While NSW struggles with a decision on whether to equalise the age of consent for gay men, the ACT is preparing a sweeping round of reforms including adoption rights for same-sex couples.

ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope flagged the Territory government’s intentions to proceed with the reforms this week, when he tabled a report into discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

These reforms are based on our strong belief that everyone is entitled to respect and dignity and the right to participate in society and receive the full protection of the law regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identification, Stanhope said.

Adoption reforms would enable gay and lesbian people to adopt their partner’s children. Lesbians will also be able to adopt their partner’s children conceived by artificial insemination.

Stanhope said there was no sustainable reason to exclude gay men and lesbians from adopting children.

When it comes to adoption, the paramount consideration in every case is the welfare and interests of the child concerned, he said.

Regardless of views on the desirability of same-sex parenting, the reality is that there are many different and diverse family models. The government’s view is that we should deal with this reality.

The reforms have also flagged the abolition of the gay panic defence, which has enabled people to claim their act of violence was triggered by an unwanted homosexual advance, and changes to the Discrimination Act to include anti-vilification laws on grounds of sexuality, transsexuality and HIV/AIDS status.

Rights advocates have welcomed the changes, but expressed disappointment civil unions for same-sex couples were not included.

The changes, due to be passed into law in December this year, were the final stage of a package of anti-discrimination reforms that began with 39 separate pieces of legislation in March this year.

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