The Victorian Government has introduced a Bill to allow same-sex couples to be legally recognised as parents of adopted children. Currently, the Adoption Act 1984 only permits couples in heterosexual relationships to make a joint application to adopt and excludes known-parent adoptions in same-sex families.
The new Bill will amend the Adoption Act 1984 to substitute the gender-neutral term ‘person’ for references to a man and a woman.
In November 2014, the Victorian Government released its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) policy ‘Equality Back on the Agenda’. A major part of this policy was a commitment to address discrimination against children of same-sex couples and their parents in relation to known-parent adoption. The Government invited interested parties to make submissions to the review and a total of 83 written submissions were received and considered.
On 7 October 2015, in the second reading of the Bill, the Honourable Minister Foley said:
“A person’s sexual orientation is distinct from their capacity to be a loving and caring parent. By restricting the pool of eligible adoption applicants, a child in need may potentially be deprived of the opportunity to be placed with the most suitable carers”
Importantly, this Bill seeks to amend the religious exceptions in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 to exclude their application to adoption services. Minister Foley discussed this in the second reading of the Bill and said:
“The effect of this will be that a faith-based adoption agency will not be able to rely on a religious defence to discrimination in the provision of adoption services. This is to ensure that neither same-sex couples, nor children, are unfairly discriminated against in the provision of adoption services.”
Nicholes Family Lawyers will be closely monitoring the progress of the Bill with the hope that it becomes law and is implemented as soon as possible.