(Brisbane, Australia) An inquiry into treatment
of same-sex couples by the Australian government has heard an impassioned plea
from the mother of a gay man.
"The Federal Government is really persecuting
the gays for something they can't help," Shelley Argent told the Human
Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
"It's like the South Africans. They
persecuted the blacks for something they couldn't help."
Argent told the commission that the root of the
discrimination by the government of Prime Minister John Howard is a money grab.
"My son is in a career where he has received
bravery citations and regularly puts his life on the line every day. The present
Federal Government is quick to accept the taxes my son and his partner pay,
without a twinge of conscience, and give nothing in return," she said.
"The Government profits by ignoring same-sex
couples because they miss out on the rebates and benefits they'd receive if seen
as a couple."
The government in 2004 passed legislation
limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. Since then it has rebuffed calls to
allow civil partnerships similar to those in the UK.
After civil partnerships became legal in the UK
lat year Howard was asked if his government ever would consider same-sex
marriage or civil partnerships. "Never' he replied (story)
When Australian Capital Territory passed
legislation, earlier this year, giving same-sex couples most of the rights of
marriage the federal government blocked the bill from being implemented. (story)
Following the public outcry over Howard's move to
kill the ACT bill the Commission set up a six month inquiry to hear from
Australians about the federal government's treatment of gays.
"It's disappointing to learn that there are
so many federal laws which make it harder for gay and lesbian couples to manage
their finances as compared to heterosexual couples," said Commission
President John Von Doussa as he opened the inquiry in Sydney.
Von Doussa will present the commission's report
to the government next year but most observers believe it will have little