FIVE days out from the Victorian state election, LGBTI community advocates are seeking clarification from both the Coalition and Labor around their positions on legalising same-sex adoption in the state, concerned about a lack of detail on the timeframe and extent of reform.
Although Premier Denis Napthine has said he is open to allowing same-sex adoption, the Coalition has resisted taking a firm position while Labor has committed to a review of existing laws with an aim to legalise same-sex adoption, prompting concerns of further unnecessary delays to reform.
“The ALP and the Victorian Greens have committed to removing discrimination but have not committed to a timeline for action,” VGLRL co-convener Anna Brown said.
“However, as we near the state election, voters remain in the dark about where the Liberal-National Coalition stands on this important children’s rights issue, despite Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge recently expressing her ‘personal’ support for reform.”
The Star Observer has contacted the Premier’s office for clarification on their position on same-sex adoption, but had not received a response at the time of writing.
A spokesperson for advocacy group Rainbow Families Council said the organisation is “concerned” about Labor’s indication of a further review of existing adoption laws.
Labor initially referred the matter to the state’s Law Reform Commission in 2002 and received a recommendation to implement the reform in 2007, but the previous Labor government never implemented the reform.
“The parenting community is really pleased to see that we’re going into an election with two of the three major parties, the ALP and the Greens, committing to adoption equality,” the Rainbow Families Council spokesperson told the Star Observer.
“We are concerned, however, about the ALP seeking review the Adoption Act — it’s taken 12 years already, we don’t want our children to wait any longer.”
Labor’s LGBTI spokesperson Martin Foley told the Star Observer a review of the Adoption Act would be consistent with the party’s commitment to review all legislation to identify possible discrimination against LGBTI Victorians.
“That’s the general commitment, but a specific commitment within that is to deliver adoption equality once, make no distinction between known and unknown, and just get it done,” he said.
Foley had previously indicated Labor would enact a now-abandoned two-stage approach to adoption reform by distinguishing “known” from “unknown” adoption, prompting criticism from LGBTI advocates.
He told the Star Observer a review of the Adoption Act would also be tied to an election commitment to allow biological parents to contact children removed in forced adoptions, meaning the process would be more complicated than the rest of the legislative review to address LGBTI discrimination.
With just days to go until Saturday’s election, Rainbow Families Council is seeking further community support for reform with the launch of a petition for adoption equality.
Foster care agency Berry Street has also given its support to the campaign, with chief executive Sandie de Wolf indicating they would be contacting Victoria’s major parties about the issue directly.
“Under the current provisions of the Victorian Adoption Act (1984) same-sex permanent carers who have been raising children for many years are not permitted to apply to adopt those children should they become eligible for adoption,” Berry Street stated.
“This is not in the best interests of children. Discrimination of this type directly impacts on these children by denying them access to adoption with their permanent carers and more broadly reinforces homophobic attitudes against same-sex couples which is harmful to all children.”
Data released yesterday from ABC’s Vote Compass election survey revealed 57 per cent of respondents supported same-sex adoption, with only 20 per cent “strongly opposed”.
Support for the issue was three times higher among adults under 35, and both Catholics and Protestants were more likely to support same-sex adoption than oppose it.