The Hon Tony Abbott MP
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Cc Dr Ian Watt
Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet
PO Box 6500
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Saturday March 8 2014
Dear Prime Minister
INTER-COUNTRY ADOPTIONS BY SAME-SEX COUPLES
I am writing regarding the issue of inter-country adoptions. Specifically, I call on you to ensure that the processes governing inter-country adoptions treat all couples equally, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
I note that you announced in December 2013 that the Department of Premier and Cabinet would be investigating the issue of inter-country adoptions, reporting to you on ways the processes governing inter-country adoptions can be streamlined ahead of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, now scheduled for Friday 2 May in Canberra.
I also note recent reports about the potential for new arrangements for recognising adoptions by Australians with respect to children from Taiwan and South Korea.
However, I am unaware of any reports about work underway to ensure that all bilateral and, where relevant, multilateral, agreements concerning adoption entered into by Australia recognise the equal rights of all couples, including same-sex couples, to adopt.
There is no legitimate reason to prevent couples that may include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) individuals from adopting.
In fact, the most recent report on the issue of same-sex parenting, commissioned by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, reaffirmed independent research over the past decade in finding that “there is now strong evidence that same-sex parented families constitute supportive environments in which to raise children.”
The report – Same-Sex Parented Families in Australia by Dr Deborah Dempsey (December 2013) – further confirmed that “children in such families do as well emotionally, socially and educationally as their peers from heterosexual couple families.”
Speaking about the report to the Sydney Morning Herald in February 2014, author Dr Dempsey said “[i]t’s not the family structure that matters so much as the kind of care; that children are loved, and are taken care of.” In practice, same-sex couples are just as capable of providing for the best interests of the child as opposite-sex couples.
Given these and other research results, I seek your commitment to ensure there is no discrimination against same-sex couples contained in any inter-country adoption agreement which Australia signs.
On a related issue, one of the administrative barriers to efficient inter-country adoption processes must be the variety of different, often conflicting, adoption criteria that operate in Australian states and territories.
For example, while my fiancé Steven and I would likely be eligible to adopt in Sydney, we would not be eligible to adopt were we to relocate to Melbourne. I doubt that our suitability as parents would differ simply because we moved 1000km to the South.
As before, there is no legitimate reason to prevent couples that include LGBTI individuals from adopting, and that must include within and between Australian jurisdictions.
The report which you have commissioned and will be presenting to the COAG meeting in May is an ideal opportunity for you to call on the states and territories to adopt uniform adoption laws, in particular to ensure that all Australian states and territories allow all couples to adopt, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
This would be a benefit not just to the administrative efficiency of Australia’s inter-country adoption processes, but also to the equal rights and status of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians.
Finally, I note during the week reports of disagreement within the Coalition partyroom on the subject of single and same-sex couple parenting. Specifically, it was reported that Senator Cory Bernardi expressed his support for Minister Kevin Andrews’ defence of so-called ‘traditional families’.
In response, Liberal MP for Herbert, Ewen Jones, defended families headed by single people, and same-sex couples, saying that what was more important was that children were loved, not what gender their parents were. Mr Jones later told Fairfax Radio “I think it’s the quality of the role model, male or female, not the sexuality of the parents that maters” – a sentiment similar to that expressed by Dr Dempsey, above.
It was also reported that you responded to the debate by saying “[w]e need to be as supportive of people as possible, regardless of their circumstances.”
Taking you at your word, I sincerely hope that you will be supportive of all Australian couples, including same-sex or otherwise LGBTI-inclusive couples, having the same rights to adopt children from other countries.
You have the chance to demonstrate this support through the review of inter-country adoption which you have commissioned, and through your advocacy at the upcoming COAG meeting which will discuss this issue. I and other same-sex couples around the country will be watching which approach you take.
Thank you in for your consideration of this correspondence.