A new Bill will amend current Victorian Adoption Laws, making same-sex couples eligible to adopt.
Case law from back in 2010 confirmed that one person in a same-sex relationship can adopt a child in specific circumstances, however the new Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Bill allows same-sex couples to make a joint application to adopt. It will also allow a de-facto partner in a same-sex relationship to make an application to adopt their partner's child (as a "step-parent").
The Bill makes same-sex couples eligible to adopt if they have been in a "registered domestic relationship" (for example, a relationship registered with the Department of Birth Deaths and Marriages in the Victorian Relationships Register) for two years, or living with their partner in an unregistered de facto relationship on a genuine domestic basis for two years. This is consistent with the requirements that apply to heterosexual couples.
The original Bill contained a clause which would prevent faith-based adoption agencies from discriminating against same-sex couples under exemptions contained in Victorian anti-discrimination laws, however this clause was (controversially) removed on the Bill's journey through the houses of parliament.
Although, the Bill allows for de facto partners in same sex relationships to apply for an adoption order for their step child (or children), the order will not be granted unless the person can show that a parenting order under Australian family law is not sufficient to adequately provide legal recognition of the parent-child relationship. This is consistent with the requirements that apply to heterosexual couples.
The Bill will come into effect on 1 September 2016, allowing Victoria to join the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia in this positive and exciting step towards equality for same sex and non-gender specific couples.
Lia Anderson, Lawyer
Tamara Cook, Senior Associate