 federal laws

(listed in Appendix 1) which breach the rights of same-sex couples and in some

cases the rights of their children.

The Same-Sex: Same Entitlements Inquiry finds that:

1. The 58 federal laws in Appendix 1 discriminate

against same-sex couples in the area of financial and work-related entitlements.

Those laws breach the International Covenant on Civil and Political

Rights.

2. Many of the federal laws in Appendix 1 discriminate

against the children of same-sex couples and fail to protect the best interests

of the child in the area of financial and work-related entitlements. Those laws

breach the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the

Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Simple amendments will remove

discrimination

It is simple to remove

discrimination against same-sex couples in federal financial and work-related

entitlements: change the definitions in the 58 laws listed in Appendix 1 to this

report.

There is no need to rewrite federal

tax legislation, superannuation legislation, workers’ compensation

legislation, employment legislation, veterans’ entitlements legislation or

any other major area of federal financial entitlements. There just needs to be

some changes to a few definitions at the front of each relevant piece of

legislation.

The Same-Sex: Same

Entitlements Inquiry recommends that:

1. The federal government should amend the

discriminatory laws identified by this Inquiry to ensure that same-sex and

opposite-sex couples enjoy the same financial and work-related

entitlements.

2. The federal government should amend the

discriminatory laws identified by this Inquiry to ensure that the best interests

of children in same-sex and opposite-sex families are equally protected in the

area of financial and work-related entitlements.

Same-Sex: Same Entitlements report

overview

The Same-Sex: Same

Entitlements report covers the following issues:

  • A short background to the Inquiry (Chapter

    1).

  • The strategies used by the Inquiry to gather information

    (Chapter 2).

  • Human rights protections for same-sex couples and their

    children (Chapter 3).

  • How federal law currently defines a couple; what states

    and territories have done to remove discrimination; how formal relationship

    recognition schemes may impact on access to financial entitlements; and a new

    definition of ‘de facto relationship’ for all federal laws, which

    would remove ongoing discrimination against same-sex couples (Chapter

    4).

  • How family law defines a parent-child relationship when a

    child is born to a same-sex couple; how family law impacts on access to

    financial and work-related entitlements; and what should change to remove

    ongoing discrimination against children in same-sex families (Chapter

    5).

  • The impact of discrimination against same-sex couples and

    their children in federal financial and work-related entitlements. The table of

    contents in each topic-specific chapter includes a summary of the entitlements

    which are, or are not, available to same-sex couples and families. The chapters

    describe how the relevant legislation applies to same-sex couples and families.

    Each chapter concludes with a list of legislation setting out what definitions

    need to change to remove discrimination in the following areas:

  • A miscellaneous list of additional legislation which may

    discriminate against same-sex couples and families in the area of financial and

    work-related entitlements (Chapter 16).

  • A brief discussion of homophobia in the community and

    discrimination on the grounds of gender identity (Chapter 17).

  • A summary of the Inquiry’s findings and

    recommendations (Chapter 18).

  • A list of 58 federal laws which disc