Gay couples get equal legal rights in Tasmania

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The Independent Online

Tasmania, once notorious for its repressive laws on homosexuality, has become one of a handful of places to give gay couples the same legal rights as heterosexuals.

Tasmania, once notorious for its repressive laws on homosexuality, has become one of a handful of places to give gay couples the same legal rights as heterosexuals.

The island state off Australia has passed legislation allowing same-sex partners to register their relationship and gain the same pension, medical and parenting rights as married couples. Other types of "significant and caring" unions, such as between elderly friends who live togetheror between people and their carers, can also be registered.

Tasmania has long had a reputation for homophobia, and homosexuality was decriminalised in the state only in 1997. Until then, men faced up to 21 years in jail for having sex with other men. The United Nations declared the laws in breach of international civil and political rights.

The state's Relationships Act is regarded as one of the world's most enlightened pieces of legislation. Under the sweeping reforms enacted by the Labour government, the terms "husband", "wife" and "de facto (common-law)" are replaced by "partner".

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