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Defending adoption reforms

Mon 18 Mar 2013 In: Comment View at NDHA

As Family First has presignalled that it might use one of its tame MPs to move an amendment to cut the adoption reform section out of the Marriage Equality Bill, this is a prompter article designed to motivate our communities to defend that section of the bill. Despite the fact that Family First and the Conservative Party have accused Louisa Wall and other bill advocates of 'sneaking' adoption reform into the Marriage Equality Bill, the clause is clearly there within her bill and copies of her bill are available online for anyone to peruse. Moreover, they themselves have repeatedly cited Mark Regnerus' flawed hatchet-job against same-sex parenting, now exposed as being funded and assisted comprehensively by the conservative Catholic US Witherspoon Institute, opponents of marriage equality and same-sex parenting. It has certainly been cited enough times in fundamentalist and conservative Catholic submissions against the bill. So how is the adoption clause 'concealed' within the legislation? At the risk of being repetitive, same-sex parenting does not harm children brought up, or adopted into, committed same-sex relationships. Legal recognition provides continuity of care, is in the best interest of the child and is already catered for within guardianship, in vitro fertilisation access and fostering legislation and regulations, as well as individual lesbian/gay adoption of children. I am uncertain whether M v H [1994] (Family Court) means that post-operative transwomen can adopt children if in a straight civil marriage. There is an abundance of scientific and medical research from mainstream child health, welfare, development, pediatric and developmental psychology which grounds professional organisations that endorse the strengths of same-sex parenting. It is neither neccessarily 'inferior' or 'superior' to straight parenting. However, as Judith Stacey and Tim Biblarz noted in their comprehensive study of research into same-sex parenting, it has the following strengths. There is no appreciable negative effect on children's educational progress or adult employment progress. Sons of LGBT parents have highly developed interpersonal communication skills insofar as straight relationships with women are concerned, which may ironically contribute to greater stability within straight relationships! Moreover, given that most same-sex parents are lesbian, and strong parental role models to their daughters, it is also unsurprising to see those daughters pursuing non-traditional employment opportunities in later life. Spousal and parent-child communication is strong within lesbian and gay parenting arrangements, and gay men set fair and equitable disciplinary boundaries. The above findings explain why numerous organisations endorse same sex parenting and associated legislative reform. These include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, the US National Association of Social Workers, the Child Welfare League of America, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, Canadian Psychological Association, Barnardos and others. Advocates of same-sex parenting now have abundant evidence-based research at our disposal from anonymously peer-reviewed journals. Despite pretensions to the contrary, the same cannot be said for Christian Right attacks on same-sex parenting. Routinely, it suffers from faulty research design or methodology, like biased samples that compare children from divorced straight relationships whose parents may have had only a single lesbian or gay sexual encounter to prepicked long-term stable straight relationships. And yes, I am referring to University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus here. In addition to the above cited defects, his 'same-sex parenting' research sample was tiny and relied on the anecdotal reminiscences of respondents (18-39)and did not differentiate whether the parents had self-perceived stable lesbian or gay sexual identities, whether they engaged in episodic lesbian/gay one-night stands or whether they had episodic or cohabiting relationships with their same-sex relationships. And are straight relationships neccessarily always healthy for children? Given that New Zealand's CYFS has dealt with a wide variety of seriously dysfunctional and abusive straight relationships which result in child battery, neglect and death, this might seem to be self-evident. Again, Judith Stacey and Tim Biblarz offer some useful insights. Within straight married couples, women tend to be better at parenting than men overall, communicating and interacting more with children, while men engage in play and discipline more with children. Men also interact more with their sons than daughters, and police gender nonconformity. Unfortunately, men are likelier to engage in abuse, neglect or battery of children than women. Polarised gender role playing can actually have harmful effects on parenting stability. When it comes to lesbian and gay parenting, theirs resembles that of straight women more than straight men. Children need to be loved and wanted within stable families that have an equitable division of labour. "Fatherlessness" or "motherlessness" is immaterial. Then there's the matter of the journal to which Regnerus submitted this flawed piece.Social Science Research has marriage equality and same-sex parenting opponent Robert George on its Board of Directors and one of its Editors is Brad Wilcox, associated with the Marriage Law Project at the University of Virginia, another set of opponents of marriage equality and same-sex parenting. Wilcox is also a cited speaker at the international US Christian Right-dominated "World Congress of Families" in Sydney in March 2013. There are doubts about the independence and opacity of its peer review procedures. Carbondale University sociologist Darren Sherkat strongly criticised these within a previous audit. Unsurprisingly, the latter has not gone uncriticised within the mainstream field of pediatrics and developmental psychology. As I have previously noted, the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, US National Association of Social Workers, American Psychoanalytic Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, California Association of Social Workers and California Psychological Association, have criticised the methodological defects in Regnerus' research noted above. Their specific criticisms are contained in an amicus curiae. Who disputes the above? Who else? Despite the mediocre nature of Regnerus' hatchet job, it was seized upon by antigay US organisations like the Family Research Council, National Organisation for Marriage, (funder) the Witherspoon Institute and its Public Discourse online journal, and their dutiful satellite, Family First New Zealand. It is also quite convenient that the aforementioned Brad Wilcox and Bob McCoskrie are both speakers at the World Congress of Families in May 2013 in Sydney. For these reasons and others, we should be confident in defending same-sex parenting and adoption reform clauses within the Marriage Equality Bill. Recommended: Australian Psychological Association: In re: Matter of Adoption of XXG and RRG (Adoptees): Amicus Curiae Brief of the American Psychiatric Association, California Psychiatric Association and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists: Brief Presented to the Canadian House of Commons Legislative Committee on Bill C-38: Civil Marriage Act 2005: Canadian Psychiatric Association: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Resources for Children with LGBT Parents: Judith Stacey and Tim Biblarz: "Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?" American Sociological Review 66:2 (April 2001): 158-183: Judith Stacey and Tim Biblarz: “Does the Gender of Parents Matter?”: Journal of Marriage and Family 72 (February 2010): Craig Young - 18th March 2013    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Monday, 18th March 2013 - 5:34pm

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