Why Can't I Just Be Florence's Mother?
Mel and Teresa with baby daughter, Florence

Law reform is still needed to protect lesbians

Mel and Teresa have been in a loving same-sex relationship for more than three years, and together, they have a beautiful baby daughter, Florence. However, according to Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM), Mel is not legally seen as Florence’s ‘other mother’.

The couple has been trying to plead their case with BDM since Florence’s birth in an attempt to place Mel’s name on the birth certificate. Legally, in Victoria, birth mothers and their lesbian partners can both be listed as parents on birth certificates. However, this initial plea was rejected, as although they both consented to having Florence together, Mel had not attended the original counselling sessions through the IVF clinic. These have now been completed as they are also about to have their second child together.

In Mel and Teresa’s situation, they decided to write to Births, Deaths and Marriages again to ask for an amendment. Other options included applying for a family court order; however Mel would not be on the birth certificate even though she would have some legal rights. They also looked into adopting Florence – however same-sex couples cannot adopt a child in Victoria; they can only foster.

Mel and Teresa have contacted BDM, letting them know that Mel has since completed the mandatory counselling, along with numerous pieces of evidence confirming Mel’s involvement throughout the duration of pre- and post-conception and pregnancy of Florence. Martin Foley, the MP for Social Justice and Equality, is also assisting them in the matter. However, they are still yet to hear anything from Births, Deaths and Marriages.

The question arises: Would a heterosexual couple face the same challenges as a LGBTIQ one? Australia has signed international conventions that state that children have the right to be registered by both their parents, and to the legal responsibility and protection of both without discrimination of any kind. Australia’s laws need to change in order to legally protect children and LGBTIQ couples.