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Adoption "not on the agenda" Key says

Tue 29 May 2012 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

File photo Prime Minister John Key says fixing the nation’s archaic adoption laws will not be placed on the Government’s agenda. That’s despite Young Nats pushing for reform and National MP Nikki Kaye working with Green MP Kevin Hague on a bill rewriting the 1955 Act. Currently only married couples or single people, straight or gay, can legally adopt, as the law was written before de facto relationships were a social norm or civil unions were available. Key says if the bill is drawn from the ballot and comes up for debate in Parliament, he will vote for it on its first reading. "I'm not bothered if there's gay adoption," he told reporters. "I think it's more about whether a child is loved than the sexuality of the parents." But Mr Key says the government has much more important issues to deal with, like economic growth. "If the member's bill is drawn I will vote for it to go to a select committee and there will be a conscience vote," he said. "But the government isn't going to put it on its work programme - in truth, it's not a big enough issue." It's the same stance Key took in regards to marriage equality. What the opposition says: Family First’s Bob McCoskrie has once again entered the fray, claiming the purpose of adoption is not to provide a child to adults, but rather to provide a family to a child. "Same sex couple and single parent adoption and surrogacy potentially harms children because it intentionally creates motherless and fatherless families - all at the same time as we express concern at the high rates of fatherlessness and solo parent households. There is no shortage of married couples willing to adopt,” he says. "While a compassionate and caring society should come to the aid of motherless and fatherless children, it is dangerous ground to intentionally set out to create fatherless or motherless families." McCoskrie says nature dictates that a man and a woman are required for procreation. “This limitation shows that a child's best interests are served by it having a mother and a father. The two most loving women in the world simply cannot provide a daddy - and vice versa … the gender of the parents does matter." How are the laws impacting us, really? When it comes to the impact on the thousands of gay and lesbian couples who are already raising children together, the current adoption laws are convoluted, here’s what we uncovered when we looked into the issue last year: Life has become a lot more complex since 1955 on a number of levels and there are many areas the law simply doesn't cover. Most children who are adopted are not taken in by 'strangers', the change that is truly needed in the gay adoption and parenthood arena is about giving parents who are already raising kids together legal backing. Canterbury University Lecturer Nicola Surtees is carrying out a study into the phenomenon of 'gaybies', that is gay men and lesbians having children together and co-parenting, which has given her a great insight into what's happening in the gay parented homes; where people are having success within the current law and what the ongoing struggles are. Surtees says lesbian-parented families are alive and well in New Zealand and have been for many years. She says initially, most lesbian parents were raising children who were born into previous straight relationships, but these days many have had children within their same-sex relationship. "Gay parented families are less common. It's harder for gay men to find lesbians to conceive and raise children with and/or to find a surrogate so that they can go it alone as parents. That said, there are gay dads out there and more and more gay men appear to be seriously considering the possibilities of being dads in some capacity." Surtees has recently written a journal article which drew from a Families Commission research project, which has insight into how gay parent families are functioning under the current law and how they are most impacted. She concludes that "despite the progressive nature of New Zealand family law, the rules that determine parental status and parent-child relationships have not kept abreast of the diversity in the family structure deriving from social change and reproductive technologies." The researcher says gay and lesbian-led families which comprise of three or more households require further attention and more than two parents should be able to be identified in the law. "In particular, the parenthood of donor fathers needs to be recognised and protected in the law so access to children and parenting participation is guaranteed regardless of shifts of intent or untoward events. In turn, this will protect children's right of access to their fathers." When it comes to other explicit changes that would be needed to end discrimination, Surtees tells second parent adoption would be useful for non-birth mothers where their children were born before a 2004 amendment to the Status of Children Act which enables two women to be named as legal parents on a child's birth certificate. "These non-bio mums have the option of becoming guardians to their kids but that is not the same as legal parenthood. At the moment, if the non-birth mums were to go for adoption of their kids, the birth mum would have to give up her legal parenthood." Surtees says gay men who have had a child via a surrogate with one of the men donating the sperm are also discriminated against. "The biological father (as sperm donor) has to adopt his own child! That seems plain wrong to me, why should he have to adopt his child? Partners of men in this situation who are expecting to be dads too also need to be protected." 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Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Tuesday, 29th May 2012 - 9:59am

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