A BILL allowing same-sex couples to jointly adopt in Victoria was passed in state parliament and will become law, after the amendment to allow religious services to discriminate based on sexuality was voted in in the lower house.

The Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Bill originally removed faith-based exemptions, but this was amended by the upper house and sent back to the lower house yesterday where the changes were approved.

The hundreds of children being raised by same-sex couples around the state will now have the opportunity to be jointly adopted by both parents.

Rainbow Families co-convenor Amelia Bassett said the passage of the bill was a victory for rainbow families in Victoria.

“We’re absolutely thrilled, because now hundreds of children who are currently in care with foster families can be legally adopted by their loving parents,” she told the Star Observer.

“It’s wonderful because once the legislation becomes an act, rainbow couples can become a family.

“This was definitely achieved by having the support of rainbow families prepared to share their stories.”

However, Bassett said she was disappointed that religious exemptions were maintained and passed in parliament.

“We’re disappointed the legislation wasn’t passed as it was intended to be and we wish it had been otherwise, but at the end of the day we feel we’ve achieved something really great,” she said.

“The government has learned some lessons from this experience and realised they need to rethink some of their strategies around trying to remove religious exemptions.

“But I think that’s something in their sights… it’s not going to be easy to do, but this has also reminded us that it needs to be done.”

The Victorian Government plans to work with adoption providers to ensure same-sex couples aren’t discriminated against, and have begin discussions with services such as CatholicCare.

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) co-convenor Sean Mulcahy said these discussions were positive steps.

“We are very pleased that CatholicCare is engaging with the government on inclusive service provision,” he told the Star Observer.

“It’s time for the Church hierarchy to catch up with the majority of Victorian Catholics who support adoption equality.

“We won’t stop until all LGBTI Victorians can access adoption services without fear of being turned away simply because of who they are.”

Equality Martin Minister Foley said in a statement on Facebook that while there was still work to be done, the passage of the bill was a landmark achievement.

Shadow Equality Minister David Davis was in favour of religious exemptions and said an appropriate balance had been struck.

“The bill strikes a fair balance ensuring that same-sex adoption services are available and accessible,” he told the Star Observer.

“I would now call on the government to ensure additional funding for agencies is given, as there will be a spike in applications for adoption from same-sex couples.

“There’s no use passing the legislation while starving the agencies.”

Victorian Greens LGBTI spokesperson Sam Hibbins criticised the decision to maintain discrimination.

“We’re disappointed the Liberal National Coalition broke their promise of a free vote and forced amendments to the bill that will allow for discrimination against same-sex couples,” he said.

“The passing of adoption equality legislation will strengthen families and protect children of same-sex couples.”

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