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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 8 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2190 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

Of course, there are some significant issues around amending or extending this range of rights from heterosexual de facto couples to same-sex couples. We support the change. As I say, it is consistent with the Labor Party's position and policy. It is also an amendment which is being made in the context of work which the government is doing. The department of justice is actively pursuing a raft of amendments to address the very issues that are being addressed in this amendment. It is not as if the work is not being done. I have to emphasise that work is being done within the department of justice on issues around the rights of gay and lesbian people. I look forward to bringing those amendments forward at some stage in the future as a comprehensive package of reform. It is in that context that I believe that we should be debating this issue.

As I said, we will support this amendment. It is the sort of amendment that will be contained, in any event, in the law that the government will bring to this place in relation to the legal status of same-sex relationships in a broader and more general way. But the government's position is not the one that the opposition has taken. We say that we would prefer this change to be made as part of a comprehensive law reform package and we are working on the development of that, but it is going to be done in any event and we are happy to support it here today. But it is appropriate that we remind ourselves about the form and nature that statute law amendment bills take.

MS TUCKER (11.29): I just want to make the point again that the Domestic Relationships Act 1994, while it does not specifically mention same-sex couples, was structured so that it included same-sex couples, along with different sex couples, in its understanding of de facto and domestic relationships, removing, as was said in the Assembly at the time, "any unnecessary distinction on the basis of gender". This is an agreed position of this Assembly. If Mr Humphries wants to change that position, fine, we can have that debate. But if he looks at everything that has been said in this place, he will find that this is about moving with the view of the Assembly.

Mr Humphries said that nobody knows about this change. Earlier in the year, there were articles in the media and on television on a proposal I had put suggesting a much more controversial removal of discrimination in a number of areas, including adoption. There has been quite vigorous community debate on that. Ms Dundas has also raised this issue publicly, as has Mr Stanhope, so there has definitely been public discussion of this issue. It is quite ridiculous to suggest that somehow this proposal has come out of the blue. Clearly, it has not and there has been a very healthy community debate, which is good. As I said, if you look at what is already contained in the Domestic Relationships Act, which surely would be the one to look at, you will find that this is about updating the language used.

MR SPEAKER: Members, I have just had it drawn to my attention that the provision encompassed in Ms Tucker's amendment may be widening the scope of the legislation, which is inconsistent with the practice that we follow in this chamber. I do not want to rule one way or the other on that without having taken further advice on the matter from the Clerk. I think it would be wise in the circumstances for members to consider adjourning further consideration of the matter to a later hour this day in order to take further advice on the matter.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stefaniak , by leave) adjourned to a later hour.

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