A BILL allowing same-sex couples to jointly adopt in Victoria has passed through the state parliament upper house after a lengthy debate last night, although the right for faith-based adoption services to maintain religious exemptions was also voted in as well.

The Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2015 passed with 31 upper house MPs voting in favour of adoption equality and eight voting against it.

When first tabled the bill included a clause that would amend the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, ensuring that organisations would not be able to discriminate against same-sex couples based on religious beliefs.

All Labor MPs voted to pass the bill unchanged, while Liberal and National MPs voted to remove that clause from the bill.

Rainbow Families Council co-convenor Amelia Basset said the passing of the bill was a major win.

“Rainbow Families Council are thrilled to have achieved a law reform that we’ve pursued for a decade, and we are especially thrilled for the hundreds of families that will be immediately positively impacted by the reform,” she told the Star Observer.

“Last night’s decision proves that it’s love that makes a family, not the gender of the parents.”

While the bill was passed with an overwhelming majority vote, Basset said she was disappointed by the decision to maintain religious exemptions.

“We believe that it’s absolutely inappropriate for faith-based organisations to be able to claim an exemption under the Equal Opportunity Act,” she said.

“We will continue to discuss with the government what they want to do next over the coming days, now that the amendment has to go back down to the Legislative Assembly.

“What yesterday’s debate has done is show that the current government in Victoria is committed to removing discrimination and we are optimistic that next time religious exclusions are debated there will be different results.”

Throughout the debate, upper house MPs stressed the importance of focusing on the needs of children first and foremost.

Census data from 2011 revealed that there were 2700 children and young people under the age of 25 in rainbow families.

Australian Sex Party leader Fiona Patten said supporting religious exemptions was clear discrimination.

“We’re suggesting that an organisation that is set up to help with the formation of new families should be entitled to deny a child the perfect home based on their religious views,” she said.

“That’s not religious freedom, that’s just discrimination.”

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Sean Mulcahy said the vote to remove the clause amending the Equal Opportunity Act did not promote equality.

“The Legislative Council showed its overwhelming support for same-sex families tonight but it failed the equality test,” he told the Star Observer.

“The VGLRL will continue to advocate for a review of religious exemptions across the board with a view to ensuring no LGBTI person is turned away from services simply because of who they are.”

Despite the bill being passed, it will now need to go back down to the lower house to be passed with the new amendment allowing for religious exemptions.

“If the Legislative Assembly accepts this amended bill, same-sex couples seeking to adopt will still be legally able to be rejected based purely on their gender identity or sexual orientation by religious organisations… that’s not equality,” Mulcahy said.

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