Same-Sex: Hearing Brisbane

Same-Sex: Same Entitlements

National Inquiry into Discrimination against People in Same-Sex Relationships: Financial and Work-Related Entitlements and Benefits

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WRITTEN AND AUDIO NOTES

Brisbane Hearings, 11 October 2006


1. Graeme Innes, Human Rights Commissioner, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission - Opening Speech

2. Kaz Heffernan, Male Queer Sexuality Officer, University of Queensland Union

Kaz discusses issues of discrimination that are experienced by same-sex attracted young people. He comments that young people who are same-sex attracted are very disempowered.

Kaz explains how same-sex attracted young people, who leave home to live with their partner, find it difficult to access the youth allowance. They are ineligible as their relationship is not recognised.

He comments that young people fear discrimination in the workplace. This means that many young people choose employment options that place them at risk of harm.

Kaz believes that current legislation and the attitudes of the government and Prime Minister are perpetuating homophobia. He provides statistics on the number of same-sex attracted young people that have experienced abuse or have tried to harm themselves.

3. Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

Shelley Argent OAM
Grainne Ridd,
Person A

Shelley Argent

Shelley began by stating that the three speakers would provide a parents' perspective on the discrimination faced by their gay sons and lesbian daughters. She states that they find it hard that their government does not accept their children's relationships.

Shelley describes how she is proud of her son for living his life honestly and openly. She says that he has everything a parent could wish for their son. However she does not understand how the federal government can accept her son's and his partner's taxes and not give anything in return.

Shelley believes that same-sex couples should have the option to marry if that is what they want to do.

Shelley argues that there would be less stigma, depression and suicidal ideation if gay and lesbian people had equal treatment. She believes that if the federal government changed their laws it would be clear that discrimination against gay and lesbian people is not acceptable.

Shelley describes how her son and his partner have everything that a heterosexual couple does, for example joint bank accounts, but are unable to access the same benefits.

Shelley states that parents want their gay sons and lesbian daughters to have acceptance and the same rights as their heterosexual children.

She argues that it is about time that their gay sons and lesbian daughters are seen as equals.

Grainne Ridd

Grainne says that she is the mother of a beautiful young woman who happens to be a lesbian. Her daughter and her daughter's partner live in the UK and are planning to marry and have a child.

Grainne comments that if her daughter and her partner were to return to Australia their rights would not be recognised. She also states that their child would lose a parent as only the birth mother would be recognised.

Grainne describes how under Australian laws her daughter and her daughter's partner would be excluded from accessing fundamental financial benefits.

Grainne raises a number of issues in relation to her daughter's child. Grainne concludes by stating that her daughter will not return to Australia as she would not be accepted here.

Person A

Person A described the issues faced by her gay son. She states her son and his partner are not second class citizens but that this is how the government treats them.

Person A states that her son and his partner's financial costs are higher as they cannot combine their expenses, for example for the Medicare Safety Net.

Person A believes that the stresses and strains that same-sex couples experience are greater to those faced by a straight couple.

Person A wants the government to allow civil unions. She argues that this would provide her son and his partner with the same recognition and rights that everyone else takes for granted.

Person A, Shelley and Grainne conclude by describing the impact that the discrimination experienced by their gay and lesbian children has on the whole family.

4. Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission (ADCQ)

Susan Booth, Anti-Discrimination Commissioner

Susan begins her presentation by providing some comments on the HREOC Same-Sex: Same Entitlements Discussion Paper 2. The ADCQ supports the definition of defacto as described in sections 2a - 2i. These sections are the same as the definition of defacto in Queensland law.

However the ADCQ believe that a deed entered into by both partners in a same-sex relationship is better than a statutory declaration. A deed does not require legislation. The section could be misunderstood and any same-sex couples who had not signed a statutory declaration may not be considered to be in a genuine relationship.

In Queensland changing the definition of de facto has had a positive impact on workplaces. All workplaces have removed discriminatory policies.

Susan makes some brief comments about marriage, workplace entitlements, presumptive parenting, superannuation, migration and discretionary trusts. Susan identifies presumptive parenting and adoption as the two big issues for same-sex couples in Queensland.

Susan provides a brief over-view of the complaints received by the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland. She notes that complaints about sexual vilification have increased.

5. Action Reform Change Queensland (ARCQ) and Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC).

Carman Parsons

Carman notes that there is a shift in public attitude towards recognition of same-sex relationships. She says this is a result of the changes to legislation in Queensland. This has made a big difference to the lives of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex people. However many same-sex attracted people are perplexed that discrimination remains in many areas of law.

Carman comments briefly on de facto relationships, children and the dependent spouse rebate. She says that there is a lack of information available when laws do change. Gay and lesbian people need education about their rights.

Carman describes how a same-sex couple who moved to the UK for a civil union will return to Australia and lose the rights that they had in the UK. She notes that Australia is fast becoming one of the only western countries that does not recognise same-sex relationships.

Carman also talks about presumptive parenting as a key issue for same-sex couples in Queensland.

Carman discusses the Montreal Declaration that was developed at a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender Human Rights Conference in Montreal. She states that ARCQ and QAHC recommend that HREOC develops an ongoing consultation process with the LGBTI community in Australia through the development of a committee. The committee would monitor and report on violence and homophobia.

Carman then provides further information on issues that are in the ARCQ and QAHC submission.