Baby handTasmania’s upper house has passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to adopt, supported by all but three voting members.

Under the new law, partners registered under Tasmania’s Relationships Act for more than three years can adopt children not known to them. As the Relationships Act is open to same-sex and heterosexual couples, this change effectively brings adoption rights for same-sex couples in Tasmania in line with the rights of married couples, who must also wait three years to adopt.

Tasmanian LGBTI rights activist and head of Australian Marriage Equality Rodney Croome said the law represents a significant achievement for the state, the last in Australia to decriminalise homosexuality but the first to make significant moves towards marriage equality.

“This completes a long process that began with the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1997, and now finally, after 16 years, all discrimination in existing Tasmanian law has been removed,” he said.

Despite widespread support from Tasmanian Labor and Coalition members, a number of independents in the upper house opposed the bill, including Rosemary Armitage, who compared children who may be adopted by same-sex couples to the Stolen Generation.

The move has also been opposed by outspoken former Liberal member of the Australian Senate Guy Barnett, also the head of Tasmanian anti-LGBTI group Save Marriage Coalition.

“Denying an ‘unknown’ child the right to either a mum or a dad is contrary to their best interests and this new law unfairly discriminates against this group of motherless or fatherless children,” Mr Barnett told Tasmanian newspaper The Mercury.

Barnett also claimed the law may contravene the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ statement on the importance of motherhood.

The law builds on Tasmania’s 2003 reforms, which allowed people in registered same-sex or heterosexual relationships to legally adopt a partner’s child.

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