On a momentous day last week the NSW Attorney-General announced, after many years of our community’s urging, the planned removal of discrimination against lesbian mothers and their children. For too many years now mothers in our community have fought hard against school boards, hospital staff and the court system to be recognised as parents, and for their children to be recognised as their own.
And although the reforms are yet to be passed through Parliament, the fact that they arise from a Government-sponsored bill means we’ve passed the biggest hurdle.
As mums and mums-to-be have remarked to us over the past week, these changes will make a really big difference to many families in our community.
The proposed legislation means lesbian co-mothers will be legally recognised as parents. Up until now, the only way to obtain parenting rights for lesbian co-mothers has been through obtaining a Parenting Order. Parenting Orders can be challenged in court, cost thousands of dollars, and generally take a lot of time, effort and patience on the part of our families. On the other hand, the automatic recognition as a parent in law grants more rights, is more durable, and is much cheaper than having to obtain an order from a court. The reforms will also enable lesbian co-mothers to put their names on their child’s birth certificate, which will allow them to easily prove their status as parents.
This is great news for our community. However, the reform package could go further. One of the NSW Law Reform Commission’s recommendations was changes to adoption legislation to include same-sex couples. Currently, same-sex couples cannot adopt their own children to be recognised as parents.
In addition, same-sex couples do not have the right to adopt unknown children in NSW. So while we commend the NSW Government for taking this welcome first step towards equality for our families, we will continue to push for full equality. We will also continue to pressure the Federal Government, in our 58 ’08 campaign, to ensure that family law reform is not left out.