The partners of lesbians who conceive children through IVF will be recognised as legal parents, if legislation introduced in the ACT last week is passed by the Legislative Assembly.

Other legislative measures introduced by chief minister Jon Stanhope last Thursday will remove discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, transsexuality or HIV/AIDS status, and outlaw the so-called homosexual advance panic defence.

The measures are contained in two bills -“ the Parentage Bill and the Sexuality Discrimination Legislation Amendment Bill -“ representing the latest move in the Stanhope government’s staged process of gay and lesbian law reform.

Stanhope said in a press statement he had been approached by a number of people expressing concern that the Government’s legislative reforms are being proposed to accommodate only a small minority in the Canberra community.

I do not accept the argument that we should not seek to attain equitable treatment under the law for people with particular attributes simply because there are not many of them in our community, Stanhope said.

The parenting provisions which would recognise the non-biological mother of a child conceived via IVF processes will be a first for any Australian jurisdiction, if passed. Similar provisions -“ known as presumptive parentage -“ were removed from the recent ground-breaking Tasmanian relationships bill.

Stanhope said it was important for the government to deal with the reality of the many different and diverse family models within the ACT.

Part of that reality is that children of couples who do not fit into the traditional model may not have two legally recognised parents. The Government’s view is that this is contrary to the best interests of those children, he said.

If made law, the Parentage Bill will also amend the Adoption Act to allow courts to consider same-sex couples as potential adoptive parents -“ a move opposed by the Australian Christian Lobby.

Greens MLA Kerrie Tucker criticised the Australian Christian Lobby for their stance.

While it is pleasing to hear these particular Christian groups saying that they have no problem with equal rights for non-heterosexual people in other areas of life, their position on adoption is inconsistent with this claim, Tucker said.

The ACT Legislative Assembly currently comprises eight Labor members, six Liberals, one Green, one Democrat and one independent.

Spokespeople for Tucker and Democrat MLA Roslyn Dundas both confirmed they would be supporting the legislation, while a Rainbow Labor spokesperson said both bills had the solid support of all Labor MLAs. It is understood that the Liberal MLAs may support the Sexuality Discrimination Bill but oppose the Parentage Bill -“ although the bills are not likely to be voted on before February.

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