By Timothy McDonald Updated September 10, 2010 19:23:00
Gay couples in NSW will now be able to adopt after new legislation passed in state parliament.
The Greens say they have been given more momentum to pursue the issue of gay marriage at a federal level after laws allowing same-sex couples to adopt passed the New South Wales Parliament.
The Australian Christian Lobby says it is disappointed with the new laws and does not think gays should be able to adopt when there are many eligible heterosexual couples that also want a child.
Gay rights activists say they are satisfied with the reforms, even though they allow religious adoption agencies to sidestep discrimination provisions.
But Jim Wallace, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, says the New South Wales Government is not putting the interests of the child first.
“To argue that if we have this long line of prospective adoptive parents who are heterosexual and can provide that, that giving children to very demanding gay rights activists can for a moment be in the child’s best interest – how could it possibly be when you have so many well-screened prospective adoptive heterosexual couples?” he said.
“I mean it is a ridiculous argument.”
Mr Wallace says the issue is nature.
“By nature it is a man and a woman who can give birth to a child. That is the natural family,” he said.
“Now at a time when we are so concerned about the balances in nature with an issue like climate change, for instance, so concerned about some very fine balances in nature, how can we trash this most fundamental of models in nature, this most fundamental of balances in nature that requires a mother and a father to have a child?”
Mr Wallace says it is too complicated for heterosexual parents to adopt children at birth, and that is where state governments should be focusing their efforts if they want to improve the lot of children.
The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby says there are very few adoptions through traditional methods nowadays, in fact there is only about 20 a year in New South Wales.
They say the law will provide the biggest benefit to the roughly 1,500 children who already live with gay parents, many of them in foster care arrangements.
Their arguments may have been persuasive to legislators in New South Wales, but Queensland says it is not likely to follow suit.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties secretary Stephen Blanks says the Queensland Government appears to be taking cues from federal independent MP Bob Katter.
“Perhaps the situation in Queensland is different. We know in North Queensland and the electorate of Kennedy there are no gay couples according to the federal member,” he said.
“Some states are going to lag behind others, but eventually the good sense of this legislation and the good sense of parliamentarians voting in accordance with their conscience will eventually bring about reform so Australia has uniform laws in this area.”
The Greens hope the passage of the bill in NSW can pave the way for a second look at the Marriage Act at the federal level.
At the moment, the Act defines marriage as between a man and a woman and also refuses to recognise gay marriage from other countries.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says it is at the top of her agenda for the next sitting of Parliament.
“The first thing that I’ll be doing is introducing my private member’s bill to amend the Marriage Act allowing same-sex couples the same rights as everybody else – to celebrate their love,” she said.
“The bill will sit on the table until we have an agreement of the Parliament in both houses to a conscience vote.”
Mr Blanks says it is more likely that any move towards recognition of gay marriage will be imported from overseas.
“The federal ban on gay marriage will look increasingly anomalous,” he said.
“As other countries around the world without great fanfare or trouble allow gay marriages, Australia will just look to be out of step.”
Mr Blanks says it is likely Australia will run into legal complications, as gay couples will move to Australia and will not have their marriages recognised.
For the time being, Mr Wallace says he is not worried about the Federal Government’s direction.
“We have very strong commitments by Julia Gillard that the Labor Party will retain its policy of marriages between a man and a woman,” he said.