Law Reform

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Evaluate the role of law reform in achieving just outcomes for family members and society -------------------------------------------------
-Recognition of same-sex relationships
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Olivia Jane

To achieve just outcomes, justice needs to be done and seen to be done. To do this the law must adapt to accommodate society’s changing needs and attitudes. This means that, over time, new laws must be introduced and old ones repealed or amended. The decriminalizing of homosexuality is one area in which law reform has been driven by changes in society’s values and the consequent advancement of society in recognizing equality and justice for its members, through recognition of non-traditional family structures. The effectiveness of law reform in achieving just outcomes for family members and society can be evaluated by examining issues such as the treatment of same-sex couples in adoption, recognition of same-sex marriage and same-sex couples having equal rights under the law, for example under inheritance laws, health and other insurances, superannuation entitlements and other aspects of social contract.

In the case of Re J & M 2004, Ms. F and Ms. B were in a same-sex relationship. Ms. F gave birth to twins after IVF treatment. The couple separated and the Federal Magistrates Court granted them joint responsibility ‘in the best interests of the children’. This case demonstrates laws that look at “what is in the best interest of the child” rather then whether couples adopting are in a traditional relationship, two women are equally effective at achieving just outcomes for family members as a man and a woman. Therefore the two women were granted joint responsibility of the two children, even though they were a same-sex couple, as it was seen as beneficial to the children’s wellbeing. Another example, this one demonstrating equality of financial responsibility is the case of W v G 1994. W and G were in a female same sex relationship. W gave birth to two children and both W and G had joint parental responsibilities. When G left the relationship she claimed to have no financial responsibility and did not want to contribute to the support of the couple’s children. The NSW Supreme Court ordered G to pay $150, 000 to support these children. Laws introduced in Australia that ensure same-sex couples have equal financial responsibility for the families they create appear effective in this case as W and G’s same-sex relationship was recognized, thus G had to pay financial support to W, just as a heterosexual with financial capacity would have to provide child support. This creates a just outcome for the family members.

Another example of law reform being effective was illustrated in a Sydney Morning Herald article, Body language said it all - first same-sex couple to adopt in NSW are great dads (2010). Two men, O.V and O.W, were described as the first gay couple in NSW to be allowed to adopt children. Judge Palmer declared the men, “Unquestionably capable of parenting these two children.” This case highlights the effectiveness of law reform as it has resulted in two men being assessed only for their ability to be good parents, provide for an adopted child and create a proper home. The fact that they were a homosexual couple was not an issue. The result was just- they were treated in the same way as other couples that want to adopt would be. This also provided a just outcome for the two children and the same-sex couple as they are now legally recognized as their parents. The ABC News article Same-sex adoption bill passes NSW Parliament (2010) highlights that the law reform for same-sex adoption will be beneficial for children waiting to be adopted. The new Bill will provide children with the same stability, legal status and recognition as other children. From society’s viewpoint this change has provided not only equality for...
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