A report of an inquiry tabled in the South Australian Parliament last week recommended wide-ranging reforms aimed at providing greater legal protection for children of same-sex parents.

Parliament’s social development committee — an eight-member committee chaired by gay MP Ian Hunter — completed its yearlong inquiry into same-sex parenting after receiving close to 700 submissions.

In tabling the report, Hunter said the committee heard repeatedly that South Australia lags behind every other Australian state when it comes to protecting the rights of children born to same-sex parents.

“Current South Australian law puts children born to same-sex parents in an unequal and unsatisfactory position when compared to children born to heterosexual parents. This is an unacceptable situation that must be changed,” he said.

At present, under South Australian law, if a married woman becomes pregnant through the use of assisted reproductive treatment with donor sperm, her husband is treated as the father of the child and his name is placed on the child’s birth certificate. There is no similar presumption of parentage for same-sex co-parents.

The partner of a lesbian who has become pregnant through the use of donor sperm is not recognised in law as a parent even though she may be in a committed long-term relationship with her partner and has expressed a clear intention to co-parent the child.

The committee’s report highlighted problems experienced by same-sex co-parents because of this lack of legal recognition, including difficulties enrolling their child at school, questions over the legality of permission given for the child to be treated in a medical emergency and issues relating to the custody of the child in the event of the biological parent’s death.

The report called on the state government to amend laws to recognise the female partner of the birth mother as the child’s parent.

“Such a change would bring South Australia in line with other Australian jurisdictions and remove the need for lesbian couples to give birth interstate in order to have the co-parent legally recognised and placed on the child’s birth certificate,” Hunter said.

The report also recommended that eligibility for adoption be extended to same-sex couples, that surrogacy laws be amended to allow same-sex couples access to surrogacy, that assisted reproductive treatment laws allow lesbians greater access to donor sperm, and that improvements be made so that children conceived through the use of donor sperm in private arrangements can access information about their genetic heritage.

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