The Northern Territory government has passed laws allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.
The Adoption of Children Legislation Amendment (Equality) Bill 2017 passed on Tuesday with bipartisan support, making the NT the last Australian state or territory to allow same-sex couples to adopt.
Previously, NT couples were required to be married for two years before they could adopt children.
The amendment aimed to modernise the adoption laws “to reflect the diversity of Territory families today,” NT Families Minister Dale Wakefield said.
“Children and families are at the heart of the Government’s decision making and that’s why we introduced this legislation change to Parliament last year,” he said.
“All couples, regardless of marital status or gender, who genuinely want to provide children with a loving, caring and safe home environment, should have the legal right to apply.”
Jane Black from NT group Rainbow Territory welcomed the “long overdue” reform and said it was an important step for LGBTIQ Territorians.
“Rainbow Territory has advocated for the change of this law for over three years and welcomes this amendment to ensure that all Territorian families have equal protections,” she said.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s Legal Advocacy Director Anna Brown also applauded the removal of the discriminatory law.
“The Northern Territory joins the rest of Australia in recognising that what matters most is that children grow up in loving and safe homes – regardless of the gender of the people that care for them,” she said.
“Now that marriage equality has passed nationally, it’s important we bring the laws in every state in line with modern community values and remove every last stain of discrimination against LGBTI people from the statute books across this country.”
Same-sex couples in the NT are already raising children in foster care and permanent care, but unlike heterosexual married couples, they had been barred from adopting them even if it was in the child’s best interests.
“The passage of adoption equality will make a significant difference to children who are already being raised in loving homes by same-sex couples,” Ms Brown said.
“This will finally give them the emotional and legal stability that’s long overdue.”
Ms Brown said the Northern Territory government has also committed to dealing with the historical criminal convictions for homosexual offences that remain on the criminal records of some gay male Territorians.