Last Sunday, Dads across the country celebrated and were celebrated as part of this year’s Father’s Day. An increasing number of these dads were gay or formed part of a same-sex family. According to Meet the Parents, a report by Associate Professor Jenni Millbank, from Sydney University, research into lesbian and gay families has shown that 10 percent of all gay men and 20 percent of lesbians are parents, and these numbers are rising.
Gay dads, lesbian mums and same-sex families are becoming an increasingly visible part of not only our community, but the wider society. Only last week Seven’s Sunrise program ran a story on two gay dads as part of a week long segment leading up to Father’s Day.
Despite an increasing social awareness and visibility of same-sex families, the law continues to lag behind by failing to recognise our rights as parents. Under NSW law, same-sex couples are explicitly prohibited from any form of adoption under the Adoption Act.
This means that the partner in a same-sex relationship who is the non-biological parent, is not able to be legally recognised as a parent through the process of adoption. It also means that whilst heterosexual couples may adopt an unknown child, same-sex couples are not allowed. Although unknown adoption is quite uncommon in today’s society, the symbolism of prohibiting lesbian and gay couples from unknown adoption is nevertheless important.
At a federal level the Howard government continues to fail to recognise our relationships, not only with each other, but also with our children. Although the attempted ban on overseas adoption did not pass last year, the federal government has indicated that now that it has control of the senate it intends to re-introduce the legislation. Certain prominent members of the Coalition have also called on the Government to re-introduce amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act to allow states to prohibit lesbians from accessing IVF treatment.
As well as fighting to ensure the Howard government does not legislate to further discriminate against our families, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby will continue to the lobby the state government to introduce parenting reform at a state level, to ensure that same-sex parents have full parenting rights under NSW law.
Reform has already taken place in WA, Tasmania, ACT and NT. It is time Macquarie Street kept up with the rest of society and recognise lesbian and gay families.
David Scamell and Julie McConnell are co-convenors of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby