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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 842 ..

I did not quite understand from Mr Smyth whether he is supporting the bill or not. I assume he is supporting it. He said that he had some issue with the definition of marriage and the status of a particular form of relationship which is created through marriage.

This legislation acknowledges that all people are entitled to respect, dignity and the right to participate in society and to receive the protection of the law, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is the first stage of reforming ACT law to address discrimination on the basis of sexuality or gender identity.

I will not go into all the details, because it has been explained by previous speakers, but I would mention that a review by the Department of Justice and Community Safety of all ACT legislation has identified some 70 acts and regulations that contain provisions that potentially discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and that need amending.

Mr Stanhope, in his presentation speech, indicated that the second stage amendments would address further issues in relation to discrimination in ACT legislation regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. He indicated that the government would consult with the community and stakeholders before deciding on the most appropriate way to progress these matters and released an issues paper containing a brief survey of issues for the purpose of stimulating community debate. I am interested to know the stage the government has reached in consultations and when further amendments will be presented to the Assembly.

I note what Mr Smyth said about the process and concerns that have been expressed to his office about the timing of this debate and the time that was given for input, which I understand was till May. I have had similar concerns expressed to my office. I do not think it is a good process either. I understand that the government is arguing that this is the first stage and that further consultation will address other issues. Perhaps the government will speak to that. It does not seem a good thing to give the community the understanding that they have a certain time for input and then not respect that timeframe.

I believe that this legislation will play a key role in removing discrimination from our statute and hopefully, ultimately, from our society. In my view, the quality of relationships depends on the care, kindness and love within them. It is not about whether people are of the same sex.

An insidious feature of many of these discriminations is that they have remained hidden to people not directly affected by them. There are numerous instances of the law denying people the consideration and responsibilities that heterosexual people take for granted. For example, if transgender people come into contact with police or the prison system, there are no clear guidelines for determining their gender.

In the Transplantation and Anatomy Act, which applies when people are dealing with the death of their partner, same-sex partners are not recognised as spouses and are therefore not necessarily consulted about decisions related to their partner's body or tissues.

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