The Victorian gay and lesbian community has cheered the passing of legislation in the NSW Lower House last week which will allow same-sex couples to adopt children.

The legislation passed 45-43 in a conscience vote, however, a last-minute amendment has given religious adoption agencies the right to refuse their services to gay couples.

Rainbow Families Council co-convenor Felicity Marlowe told Southern Star Observer she was hopeful the passing of the NSW bill would boost Victoria’s chances of similar reform.

“The Victorian Government has unfinished business in terms of securing the rights of children in same-sex parented families, and adoption would provide legal certainty,” Marlowe said.

“If the [NSW] legislation passes, it’s a high benchmark for the Victorian Government to take up the call for adoption reform.”

Marlowe said Rainbow Families Council would lobby against the inclusion of exemptions for religious organisations to discriminate against gay parents.

Currently same-sex parents are not allowed to adopt children in Victoria. The Brumby Government has indicated the Government is awaiting the release of a national review before looking at existing laws.

The ban affects gay and lesbian couples wanting to adopt non-biological children and same-sex parents wanting to safeguard their legal status with their own children born via surrogate or IVF.

ALSO Foundation CEO Crusader Hillis said he was optimistic NSW reforms would make it “easier” for Victoria.

“I know Victoria will take it really seriously … and I think if it gets through NSW we’ll see similar legislation here quite quickly,” he told SSO.

Hillis said, like Rainbow Families Council, ALSO would not favour religious exemptions for same-sex adoption.
“We’ll be working to ensure that [Victorian reforms] will not include religious exemptions, but it will be interesting to see how much the Government is prepared to live with that,” he said.

“With the equal opportunity [exceptions and exemption changes] that went through recently, it’s fairly obvious the Government’s still not prepared to take on religious exemptions.

“That’s the big fight for the future.”

In July, a number of state Labor and Greens MPs told SSO they supported same-sex adoption in Victoria.

The NSW legislation still requires Upper House approval before becoming law.

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