By Caroline Gale
Structural inequalities affecting same sex relationships have recently gained attention both nationally and internationally. At the end of last year legislation was passed in Victorian parliament allowing same sex couples to adopt. Further, recently named Australian of the year for 2016 – ex army chief David Morrison – spoke out publically in support of same sex partnerships. The current policy of the Coalition Government is to conduct a national plebiscite on same sex marriage after the federal election this year.
Why marriage equality matters
One of the major reasons marriage equality matters is that Australia values equality and thus, the law should not be based on inequality. Some other key reasons for why marriage equality in Australia matters are as follows:
1. Same sex couples want to marry for the same reasons that heterosexual couples want to marry. These reasons include celebrating commitment to a loved one, legal security and greater legal protection for children.
2. Married partners have immediate access to all relationship entitlements and protections. This is in comparison to de-facto couples who are required to live together for a certain period of time before they are considered to have legal rights. Same Sex couples in Australia are only considered de-facto relationships.
3. Marriage inequality produces discrimination. Exclusion of same sex couples in society and under the law sends the message that discrimination and disrespect on the basis of sexual orientation is acceptable.
4. The social and legal benefits of marriage also flow to children. Many Same sex couples wish to provide their children with both the legal security and social recognition that comes with having married parents.
Changes to legislation throughout Australia for Same Sex couples
In December 2015 legislation in Victoria allowing same sex couples to adopt was passed in the Victorian Parliament. Conditions pertaining to the legislation include an amendment made to the bill in November that states religious organisations are not required to offer Adoption services to same sex couples. Regardless of the diverse opinions in the Australian community on same sex adoption or whether such an exemption is discriminatory, this is a great achievement for same sex couples in Victoria who desire equality under the law. Ultimately, this will make it easier for same sex partners wishing to start a family. Some changes to the law regarding same sex relationships have been active in Australia for many years. Since 2009 the family law legislation has treated same sex couples the same as it treats heterosexual couples both in terms of property division and parenting matters.
Misconceptions about the negative psychological effects on children growing up in same sex households have been disproven in areas of research such as Social Work and Psychology. Further, Time Magazine published an article in 2010 discussing the findings of a research paper focusing on lesbian families. On measures of development and social behaviour children of lesbian parents scored similarly to children raised by heterosexual parents. Interestingly, on some psychological measures of self-esteem and confidence children of lesbian parents scored significantly higher, performed better academically and were less likely to have behavioural problems.
At Resolve Conflict we work regularly with same sex couples. Should you have any questions about any of these matters you please contact our team at Resolve Conflict Lawyers.