We’ve focused a lot in recent weeks on the benefits of providing de facto recognition for same-sex couples under federal law. This level of equality would provide gay and lesbian couples with most of the same financial and workplace rights and responsibilities as their heterosexual counterparts, including taxation benefits, Commonwealth superannuation entitlements and access to the war widow’s pension.

However the GLRL’s 58 ’08 campaign is not just about couples, it is also calling for equal recognition of our children and families.

Currently, non-biological co-parents are not recognised as the legitimate parent of their child under NSW or Federal law. This leaves many families uncertain about their future in the event of the death of the biological parent or relationship break-up. At this time there are no guarantees that the non-biological co-parent would have any rights or responsibilities in relation to their child.

While a parenting order can be obtained through the courts in order to acknowledge the co-parent’s relationship with their child, this process is unnecessarily arduous and fails to provide equal recognition of our families. The current laws run the very real risk of leaving children out in the cold, without legal protection or a legally recognised parent.

For example, if a lesbian woman in a relationship were to die during childbirth, her partner’s custody of their baby would not be assured. The biological grandparents or other relations could challenge the partner’s right to care for her own child.

With a parenting order in place, a court would be more likely to recognise the biological mother’s partner as the rightful parent of the child, but this is not guaranteed.

The Rudd Labor Government’s current commitment to implementing all of the recommendations made by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission will ensure that children of same-sex parents are better protected in the event of death or relationship breakdown. This needs to be paired with well-overdue parenting reforms in NSW.

These reforms are not about creating -˜gay families’, but simply recognising those that already exist and providing them with the same rights and responsibilities as any other family.

Visit www.glrl.org.au/58 and take action now!

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