We are in 2018, France is only beginning to debate access to medically assisted procreation for lesbian couples and single women as part of the revision of bioethics laws.
In France, when a child is born into a rainbow family with two lesbians, he does not have two mothers. This child legally has only one mom, his biological mother. To be legally recognized as a mother, the second mother must, first marry the biological mother and then apply for adoption. It can take many months…
France is very late on the subject of rainbow families in comparison with Australia. LGBTQ and rainbow families rights evolved differently in France and Australia. We just celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Marriage equality in France last month. While Australia has just voted for Marriage equality (December 2018), rainbow families have been recognized for more than 10 years.
Rainbow families rights evolution in Australia
In Australia, same-sex couples have been recognized as “de facto” couples since 2001 if they have been living together for more than two years or have shared the same bank account. These “de facto” couples have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. However, children were not mentioned in this law regarding “de facto” couples. The evolution of the rights of rainbow families in Australia is different depending of the states. Some laws in Australia are federal, that means, country-wide, while other laws are state-level, that means, at the level of the state (states like New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria). The topics of accessing medically assisted procreation or filiation are the responsibility of the States. The changes of laws are therefore decided at a local level. This is probably why the topic of Rainbow families has been able to move faster than the issue of marriage equality which was the responsibility of the Federal level.
Access to medically assisted procreation and filiation
For many years, when rainbow families of Australian lesbians were travelling within Australia, they were considered differently by state. Some states already considered them as a family with two legal mums, other states only considered the biological mother as a single mother. Many women’s couples had to travel to the neighboring state to access medically assisted procreation. This situation could be compared to the French women (single or in couple with a woman) who have to go to Belgium or Spain to have access to a medically assisted procreation clinic.In the state of New South Wales, access to medically assisted procreation was authorized in 2007 for all women, regardless of their marital status.In the state of Victoria, in 2007 the Attorney General mentioned: “The fact that a child is desired, loved and cared for is, for the government, much more important than the way it was created.”
The association of Rainbow families in the state of Victoria conducted a campaign called “Love Makes a Family” from 2004 to 2008. The members of the association wrote documents explaining why their families should have the same rights and sent these flyers to all Parliament representatives. Felicity Marlowe, director of the association and mom of two children told us that in 2008, a hundred families from the state of Victoria gathered in front of the parliament during the debates for access to medically assisted procreation for all the women. “Two politicians changed their votes after meeting with us in parliament. They realized that our families really existed! “. The law was passed in 2008 and implemented in 2010. The law provided access to medically assisted procreation for single women and lesbians, legalized surrogacy for non-commercial purposes, and recognized the partner (woman) of the biological mother as a legal parent of the child.
Felicity explained: “The law was applied in January 2010, so we were able to change the birth certificates of our children so that both moms were mentioned as parents. “
This 2010 law did not take into account adoption by same-sex couples. It has remained banned until 2016 in the State of Victoria and even until 2018 for the Northern Territories.
LGBT families have been fighting for recognition of their families and access to medically assisted procreation before fighting for same-sex marriage. The evolution has therefore been truly different from what happened in France since we also separated the marriage equality debate and access to medically assisted procreation but we are in 2018 and we are only beginning to consider the possibility of access to medical assisted procreation for lesbian couples. Just like the topic of marriage for all, this topic of medical assisted procreation faces a great tension of a certain part of the French population (the same ones who demonstrated a few years ago with their posters stating a family = a dad and a mother ).
In Australia, Rainbow families have been recognized for more than 10 years, lesbians can go to clinics to access sperm donations and are welcomed like any other couple. Unlike what some participants of « La manif pour Tous » (marriage equality opponent association) might believe, Australia did not suffer from economic bankruptcy, Australians are not meant to go to hell and children in these rainbow families are very happy and fulfilled and do not suffer from the “fatherless medically assisted procreation “.
Love makes a family in Australia : stories of the families we met.
On our 55 days in Australia, we spent more than 20 days in the company of rainbow families. The first observation that can be made is that each family has a different story, which confirms that in 2018, we can clearly speak of a diversity of family models. Here is a summary of the story of six of the families we met.
Jacqui, Sarah et leurs trois enfants Corin, Scout, Cully – Melbourne
Jacqui and Sara have been living together for 25 years. They married in Canada a few weeks after the marriage equality was voted over there (Sarah being Canadian). Sarah was pregnant with the 3 children who are all from the same semi-anonymous donor. Even though their children have not yet reached their majority, they are now in contact with their donor whom they call Donor Dave. This family discovered that another rainbow family in Melbourne had the same donor because of the similarity between the children. The children thus discovered siblings that they call their “Diblings” (they replaced the S by D for donor). We interviewed Jacqui Tomlins who shared with us her fight over the past 15 years for the recognition of rainbow families and for marriage equality.
Claire, Neroli and their son Eddie – Tathra
Eddie is Claire’s biological son and was conceived from a previous relationship. Claire met Neroli while Eddie was very young. Eddie considers Claire and Neroli as his two moms. During the Australian marriage equality debates, Eddie became the public face of the children of rainbow families after addressing a letter to the Prime Minister and giving a press conference in front of the Parliament. Eddie suffered harassment at school during gay marriage debates and his moms had him change to a different school.
Shelby, Juliette and their kids Ben and Eleanor – Lawson
Juliette gave birth to both kids at ages 39 and 41. Both were very happily, easily conceived at home using self insemination. The donor is one of Juliette’s closest friends of 20 years, John. Shelby has been on the children’s birth certificates since the day they were born. Eleanor is now 5 and Benny is 6. They have known from the very beginning that John is their donor and Juliette and Shelby have used kids story books to tell them how they were made.This rainbow family live happily in the Blue Mountains, free from discrimination. The children go to a lovely school where other Rainbow families and gay teachers are, so they don’t feel in any way ‘different’. Shelby and Juliette have been happily together for 15 years and now that the laws have changed, they would love to marry soon.
Vanessa, Louise and their son Joel and Léo – Sydney
Louise and Vanessa planned and had their children together. They had Leo and Joel with help from a close friend David. His partner Pia was very enthusiastic and supportive. Leo and Joel know that David helped make them and consider Pia and David’s kids their siblings. They look a lot like them.
Louise and Vanessa separated when Joel was 3. They were romantic partners for 14 years, Vanessa still consider Louise as part of her family. They parent cooperatively. 2 houses 1 Family. That’s their way !
Louise and Vanessa have full legal rights with the children. In 2007 the laws changed in NSW and they both are named as parents on the birth certificate.
“To us who carried our children is not a big deal. They are both our children. Louise tried for 4 years and in the end I carried both. We wanted to share the pregnancies but t wasn’t to be. After separating it has been important to me that Louise is treated with the same social recognition. People like to ask and give some more importance to the tummy mummy. To us it’s no different. Louise also took maternity leave to spend time with both babies and she had a whole year at home with Leo. They are a lot alike in so many ways”. Vanessa
Kathryn, Lisa and their kids Ruben and Oscar
Kathryn and Lisa met at their workplace: the University. They decided to have children in their forties so they had to do IVF. Kathryn and Lisa chose to have a known donor: Lisa’s brother who was around 50 years old and had no children. It is of course Kathryn who carried the children but it allowed them to have a little of Lisa’s genetics in the kids. The children know and love their uncle, and Kathryn and Lisa will explain about him being the donor when the kids are old enough to understand. You can find Kathryn’s interview on our blog.
All these families we met were happy and very integrated in their environment (neighborhood, school, family). The children were all very comfortable with having two moms. Once again we can confirm that it is Love that makes the family beyond genetic links.