Rainbow families gather for parliamentary debate on adoption equality

Rainbow families and community advocates are calling on Members of Parliament to support the Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2015 to be debated in the Victorian Parliament tomorrow.

Amelia Bassett, the Co-Convener of the Rainbow Families Council, said that rainbow families around Victoria were pleased to see that adoption equality was close to becoming a reality.

“We know that adoption equality will have an immediate positive impact on the lives of hundreds of Victorian children,” said Amelia Basset, Co-Convenor of Rainbow Families Council.

“One of the ways to ensure that the best interests of children are upheld is to remove the discrimination in adoption law that stands in the way many family relationships being legally recognised and protected,” added Ms Basset.

Rainbow families and supporters of adoption equality will be gathering at Parliament before debate commences on the Bill tomorrow and voicing their support for the reforms and encouraging members of the cross-bench and the Opposition to support the Government’s Bill.

“We thank those MPs who have already expressed support for Adoption Equality and recognise that a couple’s ability to provide a loving and stable family environment is what matters – not their sexuality,” said Sean Mulcahy, Co-Convener of the Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby.

“Over 40 years of international and Australian research demonstrates that children in same-sex parented families do just as well, if not better, as their counterparts in heterosexual parented families,” added Mr Mulcahy.

The reforms will also ensure that faith based providers will not be able to impose blanket bans on same-sex couples and that each adoption case will be considered on an individualized basis  to determine the best outcome for the child. 

“Of course religious views need to be respected but we’re not talking about people going to church on Sunday – taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be funding discrimination,” said the Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy, Anna Brown. 

Certain religious providers of adoption services have also publicly supported the reforms, including Paul MacDonald, CEO of Anglicare Victoria, who has said “The bottom line for us isn’t about gender, race, religion or sexual preference. It’s about the ability to provide a loving and caring home for the child.”

While only around 20 so-called ‘stranger’ adoptions are carried out each year, adoption reform will benefit many hundreds of existing same-sex headed families, including step-parent families and children on permanent care orders.  

“There are children living with same-sex parents that aren’t able to formalize that relationship through adoption, which causes a great deal of uncertainty. For example, when the child turns 18 they no longer have any legal relationship with the person that raised them, which has flow on effects to wills and inheritance and a range of other situations,” added Ms Brown.

The Bill will be debated tomorrow and will require a majority of votes to pass the Upper House. An amendment to Clause 17 (on religious exemptions) was moved by the Opposition when the Bill was debated in the Lower House last month. The Bill passed the Lower House supported by all Government MPs, both Greens MPs, five National MPs, and an independent MP. Currently 20 of the 40 Upper House MPs have declared their support.

Update (26 November)

The Bill passed the Legislative Council amended to remove clause 17 (inserted to limit discrimination by religious providers). The vote on clause 17 failed (19 votes in favour / 19 against). The Bill including clause 17 was supported by all Government MPs, all Greens MPs and Fiona Patten from the Australian Sex Party. Once clause 17 failed the amended Bill passed with additional support from a number of Liberal and National MPs. The Bill will now be considered in its amended form by the Legislative Assembly.