Gay couples treated differently under Australian immigration laws

13 April 2005

Gay couples entering Australia on temporary visas are treated differently from heterosexual couples under immigration laws, Australia's Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Amanda Vanstone has conceded.

Senator Vanstone said she accepted that the situation between heterosexual and homosexual couples differed because gay couples are not recognized as a family. Her office said there are no plans to change the law.

Same-sex partners of permanent residents and citizens, however, are recognized as partners under immigration laws.

"It's different because the visa structure was set up to accommodate families and at this point in Australia we don't recognize gay couples as being a family in the same sense as we do a husband and wife, maybe with kids," Senator Vanstone told ABC radio.

She said some gay couples have addressed the anomaly by entering Australia on a tourist visa with their partner who held a temporary work visa and then applied for a separate working visa.

"That is different (to heterosexual families), I accept that," Senator Vanstone said.

"And I think it's a difficult proposition either way because, as I say, we don't recognize homosexual couples as being a family, and that's the way the immigration system in relation to families is structured so it's not an easy situation, I accept that."