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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (13 March) . . Page.. 1065 ..



I think it is important that we do acknowledge that this is a significant extension of the law as currently understood and applied-of course, applied in relation to opposite-sex people living together as de facto spouses-and we would be creating a situation here where there would be a very significant extension of our notion of what constitutes a genuine domestic relationship. I guess I am making the point that it was not the government's intention and the government's intention remains that we should not, through this first tranche of amendments that we are debating today, be pursuing such a significant change to our notion of what constitutes a domestic relationship in this way.

The policy we are seeking to express is simply that couples of whatever gender who have made a genuine commitment to share a life together should be treated the same no matter what the sex of the partners is. We are seeking to change the application of the law. That is what we have been doing in this debate: we have been seeking to change the application of the law so that the law that currently exists in relation to heterosexual couples applies equally to same-sex couples.

We are not seeking through any of the changes we are making here to make essential or significant changes to the law as such. This whole law reform process that we were debating on Tuesday and are debating again today is about changing the application of the law so that the law that would currently apply to heterosexual couples applies in exactly the same way, without variation or discrimination, to same-sex couples. That is the position the government will hold to today.

MR STEFANIAK (5.06): Mr Speaker, I think that there is much in what the Chief Minister says in relation to this amendment. He has gone through a number of examples there. It is a very significant extension of the law, especially in relation to people who have never lived together, and would have quite significant ramifications. I think that he is quite right-even Ms Tucker alluded to it-in pointing out that there is a range of indicators which in some circumstances would enable people who are not living together to be treated as a domestic partnership. Both Ms Tucker and Mr Stanhope have gone through a number of actual examples there. The opposition agrees with the government on this amendment and will not be supporting it.


(5.07): I want to respond briefly to the last comment from Mr Stanhope that fundamentally this is about treating same-sex couples in exactly the same way as heterosexual people are treated. I just want to make the comment that the treatment is not the same for people who are not heterosexual; it is not equal. In fact, this morning I quoted Dr Martin Luther King Jr as saying, "If you start treating equally all those who have been treated unequally, you capture them forever in their inequality."The situation is not exactly the same, but the point I am trying to make here, which I think everyone else who is involved with the community understands, is that the treatment is not the same.

In saying that we are going to treat them the same as heterosexual people we are not taking into account the fact that same-sex couples are frightened to disclose their relationship, so there is a difference. I understand the argument that this involves taking a big step in law reform, but I just think that the point has to be made that the treatment is not the same. That is why in this instance the people who are advocating and lobbying

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