Saturday, July 23, 2005

Herald Sun - "Same-sex Law Storm" by Kate Jones and Sarah Wotherspoon

GAY and lesbian couples would have the same adoption rights as heterosexual couples in plans being considered by the State Government.
Changes recommended by the Law Reform Commission also include legal protection for same-sex couples who act as parents and better access to donor information for those conceived by IVF.

The commission has made 27 interim recommendations to adoption and assisted reproductive technology laws, which will go before Attorney-General Rob Hulls next year.

The radical changes aim to end discrimination against same-sex couples and single people, said the commission's chairman, Prof Marcia Neave.

But the suggested reforms have outraged family and religious groups.

Family First senator Steve Fielding said it was in children's interests to be raised by a mother and a father.

"This undermines traditional values and the traditional family unit which comprises a mother and a father," Senator Fielding said.

"That is the ideal and the best environment in which to raise our children who are our future," he said.

"This is a defining issue in terms of family values and the Bracks Government must defend and uphold family values at all times."

The Catholic Church and the Australian Family Association also condemned the proposed changes.

Vicar General of the Melbourne Archdiocese Les Tomlinson said children's rights should supersede those of same-sex couples and singles.

"To legislate changes) would be depriving a child of their rightful entitlement to a mother and a father," he said.

Gay and Lesbian Fertility Access Rights Lobby Convener Felicity Martin said: "Children of gay and lesbian parents do not suffer because of the sexuality of their parents.

"They suffer from the stigma and discrimination that they face when the family is not acknowledged socially or legally," Ms Martin said.

Adoption by same-sex couples is allowed in Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT.

Other recommendations by the commission include rights for lesbian partners who do not give birth to children.

Prof Neave said the changes would give same-sex partners a fair go. "We are recommending changes to the Adoption Act so that people who are undertaking a parenting role are legally recognised and legally responsible," she said.

"This means that non-birth mothers will be liable for child support if they leave the relationship and their children will have a right to a share in their estate if they die."

The Government will also be asked to let children under 18 who have been conceived through IVF to find out about their donor parents.

These latest recommendations are made in a second report by the commission. The first was released in May and the third is expected in September.

So far it's had 252 submissions from lobby groups and individuals.

The final report will be released early next year.

[Link: Original Article]

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