Key signals gay adoption support

Prime Minister John Key says he would give initial support to potential legislation to legalise adoption by gay couples.

Three private members bills which would enable same-sex adoption are either in the Parliamentary members' ballot or are being drafted.

The National Party's northern regional conference in Auckland at the weekend passed a remit during a closed session to support adoption by couples in a civil union.

Greens MP Kevin Hague and National MP Nikki Kaye have formed an unlikely alliance and are developing their own bill to overhaul adoption law.

Hague convened a cross party group last Parliamentary term to look at the issue. Labour MP Jacinda Ardern then introduced her own bill which would require the Law Commission to rewrite the law to allow same-sex couples to adopt.

Fellow Labour MP Louisa Wall is also drafting a bill which would redefine marriage, and therefore allow gay adoption.

Kaye today said there was a range of problems around current adoption laws for defacto heterosexual couples, same-sex couples, whangai (Maori customary adoption where children are raised by other relatives) and surrogate children.

"Kevin and I realise there are many complex policy and legal issues involved. That's why we have taken an approach where if we work together from the centre left and the centre right, and work through a number of those issues and come up with a draft bill, we can process the law that way."

Hague said the current law treated adoption as if the child was the property of its birth parents.

"It severs all ties with the biological family and people recognise that in general that was a bad thing to have happened."

Adoptions now tended to be open, so there was an ongoing relationship with the biological family.

"That's occurring and in a framework outside the law because the law doesn't provide for that."

Hague said he hoped the pair would have their bill completed within the next few months.

It would have to be chosen from the ballot before Parliament could debate it.

Key today said he would support such a bill's first reading.

"I'm not afraid to have debates on those areas," he told Radio Live.

However, the problem was there were not enough babies to adopt.

"There was less than 100 or 200 non-family adoptions last year. Because we have the domestic purposes benefit and we have a policy or try to have kids looked after by family members, there is very few adoptions available. We can have a debate over whether gay people should adopt or not, but really it's a very small group."

Key said he had "great sympathy" for people who wanted to adopt but couldn't.

"There are some wonderful adults at there that would love to be parents and would do a magnificent job but they don't get that opportunity."

New Zealand was changing its agreements with countries like Russia to make it easier for New Zealand parents to adopt, he said.

However, Hague said getting the law right would also help heal those who had suffered from current adoption practices.

Support from National's regional conference should encourage the Government to put it's own law forward which would ensure changes were made, and made more quickly, he said.

Ardern said the Government had power to address discrimination in adoption laws now by picking up her bill.