Reforming Adoption Law in South Australia

Shaun Douglas-Galley has a mission. He wants the Australian state of South Australia, where he and his family live, to allow same-sex couples to adopt. And he needs your help to make that happen.


Much like the United States, Australia is divided into states that can set their own laws and policies. Some Australian states allow joint adoption by same-sex couples, e.g., New South Wales, in which Sydney is located; several others, however, do not.

"Same-sex parenting is not a new thing; adoption by same-sex couples is not a new thing; the research, the findings, the social science is all in. We do a pretty good job of parenting our children," Shaun said in an email.

South Australia

He and his husband Blue adopted their sons Josh and Dylan, now 4 and 2, while living in the United Kingdom. Upon moving to South Australia, their adoption was recognized because it had been completed in another country. But same-sex couples living in the state are barred by law from adopting.

“We have open and clear communication with our sons; they know that our family could never have ‘been’ if we had attempted the adoption process in South Australia,” Shaun said.

"The question they ask us is, ‘Why this is ? Why would it not be allowed?’ We can’t clearly answer that. What we can do is talk to them about equality, acceptance and the ability to know right from wrong; excluding people from the process of adoption based on their sexuality is wrong.”

He emphasizes that he’s not saying that adoption should be a breeze, but that it should be open to all, regardless of sexual orientation.

“We want people to understand that adoption is no easy feat, and it shouldn’t be. To become a family, we endured a rigorous, intrusive, and challenging process through social services, we worked hard to evidence our suitability to parent vulnerable children,” Shaun said.

Spurred to action

The two didn’t plan on becoming activists. But according to an earlier Gays With Kids family profile of Shaun and Blue, they felt like they had to. No one else in South Australia was doing the necessary work.

“We’ve never felt any discrimination on the street; people have been very supportive,” Shaun told us then. He added that he thought most people simply didn’t understand or know about the state’s current law.

“It’s just an invisible cause,” Blue said at the time.

So the couple acted, starting an online petition at change.org in April advocating for the change. In the nine months since, it’s gained more than 14,000 signatures.

Adoption Law Reform Petition at Change.org

In the petition, Shaun noted the actions of other Australian states, writing: "[T]he Australian Capital Territory, Western Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales have changed their approach and given same-sex couples, LGBT individuals and same-sex stepparents the lawful right to have their suitability assessed to be adoptive parents.”

Indeed, in 2011, the South Australian Social Development Committee recommended that the rules be changed to include same-sex couples.

In other words, what’s the holdup?

And the cause is pressing. Couples want to start families. And having a law standing in the way of an already difficult process hurts.

"Just as some hetersosexual couples reach the stage of trying for a baby, so too do some same sex couples. We just need alternative processes to make that happen, and it does happen, all over the world," Shaun said.

The petition drive garnered favorable publicity for Shaun and Blue’s cause, and the state government has finally agreed to look at revising the adoption law, which dates from 1988 -- more than a quarter-century ago.

And that’s where other same-sex couples with kids come in. To be specific, that’s where you come in.

Helping to make change

Shaun wants to emphasize that folks anywhere in the world can make their voices heard. Families can send their opinions and adoption stories to the South Australian Adoption Law Reform Committee.

“People get confused and think if they live outside of Australia their submission won’t count ,” Shaun said. “It will – and it will help us here to get this change.”

He continued: "The question they should be answering is: 'Why should South Australia end the current discrimination that excludes single people and same-sex couples from the process of adoption?'"

The email address of the committee is DECDFamiliesAdoptionReview@sa.gov.au. And more signatures on and sharing of the petition mentioned earlier are helpful, too.

The family will also be holding an adoption reform event in Adelaide, the South Australian capital, on Feb. 7. Those readers who might be interested and in the area can learn more from the Facebook event page.

February 7 Adoption Reform Event Facebook Page

"Our boys will be there handing out flyers and telling people for themselves what it is like to be raised by two dads," Shaun said. "These experiences we believe will give ours sons the building blocks to develop into well-rounded men, who will hopefully appropriately challenge any prejudice they may encounter in life."

Shaun’s ultimate message to lawmakers, and to fellow South Australia residents, is a simple and compassionate one.

"We meet so many people that praise us," he said. "And for those who may not, we understand where their own fears may have come from. We need to say it’s okay to not agree, to not understand, but it's not okay to have legal constraints that deny human beings the chance to be family. After all, we are living in 2015!"

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