(Debate, 9 September 2015, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I speak in support of recognising this important and historic legislation, and commend the member for Summer Hill for her commitment to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community. I remember watching the debate five years ago, being inspired by the supporters, offended by the opponents and proud of my local member for introducing this bill. In 2000 Clover Moore introduced a private member's bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to adopt as a couple. She was the only member of Parliament to support this reform in the Legislative Assembly at that time. She sat on one side of the Chamber by herself, with all the other members sitting opposite her to oppose it.
Ten years later Clover Moore tried again, working with a cross-party group of members of Parliament and this time the bill was passed with a very close margin. Her work for fairness was vindicated, with support from then Premier Kristina Keneally and Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell. An estimated 1,300 children in New South Wales have same-sex parents. This is often the result of a birth child of one parent from a previous relationship who has a same-sex partner and foster children under the care of a same-sex couple. The reform enabled these families to obtain the same legal recognition and protection as families.
The reform gave foster children in the care of a same-sex couple the same option for permanency as children in the care of a heterosexual couple. There has been high demand for foster carers to respond to the need for out-of-home care for children who cannot stay with their birth parents. Children who cannot live safely with their birth parents benefit from permanent future care in a nurturing and secure home with positive and lasting family relationships. It is important to remember that this reform affects real people. I quote my constituent Jackie Stricker-Phelps, who today shared the following with me:
- Kerryn Phelps, my wife and I are grateful to those who were committed to changing the law that allowed us to adopt our beautiful, now 16 year old daughter, Gabrielle in 2012. Until the adoption went through Gabi, whom we fostered from 2009, felt her security was constantly under threat. So much so that for three years she did not grow at all.
- Once the adoption went through she grew 10cm almost immediately. Her nightmares went away and she felt safe because she was finally legally our daughter. She felt safer. The security that comes with being a legally recognised member of the family with all the same rights as the other biological siblings means everything to Gabi and to us. The question we now ask is why when we are able to adopt a child, marriage equality is still not recognised in Australia.
- Kerryn and I married legally in New York in September 2011. Both Gabi and our older daughter Jaime came to the ceremony in City Hall.
- It seems incongruous that we are allowed to adopt as a couple and bring up our child as a couple but our marriage is still not recognised. Hopefully this law will also soon be changed so that same sex families are finally completely equal in Australia.
Jackie and Kerryn's daughter Gabi wrote to me today. She said:
- I wanted to be adopted so badly because I did not feel secure while I was still in the foster system. I constantly was afraid I would be taken away from my parents Jackie and Kerryn.
- Until the law was changed I would have had to choose either one or the other of my parents to adopt me as the law did not allow same sex couples to adopt as a couple.
- I did not feel I could make that choice. They were BOTH my parents. They promised me the law would change and that the second it changed they would start the adoption process.
- The day I was officially adopted felt like the best day of my life.
- Thank you to all those who made it possible.
I commend Clover and all members for getting that bill through both Houses. I pay tribute to members in the upper House, such as Penny Sharpe, Trevor Khan and Don Harwin. This work set the standard for cross-party cooperation on these issues, with members from all parties working with Independents to understand other's concerns, identify common ground and ultimately get the reform through. It is now incumbent on our Federal colleagues to ensure that the children of same-sex parents are given the right to have married parents.
See Full Debate HERE