Same-sex parenting desires trump children’s rights

Australian states follow the crowd in allowing the radical re-ordering of children's lives.
Katherine Spackman | Jun 14 2011 | comment  

Across Australia homosexual activists are seeking to redefine marriage to include same-sex relationships. Fortunately, although to some surprisingly and disappointingly, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has affirmed her personal support of marriage remaining what it always has been, a commitment between a man and a woman.

A key argument for keeping marriage that way is that it protects children, since social science shows that children do best when raised by a married mother and father. However, the campaign for same-sex marriage has always displayed scant regard for children’s rights.

The latest state to recommend the radical re-ordering of the lives of some children is South Australia. Recently a parliamentary committee, after a year-long inquiry, reported back with seven recommendations on same-sex parenting. These include extending assisted reproductive technology to lesbian and single women, making the partner of the birth mother a co-parent legally and on the birth certificate, allowing altruistic surrogacy to same-sex couples and allowing same-sex couples the ability to adopt children.

These recommendations come as no surprise. It appears the inquiry never intended considering the broader and long-term impact on children should they be denied the right to at least begin life with their biological parents. Nor did it consider the impacts or interests of the donor in the context of reproductive technology. Instead, the terms of reference for the inquiry were biased in favour of the desires of same-sex parents.

In explaining its reasoning for the recommendations, the Social Development Committee focused on the “needs” and “challenges” that same-sex couples and singles faced. It was informed by their emotional needs and the view that adults have a right to have children, no matter if they are a single or in a same-sex relationship.

Consider the “urgent” recommendation to “amend parentage laws to recognise the female partner of a birth mother as a child’s parent.” The committee argued it was necessary so that South Australia could be consistent with other Australian states and territories that have adopted the same ruling. It said the change would also relieve lesbian couples of the need to drive to other states to give birth (because they wanted their partner to be recognised as co-parent) and would finally help resolve inconsistencies in federal and state legislation when it comes to parenting payments.

Is there not more to the issue than this? Do we follow the crowd, or does the South Australian government have the integrity to analyse these claims and ask questions? It should at least look at what has happened in other states that have adopted this legislation.

New South Wales is currently grappling with the complexities surrounding a co-parent being legally recognised as the parent on a birth certificate. The case concerns Mr BB, 58, who donated sperm 10 years ago to a lesbian couple. (The names have been suppressed by a court order to protect the child.) The lesbian couple agreed at the time for him to be involved in the child's life. However, the women separated in 2008 and the co-partner of the woman who gave birth is now taking the NSW registry of births, deaths and marriages to court to have BB's name removed from the birth certificate. It is the first case of its kind since the state introduced retrospective laws in 2008 giving lesbian couples equal parenting responsibilities or legal status.

Understandably, BB is reported to be devastated at the prospect of his name being taken off the birth certificate. It is a sad story and should ring a loud warning bell to the South Australian government and other jurisdictions on the complexities around giving legal recognition to a co-parent on the birth certificate.

Where is the compassion for the father of the child, and for the child, who needs to know who he or she is? It is an oversimplification of the issue to think only of the needs and rights of one person (the co-parent in this case) in this group.

The South Australia committee said that allowing a co-parent on a birth certificate would address discrepancies in state and federal legislation. But really the issue at the heart of this is whether the birth certificate is meant to be a record of biological parentage or social parentage. It really should be a biological document (and yes, this should be true of all birth certificates).

The committee’s second recommendation was to allow assisted reproductive treatment in South Australia for same-sex couples. It again used the argument about same-sex couples travelling to other jurisdictions and incurring unnecessary expense and stress.  

The report went on to say that at present, because single and lesbian women don’t have access to assisted reproductive treatment in South Australia, they would have to self-inseminate outside of regulated clinical settings which would “place a woman and child at risk of disease because the donor is not thoroughly screened for genetic diseases or sexually transmitted infections.”

But these are small issues when compared to the bigger issue that the committee failed to address, the elephant in the room, namely, whether or not we think children should have the right to at least begin life with their biological parents and whether government is obligated to act in the best interest of the child where it clashes with the desires of adults.

Instead, the tone of the committee's report suggested it was odd and old-fashioned to believe in a traditional nuclear family, and therefore we should forget about trying to encourage it:

"The Committee considers that attaching a narrow boundary to the definition of 'family' serves only to exclude a significant proportion of the South Australian community. The Committee recognises that family units are not fixed entities; they have changed over the years and take on different forms in different social and cultural settings." 

Yes, society has had to navigate the roads of family breakdown sensitively and graciously, but should we recommend this for future generations as the new “family”?

While some people may think an evolving family is a part of a changing society, biology will tell us differently. The reality is that two women or two men, a single man or a single woman cannot reproduce. Biology tells us we need a man and a woman. Why is this so? If we believe in God, we might attribute this to his plan for mankind; for Adam to find a helpmate in Eve and for their relationship to be able to produce offspring and for that child to be raised by their biological parents, which is part of their identity.

It’s clear that the committee had a narrow view of the issue in conducting the inquiry. It based its reasoning for supporting same-sex parenting on money and inconvenience and the emotions of the same-sex would-be parents. It failed to consider the donor and their family over time and also the child. It didn’t even attempt to pre-empt counter arguments or to reply to them.

It should have addressed these issues because what the activists are asking for contradicts the natural way of life. We look back on aspects of racism in our history and ask ourselves what on earth were our forefathers thinking by believing a person's colour of skin or race should determine how they should be treated. Will our children not look back on our generation and ask what on earth were we thinking by setting aside the natural foundations of family life and allowing these complex family structures.

Katherine Spackman is the Australian Christian Lobby’s Media Relations Officer.

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