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Tell Us Lies: The Maxim Submission on the Care of Children Bill

Mon 15 Dec 2003 In: Comment

The Maxim Institute has made its submission on the Care of Children Bill, and it is happily available online. Inside the text, I was flattered to see that the Institute reads and this column. However, the content is what you would expect. Oddly enough, the Care of Children Bill has aroused more hysteria and anxiety from the male backlash movement than from the Christian Right. Several North Island male backlash groups have made submissions to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee about the alleged need to obstruct women from obtaining protection orders against violent and abusive spouses; or, as they call this vile misogyny, "shared parenting." Antiabortion groups tried to get their jackboot in the door as well, because the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington, Right to Life New Zealand, the Maxim Institute and Presbyterian Support (!) attacked reproductive freedom and medical confidentiality for under-sixteens who need abortion access. If anything demonstrates the inhumanity of the Christian Right, this does. Why should a teenage girl be forced to bear the legacy of her father's repeated incestuous sexual violations of her body? Adolescent reproductive freedom has been enshrined within the previous Guardianship Act 1968 since the abortion debates of the late seventies, and this issue has aroused little debate due to the decrepitude of the dying anti-abortion movement. I gritted my teeth as I read the online text of the Institute's predictable attack on same-sex parenting equality. Let's place this submission in context. I was struck that the Institute had completely ignored the fact that the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute provided a thorough rebuttal of Christian Right junk scientists in its "Adoption By Same-Sex Couples" report. I suggest that lesbian and gay commentators acquaint themselves with the contents of this useful document for any prospective debate over same-sex parenting issues. It was not hard for me to discern the Institute's strategy in this submission. It appears to apply double standards in the context of methodological rigour and research. In order to try to discredit same-sex couples as parents and caregivers, the Institute cited research literature that focused on relationship duration, unsafe sex, casual partner interaction, spousal violence and alcohol and drug abuse. As I perused it, I realised two things about this material. One, where did they obtain it from? Given that any mention of Paul Cameron has become a liability, and further, given that frontline activists are quite familiar with US Christian Right antigay source materials, I suggest that the Maxim Institute raided the bibliographies of these characters without requisite honesty for their actual sources. Someone should obtain copies of Cameron et als' papers and compare them to the cited "researchers" in this submission. Actually, I don't think the Maxim Institute was the primary source in question, as I noticed that the US Family Research Council had engaged in a prior strategy. Two, they have failed to ask questions about methodological rigour. Sample size? Sample duration? Comparative heterosexual control groups? Clinical versus general population sampling bias? Data obsolescence? I still cannot believe that the Institute cited twenty year old data about HIV/AIDS and gay men's sexual behaviour in their submission, oblivious to the intervening two decades of content that we can cite to demonstrate that behavioural change has occurred. Their spousal violence data is almost as old. It's convenient that the Maxim Institute ignores questions about methodology when it comes to alleged negative data about lesbians and gay men, but insists on "methodological rigour" when it comes to positive data about lesbian and gay relationship and family-related social scientific research. Robert Lerner and Anthea Nagai's hatchet job is discussed within the Institute submission, but the American Civil Liberties Union and Tasmanian Law Reform Institute have noted a prior Lerner article about African Americans, criminal justice and rape acquittals, based on a tiny sample of five jury trial cases. If Lerner and the Institute see fit to insist on methodological rigour within social science, then I suggest that they note that Lerner is similarly vulnerable. Moreover, the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute still notes that Lerner and Nagai haven't been cited within mainstream professional publications in the field of family law and child welfare studies. Sotiros Sarantokos is a comparatively new figure in these debates, but the Maxim Institute fails to realise that there is a reason that his Australian work hasn't been cited extensively in these debates. Sarantokos bases his findings on subjective teacher opinions about the perceived adjustment of children of same-sex couples. Finally, the Institute resorts to massive selective citation in the context of Stacey and Biblarz' rebuttal of Nagai, Lerner and other opponents of same-sex parenting equality. Sorry, but we've had copies of the document in question for the last several months and can cite their deliberately distorted accounts of this key paper right back at them. The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute recommended that Tasmanian adoption laws should include provision for same-sex couples. Why does the Maxim Institute think that ignoring troublesome public policy papers from overseas that don't fit their arguments will make them go away? BIBLIOGRAPHY Anthea Nagai and Robert Lerner: No Turning Back: What the Social Scientific Literature Doesn't Say About Same-Sex Parenting: Washington: Marriage Law Project: 2002. Sotiros Sarantokos: "Children in Three Contexts: Family, Education and Social Development" Children Australia: 21: 3: 1996 Rebuttals: Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz "Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?" American Sociological Review (April 2000): 66:159-183. Roger Parloff: "Speaking of Junk Science" American Lawyer: January 1997. Tasmanian Law Reform Institute: Adoption by Same-Sex Couples? Hobart: The Institute: 2003. Craig Young - 15th December 2003    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Monday, 15th December 2003 - 12:00pm

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