Child in legal 'black hole'

FAMILY TIES: Dr Linda-Jean Kenix, left, and her partner Jennifer feel that they are in a legal "black hole''.
FAMILY TIES: Dr Linda-Jean Kenix, left, and her partner Jennifer feel that they are in a legal "black hole''.

A gay Christchurch woman is upset that she cannot adopt her three-year-old daughter.

Under New Zealand law, same-sex couples cannot adopt children.

Canterbury University lecturer Dr Linda-Jean Kenix believes she and her long-term partner, Jennifer Kenix, have been left "in a [legal] black hole".

The couple have two children. Linda-Jean Kenix's biological son, aged 4, was born in the United States and legally adopted by Jennifer Kenix. However, the pair's daughter, aged 3, was born in New Zealand to Jennifer, meaning Linda-Jean Kenix could not adopt her.

"We can't [adopt] because we're here in New Zealand," Linda-Jean Kenix said.

"We're in this black hole.

"It's not a question of adopting some child from a foreign land. It's a child I've been raising, that's mine, and I'm on the birth certificate. If something were to happen to Jen, I'm quite unclear as to what the status would be [with the girl]."

She said the pair were not aware until recently that gay couples could not adopt in New Zealand.

"A large part of the reason we moved here [from the US] was because we were under the impression there were equal rights for same-sex and opposite-sex couples, which, in large parts, is generally true. But we didn't know about this hole in the law."

This month, Acting Principal Family Court Judge Paul von Dadelszen said New Zealand's 1955 Adoption Act lagged behind some countries by not allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

Linda-Jean Kenix believed Kiwis would support a law change allowing gay couples to adopt. "I think, generally, New Zealanders want positive, healthy families, and I don't get the sense here that they wouldn't welcome this change openly."

Green Party MP Metiria Turei had sponsored a private member's bill proposing equality for de facto couples, but it had not been drawn in the ballot.

Green Party MP Kevin Hague is now promoting the bill. Hague said he was seeking a meeting with Justice Minister Simon Power to clarify the Government's position.

Kenix said various studies had shown same-sex couples were as capable as heterosexual couples when it came to raising children. She said any differences were "pretty welcoming on a societal scale".

However, New Zealand's Catholic bishops said heterosexual couples provided a more suitable approach to raising children. "A mother's and a father's love are different and complement each other. We would always support the right of the child to experience both," Bishop Peter Cullinane, of Palmerston North, said recently.

Christchurch Bishop Barry Jones this week agreed with Cullinane's view.

However, the Government was in no rush to change the law, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key said.

"He doesn't see this as the biggest issue facing Parliament the country is in an economic recession and that is top of mind at the moment."

The Press