Gay and Lesbian couples in New South Wales (NSW) may be given adoption rights after an inquiry was launched into the legislation this week.

Under the current law, individuals can adopt, but not same sex partners, similar to bans in Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, which have all been lifted in the last five years.

The Minister for Community Services, Reba Meagher said: “We want to place as many vulnerable children as possible into homes that are loving and stable.”

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby will support the inquiry, a spokesman said: “The act needs to be modernised and reflect the fact that gays and lesbians are parents and there is no difference between our families and other families in society.”

However, the Australian Catholic Church ahs been quick to express opposition, the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, told the Sydney Morning Herald that children should have a “mother and father.”

He said the church would present “sociological findings” to prove their claims and would “never anticipate” Christian adoption agencies supporting the law.

“That is why our policy does not preclude unmarried people in same-sex relationships from adopting if they are able to care for a child and provide a safe, secure and loving environment.”

Australian Prime Minister John Howard is known to oppose adoptions by same-sex couples.