Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

MP seeks big adoption changes

Legislative move is broader than just letting gay couples adopt, says Hague.

The Adoption Act has not changed since it was first written in 1955. Photo / Getty Images
The Adoption Act has not changed since it was first written in 1955. Photo / Getty Images

Green MP Kevin Hague says his bill to reform adoption law is much broader than gay adoption and will provide a much needed overhaul, including requiring adoptions to be open except in extraordinary situations.

Mr Hague yesterday released his new member's bill to reform adoption and surrogacy law. It will have to be drawn out of the ballot to make it into Parliament - but it will increase pressure on the Government to pick up that reform after both Labour and National Governments put the issue on the backburner.

Mr Hague said it was frustrating that all of the attention went on the issue of gay adoption, despite consensus about the need for wider reform.

He said the overhaul proposed went much wider than gay adoption - this could be dealt with by Louisa Wall's gay marriage bill, which many believed would also allow married gay couples to adopt.

His bill will also set up a legal process for altruistic surrogacy cases and require all adoptions to be open - so the child and birth parents knew each other.

The only exceptions would be if the Family Court considered open adoption was not in the best interests of the child, such as where birth parents were abusive.

Mr Hague said open adoptions were common place in practice, but there was no requirement in law. The bill would only apply to future adoptions.

The Adoption Act has not changed since it was first written in 1955.

Gay adoption has been a sticking point in the past that arguably made governments hesitant to tackle the wider reforms proposed by the Law Commission report in 2000.

Robert Ludbrook, a spokesman for Adoption Action, said the Government had made it clear law reform was not a priority. Adoption Action has filed proceedings with the Human Rights Tribunal, claiming the Adoption Act breaches anti-discrimination laws.

Mr Hague's Care of Children (Adoption and Surrogacy Law Reform) Amendment Bill is based on the Law Commission report, as well as cross-party talks including with National MP Nikki Kaye.

Ms Kaye said she worked with Mr Hague after dealing with several complex surrogacy and adoption cases of constituents. She said while she believed the law was outdated, the caucus had not considered the matter and she understood that it was not a Government priority.

Mr Hague's bill will mean the Green Party votes against Labour Party MP Jacinda Ardern's bill for the Law Commission to draft a suitable adoption law for Parliament to take up.

It seems unlikely the National Government will pick up either Mr Hague's or Ms Ardern's bills - in response to written questions from Ms Ardern, Justice Minister Judith Collins said she was considering it but there were other priorities.

The Care of Children (Adoption and Surrogacy Law Reform) Amendment Bill

* Best interests of the child is main factor in choosing adoptive parents.

* Require all adoptions to be open, except in exceptional circumstances.

* Remove restrictions to allow gay couples to adopt and make it clear de facto couples can adopt (allowed by common law since 2010).

* Set up legal framework for children born by altruistic surrogacy (commercial surrogacy is against NZ law).

- NZ Herald

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