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Archive for May, 2008

Sydney Star Observer – "Rudd’s Broken Promise" by Emily Gray & Peter Johnson


In response to the 2007 pre-election survey from the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and ACON, Kevin Rudd and the Australian Labor Party promised the following: “Labor is committed to equality for gay men, lesbians and same-sex couples and, if elected, will remove provisions which discriminate on the basis of sexuality, with the exception of the Marriage Act.”

Last week the federal government indicated that it would not be including the Family Law Act 1975 in its first raft of reforms to provide equality for same-sex couples. A few weeks ago the Rudd government announced its plans to introduce equal rights for lesbian and gay couples in many areas. We will have the same super benefits, tax breaks and access to healthcare as straight couples. The Rudd Labor government has decided not to include the Family Law Act 1975 at this time. If they continue to exclude it, this will be a broken promise.

The omission of the Family Law Act 1975 from the package of announced reforms will have a number of discriminatory impacts for our community. A lesbian co-mother will not be recognised as a “parent” in child-related court proceedings in the Family Court. This creates uncertainty for a child in the event of a relationship break-up. This also means that a birth mother cannot pursue child support through the Child Support Scheme from the co-mother in the event of a break-up. Already, lesbian parents have to go to enormous financial and personal costs to secure child support for their children and resolve conflicts on the breakdown of a relationship.

Leaving out this reform will also contribute to discrepancies between federal and state law, leaving couples uncertain about their rights and the rights of their children. We are talking about a significant number of people. An estimated 20 percent of lesbians have children and this figure is likely to be increasing. The 2006 Census recorded at least 4,386 children living in same-sex families in Australia. This change is necessary to ensure the majority of same-sex families are treated equitably. It is in the best interests of these thousands of children to have the economic and emotional security which comes with the legal recognition of their families

[Link: Original Article]

The Australian – "Childless de factos in Family Court win" by Patricia Karvelas

DE FACTO couples without children will be given access to the Family Court to settle property disputes after they split up under sweeping changes announced by the Rudd Government.

Current laws deny de facto heterosexual couples without children access to the Family Court.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Government wanted to create a more consistent family law system.

De facto couples with children already have access to the Family Court but those who do not are confined to state Supreme Courts to settle property disputes.

“The Government’s platform is to ensure family law applies in a consistent and uniform way to de facto relationships across Australia,” Mr McClelland said.

The decision to grant de facto couples without children access to the Family Court for property disputes will cut their legal bills. Specialist Family Court mediators are available for tens of thousands of dollars less than in the Supreme Court system.

It is understood the Government will also extend access to the Family Court to same-sex couples on the basis that they will now be regarded as de facto couples on equal footing to heterosexuals.

This follows a push by former Family Court chief justice Alastair Nicholson, who has written to Mr McClelland to urge him also to consider giving gay and lesbian couples access to the Family Court.

The appeal to Mr McClelland comes as the Government introduces reforms giving equal financial and workplace entitlements to same-sex de facto partners.

“As a long-time supporter of equal legal treatment for same-sex couples and their families, I want to see the Government’s proposed reform remove as much discrimination as possible,” Professor Nicholson said in a statement.

“Like their heterosexual counterparts, same-sex partners should be able to settle property and maintenance disputes in the Family Court rather than be forced through the more cumbersome and expensive state Supreme Court system, as is currently the case.

“It’s also important for the Government to give state and territory civil union registries full and equal status in federal law so that same-sex couples can access federal entitlements through these schemes.”

The move will be fought by the Christian lobby, which does not want gay and lesbian couples to have access to the Family Court if they do not have children.

Greens senator Kerry Nettle said in a statement yesterday she would pursue the Government on the issue of same-sex access to courts during next week’s Senate estimates hearings.

“The Government needs to ensure that they include the recognition of registered same-sex relationships in their same-sex law reform package that we are due to see next week,” Senator Nettle said.

“Labor cannot have a bob each way on discrimination; either they support equal rights or they are for discrimination.”

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: Family Court, gay, Lesbian

Time Out Sydney – "Doting Dads" by Andrew Georgiou

However and whenever the calling to be a dad arises, the fact is that gay men make incredibly loving, nurturing and open-minded parents. In this special report, Andrew Georgiou looks at the different roads to gay fatherhood in Australia.

Click on the images to see full size.


Doting Dads

However and whenever the calling to be a dad arises, the fact is that gay men make incredibly loving, nurturing and open-minded parents. In this special report, Andrew Georgiou looks at the different roads to gay fatherhood in Australia.

Parental instincts. Some men are born with them, for others the desire to be a gay dad kicks in later in life. Gay Dads Australia is a national group of gay men who celebrate the joys of fatherhood through online forums, social gatherings and exchange of resources on their website which has been operating for just over five years.

Rodney Cruise, 42, runs the Gay Dads Australia website which boasts over 400 members between NSW and Victoria. While Cruise and his partner 39-year-old Jeff Chiang have experienced the joys of parenting their 15-month-old son Ethan through a surrogacy arrangement they underwent in the United States, Cruise notes that gay dads across the country have fulfilled their dreams of fatherhood through a variety of scenarios.

“We have dads who have become fathers through known donor arrangements, co-parenting agreements, surrogacy and those with children through previous relationships with women”.

Each situation varies, but the fact remains: a greatly loved child is the ultimate outcome.

Surrogacy

Mostly exercised through surrogacy agencies in the United States, this process is proving to be increasingly popular with gay men in Australia with the desire to be full time dads. Surrogacy sees a gay man or gay male couple firstly choosing an egg donor through a clinic and fertilizing that egg with one of the couple’s sperm. With the assistance of a surrogacy agency, the male couple are introduced to a surrogate whom through IVF, will be implanted with the fertilized egg and carry the baby for the couple to full term. The surrogate is in no way linked to the child, leaving the biological father and his partner as the legal parents to raise the child in Australia.

In 2006 Cruise and Chiang were blessed with their first son Ethan through the assistance of US based Surrogacy agency Growing Generations, which has helped over 500 couples become parents. Their affection and connection with their chosen surrogate developed so strongly during her pregnancy with their son, Rodney and Jeff extended their family network to include Kelly into their now 15 month old son Ethan’s life.

“Even though they are in the US and we live here, Kelly and her family are now a part of ours”, says Jeff.

“Women like her, do this because they genuinely want to help people become parents”. Cruise’s partner Jeff comes from a traditional Taiwanese family which has a long history of basing family on geography rather than biology.

“Jeff’s extended family is made up of people who have descended from his parents village who are often not biologically related. When you think about it these were the first alternative families, and Jeff and I continue that tradition by creating our sense of family as loving and devoted fathers to Ethan” says Cruise.

It’s inspiring to see that a traditional Taiwanese culture can embrace the concept of gay parenting, while negative sensationalism perpetuated in the local media can feed intolerance from with Australia’s wider community. While the costs involved in becoming parents reached the $150,000 mark, Rodney and Jeff’s natural paternal instincts will see them extend their family again when the surrogate for their next child is chosen in May.

“The concept of the traditional family is rather outdated,” says Cruise, “the genetic make up of a family is irrelevant to us. We believe a family is about love.”

Known Donor

The flipside to the surrogacy scenario is the known donor situation where a gay male provides the sperm to single lesbian or a lesbian who is partnered. The basis of this arrangement sees the single or coupled lesbians raise the child with any parental rights or responsibility placed on the biological father. Individual arrangements may be made where the father sees the child throughout his or her upbringing, as either an uncle, family friend or even as dad, though the parental rights are reserved exclusively for the lesbian couple. Known donor cases are usually carried without issue as they have taken on a specific role, which takes a step back from the role and responsibilities of raising the child. 39-year-old Allan from Sydney’s inner West is the very proud known donor to nineteen-month-old Zara.

While Allan spends quality time with Zara and enjoys a close friendship with her lesbian parents, he has maintained the agreement, which sees Zara’s mothers as her full time parents. “I’m very close to the girls and Zara and see them every week. My reward for the gift I have given the girls is seeing the immense joy Zara has brought to everyone’s lives, including grandparents,” says Allan.

“I guess I am seen as a satellite figure or even uncle, and that has worked out incredibly well for all of us. All of our friends have been extremely supportive of the situation.” Last month the NSW Government made its long awaited announcement that it would commit to amending laws to give same-sex parents of children conceived through artificial fertilization the right to officially registered the names of both mothers on a child’s birth certificate.

Co-parenting

Sees the single male or gay male couple act as a co-parent, along side a single or couple lesbian. This arrangement may see a child with two mothers and two fathers, which ultimately provides a double dose of devotion and love for the child. “The biggest issue for gay dads in co-parenting is working out a reasonable arrangement with a lesbian couple and maintaining it,” say Gay Dads Australia’s Rodney Cruise. “Often couples may site down prior to the arrangement and figure out who will see the child and when.”

Many Australian children may have four heterosexual parents through divorce and new marriages, the child of four gay parents often grow up with the extended family from birth. Co-parenting may see the child living with either sets of parents on a full or part time basis based upon a mutal agreement between the male and female couples.

Adoption

Adoption ofr gay singles and couples is legal in the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands, Australia has failed to catch up to speed. In 2007 a WA couple made Australian history by being the first gay couple granted the right to adopt, however since the landmark ruling no other couples have been allowed to follow suit. Though inter-country adoption between Australian and co-adoption countries such as China exist for heterosexuals, the same rights are not currently extended to gay and lesbian singles or couples wanting to adopt.

Previous relationship

Like countless other gay fathers across Australia, 45-year-old Gregory Duffy, from Sydney’s East has enjoyed the riches of fatherhood through children born out of a previous heterosexual relationship. “I was married, in love and ultimately wanted to start a family and have children of my own,” recalls Duffy.

After the birth of his second daughter, Duffy came to terms with his own sexuality. “I came out to myself toward the end of 1993, and left the marriage when my children Victoria and Georgia were five and two-and-a-half years old. All they really knew was that Dad had left but not for a deeper reason. I did not officially come out to my wife till at least 6 months later.”

“Finally, we began to talk about a whole lot of issues we never touched on before.”

Although Duffy did not come out to his eldest daughter Victoria for another seven years, he recalls his eldest girl struggling with the decision more than his youngest.

“Victoria was quite upset and didn’t fully understand what it was for me to be gay, but after numerous long chats she slowly adjusted and actually felt it was quite cool to have a gay dad!”

Today Greg enjoys a wonderful relationship with Victoria, 19 and Georgina, 16. “Having two beautiful daughters that accept me for who I am and have never judged me for being gay has enriched our relationship. It has been an interesting and emotional journey, but to know I have had their love and support has made the road much easier to travel.”

For more information on Gay Dads Australia and advice on surrogacy go to http://www.gaydadsaustralia.com.

[Link: Original Article]

SBS TV – "Greens back call for gay access to family court" by AAP


Greens Senator Kerry Nettle. (AAP)
The Australian Greens have backed calls by a former senior judge to extend Family Court protections to same-sex couples.

Professor Alastair Nicholson, a former chief justice of the court, has called on the Rudd government to allow same-sex couples access to the Family Court to settle property disputes.

He also has asked the government to recognise state civil union registries in federal law.

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle intends pursuing the government on the issue during next week’s senate estimates hearings.

The measures should be included in reforms the government was drafting that would remove same-sex discrimination from federal laws, she said.

“The government needs to ensure that they include the recognition of registered same-sex relationships in their same-sex law reform package that we are due to see next week,” Senator Nettle said in a statement.

“Labor cannot have a bob each way on discrimination – either they support equal rights or they are for discrimination.”

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: Family Court, gay, Lesbian

The Age – "We are family" by Steve Dow


Same-sex families say new local and international laws supporting them are great, but more change is needed. Steve Dow reports.

THEY met playing soccer while studying at Melbourne University 16 years ago. Jewish Canadian visitor Sarah Nichols thought English-born Jacqueline Tomlins was “funny and smart and she didn’t think I was this North American freakazoid”. Tomlins admired Nichols’ “zest and enthusiasm and passion for life”.

Long-haired lawyer Nichols, now 40, still speaks with her Toronto lilt, and short-haired, bespectacled writer Tomlins, 44, retains the precise vowels of north London’s Hertfordshire.

Having been born here, their children — son Corin, 5½, and daughters Scout and Cully, soon to turn 3 and 1 respectively — naturally are developing an Aussie intonation.

Harmony is the shared dialectic as this family of five sit on the porch of their Kew home. Corin runs through the leaves of the front yard, punting the footy. His two mums help out at school; other mums and dads and neighbours readily accept them, they say.

There’s no obvious discrimination in their day-to-day lives but many same-sex couples find there are plenty of anachronistic anomalies that can kick hard in both Victorian and federal law. However, change is afoot.

British Parliament this week made it legal for a child to have two mothers and no father after MPs voted to take away the need for fathers when parents undergo fertility treatment.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission has recommended same-sex partners be both recognised as parents. In December last year, the state’s Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, promised to adopt the change, as well as allowing lesbians to access IVF. Tomlins and Nichols are cautiously optimistic that the changes will pass through the Victorian Parliament.

Nichols — who conceived the three children using IVF technology and donor sperm — works at a city law fi rm; Tomlins stays home and writes and cares for the children.

Ask Corin and Scout, “Who is mummy?”, and they point to Tomlins. The children call Nichols “ema”, which is Hebrew for mother. The kids have met their sperm donor, a family man with kids of his own. They call him Donor Dave.

“When people refer to me as ‘Mummy’ in front of the children, the children look blankly around for Jac,” Nichols says. But “Jac” or “Mummy” has no legal standing as Corin, Scout and Cully’s mother.

Despite being the children’s primary caregiver, Tomlins has no legislated parental rights.

The law’s disregard for her role, apart from the welfare implications for the children should Nichols die, has had a particular emotional impact.

“Sarah and I decided to have kids a long time ago; it was a very long journey having them,” Tomlins recalls. “I was there from deciding to conceiving. I was there when they were born and gave them their first bath and their first hug while Sarah was taken to recovery.

“For me, to still have that hanging over me — that I’m not legally recognised as their mum, when I am — that’s really hard. Having my name on their birth certificate would be an enormous relief for me, knowing that the society I live in recognises my relationship with my kids.”

Before their first child was conceived, Tomlins tried unsuccessfully through 10 gruelling rounds of IVF and donor sperm to become pregnant herself, travelling interstate to circumvent Victorian laws barring lesbians from using IVF.

Nichols was able to access IVF in Victoria only because she had endometriosis.

The couple want same-sex marriage in Australia, too.

They married in a ceremony in Nichols’ hometown in Toronto in 2003, given Canada allows same-sex marriage; so too does the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa and Spain, while the UK, New Zealand, France, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Sweden and nine other countries have nationwide civil unions or registered partnership schemes.

The Rudd Government — despite a commitment earlier this month to amend 100 federal laws that discriminate against same-sex couples in areas such as superannuation, tax, wills and social security — has confirmed there will be no national marriage or civil union scheme for same-sex couples.

Nichols and Tomlins are not enamoured with the Brumby Government’s compromise: allowing same-sex couples to enter their relationship on a state registry, with no formal ceremony allowed.

“I’m not going to sign — I have a marriage certificate,” Nichols says. “I think you register your dog; you don’t register a relationship.”

KIERAN McGREGOR and Tim Hunter met in a chat room on the internet in 1998. “Tim had a photograph of me, which is a bit unfair, because he knew what I looked like,” red-headed McGregor, 36, recalls.

“But we were talking very easily to each other.” McGregor got to see Hunter for the first time when they agreed to meet late at night at a Hawthorn cafe, the suburb where they now live together.

“I saw this guy up the road and thought, ‘He’s kind of cute’,” McGregor says.

Hunter, 41, laughs at the memory. “There was an ease and an honesty and a respect,” he recalls.

They shared a white-picket fence ideal, and over the years Hunter, who had previously been married to a woman, “supported the discussion” of social worker McGregor’s wish to have kids. The two men eventually settled for an apartment and two cats.

The pair have a good relationship with Hunter’s parents now, but there was some distance early on because of the family’s religious beliefs.

Hunter and McGregor had a commitment ceremony, which has no legal standing, in 1999.

“We didn’t set out to mimic marriage,” Hunter says.

“We wanted to show to our family and friends that we loved each other and we were committed to each other.”

He says it was a relief they didn’t need a priest or bridesmaids or best men. They wrote their own vows and made each other cry.

Will they sign the Victorian partnerships register? They’re not sure. “I’m disappointed that it doesn’t have more meaning,” McGregor says.

“I also recognise it’s an important first step. We’ve talked about signing it.”

Says Hunter: “It’s an important legal recognition of our relationship, but I don’t think we need to sign it to demonstrate our love and commitment. The fact we’re still together 10 years later speaks for itself.”

Both men would like to see a federal civil partnerships scheme introduced but would rather it was not called marriage.

“I know there’s all these arguments that say having a ceremony is going to equal it to marriage for gay people, that it’s going to undermine the institution of marriage,” Hunter says.

“I think marriage does a good enough job of undermining itself.

“However, I’m glad we don’t have to go along with all that stuff. That’s one of the beauties of gay relationships; each one is completely different and we can make it up as we go along.”

[Link: Original Article]

The Age – "’Family Court is for gays, too’" by Misha Schubert

ONE of the country’s most senior former judges has advocated giving gay couples access to the Family Court to settle property disputes after a break-up — a move that faces stiff resistance from the conservative Christian lobby.

On the eve of moves to end discrimination against gay couples across a range of federal laws, former Family Court chief justice Alastair Nicholson has written to federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland to urge a further shift in family law.

The reform would give gay couples access to the cheaper specialist court and its mediators — instead of being forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars to resolve disputes in the Supreme Court.

Under current laws, de facto heterosexual couples are also denied access to the Family Court. In the letter, obtained by The Age, Professor Nicholson argues the reform would ensure more cases are settled at mediation without trial.

“To force same-sex couples to continue to rely on State Supreme Courts, which are often more expensive and whose personnel have less experience in family law matters, would be a continuing breach of the human rights of lesbians and gay men and their families,” he wrote.

Professor Nicholson also urges the Federal Government to give automatic recognition to gay couples listed on state relationships registers. He says they are different from de facto heterosexual couples, because the partners have taken a decision to formalise the relationship.

In practical terms, such a move would also cut the amount of paperwork gay couples need to provide to federal agencies to prove their relationship was genuine.

Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Rodney Croome backed the move, arguing the specialist family court should be open to all couples.

“State Supreme Courts are not set up to handle these matters, and many same-sex partners forced to resolve their disputes in this way find it cumbersome, time-consuming and very expensive,” he said.

But Australian Christian Lobby chief Jim Wallace said he had strong concerns about giving Family Court access to gay couples without children because it undermined the traditional model of family. But he said there was a case for gay couples with children to have access to the specialist court to ensure the best interests of the child were protected.

“The expertise for dealing with children in family break-ups lies with practitioners in the Family Court and we wouldn’t want to disadvantage children,” he said. “(But to give access in childless cases) would be the wrong signal because we believe we need to hold up the traditional model of family.

“It just removes a nuance of the fact that family is mother, father and children.

“We would want to preserve that definition in all law as much as possible.”

Gary Singer, the deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne who is in the midst of a high-profile court battle after a break-up with his gay partner, said the reforms were urgent to protect privacy and end inequality for both gay and de facto couples. His case became public because Supreme Court documents are not covered by the same privacy protections as Family Court cases.

“One of the problems with being under state law is that your file is open to the public so anyone can access your file and read the affidavits and material in your file,” he said. “When people break up, they say nasty things about each other — that exposure doesn’t happen to other people.”
KEY POINTS
Gay couples should be able to settle property disputes in the Family Court.
Forcing gays to use the Supreme Court is costly and compromises their privacy.

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: Family Court, gay, Lesbian

The Age – "Push to open Family Court to gay couples" by AAP

May 21, 2008 1 comment

Gay couples who are separating should be allowed access to the Family Court to settle property disputes, the court’s former chief justice has urged.

In a letter to federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland, former Family Court chief justice Alastair Nicholson said Family Court protection should be extended beyond married couples, Fairfax newspapers reported on Thursday.

Under current laws, homosexual couples and heterosexual de facto couples must rely on state supreme courts to settle property matters.

But married couples have access to the specialist Family Court and its team of mediators, which were available for tens of thousands of US dollars less.

In the letter, obtained by Fairfax, Prof Nicholson said the change would ensure more cases are settled at mediation without a trial.

“To force same-sex couples to continue to rely on state Supreme Courts, which are often more expensive and whose personnel have less experience in family law matters, would be a continuing breach of the human rights of lesbians and gay men and their families,” he wrote.

Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Rodney Croome backed the proposal.

But Australian Christian Lobby chief Jim Wallace said while giving Family Court access to gay couples without children undermined the traditional family model, those with children had a case for Family Court access to ensure the best interests of their children were protected.

[Link: Original Article]