Many of you will have heard that in a historic moment last week the NSW Parliament introduced legislation to legally recognise the non-biological mother in lesbian families as a parent.
The legislation attracted majority support in the Legislative Assembly with 64 votes in favour and 11 votes against. The legislation had support from the Labor and the Greens. A significant number of Coalition members, using their conscience vote, also supported the reform.
There has been some misleading information around about what this legislation will mean for fathers. To put it simply, nobody will be losing any rights under this legislation. And certainly, nobody has won rights at the expense of others.
This reform will allow both lesbian parents to be listed on their child’s birth certificate instead of one. The term father will not be removed from birth certificates and all parents will now have the option of inserting, mother, father or parent on birth certificates.
Of course, a question remains about the legal recognition of gay donors. When the Lobby conducted consultations in 2002, we spoke to many gay donors. Some want no rights or responsibilities concerning children they helped create as donors. Some simply want to be recognised as special friends or uncles -” not as fathers. Some are in father roles -” and some want to be awarded the same rights as other legal parents.
It is important that, while the right people are recognised as parents, those who do not want to be recognised, or should not be recognised, must not be caught in law reform from which major rights and responsibilities flow.
The legal recognition of lesbian families with children born through donor insemination was the first step of parenting reform for our community. Our consultations told us that this reform was most urgently needed to cover the most common family form in our community.
Recognising all our families will require further reform, including adoption reform. The Lobby has made a range of recommendations with respect to adoption in the Brides Changed Nappies report for which we have lobbied strongly.
The NSW Law Reform Commission has also raised the need to further investigate legal options that may be appropriate for recognising families with more than two parents, such as families with donor dads who play a significant parenting role.
The journey towards full equality for our families is a somewhat protracted labour. But this first step should be celebrated as a great achievement for our community.