Title: Adoption laws: a dog's breakfast Credit: Dean Knight Comment Thursday 25th August 2011 - 9:44am1314222240 Article: 10750 Rights
Victoria University Law Lecturer, law blogger and London School of Economics PhD candidate Dean Knight says in a nutshell, our adoption laws are outdated and a complete dog's breakfast: Much of the focus is on the question of who is entitled to adopt - or not. The Adoption Act was drafted in 1955 and the legislation only allows "two spouses" to adopt a child jointly. Until last year, this has been interpreted as it would have been understood in the 1950s as a husband and wife, even though nowadays we have greater diversity in our family arrangements. De facto and civil union couples, both opposite-sex and same-sex are now common-place. Last year the High Court ruled the Bill of Rights Act meant that "two spouses" must also be read to include opposite-sex de facto couples. However, the Court also indicated there were a number of reasons why the entitlement to adopt might not be similarly extended to gay couples, if a similar challenge was mounted. Opposite-sex civil union couples were also left out in the cold, with the Court hinting that they might not qualify as two spouses; however, oddly, they may still qualify to adopt because of their de facto-like relationship. Even more oddly, the inability to adopt only applies to gay couples. There's nothing to stop a gay person adopting a child individually. But that's not much help, as around 80% of adoption application are within the existing family, where step-parents seek to adopt the child of their spouse or partner. The legislation needs a thorough and comprehensive review, particularly eligibility to adopt. There are other oddities in the legislation (for example, the legislation doesn't generally allow a single man to adopt a girl). And other elements of adoption which are due for updating. The Law Commission undertook a big review in 1999, but many of their recommendations - including their recommendation to allow gays to adopt - have been ignored by successive governments. Legislative reform is needed, because further court and tribunal applications aren't guaranteed to succeed and the courts can only make changes in the piecemeal fashion. The law needs to change because it unjustly discriminates against same-sex couples. That's not just gays wanting the equality they deserve as citizens. It's also about ensuring that all families - including families of gay couples - receive the benefits and protections that being recognised as a family entails. There's some ability to get some of those rights in some roundabout ways. But that's not a substitute for adoption itself. Gay couples are parents and want to be parents of adoptive children - and want to ensure that their children are adequately recognised and protected by the law. You can keep up with Dean Knight at his blog here Dean Knight - 25th August 2011    
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