08 July 2009

Same-Sex Couples and Adoption in NSW

A NSW Government parliamentary inquiry has recommended that same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children. The victory was a narrow one, so narrow that it required the chair to cast the deciding vote, and the vote is likely to reignite the nurture / nature debate sometime down the track in the event that the State Government picks up on the recommendation and seeks to amend the relevant laws and regulations.

In essence, the report recommends that same-sex couples must not be discriminated against in the adoption process. Therefore, same-sex couples are to be assessed in exactly the same way as a heterosexual couple as to their suitability to adopt children.

It is expected that if the legislation was to be amended, then this would expand the pool of potential / possible parents. It is also expected that this will provide greater flexibility to adoption agencies in ensuring that the best interests of the child are realized by allowing them to be adopted by the best possible candidates for parenthood.

If the government was to run with the recommendations, then the first step would be to introduce an amendment bill to the Adoption Act. However, considering the contentious nature of the subject matter, then there is also an expectation that this may spend a lot of time in committees seeking to determine the feasibility of amending the legislation to reflect the recommendations.

The reality is that the government is struggling in opinion polls and this one is not likely to help them on that front. It would be interesting to see whether the government would allow a conscience vote on the bill if it were ever to make it to the floor of parliament.

The amendment of the legislation is the right thing to do. The fact that gay and lesbian couples are prohibited from adopting children is discriminatory. As human beings, people have a right to live their lives free from the discriminatory discretion of the state. Same-sex couples already have the right to foster children, so it makes sense that these same people must also enjoy the right to adopt children as well.

With a bit of luck the NSW Government will not play politics with this one and just get it done. After all, it is the right thing to do.

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