Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Winter 2002-2003

The Tory Taliban opposed the rights of unmarried and same-sex couples to adopt children jointly. Were they really concerned about the children – or about their own prejudices? Brett Lock opts for the latter.

The Big Christian Lie

by Brett Lock

Christian Institute propagandists will tell you that their only concern with the issue of adoption rights for gay and lesbian couples is protecting the interests of the child. Yes, these Tory Taliban would really like everyone to believe that their opposition to gay parents is simply putting the child first and is not motivated by homophobia. Well, the fact of the matter is that they have opposed every single attempt at law reform and every single attempt to remove anti-gay discrimination – whether there are children involved or not. They are opposed to gay rights in principle.

But, if not motivated by the interests of children, why did they mount such a concerted effort to thwart the Adoption Bill? The answer is really simple. The bill is one of the first pieces of legislation to accept – and indeed positively recognise – the reality and validity of permanent gay relationships.

For the Tory Taliban, this is a red flag, and, as it is with red flags, a lot of bull is sure to follow.

They’re awfully concerned that legal recognition for gay couples will, in the words of Alpha-man Rev. Sandy Millar, “devalue the currency of marriage”. Millar must be the ultimate Euro-sceptic, since partnership rights in several other European countries have not led to the collapse of the Bank of Marriage. It’s obscene that the Bank of Christ charges our accounts with the collapse of marriage instead of crediting heterosexuals with their own failures.

But do they have a point at all? The right-wing press managed to drag out a few gay “Uncle Toms” to argue that they – and, by extension, the rest of us – were not suitable parental material, so perhaps it is a valuable exercise to run through some of the main arguments and examine them with those good ol’ humanist tools of logic, rational thought, due concern for facts and, most importantly, a dispassion achieved by the exclusion of dogma, theocratic concerns and sectarian gobbledegook. So here goes ...

Does a child need to be raised by a father and a mother? Well, no. Many children are successfully raised by single parents. That’s an indisputable fact. Often this “mom-and-pop requirement” is stated along with the need for role models of both genders. But parents are not the only role models: there are grandparents, aunts and uncles, older cousins, family friends and neighbours, schoolteachers etc. etc. etc. Besides, the law already finds single people acceptable as adoptive parents, and has for generations. At the end of the day, a child needs love and attention and private space. None of these is adequately provided for by the care system. So, while the folk at the Christian Institute might believe that “mom and pop” is a non-negotiable ideal, we in the real world accept that a single parent or two parents of the same gender are better than none at all. So that argument can easily be disposed of.

Does only marriage offer the stability a child needs? Well, no. Many marriages are unstable and over a third end in divorce. Many more are dysfunctional. But does this mean that we should build a case to condemn marriage as a basis for adoption? No, of course not! The point is that every couple applying to adopt is investigated. Marriage (or non-marriage) is not taken as prima facie evidence of stability or instability. Social workers investigate each couple based on a set of careful criteria. They do not make assumptions about the stability of a relationship based on ceremonial commitment. Neither are they playing a “numbers game”, so the (often dubious) statistics about which family arrangement is more stable are not even relevant. Each adoption is a unique case, so there is no need to apply general rules. So that argument adds no weight to their objections, either.

Is allowing gay couples to adopt an experiment in social engineering? Well, if the UK were the first country to allow gay couples to adopt, there might be something to this argument; but the fact is the UK is not blazing through new territory here. Several of our European neighbours have beaten this path, as have some of our friends in the Commonwealth, notably Canada and South Africa. Even a number of states in the USA beat us to it. So this holds no water.

Remember: gay people can already adopt. Many gay couples the world over already raise children. Some have adopted, some have children from previous heterosexual arrangements, and some have used other means. Many gay couples have accepted a compromise and adopted only in one of the couple’s names, so this new law only adds legitimacy and stability to the equation, not a completely new type of family arrangement – but, of course, if the Christian Reich were honest, they’d admit that they’re more afraid of the legitimacy and stability issue than anything else.

But instead they ask: Why, if gay people can already adopt, does the law need to change? Well, this is a really revealing question. We might ask them: Why, if you accept that gay people already adopt, are you making such a fuss? Obviously because they fear what the law implies: that gay couples are legally recognised. The most direct answer to the question is given by the experts: the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.

A BAAF executive, Felicity Collier, commented after the House of Lords initially rejected the Adoption Bill: “We are deeply disappointed that the House of Lords has not appeared to have understood that children are already living with unmarried couples of whom only one is the legal adoptive parent. Of course, both adults will have been rigorously vetted and approved as suitable to make this lifelong commitment. This vote means that their children will never have the opportunity of having both their carers share the legal responsibility for their future.”

Unlike those whose bolts-of-lightning-inspired superstitious ululations drown out the voices of reason, we humanists are prepared to listen to the experts.

It is at this point that the argument against gay parenting starts to come apart at the seams and the stuffing starts leaking. The stuffing is made up of good old-fashioned homophobia. Gays will molest children. This is old ground and there is little point in going over it again. The children will be teased. Ah, so they create a homophobic climate, support Section 28, and condemn us from their pulpits and then use the very climate they have created as an excuse to deny us further rights. Charming! But let’s not forget that most kids are teased about something: you’re fat, you’re thin, you’re poor, you’re rich, you’re stupid, you’re clever, blah, blah, blah ... If it’s not one thing, then it’ll be another.

Then there’s the worry that kids will be turned gay. So what? I say – but let’s not be needlessly confrontational. The facts can speak for themselves. Most gay people have heterosexual parents, so obviously the sexual orientation of the parents does not rub off on the child. Besides, the weight of evidence suggests that sexual orientation is fixed early on, if not before birth.

“This should not have been a gay issue – it was about the welfare of children!” you’ll hear them indignantly bleat on every talk show that’ll have them.

Well, no, it wasn’t. It was – quite rightly – also a gay rights issue because it affects the rights of gay people to bring up children. Why shouldn’t we have as much right as heterosexuals? Having children is not a privilege: it’s a product of a mysterious yet simple biological process. Heterosexuals do not have to prove they’re suitable parents before they procreate, so we can lose the “privilege” crap right now. Furthermore, any adult who is actively involved in the raising of a partner’s child has a moral right to be considered a co-parent. They should also have a legal right. And ultimately it is an issue of equality. Gay people should not be legally defined as second-class citizens and children should not have to languish in state institutions if there are alternatives. So there!

But the Bible says ... Well, it had to come to this. At the end of the day, these fundamentalists are just humouring us with all these other arguments. Here’s a shortcut. Ask them whether, if for the sake of argument all their other objections were answered to their satisfaction, they would change their biblical conviction that gay parenting is wrong. Of course they wouldn’t. So this is what it comes down to. “Gay parenting is wrong because the Bible says so.” End of discussion. Full stop.

But what the Bible says is not the basis for civil government in a secular society. It is the basis of a theocratic dictatorship where democracy, reason and individual rights are irrelevant because the rules have already been written. That’s what the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalist governments say, and that’s what our very own home-grown group of religious nuts at the Christian Institute and the Church Society are ultimately saying. How do you argue with that?

You can’t, but I don’t think we even have to try. If we stick to our humanist commitment to fighting religious dogma with logic, reason and the facts, as their motives become more apparent and their tactics more vicious these biblical bashers will lose more and more public sympathy. It is our duty to challenge their arguments at every turn until they are forced to retreat to their fundamentalist biblical corner. We should be writing letters to the press and phoning up radio stations every time the topic comes up. We must make our voices heard. We must expose the lie.

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Created : Sunday, 2003-01-12 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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