While on the boil as a hot issue for the last few years, it appears same-sex adoption has reduced to a slow simmer in Victoria lately.

It could be a case of too many fires, not enough firefighters. With marriage equality dominating the headlines, Victorians have been galvanised by the push for marriage equality over the less rousing, but equally important, issue of same-sex adoption.

But any campaign organiser knows how hard it is to get people to get active on one campaign, let alone more.

And the pause may not entirely be a bad thing. The passage of the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act in 2008 was a significant win for the community and allowed lesbian parents access to IVF in Victoria for the first time and the right — of non-biological — parents to be included on a child’s birth certificate.

The campaign trail was long and tedious and the bulk of the real grunt work was done by a handful of dedicated rainbow families. These families took the time to make their faces known to MPs, even changing a few minds along the way which helped push the legislation through.

Unfortunately the Rainbow Families Council has lost its driving member, Felicity Marlowe, from the helm. Members are now sharing the load between them, and after proving themselves with the ART Act, there’s no reason why a similar campaign for adoption can’t be fought as hard.

However, Rainbow Families must be careful not to wait too long. As they well know, reform is never easy and conversations need to start now.

Victoria is currently in the ridiculous situation where same-sex couples are allowed to foster children, but not adopt them.

The former Brumby Government constantly deferred the issue to the ‘national approach’ too-hard basket. A few inner city Labor MPs declared their support but pulled their heads quickly back below the parapets afterwards.
Opposition leader Daniel Andrews has said he’s supportive, although, speaking to the Star Observer earlier this year he said he was unsure if there was widespread community support for change.

Premier Ted Baillieu has previously stated he doesn’t support same-sex adoption and it’s unlikely we’ll see too much sympathy for it it in other government quarters. Most of the Coalition voted against the ART changes.
Same-sex adoption in Victoria is not, in any way, a new debate. All the way back in 2002 the Victorian Law Reform Commission recommended a change to the laws, but so far our politicians haven’t had the courage to move the issue forward.

If or when — depending on your level of optimism — same-sex marriage is allowed in Australia, there should be no reason same-sex couples who are (or are not) married can’t legally adopt children.

But the hard work, once again, needs to start. And those Victorian MPs keen on showing their gay-friendly credentials at same-sex marriage rallies should be putting their money where their mouth is and start making the everyday lives of rainbow families a little easier, in an area of law they can change.

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