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Archive for April, 2008

DNA Magazine – "From Disco to Dribble" by Robbie Fells

April 30, 2008 Leave a comment


The road to gay fatherhood is paved with trials and tribulations. What could possess a gay man to start his own family?

Have you ever thought about what it means to be a man? Have you ever thought about what it means to be a gay man? For many of us, that question lies quietly under the surface, not being faced.

For most, being gay means being raised in a straight world where the social norm is still to get married, have kids and have a beer with your mates – without lusting after the sexy ones. But like all gay men who are brave enough to face up to their sexuality, I had to transcend these social pressures and, as you know, that wasn’t easy.

Living your life beyond the expectations of family, friends and society is a huge hurdle. The challenge for me was how I would reconcile my need to be a dad and have my own family with the fact that this was near impossible given that I had no knowledge of any gay men having children. The essence of being a man, I believe, is an innate need to create a legacy to continue on in the world after you’re gone. The fact that two men cannot reproduce makes me wonder whether gay men are an evolved breed of human that don’t need to reproduce or whether we’re just missing a crucial factor of reproduction. Whatever the answer, I wasn’t going to miss out on the chance of being a dad.

Why? What made me so determined?

I asked my partner this question and he said, for him, there was no difference between straight men and gay men and men that want to father children are men that want to create family structures of their own because of positive experiences in their family of origin.

One of my motivations to be a father was to be a better dad than my own father. I know he did the best he could but, to me, it wasn’t great. This motivation wasn’t a good reason to go and produce a child, though.

Having my own family is a nice side effect of my need to have children, but not the core reason, as is with my partner. I realised, through the discussion, that I wanted to be a father to keep learning about myself. I constantly reflect on how I function as a person during interactions with my kids and the dynamics of my new family. These dynamics have catapulted me into a learning curve that is constantly redefining who I am. My threshold for patience, managing frustration and working with difference has changed. My understanding of how we become who we are as people is becoming deeper as I learn about how children develop. It’s an amazing journey that keeps promising new and exciting chapters.

There was a time when I wondered if I’d become a father to be validated by the straight world. I think this may have had some influence but, like trying to be a better father to my kids than my father was to me, I believe this is not a good enough reason to create another human being.

My partner and I were financially secure before kids. The decision to give up this security was an easy one to make, though. It gave me a chance to relive my childhood experiences and reflect deeply on what they were like compared to my kids’.

I now know the meaning of altruism. Your kids become your unselfish concern. Though I get so much in return, it can’t be true altruism.

If you have a question for Robbie email features@DNAmagazine.com.au.

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Categories: gay, Robbie Fells

The Daily Telegraph – "Gay couple’s foster parents ban overturned" by Bruce McDougall

April 24, 2008 Leave a comment

A GAY couple have won a landmark discrimination case after they were banned from becoming foster parents because they are homosexual.

The couple, whose identities have been suppressed, took legal action when their application to become foster carers was refused by a welfare agency linked to the Uniting Church.

After a hearing the Administrative Decisions Tribunal has ruled that they were “unlawfully discriminated against on the ground of homosexuality”.

The couple were awarded $5000 each in compensation after the tribunal found they were “deeply hurt, insulted and embarrassed”.

They lodged a complaint with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board after being told an application to become foster carers would not be accepted.

The Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits unlawful discrimination in the provision of services on the grounds of homosexuality and marital status.

Gay couples are legally allowed to become foster carers in NSW but the agency defended its decision by arguing it was exempt from the Anti-Discrimination Act on religious grounds.

Legal experts said last night the case, involving a challenge to the Act for religious reasons, was “very interesting”.

“It is definitely an unusual case – particularly the discussion of Christian doctrine (in the judgment),” one legal observer said.

In its judgment the tribunal said: “The evidence makes it clear that a heterosexual person in the same position as each applicant would have been provided with the services necessary to allow an application to become a foster carer to be processed and assessed on its merits. We find the refusal to provide those services constitutes less favourable treatment.”

The tribunal refused a request by the couple for a public apology but ordered the welfare agency to review its policy on homosexual foster carers and “take all necessary steps to eliminate unlawful discrimination on the ground of homosexuality in the facilitation and provision of its foster care services”.

The Iemma Government has since flagged it will change the law to grant lesbian parents the same parenting rights as heterosexuals.

Legislation will be introduced to Parliament amending a total of 50 laws across NSW to include new parental presumption protection for female same-sex couples.

In schools administration staff will be forced to recognise both partners in the gay couple as “parents”.

A spokesman for Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said: “In relation to this specific case, the period during which this case could be appealed by either party has not expired and it would be inappropriate to comment.”

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: Foster Care, gay

The Daily Telegraph – "Same-sex Family Discussions" by Bruce McDougall

April 22, 2008 Leave a comment

IT’S hard to disagree with any government’s decision to provide greater protections to children – whether they have heterosexual or same-sex parents.

As Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said yesterday when announcing parenting rights would be extended to lesbians, the protection of children is one of the cornerstones of our society.

A new law will give equal rights to children who live in families where mothers are in same-sex de facto relationships – covering areas such as workers’ compensation, inheritance and school.

The legislation won’t cover same-sex adoption or surrogacy, but the Government is sending a clear message to the community.

After the battles on racist behaviour and the Aboriginal sorry campaign, gay rights is emerging as the next big front for the social engineers.

For some time an almost subterranean push by the gay and lesbian lobby – assisted by government quietly in the background – has been aimed at promoting the rights of same-sex couples.

But the powers have been coy about bringing this campaign into the open, ventilating the issues to the wider public and exposing the arguments to scrutiny.

Last week Education Director-General Michael Coutts-Trotter and Parents and Citizens Federation president Di Giblin were high-profile speakers at a Government-backed conference on sexual diversity, That’s So Gay.

Yet few people outside the event, which was organised by the AIDS Council of NSW, knew it was on and the agenda was not promoted to mainstream media outlets.

Mr Coutts-Trotter, who opened the conference and spoke passionately about the need to combat homophobia in schools, later downplayed his role to The Daily Telegraph. Yet the department already has a plethora of programs imbedded in the curriculum from Year 7 onwards all aimed at stamping out homophobic behaviour.

It was strongly suggested at the homophobia conference that children with two mothers face a tough time from bullying and harassment in the playground.

If this is correct then surely it is in the public interest that the wider community is properly and fully informed so that measures to stop this behaviour can be embraced.

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: IVF, Lesbian, surrogacy

Relationship and Parent Rights Question & Answer – Jenni Millbank

April 22, 2008 Leave a comment


Jenni Millbank is a Barrister and Professor of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney. Jenni has an extensive background in family law and same-sex relationship recognition.

This is an extract of the advice provided on the GLRL website (www.glrl.org.au)

Please note that this column is information of a general nature only and does not constitute legal advice.
*NEW* Questions Answered this Month:

* Both I and my same-sex partner want to migrate from our home country to Australia. Can we do this together as a couple under the skilled migration program?
* The federal government lacks the constitutional power to introduce civil unions (as the power it is granted in the constitution is over “marriage”, “divorce” and “matrimonial causes”). What are some options available to get around this problem?
* Are fertility clinics in NSW and Qld prohibited from providing access to lesbians?
* Is it possible to become a parent through surrogacy in Australia? What is the law with regards to payment to the surrogate mother by the donors?
* What is the age of consent in NSW?

Previously Answered Questions:

Adoption, Surrogacy and Parenting

* Are agreements between donors and mothers binding?
* What is the legal position of known and anonymous donors?
* Is second parent adoption possible in Australia, ie can a lesbian co-mother adopt children born to her partner?
* Would marriage give the right to adopt? Or would civil unions or de facto status do so?
* What is the legal standing of surrogacy in Australia for gay men wanting to be fathers?

Civil Unions and Marriage

* What federal rights available to married and de facto couples are not available to couples under a state-based civil union?
* Do married couples have more rights than de facto couples at federal level?
* Some people are against marriage because historically marriage treated women as property. Are women disadvantaged in any way in modern day marriage?
* What is the difference between relationship registration and civil unions?
* If I register my relationship in Tasmania or have a civil union in the ACT, will that be recognised in federal law – eg for immigration purposes will I be treated as married rather than as interdependent?

De Facto Relationships

* What relationship rights do I have at the moment?
* How is de facto recognition different from marriage or civil unions?
* I read that the De Facto Relationships Act applies 11 tests to determine the legal validity of a de facto relationship, and that typically gay men can only satisfy 4 of these 11 criteria. Is this so?
* How do I prove I am in a de facto relationship?
* Would federal recognition of same-sex couples as de facto relationships take away any of our current rights at state level?
* Would de facto recognition at federal level allow a government that did not like same-sex relationships to ban same-sex relationship recognition, like the marriage ban?

Protecting your Relationship Rights

* What rights do straight couples have that I don’t have?
* What can I do to get legal rights and protection for my relationship now?
* What is a “domestic relationship agreement”?
* How can I enter into a domestic relationship agreement and how much will it cost?

Sex

* What is the age of consent in NSW?

Superannuation

* How do I prove my relationship for superannuation

To find out the answer to these questions and more, visit the GLRL website at http://www.glrl.org.au or click here.

ABC Online – "Lesbian parents to receive increased rights"

April 22, 2008 Leave a comment

The New South Wales Government is moving to give children of same-sex female couples the same rights as those born to heterosexual parents.

Attorney-General John Hatzistergos says legislation will be introduced to cover children conceived by artificial fertilisation.

He says the current laws do not recognise the relationship a child might have with the female partner of their birth mother.

“So that they are unable for example to take on inheritance, they are unable to access benefits of compensation which may be due to them otherwise following a death or following an injury,” he said.

“Also those children would be unable to exercise responsibilities that children would normally have in relation to parents.”

But Mr Hatzistergos says the new laws will not cover children with gay male parents.

“That raises complex issues, particularly in relation to issues of adoption and the extinguishing of the rights of the existing birth mother and also issues relating to surrogacy,” he said.

“It’s not appropriate for us to move in that direction before that national discussion is able to proceed and is able to resolve issues as far as possible.”

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: IVF, Lesbian

Sydney Morning Herald – "Lesbian IVF kids to get equal rights"

April 22, 2008 Leave a comment

Children born through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) to lesbian mothers will have the same rights as those of heterosexual couples, under law changes announced by the NSW government.

Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said he had accepted NSW Law Reform recommendations extending “parental presumption” provisions to cover gay mums.

It was estimated 20 per cent of the state’s female same-sex couples had children, Mr Hatzistergos said.

The change affects those born through IVF or artificial fertilisation only, by granting parenting rights and obligations to the non-biological mother.

“The current law discriminates against these children who, at the moment, have a relationship with the birth mother’s partner that is not recognised by law,” Mr Hatzistergos told reporters on Tuesday.

“They are unable to take on inheritance, or the benefits of compensation which may be due … following a death or injury.”

The changes to the Status of Children Act 1996 will also allow these children to have both of their parents recognised by school authorities.

Both women in the same-sex couple must be in a relationship at the time of conception for the provision to apply.

On top of the new parenting laws, Mr Hatzistergos said the government would also amend about 50 state acts to remove discrimination against same-sex couples in NSW.

In some instances, he said, this would impose new requirements on same-sex couples to disclose a potential conflict of interest.

“The government will also be amending the anti-discrimination act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person’s domestic status,” Mr Hatzistergos said.

“In other words, the fact they have to reveal the existence of that relationship … shouldn’t be a ground on which they can be discriminated against.”

Mr Hatzistergos said the changes would not go as far as moves in Tasmania, and soon-to-be implemented changes in Victoria, where same-sex couples could add their name to a register.

“We want to see how this pans out nationally,” he said.

“Our preference is that these issues be resolved at a national level so there is consistency and uniformity across the jurisdictions.”

The law changes will be introduced to the NSW parliament later this year.

[Link: Original Article]

[Link: Alternative Article]

Categories: IVF, Lesbian

ABC Radio 666 Canberra – "Law changes can’t wait until 2020, gay advocates say" by Jennifer Macey

April 18, 2008 Leave a comment


Two of the participants at this weekend’s 2020 summit will represent gays and lesbians at the Communities and Families forum.

The Labor Government has pledged to remove 58 laws that discriminate against same-sex couples in tax, superannuation and family rights among other things.

But gay and lesbian groups say they’re alarmed by reports that the Government will not include these reforms in the May Budget.

Among the 1,000 participants heading to Canberra this weekend is Shelly Argent, the national spokeswoman for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

She says a future Australia must include legal recognition of same sex couples.

“My issue is that I have two sons, one’s straight and one’s gay, they both contribute equally to society and yet the government and society is very quick to say that one is better than the other,” she said.

“Now I just totally disagree with that. I want my son to be seen equal in the eyes of the law and society.”

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has identified 58 laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians covering tax, superannuation, health, workplace benefits and family law.

“I mean having same-sex parents being recognised with their children,” Ms Argent says.

“At the moment only the biological mother is recognised and the non-biological mother or other parent has absolutely no rights whatsoever.

“That non-biological parent cannot legally take that child to the doctor and be given information, or cannot take the child to school or necessarily pick the child up from school, and especially if the child is sick, because that person has no legal right over the child.”

Labor has promised to scrap these laws and has uncovered 40 extra pieces of legislation that also discriminate.

Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes says the Government simply needs to alter the definition of de-facto to include same-sex couples.

And he doesn’t think the issue of law reform needs to be on the 2020 agenda.

“Because it’s a commitment the Government has made, it just needs to be on the Budget agenda, so that all Australian couples no matter what their sexual orientation, are treated in the same way,” he said.

“Same-sex couples aren’t looking for any extra benefit, they’re just looking for equality, and there will be positives and negatives if all of these laws are amended.

“There’ll be some laws where there’s actually savings in the budget as well as some laws where there’s extra costs.”

But there have been reports the Government may wait until next year to introduce the changes.

Greens leader Bob Brown says the Government still hasn’t committed set a date for the reforms.

“Every day is a delay. What we haven’t heard from the Rudd Government is any scheduling at all, any agenda, any timetable for ending the discrimination which the Howard Government left on the books,” he said.

“It is time that the Labor Government at least followed up on its policy, which is to get rid of discrimination in areas of importance like matters of superannuation,” he said.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland says the Government won’t comment on what is in the Budget.

But he says the Government is committed to removing this discrimination and is consulting about the best time to implement the changes.

Rodney Croome from Australian Coalition for Equality says for many people, time is running out.

“At the moment there is no recognition of same-sex partners in federal superannuation schemes,” he said.

“There are partners who are facing retirement or who are elderly for whom this issue is really urgent. They can’t wait any longer for this reform.

“They need to be sure that their partners will be financially secure during retirement or if they themselves die before their partner.”

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: gay, Lesbian