Good news for same sex parents and their kids. The NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos announced yesterday that the NSW government will be introducing legislation to remove existing discrimination.
The new legislation will include the recognition of co-mothers as legal parents of children born through donor insemination, birth certificates allowing both mums to be recognised, amendments to 50 pieces of NSW legislation to ensure de facto couples, including same-sex couples, are treated equally with married couples, and amendments to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act to ensure same-sex couples are protected from discrimination on the basis of their relationship status in employment, accommodation and access to other goods and services.
Unfortunately, adoption and surrogacy parenting reforms will not be included in this round of reform. This means that step-parented families and families created through surrogacy will not be covered by the changes. A lesbian or gay couple will still not be able to adopt as a couple – but may adopt as individuals. The NSW Government has said it will refer these matters for further consideration to the health, community services and attorneys general ministerial councils. Relationship registers will also not be introduced at this stage. The NSW Government has said it does not favour state-based relationship registers, but would prefer a register at the Commonwealth level which included all states. However, the NSW Government will continue to examine the functioning of the ACT, Tasmanian and Victorian schemes.
The Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby has welcomed these changes which will provide practical and symbolic equality to many same-sex couples and their children. It will ensure children born through donor insemination will have two legally-recognised mums for the purposes of inheritance, access to medical treatment, school permission notes, family death or breakdown and any other area of parental responsibility.
Emily Gray, Co-Convenor of the Lobby said, “We are pleased that NSW is finally falling into line with other states and territories in allowing both mums to be recognised as legal parents, and for birth certificates to reflect the true reality of a child’s family.”
The Lobby has been consistently campaigning for these changes since 2003. On the question of adoption Co-Convenor Peter Johnson said, “These reforms are a leap forward for equality in NSW, but are one bar short of the finish line. Equality for gay and lesbian people must include adoption reform to ensure same-sex couples are eligible to be considered as adoptive parents.”
Johnson further elaborated that the NSW Government should take a more active role in pushing for formal relationship recognition. “From the consultations that the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby undertook in 2006, there is a strong desire and need for the peace of mind that formal relationship recognition, such as a relationship register, would offer in accessing relationship rights. With other states moving towards implementing relationship registries, the NSW government should be actively seeking to implement a similar scheme that is consistently recognised across Australia.”