The Victorian Government commissioned a review to consider the legislative amendments required to permit adoption of children by same-sex couples under Victorian law. The review is being conducted by Eamonn Moran PSM QC, former Chief Parliamentary Counsel and a current Commissioner of the Victorian Law Reform Commission. The scope of the review is limited to determining the technical legislative changes required to permit adoption by same-sex couples. The review seeks to establish the best ways to legislate for adoption equality – not whether it should occur or not.
Liberty Victoria congratulates the Government on the terms of reference, noting that they emphasise the best interests of the child, in conformity with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, and that they concentrate on removing the discrimination against same-sex couples in the current law. Both goals mutually reinforce, and cannot be separated, so that the reform the Government intends the review to develop will amply enhance human rights
Liberty Victoria has no expertise in the details of the Adoption Act and related law, apart from noting the wisdom of previous Law Reform Commission work on this topic, and the cognate legislation in other jurisdictions noted in the terms of reference.
Liberty Victoria is aware that submissions have been made seeking to allow religious bodies to continue discriminating on the basis of the gender of the prospective adoptive parents, and to seek to allow a relinquishing parent’s religious objections to same-sex couples as adoptive parents to prevail over the best interests of the child, and over the human rights of the prospective parents to equal treatment under the law and respect for their dignity.
Such submissions appear to be outside the terms of reference. Even if they were within them they are submissions to which Liberty Victoria strenuously objects. Under the Charter it would be necessary, if the s.17(2) right of a child to best-interests protection without discrimination (including, of course, discrimination on the basis of attributes of the child’s parents or carers) were to be limited under the Adoption Act or the Equal Opportunity Act, to establish, on the basis of demonstrable evidence, that the limitation can be justified under Charter s.7(2). All reputable research establishes quite the contrary, as do the statements of relevant professional bodies such as the Australian Psychological Society (see media release 15 May 2012 and the documents it refers to at www.psychology.org.au/Content.aspx?ID=4471).
Such religiously-based submissions on this topic, that is, are without merit and should be rejected.
Liberty Victoria thanks the Government for the opportunity to comment on this important and human rights enhancing review, and looks forward to the progressive legislation that will result.