31 May 2004

Labor to debate same-sex unions

Pressure is mounting on federal Labor before today's shadow cabinet meeting to reject the Federal Government's proposal to ban same-sex couples from marrying and adopting children from overseas.

The Opposition has indicated it will support the Government's moves, announced last week, to amend the Marriage Act to outlaw gay marriages, but will consider its position on adoption.

Opposition shadow attorney-general Nicola Roxon said that while Labor would not allow gay people to adopt children from overseas, she believed states should be responsible for adoption. She said the states had strict rules and most opted to not permit gay adoption.

'I think it is a bit inappropriate for the Prime Minister to now be trying to interfere in those decisions at the state and territory level, because at the end of the day it has to be the child's best interests that are considered,' Ms Roxon said.

'I don't think that a blanket ban at the federal level is the way to ensure that any child's best interests are always going to be taken account of.'

Yesterday, Greens Senator Kerry Nettle accused Labor of supporting Prime Minister John Howard and US President George Bush's 'anti-gay agenda'. 'It's the responsibility of all parliamentarians concerned with human rights and the scourge of homophobia to take a firm stand against the Government's attack on same-sex couples,' Senator Nettle said.

The Greens will next month introduce a private member's bill in the Senate to provide equal rights for same-sex couples.

Labor simply must not do this. You do not trade human rights for a temporary campaign advantage or put superannuation ahead of equality. The obvious answer is to refer the bill to a Senate committee and call on the government to at least justify (in detail) what it proposes.

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