Monday, December 8, 2008

Geelong Advertisers - "EDITORIAL: Rights of the child get legal backing"

THERE will no doubt be howls of protest from the traditionalists and church groups but new legislation in Victoria has finally given some certainty to families of same-sex couples.
Ostensibly, the legislation  has granted single women and lesbians increased access to IVF technology but the essence of the Bill is to provide rights for the child.

It recognises the non-biological mother and father of a surrogate child as the legal parents and recognises the female partner of a woman as the joint parent of a child.

The fact that both members of a lesbian couple have now full legal rights is a major step forward. Before the Bill, only the natural birth mother had legal rights. Therefore the other partner in the relationship had no rights in which to help the child should the natural mother die.  The child could not be included on her passport, could not be the beneficiary of  her  will, and the partner could not be privy to vital medical information.

The changes have been a long time coming. The legislation rewrites  20-year-old laws which  were in danger of becoming redundant in today's society and brings Victoria into line with other states.

Two weeks ago Federal Parliament  passed new laws giving gay and lesbian couples many of the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

Under the new laws, same-sex couples now have access to the same services as opposite-sex couples living together in "de facto''  relationships.

Gays and lesbians will be allowed to get family benefits under the state-run health care program and to leave their retirement benefits to their partners if they die. The changes also confer parental rights on gay and lesbian couples with children.

While the laws give same-sex partners many of the same rights and protections as married couples, they stop short of allowing gays and lesbians to wed under the Marriage Act, which was redrawn by the Howard Government to define marriage as between a man and a  woman.

Society has changed drastically in the past 20 years.

Public opinion is changing and the numbers of same sex marriages are on the rise. In Australia same sex marriages represent 0.6 per cent of all marriages. The number is far higher for relationships outside marriage.

In June last year,  in a Galaxy poll  of 1100 Australians aged 16 and over, 71 per cent  agreed  same-sex partners should have the same legal rights as de-facto heterosexual couples.  Similarly, 57 per cent  of respondents supported same-sex marriage.  Those figures show  a 20 per cent  jump in support since 2004.

Last week's Assisted Reproductive Treatment Bill is not a harbinger  of doom. It's really a contemporary piece of legislation which accurately reflects  the society in which we live.

[Link: Original Article]

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