As LGBT Australians and their allies continue to fight for the legalization of same-sex marriage, another struggle looms on the horizon: adoption rights.
Currently, same-sex couples are permitted to adopt children in about half the Australian states, although conditions and requirements vary from state to state. In Victoria, Equality Minister Martin Foley is pushing for legislation that would allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt without barriers.
Foley, who is Australia’s first Minister of Equality, is seeking to keep his campaign promise to legislate for adoption equality in a “timely manner.” Earlier this year, he initiated a review of same-sex adoption rights and laws. The goal of the review was not to determine whether or not same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt, but rather to research the best method for creating the appropriate legislation.
Recently, however, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) submitted that faith-based organizations should be provided exemptions. They insist that these groups ought to have the legal right to discriminate by placing children only with heterosexual couples, which they call acting in the “best interests of the children.” As we so often hear, the ACL wants Foley to recognize a child’s “right to be raised by a mother and father.”
In a firm and heartening move, Foley rejected the submission outright, calling it “rubbish.” To allow these exemptions, he says, would be to allow another form of discrimination to replace the current legal prohibitions.
There are many same-gender couples in Victoria who are already parenting children together, often in the form of fostering or unofficially blended families. Many of these families struggle to be recognized in schools, hospitals, and other institutions because of the legal status of their parenting. New legislation would allow these parents to adopt their children and obtain important legal protections for their families.
Adoption rights are tremendously important, and they are often met with even more hostility and resistance than marriage equality legislation. Opponents maintain that children need a mother and a father, or that same-gender couples will raise gay children, or any number of other ridiculous claims. We know, of course, that people of any gender or sexual orientation can be good parents and raise happy, healthy children. This is one of the many rights we must continue to fight for: The orientation of the parents in question should never create a legal obstacle to the creation of a loving family.