Same-sex parents in Victoria would have the same legal recognition as heterosexual partners and would gain full adoption rights under new Law Reform Commission recommendations welcomed by gay lobbyists for acknowledging diverse family models.

The proposed reforms, contained in a report released last Friday, would also allow lesbians to become co-parents of their partners’ children under a deemed adoption process.

Deemed adoption would apply to women whose partners fell pregnant through infertility treatment from a licensed clinic, and would take effect once the child was born.

A non-birth mother could also be listed on the child’s birth certificate as a parent.

Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) chair, Professor Marcia Neave, said the proposed changes acknowledged children were being raised in same-sex families.

Our main concern in developing our interim recommendations was to improve the position of children born to same-sex couples and single women, Professor Neave said.

The current law does not recognise the non-biological parent in same-sex couples. However, children are being brought up in such families and the legal rights of these children need to be protected.

The VLRC also recommended sperm donors be blocked from initiating contact with their donor-conceived children. It proposed instead a register of sperm donors, which children could consult if they wanted to make contact.

Victorian gay activists welcomed the recommendations. Felicity Martin, chair of same-sex parenting group Fertility Access Rights Lobby, told Sydney Star Observer: We completely welcome anything that legitimises our families both socially and legally.

We know that families can be all shapes and sizes, and it’s about time the government caught up with the reality [that] children are already living in gay and lesbian-parented families.

However, Martin expressed concern that women who self-inseminate would be treated differently from women using infertility clinics under the VLRC changes, particularly in relation to deemed adoption.

The latest VLRC recommendations are part of a continuing inquiry into assisted reproduction and adoption.

The Commission has already released recommendations under the same inquiry calling for laws to be changed so women can access assisted reproductive technology (ART), including IVF, regardless of sexuality and martial status.

A third set of interim recommendations, covering surrogacy laws, is expected in October, before a final report is released in 2006.

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