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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 4370 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

The issues paper that I will be tabling today canvasses questions about the way ACT law deals with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. The paper forms part of the second stage of the government's law reform process aimed at addressing discrimination on the basis of sexuality or gender identity. The aim of the issues paper is to ensure that policy development on those issues takes into account community and stakeholder views. The government will consult on these issues before deciding on the most appropriate way to progress these matters, and the issues paper is intended to serve as a focus for that community consultation.

The issues paper contains a brief survey of issues for the purpose of stimulating community debate. It is not a comprehensive statement of the law, nor should it be taken to be a definitive statement of the ACT government's position on any of these matters. In line with the government's law reform objectives, the issues paper examines issues of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and issues of discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

A number of questions are posed in the paper, with responses from all members of the community being invited. Consultation on some of the matters in the issues paper, such as the possibility of civil unions for same-sex couples or issues around parenting rights, will almost certainly elicit strongly felt responses from both ends of the spectrum. Some members of the community may view these matters as being highly controversial, whereas others will simply see them as basic and fundamental issues that should have been addressed long ago. The government will not shy from exploring these important issues and seeking the full range of views within the community simply because it might be a difficult process.

The government is not alone in moving towards legislative recognition of same-sex partnerships. Western Australia has recently passed legislation to recognise parentage roles where same-sex couples have a family through artificial fertilisation procedures or adoption. I understand that Tasmania is also considering legislation to give equality of recognition to same-sex couples. Several states of the United States have legislated to allow same-sex civil unions, as has the Netherlands. The Canadian government is considering legislation and several of the Canadian provinces have already passed laws relating to same-sex unions. In the United Kingdom the government is also preparing to consult on recognition of same-sex legal unions. In the ACT we must give mature consideration to these issues of equality if our community is to stay in touch with what is happening in other communities.

The issues paper will be circulated to various stakeholder groups. Other interested members of the community are encouraged to read and comment on the paper, which will be freely available in hard copy and will be on the government website. Pamphlets summarising the issues and drawing attention to the issues paper will be distributed to a range of venues in order to stimulate interest in this consultation.

The issues paper is very readable and I encourage all members of the ACT community to look at it and give their input to this significant consultative process. Further targeted consultations will occur with key stakeholders in early 2003. The results of the public consultation will be fed into the government's report to the Assembly and will also be used in the development of amendments that will be introduced to complete the second stage of this law reform process. The timing of these amendments will depend on

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