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SBS Radio – “The question of same-sex adoption”

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In New South Wales same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt, but a private member’s bill is seeking to change that.

Independent MP Clover Moore recently introduced the bill, which will be debated when parliament returns from its winter break in late August.
Adoption by same-sex couples can be an emotive issue, inciting a broad range of opinions in the community.

Laws governing adoption by same-sex couples vary from state to state with little uniformity.
The policy coordinator with the New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Senthorn Raj, says the country’s same-sex adoption laws range widely.

There are very few states and territories in Australia that permit same-sex-couple adoption.
Western Australia and the ACT permit same-sex couples eligibility to adopt.

Tasmania permits a second-parent adoption mechanism for same-sex couples, which applies to step-parents.

Other states and territories currently do not have any mechanism permitting same-sex couples eligibility to adopt.

Raj says there is a misconception in the community that same-sex couples are primarily seeking to adopt unknown children.

He points out very few children are adopted domestically in Australia or overseas.
Instead, he argues, the real issue is about children already living with same-sex parents.
Across Australia there are over 4,300 children who live in same-sex families, but those children are being denied the legal recognition of both their parents.

This compromises the legal entitlements and rights a child is able to access around superannuation, workers compensation, custody and contact with their parent after a relationship breakdown.

Jenni Millbank, of the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology in Sydney, also argues law reform is primarily about children in existing relationships.

For same-sex couples the major issue with adoption is that if they foster or look after a child or children over a long period of time, as a couple they are not then eligible to adopt those children and give them a more secure environment.

They are also excluded from step-parent adoptions.

This means that a same-sex couple where one biological parent has died or there is no other legal parent, in the case of a lesbian couple who have had a child or in the case of assisted conception, for example, the family cannot formalise a parenting arrangement that is already in place.

Millbank says law-reform processes and parliamentary committees are important in letting everyone have a say on issues like same-sex adoption.

She says that generally they show you cannot make an absolute finding, based on sexual orientation or family structure, about what is good or bad for children.

Instead, Millbank argues, you need to look at individual people and couples and their parenting styles and the way they interact with children and make a finding about whether those specific adults are right for that specific child.

Political party Family First opposes adoption by same-sex couples, saying the number of children already living with same-sex parents does not justify law reform in the area.

Dennis Hood, a member in the upper house of the South Australian parliament for Family First, is opposed to legalising same-sex adoption.

Hood argues that the very small number affected by the arguments Millbank outlines does not justify a change in legislation.

He says one of the implications of a change parenting laws that allows homosexual couples to adopt children is that it would mean a change in the whole terminology of what parenting is.
Hood says parents may no longer be referred to as mother and father. They would become co-parents because, in some cases, the actual biological parent of the child is no longer included on the birth certificate.

Different groups have called on the Federal Government to take over adoption laws so they are more consistent.

But Hood claims legal reform would set a precedent he does not think Australia needs.
He argues that children have been brought up, where possible, by a mother and father for thousands of years. To change that role may be beneficial for the small minority of parents, but questions whether it is beneficial for the children themselves.

When it comes to fostering children, many agencies, especially, with religious affiliations, can reject some carers based on exemptions granted by the Anti-Discrimination Act.

While exemptions vary from state to state, it is not unusual for faith-affiliated groups to reject same-sex couples’ applications based on those exemptions.

Barnardos Australia is a foster-care agency based in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory that openly recruits same-sex couples.

Chief Executive Officer Louise Voigt says the main priority for Barnardos is not the carers’ sexuality, but their ability to take care of traumatised children.

She says that with same-sex couples it can be difficult because they are not approved as adoptive families. They have a number of (same-sex) carers who are highly successful and they do not want to move those children, who have strong attachments but still need the security of adoption.

Voigt says she would like to see legal reform because it would allow many of Barnardos carers to permanently adopt the children they care for.

She says that, with around one in three children eventually adopted, permanency is always in the child’s best interests.

[Source: Original Article]

Categories: Adoption

Southern Star – “Adoption Battle Underway” by Andie Noonan

Victorian activists plan to make same-sex adoption an election issue in the lead-up to the state poll.

With NSW expected to vote in favour of same-sex adoption in August, Rainbow Families Council convenor Felicity Marlowe said a Victorian campaign would be ramped up in the coming weeks.

“Adoption is the main thing we’re campaigning on during the election, but it’s not just adoption, we want the remaining recommendations in the Law Reform Commission report to be implemented,” she told Southern Star.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission recommended same-sex adoption in its 2002 Assisted Reproductive Technology and Adoption report.

Adoption battle underwayThe Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) Bill passed in 2008 as a result of that report.

While allowing lesbians access to IVF and the inclusion of non-biological lesbian mothers on birth certificates was seen as a significant step forward, same-sex adoption failed to gain traction in the suite of reforms.

The Rainbow Families Council will talk to its membership and other rainbow family organisations including Gay Dads Victoria before structuring a campaign.

Marlowe said it was likely the campaign would also push for more inclusive policies and practices for diverse families in the early childhood development sector.

Rainbow Families Council member and gay dad Rodney Chiang-Cruise said allowing known parent adoption for same-sex couples would have a huge impact on gay dads, often left in legal limbo.

“If we look at what our ultimate aim is, it is to be recognised as legal parents and the best way to do that is known or second-parent adoption,” he said.

“That would make a huge practical difference and a very important symbolic difference to those children on a day-to-day basis.”

Chiang-Cruise said the issue for gay surrogate fathers was complicated as they are in the difficult legal position of only being classified as donors to their children.

“There was a sense that gay dads got nothing out of [the ART reforms], but there was little to offer us in a sense, because lesbians were coming from a position of carrying the child which makes her a mother, whereas gay men are always donors, whether they have a child through surrogacy or they co-parent,” he said.

“The real issue for surrogate dads comes down to getting something better than a parenting order or a consent order from the Family Court which gives you parenting rights, but doesn’t make you technically a parent.”

The Rainbow Families Council is seeking help from the Public Interest Law Clearing House to prepare a research paper on the current legal standing of gay parents.

[Source: Original Article]

Categories: Adoption

Revisiting the 2007 Victorian Law Reform Commission Report on Same Sex Adoption by Rodney Cruise

In light of the recent Adoption legislative proposals in New South Wales relating to same sex adoption, I thought it was time to revisit what is happening (or not as the case may be) in Victoria.

In 2007 the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) released a report called "Assisted Reproductive Technology – Adoption: Final Report". The Report stated:

“Adoption of babies is now rare. Same-sex couples are currently unable to adopt children in Victoria. The commission believes that it is important that the widest possible pool of people is available to help these children. Research shows that a parent’s sexuality is not a predictor of harm to children”.

image The summary report is available here and as you will note of all the recommendations, Adoption was the only one that was not acted on by the State Government of Victoria.  Adoption is important to Same Sex couples in Victoria.  Whether you have done surrogacy overseas and want access to second parent or known adoption or whether you want to be able to adopt an unknown child, this reform is important to you.

A State Election is fast approaching in Victoria and the Rainbow Families Council is looking at stepping at lobbying on this issue.  People who are interested in assisting in helping out the lobbying campaign are encouraged to contact Rainbow Families Council to lend a hand.

Categories: Adoption

Sydney Star Observer – " Gay Adoption Next" – by Harley Dennet

December 3, 2008 Leave a comment

The NSW Government has promised a parliamentary inquiry into legalising same-sex adoption after making changes to speed up the approval process for heterosexuals.

“The issue of same-sex adoption was not included in the amendments, however, it was agreed the issue would be referred to the Law and Justice Committee,” a spokesman for Community Services Minister Linda Burney said. “We look forward to the committee’s findings and when the report is due we’ll look at the issue.”

The inquiry will hold hearings early in 2009 to coincide with a separate ongoing inquiry into altruistic surrogacy.

This comes more than 10 years after the NSW Law Reform Commission recommended the current ban against same-sex couples be dropped, and more than two years since another review by the Department of Community Services was handed to the Government.

Attempts by Sydney Star Observer to obtain the 2006 DOCS report through freedom of information laws were unsuccessful as it contained recommendations. It is still not confirmed that the report recommended legalising same-sex adoption.

Stranger adoptions are uncommon due to the low number of Australian children available — around 20 per year. Countries allowing overseas adoptions generally do not use same-sex couples.

Most cases where same-sex adoption would apply are in existing foster arrangements with a gay couple.

The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby strongly supported the inquiry into the last piece of NSW law that still discriminates against same-sex couples.

“NSW is in the ludicrous position of allowing individual lesbians and gay men to be assessed for adoption eligibility, but not same-sex couples. This discrimination hurts children by denying legal and social recognition to lesbian and gay parents,” Lobby spokesman Peter Johnson said.

“Adoption reform is essential for long-term foster carers, some step-parents and co-parents. Adoption would give children the economic and emotional stability which comes with the recognition of their families.”

This year co-mothers were given the right to legally adopt the biological children of their partner if they participated in the artificial conception process. But co-fathers were not included.

The inquiry into altruistic surrogacy laws heard in October gay men have
been seeking commercial surrogacy options in the US due to a lack of parenting options in Australia. That inquiry is not expected to report until the second half of 2009. Liberal powerbroker David Clarke is on both inquiries.

[Link: Original Article ]

Categories: Adoption

SX – "Rights groups push for state parenting reforms"by Adam Bub and Rachel Cook

The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby are calling for the New South Wales State Government to recognise same-sex families, after Premier Morris Iemma announced last week that his government would amend the Adoption Act to help foster carers, step-parents and other relatives adopt a child in their care.

Emily Gray, GLRL co-convenor, said that the government has shown no intention yet to extend these rights to same-sex parents. “It is an absurd state of affairs …when individual lesbians and gay men are eligible for adoption, but same-sex couples are not,” Gray said, in a statement.

Meanwhile, in Victoria, Premier John Brumby announced a conscience vote on state legislation regarding lesbians’ and single women’s access to artificial reproduction technology (ART) and surrogacy. Recommended by the Victorian Law Reform Commission in June 2007 and accepted by the government in December 2007, the legislation would allow lesbians and gay men greater access to having children.

Felicity Marlowe, spokes-person for Victoria’s Rainbow Families Council, told SX that “we are very confident that the best interests and rights of our children will win over other issues that might get in the way.”

But some politicians have already vetoed the idea. Peter Hall, Nationals MP, told SX: “I’ve never supported that concept before and I don’t expect I will change my mind.”

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: Adoption, Felicity Marlowe

ABC Online – "No adoption rights for same-sex couples: Bligh"

Ms Bligh says only about 20 babies are now put up for adoption each year in Queensland.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says same-sex couples will not be allowed to adopt children under proposed new laws.

State Cabinet yesterday approved several changes, including allowing de facto couples in long-term relationships to adopt.

The Government has also released a discussion paper on whether to give children and ‘birth parents’ involved in pre-1991 adoptions more access to information about each other.

Ms Bligh says only about 20 babies are now put up for adoption each year in Queensland.

“In an environment when you have such a small number of babies and such a large number of couples seeking to adopt, the onus is on the state to make a judgement about the best possible placement for a child and the prospect of that being anything other than couples as I have described, we think is very low,” she said.

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: Adoption, gay, Lesbian

Australian Gay & Lesbian Law Blog – "NSW: Considering further review of Adoption Laws" by Stephen Page

Stephen Page from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia is a partner with Harrington Family Lawyers, Brisbane, a long established boutique family law firm. He writes a wonderful blog called “Australian Gay and Lesbian Law Blog“. [Ed – Rodney Cruise]

Stephen Page from the Australian Gay and Lesbian Law Blog is reporting that New South Wales are now considering same sex adoption:

Minister for Women, Verity Firth, during debate on laws to change 55 pieces of legislation including allowing lesbian co-parents to be recognised on the birth certificates, had this to say about adoption:

Currently, gays and lesbians, as individuals, can adopt children, subject to the same process of screening for suitability as heterosexual men and women.

The Minister for Community Services is considering adoption by all New South Wales prospective partners in the context of a broader response to a review of the Adoption Act 2000.

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: Adoption