The New Zealand government is considering legalising adoption for gay and unmarried couples.

Under present law, New Zealand’s citizens, including gays and lesbians, can adopt children, but because of the way the country’s outdated Adoption Act is worded they can’t if they are part of an unmarried couple.

Earlier this month, Green Party MP Metiria Turei placed a member’s bill into the ballot seeking to extend adoption rights to those in civil union and de facto partnerships.

Most members’ bills placed in the ballot are not drawn and never get a chance to be debated.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Justice Minister Mark Burton said at the time he was “not unsympathetic” to the bill and would give it careful consideration if drawn.

“The Government hasn’t decided yet whether it’s not [introducing the bill] itself. We’re still talking about that,” said Chris Carter, a gay MP, in a Weekend Herald article.

“The private member’s bill has of course focused the Government’s attention on the issue. I’m not the Minister of Justice so I wouldn’t be prepared to say what we’re doing, but I can confirm as a Cabinet minister that we are thinking about the issue seriously,” he added.

Ms Turei, the Herald said, welcomed the news that the government might adopt her bill, saying it was preferable to pinning her hopes on the ballot. It would be a “great way” of marking the 20th anniversary of homosexual law reform, she said.

“They did avoid the issue during the civil union debate when it should have happened.” The Relationships (Statutory References) Act passed with the civil union law changed about 100 pieces of legislation to ensure equal rights for civil union and de facto couples. “But the Adoption Act was purposefully left out because I think they considered it too politically sensitive to deal with.”

This had been “foolish” because it would have been easier to do it then, than court a renewed furore by treating it separately, she added.

Many critics of the proposal failed to understand the existing law and their arguments were therefore often irrelevant, she said. “A single gay guy can adopt, a single lesbian can adopt. So anybody who tries to argue that because they’re gay, or because they’re not in a loving heterosexual marriage [they shouldn’t be able to adopt], those people don’t understand the law because you don’t have to be in a loving heterosexual marriage to adopt.”

The law was effectively silent about the sexuality of single parents. “But because it’s worded in a very old way it only talks about husbands and wives when it’s talking about couples so it means that a gay and lesbian couple cannot legally adopt.”

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