FOR rainbow families around the country, the future poses a number of different challenges.

While marriage equality would have a positive impact on same-sex parents, Jacqui Tomlin believes if the government were turn to a plebiscite it would be enormously damaging for her three kids.

Aged 8, 10, and 13, she said a plebiscite would send a message that their rainbow family wasn’t quite right.

“The idea of a plebiscite sends a shiver down my spine,” she told the Star Observer.

“Kids are totally aware of the stuff they see on television or hear on the radio, and I think that it’s going to subject them to this narrative that same-sex couples aren’t supposed to have children.

“But I think what’s interesting is that there are more rainbow families now than ever and we’re much more visible which is a good thing, so marriage equality will certainly have a positive impact.”

While there are many who oppose same-sex parenting, Tomlin believes their criticisms are largely unfounded.

“We experience this fairly constant attack and public criticism around parenting within the community but I actually think the reality for us is that our families are doing really well,” she said.

At a recent Rainbow Families Council picnic Tomlin was struck by how far society had come.

“We had 150 families and there were lots of lesbian mums with their babies and gay dads, and I realised that I was looking at the next generation of rainbow families coming through,” she said.

“There’s this mismatch between our lived experiences every day, which are really positive, and the social commentators and media who continue to harp on.”

Tomlin said one of the key issues rainbow families will continue to face in the future is the stigma around same-sex parenting.

“I think we’re all still aware that our biggest fear is that our kids are going to be bullied, and that ‘bigger picture’ stigma is still attached,” she said.

“We’ll have to keep looking at how we can give our kids the skills and knowledge to manage those situations – when some kid in the playground says, ‘you’ve got two mums, that’s not right’.”

At the moment gay dads are the fastest growing group in within the rainbow family community, and for Rodney Chiang-Cruise, those who source surrogacy overseas face the biggest challenges.

“The reality nationwide is that there’s a lack of parental recognition for those who’ve done surrogacy overseas, so there’s potentially zero recognition of their parental rights,” he told the Star Observer.

“This isn’t just about gay men’s rights but also the responsibilities of being a parent… all children need legal representatives as parents, but gay men are not technically legally responsible for those children.

“This can create a range of issues when it comes to medical care and things like that.”

In December 2015 the Federal Government began an inquiry into surrogacy, with the outcomes of the inquiry due to be released at the end of June this year.

Chiang-Cruise hopes this will affect positive change in the lives of gay dads who use surrogacy.

“Hopefully through the inquiries there will come some momentum for legislative change on how gay men do surrogacy overseas,” he said.

He said while it was important the Federal Government makes major changes to ensure gay dads’ rights and responsibilities are recognised, state governments need to do so as well.

“We can get a coherent view from a single body like the Federal Government, but it’s important to get all states on board,” he said.

“We’re hoping to get bipartisan support for the inquiry and a sensible debate, but we don’t want it to be such a political thing about gay rights.

“The reality is that these children exist, and we have to make sure rainbow families get the same protections as heterosexual ones.”

Rodney Chiang-Cruise and Jacqui Tomlin will be speaking on a panel alongside Senator Penny Wong and Ruth McNair about the future of LGBTI families as part of Midsumma Festival on February 5. Grab your free tickets here.

The Star Observer is a proud media partner of Midsumma.

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