NEW SOUTH WALES: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
NSW Govt rejects adoption by same-sex couples
, February 6, 2010
The NSW Government has rejected a recommendation by a parliamentary committee to permit homosexual couples to adopt children, and to compel church adoption agencies to facilitate homosexual adoption - at least for the time being.
The Legislative Council's Standing Committee on Law and Justice, which by majority decision recommended homosexual adoption, was divided on the issue, with Labor MP Greg Donnelly and Liberal MP David Clarke being particularly outspoken against the recommendations.
There was also widespread opposition from pro-family organisations and churches which run adoption services in New South Wales. Their intervention clearly influenced the Government's decision.
The New South Wales president of the Australian Family Association, Mary-Louise Fowler, warmly welcomed the decision by the NSW Minister for Community Services, Linda Burney, but expressed misgivings that the Government had not firmly closed the door on same-sex adoptions.
Ms Burney commended "the same-sex foster carers who spoke to the inquiry of their parenting experiences and the needs of the children and young people in their care. All foster carers provide a critical service to the community in providing safe and loving homes to children and young people unable to live with their families. Lesbian and gay foster carers make a highly valued contribution to the NSW out-of-home care service system."
The minister noted the existence of strong divisions in the community on this issue. She said: "This polarisation of views among community groups and individuals has been reflected within the committee, which failed to achieve a consensus position on the need for law reform in this area.
"It is acknowledged that the issue of same-sex adoptions has been considered by a number of expert committees both within NSW and in other Australian jurisdictions. Mostly, these have made recommendations in favour of allowing same-sex couples to adopt. The NSW Government has noted that in NSW, currently a single gay person is legally able to adopt although a gay couple cannot.
"It is also acknowledged that there are many same-sex couples who foster children on behalf of both government and non-government agencies."
While asserting that the government would not legalise adoptions by homosexual couples, Ms Burney said, "This is a complex and sensitive issue that tests deeply held personal values and beliefs; therefore it is important for the Government to continue to listen to the views of the wider community before deciding upon a final policy position. … The report contains very valuable information that will assist the Government as it considers this issue further."
However, Greg Donnelly, the NSW Government whip in the Legislative Council, said, "As a member of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice that examined the issue of the adoption rights of children, I argued that it is the birthright of every child in this state, indeed in Australia, to be entitled to be raised by a mother and a father.
He continued: "New South Wales has had responsible government since 1856 - over 150 years. Over that period, governments of all persuasions have acknowledged and supported the general proposition that a child's best interest is served when that child is raised by a mother and a father.
"This has been seen, correctly in my view, as a valid principle that has guided our collective decision-making with respect to protecting the well-being of children. The principle is underpinned by that profound bond that exists between a child and a mother and a father - a bond that is intrinsically known and understood by all cultures, down the ages, for as long as anybody can remember.
"Current legislation restricts adoption by couples to heterosexual couples. Underpinning this is the widely-held community view that it is in the best interests of a child to be raised by a mother and a father. The arguments made in favour of the heterosexual parenting model were presented in detail by a number of participants to the inquiry both through submissions and oral evidence. I found the arguments and the evidence supporting the heterosexual parenting model of a man and a woman in a permanent, preferably married, relationship persuasive and worthy of ongoing legislative support.
"I further note that adoption by same-sex couples is not permitted in the vast majority of countries around the world. Moreover, laws permitting adoption by same-sex couples in Australia are the exception, not the rule.
He added: "It is also pleasing to note that the Government will not be supporting the inquiry's recommendation that would have fundamentally undermined religious freedom in New South Wales.
"Faith-based adoption agencies have had a long history of providing adoption services in this state. An exemption provision in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977
enables such agencies to, according to their religious tenets, only offer adoption services to heterosexual couples. This arrangement has operated without difficulty or problems for a number of years.
"It is therefore extraordinary that one of the recommendations of the inquiry sought to qualify and compromise the exemption entitlement currently utilised by these agencies. … Forcing a faith-based agency to act in a way that does not accord with the tenets of their beliefs would undermine the exercise of legitimate religious freedom."