On August 2, the federal government announced it would legislate to stop same-sex couples adopting a child from overseas. The move follows the landmark adoption of a boy by two gay men in Western Australia in June.
Same-sex couples have been allowed to adopt in WA since 2002, and in the ACT since 2004. In Tasmania, same-sex step-parent adoption (where one partner is the biological parent of the child) became legal in 2001.
The federal Coalition's proposed Family Law (Same Sex Adoption) Bill will amend the 1975 Family Law Act and override state and territory laws that currently cover international adoptions. Overseas adoptions occur between Australia and other countries that have ratified the Hague convention.
The bill is due to be introduced in the spring session of parliament, beginning August 13. If it becomes law, the adopted children of same-sex couples would not be granted visas to enter Australia.
This latest attack on same-sex couples' rights follows PM John Howard's 2004 same-sex marriage ban and his overriding of the 2006 ACT Civil Unions Act. Howard is quoted in the March 8, 2004 Sydney Morning Herald as saying: "I'm against gay adoption, just as I'm against gay marriage. There are certain benchmark institutions and arrangements in our society you don't muck around with. Children ideally should be brought up by a mother and a father who are married."
Howard says that there is no support for same-sex adoption rights, but a recent Get-Up Galaxy poll found that 71% of respondents support same-sex couples having the same rights as heterosexual de facto couples.
Same-sex adoption is legal in 10 countries: Guam, Andorra, Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, South Africa, France and Britain. Howard's ally US President George Bush is proposing to ban same-sex adoption in 16 US states.
Australian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle moved a motion in parliament in June that called for single people and same-sex couples to be given equal adoption rights and access to IVF as heterosexual couples. The motion cited a Victorian Law Reform Commission report that found that having single, lesbian or gay parents does not pose a risk to children's wellbeing.
The ALP joined with the Coalition to defeat Nettle's motion. Nettle said afterwards: "This is a disgraceful move by the Howard government to pander to homophobic and fundamentalist religious interests in the lead-up to an election. The Greens condemn this extreme move towards legally entrenched discrimination against the gay and lesbian community. Children deserve a loving, caring and legally recognised family environment."
According to an American Psychological Association resolution adopted in June 2004: "Children of same-sex parents do not differ from children of heterosexual parents on measures of personality or morality." The report added, "Lesbian couples may actually be better parents than heterosexual couples in some ways, as research shows that lesbian couples are more knowledgeable about parenting skills. In sum, research indicates that there are few negative effects of being raised by same-sex parents."
Rodney Croome from the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is quoted in the August 2 Herald Sun: "The Government clearly believes children are better off in a Chinese orphanage or on the streets of Manila ... Studies on this issue overwhelmingly show children thrive in a loving family environment, irrespective of the sexual orientation or gender of the parents."
Rachel Evans from the Socialist Alliance and Community Action Against Homophobia in Sydney told Green Left Weekly: "The announced ban on same-sex couples' right to adopt is just another part of the government's campaign to portray same-sex couples as sub-human, and whip up public fear about us. But people are sick and tired of Howard's divide-and-rule tactic and are seeing through it more and more."
Evans said: "Thousands of people will be protesting against this latest denial of our rights on the weekend of action, on August 11-12. We will force this government to heel, and any government that follows them."
The weekend of action will demand the repeal of the same-sex marriage ban and the civil union ban, and that the proposed adoption ban be dropped. Seventy organisations have endorsed the action, including the Uniting Church's gay and lesbian group, Uniting Network, the Socialist Alliance, the Greens, the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and New Mardi Gras.
For more information, visit <http://www.caah.org>, or phone Shelly on 0417 735 597 or Farida on 0412 109 160.