Victorian gay and lesbian couples will have access to the same legal rights as heterosexual couples — possibly before the end of the year — if the State Government’s plans for a relationship register go ahead. But, what’s happening federally?

Formal recognition of same-sex couples is expected to be discussed at the Labor Party’s National Conference.

Veteran rights campaigner Rodney Croome discussed some of the options available to the party on his website earlier this week. He concluded that recognition in federal law of couples registered under state or territory schemes “would be the simplest and easiest policy for Labor to adopt”. Croome says: “It would avoid fractious debates about the throwing of confetti and the rights of maiden aunts by leaving it all to the states to decide.”

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party now appears to be saying same-sex relationships can be “marriage-like”. On 16 March 2007, during his brief tenure as Acting Minister for Aged Care (following the resignation of Senator Santo Santoro), Tony Abbott was asked about the suitability of aged-care facilities for homosexuals. 

Abbott’s delegate has responded: “The definition of a member of a couple under the Aged Care Act 1997 includes ‘a person who lives with another person in a marriage-like relationship, although not legally married to the other person’. That can include same-sex couples.”

There you have it. The Monk’s own blessing.