Home > gay, IVF, Jenni Millbank, Lesbian > SX – "Getting with the program" by Jenni Millbank

SX – "Getting with the program" by Jenni Millbank


Same-sex parenting reforms have finally been approved, marking the end of a very long road. But the journey is far from over, writes Jenni Millbank.

Last week saw a major victory for our families in NSW, with the passage of the underwhelming titled Miscellaneous Acts Amendment (Same Sex Relationships) Act 2008 (law reform can be satisfying but I never said it was sexy).

These reforms ensure that same-sex couples are recognised as de facto relationships across all areas of NSW law (the ‘missing pieces’ left over from the 1999 reforms, with the continued and vexing exception of adoption) and strengthen anti-discrimination protection on the basis of same-sex relationship status.

Most importantly, it finally provides parenting recognition from birth to co-mothers of children conceived through donor insemination, making them legal parents in all areas of NSW law. Both mothers can be recorded as parents in the birth register, can have their children listed as siblings, and can both appear on their child’s birth certificate.

These changes will apply to children who have already been born as well as those born after the passage of the law. There is a simple process for mothers to apply to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry to add the second mother to the birth certificate.

This is a huge achievement for community activism and grass roots law reform because we devised our own solutions and then slogged away until the government realised they were the right ones. These reforms reflected the proposals devised by the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby in And then the Brides Changed Nappies in 2002 and 2003. I am so proud of the Lobby’s commitment and professionalism over the years; this simply would not have happened without them.

These changes bring NSW into line with similar laws now in place in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT (with Victoria set to follow later this year), and will help to bring pressure to achieve the same kind of recognition in federal law in the near future.

This system is far more accessible, equitable and broad-reaching than second-parent adoption, in place in many US states, because it does not require a court process. Rather, recognition applies automatically from birth and simply requires that the co-parent consented to assisted conception, regardless of whether conception took place through a clinic or informally at home.

Some press reports have misrepresented the changes as removing rights from fathers, including gay fathers. Nothing could be further from the truth. These changes add a mother to lesbian-led families that previously only had one legal parent.

Sperm and egg donors are not legal parents under current law anywhere in Australia, even if they have a relationship with the child and even if they have been listed on the birth certificate. If mothers have listed a donor as the father in the past this did NOT make him a legal father, but it should be noted that he will only be removed from the birth certificate with his permission or following a court hearing.

Of course there is still more to be done. We need to work together to make adoption open to all and to ensure that parental rights are also included in the new federal reforms. If genuine multiple-parent caregiving is happening in lesbian and gay families we should pursue modes of recognition that can accommodate the needs of such families.

In my view it is also time to create a careful and transparent scheme for the transfer of parental status to commissioning parents in surrogacy arrangements, including gay fathers who have children through this process. But these goals shouldn’t detract from celebrating the magnitude of what we achieved last week.

Jenni Millbank is a Professor of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is the lead author of And then the Brides Changed Nappies report, published in 2002.

[Link: Original Article]

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Categories: gay, IVF, Jenni Millbank, Lesbian
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