Victoria’s same-sex adoption bill: attempt to force religious agencies to comply fails for now

Catholic agency leaders Brian Lawrence and Marcelle Mogg have called on the government to drop its planned changes to Family Tax Benefit. Photo: Parker Knight.
Victorian adoption agency CatholicCare will be able to keep its doors open, continuing to place children with prospective mother-father couples, if the bill that passed Victoria’s upper house is accepted by the state government. Photo: Parker Knight.

The Victorian upper house has passed a bill that would legalise same-sex adoption of children but without the state government’s attempt to force religious institutions into placing children with non male-female couples.

While the bill passed 31 votes to eight, Liberal-National coalition MPs and several small party MPs in Victoria’s Legislative Council, including Democratic Labour Party MP, Rachel Carling-Jenkins, voted to remove a clause amending the Equal Opportunity Act which would have forced the change.

The bill will now be sent back to the lower house where government MPs will vote on whether the amended bill is accepted or rejected.

Speaking to the ABC, Australian Christian Lobby spokesman Dan Flynn labelled the rejection of attempts to force religious agencies to place children with same-sex couples as a “great win for diversity”.

“I think that it’s been a significant stand by the Coalition for freedom of faith generally,” Mr Flynn said.

“I think (it is) an acknowledgement that we can have multiple expressions and we don’t have to adopt a uniform world view on these things.”

He told the Age, “CatholicCare adoption has survived a significant Government attack and will be able to continue to prefer to adopt children to a mother and father rather than a same-sex couple.”

Responding to the passage of the amended bill, Labor’s Minister for Equality Martin Foley castigated the Liberal Party for being “old, tired, and out-of-touch” in backing the exemption.

“(Liberal Leader) Matthew Guy has let down all Victorians who support equality, including thousands of rainbow families across our state,” Mr Foley said.

Last month, the archbishop of Melbourne, Archbishop Dennis Hart, described the government’s attempt to amend equal opportunity legislation as “an attack on faith”.

“Regrettably, this type of reasoning shows the depths to which those who do not value freedom of religion are prepared to plumb in order to defeat it,’’ Archbishop Hart told the Australian.

“Organisations, by definition, are made up of people. People have rights. If a worker at CatholicCare or any other religious adoption agency refuses to break their conscience by obeying this new legislation, they will feel the full weight of the law.

“Under Minister Foley’s analysis, their freedom of religion and conscience will mean nothing.’’