By Andrew M. Potts
Queensland has voted to legalise altruistic surrogacy for all couples and single people, and to allow non-biological parents to be recognised on birth certificates.
In a vote of 48 in favour to 40 against, MPs voted to move a Government bill forward and rejected an alternative bill put forward by deputy Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg which would have excluded same-sex couples and single people.
A subsequent vote of 45 to 36 passed the Government’s legislation.
Rod Goodbun of gay and lesbian advocacy group Action Reform Change Queensland (ARCQ) told Southern Star he was happy with the result.
“It was a long and torturous debate over a number of days with a lot of misinformation and prejudice propagated by the Liberal National Party, so it’s fantastic to see Government MPs standing up and speaking openly and confidently about the need for reform in this area,” Goodbun said.
“It’s a great result for Queensland.”
This is the first GLBT reform to be moved by the Queensland Parliament since a comprehensive reform of state laws to recognise same-sex couples.
Same-sex couple adoption is still illegal in Queensland, while an unequal age of consent for anal sex remains.
ARCQ does not expect the reform of either in the current Parliament but is hopeful for the future.
Goodbun believes the passing of the new surrogacy laws may put pressure on other states to catch up.
“When you have some of the most populous states like Victoria and NSW and Queensland reforming their laws then it does move the whole agenda forward.”
However, Brisbane lawyer and family law expert Stephen Page is concerned that commercial surrogacy was left out of the bill.
“If you’re a Queenslander and you go to an overseas surrogacy clinic, you’re committing an offence in Queensland,” Page said.
“Brisbane is only about an hour’s driving time north of the [NSW] border, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some people have deliberately moved south of the border so that they’re not committing offences in Queensland.
“In NSW and Victoria, it isn’t an offence. It’s not an offence in the Northern Territory. It is an offence in the ACT. Whatever approach should be taken, it should be nationally consistent.
“However, there’s clearly a demand by Australians to go to commercial surrogacy clinics in places like California where Australians are the second-biggest market after the UK.”
Last November the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General announced they had agreed to a 15-point plan for nationally consistent surrogacy laws. However, no further progress in this area has been announced.