Lesbian couples with children should be given equal rights to those in heterosexual relationships, the state government of New South Wales, Australia, has announced. Under sweeping proposed reforms of a number of state laws, 'parental presumption' will be extended to cover the non-biological mother in lesbian relationships with children born through fertility treatment.
It is estimated that around 20 per cent of lesbian couples in New South Wales have children. The Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, said that the reform was necessary to ensure children with same-sex parents are fully protected in law. 'The current law discriminates against these children who, at the moment, have a relationship with the birth mother's partner that is not recognised by law', he said. 'They are unable to take on inheritance, or the benefits of compensation which may be due... following a death or injury'.
The proposals will only affect children born into lesbian relationships through IVF or artificial insemination, and will confer parental rights to the partner who is not the biological mother. Similar provisions are made in the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which contains a proposal to recognise same-sex couples as legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos.
There is currently no uniformity in Australian law on the issue of provision of IVF for lesbian couples or on the legal status of non-biological parents, and it has been up to individual states to decide on the matter. Most have retained prohibitive rules on the provision of IVF to lesbians and also on the recognition of same-sex relationships in general. Mr Harzistergos did not appear to consider the New South Wales government's announcement as radical, however. 'We want to see how this pans out nationally', he said. 'Our preference is that these issues be resolved at a national level so there is consistency and uniformity across the jurisdictions'.
The New South Wales parliament will debate the amendments later this year.