Australian same-sex adoption bill nears final hurdle

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Australia moved closer to enshrined same-sex adoption legislation as its Legislative Council voted in favour of a new bill today.

The lower house voted in favour of the bill by a narrow majority of two last week, and will reconvene to vote on the amendments made by the upper house this week.

MPs in the Legislative Council at the New South Wales parliament voted 22-15 in favour of the amended bill, having made two changes.

The first amendment, made by Attorney-General John Hatzistergos is intended to narrow an exemption for faith-based adoption agencies, which was introduced to the bill via a previous amendment from Planning Minister Frank Sartor.

Mr Hatzistergos said: “The amendment that was past in the lower house would have extended not only to the faith-based agencies, but the secular agencies, including the department … then be on grounds which have nothing to do with religious conviction.”

The second amendment, proposed by Christian Democratic MP Fred Nile, will provide more information to birth parents regarding prospective adopters.

The bill will now return to the lower house where analysts are slow to predict the outcome.

Two lower house opponents to the bill were absent from last week’s vote, which itself was won by a two vote majority.

Chairman of the New South Wales Council of Churches, Richard Quadrio, said in reaction to the bill’s passing in the upper house: “We live in hope.

“We are pleased that it’s going back to the other house, and we’d be very interested to see whether the two members that were not present the first time the bill was passed will be present.”

The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, however, said it was “very pleased” the bill had been successful in the upper house, and lent its support to the amendments.

Conservative MP the Rev Fred Nile, whose amendment increases the information available to birth parents, labelled the upper house vote a “sad day for the children of NSW”.

“Every child has a right to have a mother and father, but the passing of this bill has destroyed that right,” he said.

“Today, homosexual rights have trumped children’s rights.”