By Robyn Marshall
Queensland gays and lesbians are celebrating. The state Labor government has recognised same-sex couples and their families for the first time under Queensland law.
The new Queensland industrial relations bill includes same-sex partners in the definition of spouse. This will give same-sex partners access to state-based parental, family, bereavement and carer's leave provisions. The bill also recognises a former spouse and a defacto spouse.
"Same-sex couples for the first time ever will be entitled legally to any employment condition that involves the spouse of an employee and/or their family", said Shayne Wilde, co-convenor of the Queensland Association for Gay and Lesbian Rights (QAGLR). She added that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders will no longer sit still while they are excluded from the majority of state and federal laws.
"The industrial relations bill is not about giving special rights to any groups of workers over another group of workers. Instead it gives equal rights to workers who have never had them, as in the case of gays and lesbians and their families", said Wilde.
Wilde said that Queensland governments had spent the past 10 years excluding same-sex couples from equal rights in industrial laws, intestacy laws and even domestic violence laws.
QAGLR welcomed the new bill's proposal to increase the role of the Anti-Discrimination Commission in the jurisdiction of industrial matters. "We believe that the integration of anti-discrimination principles into industrial relations legislation is really fundamental because about 60-70% of our complaints at any one time are made in the work area", said Margo Couldrey, director of policy, complaints and community relations in the Anti-Discrimination Commission.
The Labor government, however, couldn't bring itself to address the problems of transgenders. The bill offers transgendered people no protection against the specific discrimination they face.