Sunday, 27 June 2010

Adoption Vote in New South Wales

Marriage and adoption equality have not yet become big political issues in Australia as they have in the US, but that is beginning to change, with increasing public pressure and clear support from the small Green party. On adoption however, their could soon be progress in the state of New South Wales.Independent MP Clover Moore has introduced a bill approving adoption, and Premier Kristina Keneally has specified that she will permit legislators a vote on"conscience", removing the issue from control by party whips. Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell is also allowing a conscience vote for the same reason.

The prospects for success look good:
In a parliamentary inquiry conducted last year, a majority found that the Adoption Act should be amended to allow gay couples to adopt. Faith-based adoption agencies would still have the right to exclude prospective parents who are gay, so long as they refer them to an agency which will assist.
This follows the lead of Western Australia and the ACT which already give gay couples equal access to the adoption process. Even in Tasmania gay couples can adopt a child related to one of them. In every state gay couples can foster.
The bill will be debated in late August. Watch this space.

What is interesting to me in this is that in addition to support from the two party leaders, children's charity Barnardo's is also supporting the move, and for the same reason, "the interests of the child". (In this, they are following numerous other children's charities in the US and UK, who have also argued that children's interests are best served by opening adoption to applications from gay men and lesbians.

In their commentary on the move, the Sydney Morning Herald has the headline, "Thinking men and women need clear conscience on gay adoption". More than clear consciences are required - clear thinking is also wanted.

In all the struggles for adoption rights, nobody has ever argued for the "right" of all gay men and lesbians to adopt: only for a right to be considered as eligible. In every adoption, prospective parents are carefully vetted for their personal suitability, both in general, and each particular child. To argue that all gay men and lesbians are unsuitable purely on the grounds of orientation is as ludicrous as it is to argue that all heterosexual couples are suitable merely because they include both a Mom and a Dad. It is self-evident that at least some heterosexual couples are not suitable - which is why many of the children are up for adoption in the first case. It is reasonable to assume that at least some same sex couples are eminently suitable, on the basis of the quality of the love and he care that they are able to provide. Research based evidence, in study after study, has shown much more: that as a group, same sex couples are able to provide care at least as good as opposite sex couples. In some respects, some studies have even suggested that they do better. This is why Barnardo's, and several other agencies, are clear that they support applications from gay and lesbian families.

The "interests of the child" demand that to provide the best possible parents, the pool of eligible applicants should be selected as widely as possible. Then let the personal characteristics of the applicants be the deciding factor, not an arbitrary demographic.

In arguing that the interests of the child demands two opposite sex parents, the Catholic church, and church adoption agencies, are ignoring the evidence of research, of the demands of reason, and even of their own practice - many church agencies will approve single parents. They are not in fact arguing for the interests of the child, but only the interest of defending their own misguided doctrines.

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