Jun06

Same sex adoption: When is it Victoria's turn?

CREATED ON // Friday, 06 June 2014 Written by // Anna Brown

The Victorian election is looming and there is already a spotlight on an issue close to many of our hearts: same-sex adoption.  

There are growing numbers of happy, healthy, wonderful children being raised in rainbow families all across Victoria. Yet, unfortunately, our adoption laws continue to discriminate against same-sex couples. This is unfair and unjust and contrary to the best interests of children.

There are children living in Victoria who currently have little or no legal certainty about their legal parentage, simply because they have same-sex parents. These children live in a diverse range of families and situations – under permanent care orders, in step-parent families, in intergenerational families or where they have been born through international surrogacy.

In these types of situations, parenting orders can be put in place but the child still cannot legally be adopted by their same-sex parents. This means that once the child turns 18 years old the parenting orders expire and the legal relationship between parent and child ceases. These children are left in limbo without the security, stability and practical benefits of legal recognition.

Yet despite the Adoption Act excluding same-sex couples, the state entrusts us with the care of some of its most vulnerable children. Currently same-sex couples can be approved as carers for foster children. Indeed, many foster-care agencies actively target same-sex couples in their marketing materials.

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In 2007 the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC ) remarked on this inconsistency in treatment: "It makes no sense that people in same-sex relationships are able to be approved as permanent and short-term carers of children in need, but cannot assume the full range of legal parental powers and responsibilities for these children". These vulnerable children are entitled to the legal status and emotional security that would flow from equal recognition of their same-sex parents.

The numbers of ‘stranger-adoptions’ in Victoria are very low. Nevertheless, there is no reason why same-sex couples or individuals should not be considered on an equal footing to heterosexual couples. It goes without saying that sexual orientation does not have a bearing on whether you can raise a happy, healthy child. In fact, over 40 years of international and Australian research demonstrates that children in same-sex parented families do just as well, if not better, emotionally, socially and educationally as their counterparts in heterosexual families.

It’s time for the law to catch up with the reality of modern Victoria. Seven years after the VLRC inquiry, Victoria still lags behind a growing list of jurisdictions that have legislated for equality – NSW, WA, Tasmania and the ACT and over 16 other countries internationally. Amending our law would remove the last stain of discrimination against our community from the statute books and have an immediate practical benefit for many hundreds of parents and children.

To learn more about the issues, share your stories and help shape the adoption equality campaign, there is a community meeting at the Victorian AIDS Council (6 Claremont Street, South Yarra) on June 24, 7 - 8.30pm; or follow the campaign on twitter (@Adoption EqualiT) and facebook (Adoption Equality – Love Makes a Family).

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Anna Brown

Anna Brown

Anna Brown is the co-convenor for the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and a senior lawyer at the HRLC (Human Rights Law Centre)

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