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Gay adoption bill drawn from ballot

Thursday 30 Aug 2012 2:19 p.m.

Ardern says it will bring the current adoption laws into the modern era (file pic)

Ardern says it will bring the current adoption laws into the modern era (file pic)

By 3 News online staff

A bill allowing same-sex couples to adopt has been drawn from the ballot, less than 24 hours after the first reading the gay marriage bill.

The Care of Children Law Reform Bill, submitted by Labour MP Jacinda Ardern, would extend adoption rights to civil union and de facto couples.

Labour MP Louisa Wall's Marriage Amendment Bill, which passed its first reading 80-40 last night, would allow gay couples to adopt once married.

"What Louisa's bill does is enable gay couples to adopt because they would be considered spouses," Ms Ardern told Fairfax. "What mine does is make it more fit for purpose for all families who are using it."

She says it will bring the current adoption laws, some of which date back to 1955, into the modern era.

"At the moment our adoption laws are based on closed adoptions," Ms Ardern told Fairfax. "The people on the adoption order are the only people who maintain a relationship with that child. So the basic idea is to change the way we make decisions so the child is at the centre of everything and so it allows us to make decisions in their best interests."

The bill would require the Law Commission to look at the Adoption Act 1955 and the Care of Children Act 2004, and report its recommendations to the Minister of Justice.

In 2000, the commission produced the report, Adoption and Its Alternatives: A different Approach and a New Framework, which formed the basis of the Care of Children Act 2004, but adoption was left out.

In the new bill, Ms Ardern says the severing of relationships between the child and its birth parents is "outdated" and "no longer reflects current approaches to adoption, where less than a quarter of adoptions today are stranger adoptions".

She also says since 2004, new legislation concerning guardianship of children born to surrogate parents and through assisted reproduction technologies has been "inconsistent", and "does not in all cases include the welfare and best interests of the child as its paramount consideration".

Green MP Kevin Hague and National MP Nikki Kaye in May were reported to be working on their own bill to update New Zealand's adoption laws. Prime Minister John Key said it would have his backing through at least the first round, because gay adoption doesn't bother him.

When Ms Ardern's bill was first submitted last year, Family First's Bob McCoskrie said it would create "fatherless or motherless families".

"While not always possible because of breakdown, death and other factors, when we look at the difficult issue of adoption we must aim to give the child to be adopted the very best option we can - to be adopted by a mum and a dad," Mr McCoskrie told TVNZ.

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