New Zealand’s 61-year-old adoption laws are discriminatory and outdated, according to a new ruling.
A Human Rights Review Tribunal decision, which comes after two years of legal battles, has found the Adoption Act 1955 and the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985 contradicts the Human Rights Act and the Bill of Rights Act by discriminating against people based on sex, age, marital status and disability.
The current law stops civil union partners or same-sex de facto couples from adopting. It also places restrictions on single men trying to adopt a female child and stops anyone under the age of 25 from adopting.
The law is badly out of date. Apart from all the arbitary restrictions (a married gay couple can adopt but a civil union straight couple can not), it was written in a time when almost all adoptions were to “strangers”. Today over 90% are not. Almost all modern adoptions happen despite the Act, not because of it.
It does need changing badly. The arbitrary criteria should be replaced with one over-riding criteria – the best interests of the child.
The next step was for the Minister of Justice to bring the declaration on inconsistencies to the attention of Parliament, which has the power to then change the law.
I know Kevin Hague and Nikki Kaye worked on a members’ bill to update the law. But Kevin doesn’t have it in the ballot at the moment. It would be desirable for the Government to introduce a bill so there is certainty around Parliament considering this issue.