The New South Wales government's lower house has narrowly passed a bill that will allow same-sex couples to adopt children in the state. After a two-day debate, the bill passed 46 votes to 44 after MPs were allowed a conscience vote on the legislation, ABC News reported.
The bill was introduced by independent Sydney MP Clover Moore who included an amendment that gives church adoption agencies the right to refuse services to same-sex couples without breaching anti-discrimination laws. She was quoted as saying that she did this "against her strong belief" in the hope it would encourage MPs to support the bill.
The Sydney Morning Herald also notes that the bill will allow for birth parents who do not want their children to be adopted by a same-sex couple to make their preference known without fear they will breach anti-discrimination laws by doing so.
The bill would most often apply to situations where a couple adopted a foster child, or a parent adopts the child of his/her partner. An estimated 1300 children in NSW are already fostered by same-sex couples or cared for by a parent's gay partner.
The bill would not affect inter-country adoptions since none of the countries Australia has agreements with allows such adoptions.
Gay couples can already adopt in the ACT and Western Australia while same-sex step-parent adoptions (where one parent is biological) are allowed in Tasmania.
Tasmania to recognise foreign same-sex marriages
This week, Tasmania's Lower House of Parliament approved laws recognising same-sex marriages and civil unions registered in other states or countries.
ABC News reported that only three of the 25 Members of the House of Assembly – Liberals Rene Hidding, Michael Ferguson and Jacqui Petrusma – voted against the amendment to the Relationships Act.
Attorney-General Lara Giddings told ABC the changes sought to remove discrimination for same-sex couples in registered relationships.
"This is really a small step, but a significant and important step for those people who have registered or been through a civil union process elsewhere around the world and want us to recognise that relationship as indeed being in existence," she said.
Gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome has welcomed the bill saying it allows for greater respect for personal unions from interstate and overseas.
"It would be good to see the Tasmanian Parliament revisit the issue of same-sex marriage and recognition of same-sex marriages in Australia, but that's a separate issue," he said.
The amendment must now pass Tasmania’s Legislative Council, which is comprised of one Liberal, three Labor members, and 11 independents. The amendment is expected to be voted on within one month.
The ACT is the only state or territory that currently recognises civil partnerships carried out in other Australian states and countries but not same-sex marriages.