Section 60H might sound like a secret government project and, for most people, it is probably just as obscure. However, it has the potential to affect the lives of thousands of people all over Australia.
Section 60H of the Family Law Act defines who is considered to be a parent for matters relating to the Family Court of Australia.
Last week the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee released its report concerning the Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures) Bill 2008. The Bill is designed to allow de facto couples, including same-sex couples, access to the Family Court upon the breakdown of their relationship for matters relating to property and children.
Currently de facto couples have access to the Family Court for matters relating to children, but must have property matters dealt with by a different court system. This increases the costs, time and stress associated with resolving such disputes. Moreover, the Family Court is far better equipped to deal with such issues.
As it stands, the consenting male partner of the birth mother is considered to be the legal parent of a child conceived through assisted reproduction. This recognition does not currently extend to a female partner of a birth mother, leaving many same-sex couples, and in particular their children, without protection.
This means, for example, that if a lesbian relationship involving children breaks down, there is no guarantee of child support being provided to their children.
After extensive lobbying, the GLRL was successful in convincing all members of the committee -“ Labor, Liberal and Greens -“ to take up our recommendation to amend Section 60H to recognise lesbian co-mothers.
What we need now is for all sides of politics to come together and accept this amendment to provide legal and financial security for kids with lesbian parents. This is part and parcel with the Rudd Government’s promise to remove all practical discrimination experienced by same-sex couples and their families.
There is never an excuse for discriminating against children and they certainly shouldn’t be punished because of the sexuality of their parents.