Friday, July 29, 2011

Challenging the Adoption Act

Back in 2009, Acting Principal Family Court Judge Paul von Dadelszen argued that our adoption laws were outdated and in need of major reform. The government did nothing. The criticism was echoed last year by the High Court in its ruling that a stable de facto couple could adopt. The government still did nothing. So Adoption Action has decided to step in and do something where the government won't, by challenging the Adoption Act before the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

Adoption Action has filed a claim with the Human Rights Review Tribunal complaining that the Adoption Act 1955 and other adoption laws and practice notes are inconsistent with the anti-discrimination provisions of the Human Rights Act 1993 and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 in 15 different respects AND are inconsistent with fundamental rights and freedoms of the persons affected.

Adoption Action claims that adoption laws and practice notes discriminate against certain groups within society on the grounds of: Sex Marital status Religious or ethical belief Race or ethnic origin National origin Disability Age Sexual orientation.

Adoption Action is seeking a declaration under Part 1A Human Rights Act that various provisions of the Adoption Act and other adoption laws and practice notes are inconsistent with NZ’s anti-discrimination laws.

Discrimination is one of the few areas where we can challenge a law and have it declared inconsistent by the courts. Though this will not actually overturn the law; instead, it will force the Minister to report to Parliament on the inconsistency and what they intend to do about it. The government could of course say "nothing". But they'll have to do so explicitly and publicly, and wear the political cost of refusing to enforce basic human rights. What the challenge is really intended to do is get the government to make this a priority, rather than putting it off to appease dying moral conservatives and weirdo fundamentalists. And hopefully it will be successful.