COUPLES can now jointly adopt in Victoria regardless of their sex or gender identity, though there is still no legal certainty for children born through overseas surrogacy.

The Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Act 2015 came into effect today in the state, after the bill was passed late last year.

The changes will allow both parents of a child in a rainbow family to be legally recognised as such.

However, while the government has committed to providing support for parents seeking to adopt a child born through an international surrogacy arrangement, the new legislation is still unclear for them.

Co-convenor of the Rainbow Families Council, Felicity Marlowe, urged the government to focus on fixing this.

“The adoption act fails to create legal protection for children living in Victoria who were born overseas,” she told the Star Observer.

“Whilst the government has developed a process, it is untested, potentially leaving many children in legal limbo.

“We’ll continue to strongly advocate for a better solution for these children and their families.”

Marlowe added that she hopes to work with the Premier and Minister for Equality Martin Foley to improve this.

“Just like us, the Premier and his government understand that it is love that makes a family,” she said.

A spokesperson for the state government told the Star Observer they were aware and upfront about the fact that the legislation may place some children in limbo, and had added additional resources to help.

The spokesperson added that the government will only know how the Adoption Act affects children born via overseas surrogacy once a family tests it in the Family Court first.

The government signposted Intercountry Adoption Victoria (IAV) as the body that will be able to handle queries in relation to adoption in the context of overseas surrogacy.

Rodney Chiang-Cruise, a gay father by means of surrogacy, mirrored Marlowe’s sentiments.

“While we’re excited about the changes to adoption laws in Victoria, we are very disappointed that the children of gay dads who were born via surrogacy overseas may continue to be denied the right to legal parents,” he said.

“We hope the government continue to work with our community to ensure their mantra of ‘equality is not negotiable’ is one that includes our children.”

When the same-sex adoption bill was passed the government’s proposal to remove religious exemptions were not, allowing religious organisations the right to refuse adoption to a same-sex couple on the basis of religious beliefs.

Co-convenor of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) Sean Mulcahy believes this still needs to be changed as well.

“We’re disappointed that faith-based services remain able to discriminate against same-sex couples that apply to adopt,” he said.

“We believe that children’s rights should never be trumped by the religious beliefs of a state-funded service provider.”

For the hundreds of children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Victoria, today marks significant change.

If you’re interested in applying to adopt find out more, or contact your local Adoption and Permanent Care team.

For fact sheets and further information visit Rainbow Families Council.

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