|After a review earlier this year into Victoria’s laws to allow for adoption by same sex couples the Andrew's Labor Government will shortly introduce a bill into the Victorian parliament.
A Child’s best interests
The Terms of Reference for the Review required any legal changes be based on the over-arching principle of the best interests of the child. It cannot be in “the best interests of the child” to create more situations where children will be deprived of being raised by a mother and a father.
Two men can love a child but cannot provide the child with a mother. Two women can love a child but cannot provide a father for that child. The best interests of the child are paramount.
Same-sex parenting is a big social experiment. Studies which claimed to show no differences in outcomes between children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by a married mother and father have been noted to have problems with sample sizes, non-random samples and poor or non-existent comparison groups. On the other hand, research indicates that children do better on a number of important, measures when raised by a married mother and father than when raised in any other family type. They have been shown to do better on educational outcomes, career status, level of income, success in adult relationships, mental health. For significant articles and studies click here and here and here and here.
A child has the right to know its biological heritage, its biological father and mother and siblings. If the same-sex partner of the child’s biological mother or father is to be allowed to adopt the child the child at least has the right to have his/her biological mother and father and biologically related siblings recorded on his/her birth certificate. There are good reasons for the child’s right to know its biological heritage. It is important to know one’s genetic inheritance for health reasons. There may be genetically inherited conditions that the child should know about. This has been acknowledged in relation to conceived children through ART. The case of Narelle Grech who was conceived by donor conception is a case in point.
The Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 (ART) was amended in 2014 to allow information to be made available to ART donor-conceived children. Health Minister Jill Hennessy said about the proposed amendment bill: "Everyone has the right to access information about where they came from, whether it's to know more about their genealogy, medical history, or so that they can try to connect with the generous individuals who donated." However children conceived by artificial insemination with donor sperm are not given the right to information about their sperm donor biological father as they not covered by the ART. Section 3 defines “assisted reproductive treatment” as “medical treatment or a procedure that procures, or attempts to procure, pregnancy in a woman by means other than sexual intercourse or artificial insemination …” This means that a child conceived by artificial insemination does not have the right to information about his/her sperm donor biological father as ART donor-conceived children do.
A child carried by a surrogate mother would also appear not to have the right to information about his/her biological or surrogate mother. If the child is born in Victoria the birth or surrogate mother is recorded as the child’s mother. If changes are made to the adoption laws to allow the homosexual partner of the biological father to adopt the child will he then be recorded as the child’s second parent in substitution for the child’s biological mother? If such is the case then again the child would be deprived of his/her biological heritage.
Donor conceived children conceived by artificial insemination and children born as the result of a surrogacy arrangement should have the same rights to full information of their biological heritage as donor children conceived through ART.
Few babies are adopted
There are very few babies available for adoption to strangers in Victoria. According to Adoption Australia’s Annual Report in 2012 – 2013 there were only 44 adoptions in Victoria, 23 from overseas and 4 relative adoptions. Only 17 were stranger adoptions down from 28 the year before. There is a shortage of children available for adoption. The best interests of the children are served if they are placed with a family where they will be raised by a mother and a father.
Children need a mum and a dad
Rob Oscar Lopez, who was raised by his biological mother and her lesbian partner, says; “Given that placement in same-sex couple homes is not necessary, it is unjust to force a child who has been entrusted to the state to live without a mother or without a father. The moment the adoption becomes legal, then the chance of having a mother or father is permanently foreclosed, and the adoptee can never reverse this act of deprivation, which is then added to the initial trauma that caused the loss of his birth family. The child grows up knowing that everyone else has a mother and father, but he doesn’t, because the people who are raising him and say they love him took one of those away from him, forever.”
Lopez also says; “In a case where one member of the same-sex couple is the child’s biological parent and the couple wants to “jointly” adopt the child, the adoption is a form of coercion. Now the child, in addition to having permanently lost the link to a biological parent of the opposite sex, must submit to the authority and control of a new parent who may or may not dispense of such power with generosity. In my conversations with over thirty people raised by a biological parent and a non- biologically related gay partner, I have identified a clear trend: children don’t want to be forced into an emotional relationship with the non-related gay partner. Notwithstanding some fondness that may develop, they adapt to that person and do their best to respect him or her, so that they can nurture their relationship with their parent. But they almost never feel comfortable calling this essential step-parent “Mom” or “Dad,” and do not like being ordered around by the step-parent or expected to speak with the same intimacy they show to their original parent. So the entire notion that gay people must get married so they can adopt each other’s children is fatally flawed. This is the state forcing kids into emotional situations they do not want to be in. It isn’t freedom or “protection,” but rather, coercion.”
Children raised by their two biological parents within a stable marriage enjoy significant advantages in terms of better physical and mental health, better educational outcomes, fewer behavioural problems, more successful and satisfying adult relationships, higher level of career achievement and consequently of income level than children raised in other family forms, single parent, heterosexual de facto or step family. There are many studies which evidence these benefits to children of being raised by their married biological parents and the disadvantages suffered by children when their biological parents divorce or separate and they end up being raised in other family forms (for significant articles and studies see here and here and here and here and see Kevin Andrews book “Maybe I Do” at pgs. 49-103 and the numerous studies referenced).
Marriage doesn’t reduce same-sex relationship breakdowns
It has been argued that if same sex couples can marry then any children they raise will enjoy the benefits of married parents. However there is evidence that even the legal status of marriage does not reduce the much higher rate of breakdown of same sex relationships. In Norway data has revealed that same sex male couples were 1.5 times more likely to break up than heterosexual couples and same sex female couples 2.67 times more likely to break up. Within 5 years 20% of male and 30% of female couples had broken up compared to 13% of heterosexual couples. In Sweden male couples were found to be 50% more likely to break up than heterosexual marriages while the risk for female same sex couples was nearly double that of male couples. (see Andersson G. et al, “The Demographics of Same sex Marriages in Norway and Sweden, Demography, 2006 43(1), 79-98 and Andersson G. et al, “Divorce-Risk Patterns in Same-Sex marriages in Norway and Sweden”, 2004 see here.
More on biological heritage
Every child has the right to know its biological heritage, its biological father and mother and siblings. Regardless of how the child is conceived or of who are granted parentage by law, the child has the right to have his/her biological mother and father and biologically related siblings recorded on his/her birth certificate as well as the social or adoptive parents, or at least a legal requirement that such information be recorded and available to him/her should the child want or need to access it.
Children raised in same-sex v’s opposite sex families
Given there are many studies which evidence the disadvantages suffered by children when their biological parents divorce or separate and the studies which evidence that even marriage does not reduce the much higher rate of breakdown of same sex relationships than heterosexual relationships, changing the law to allow stranger adoption for same-sex couples would deliberately support children being in less stable family situations.
There is a large body of scientifically strong studies showing children do best with their married mother and father--but which do not make comparisons with homosexual parents or couples. There are studies purportedly showing that children of homosexuals do just as well as other children, however these studies are methodologically weak and thus scientifically inconclusive. The Regnerus study specifically compared outcomes for children raised by same-sex parents with outcomes for children in single, de facto and married heterosexual unions which indicated less than optimal outcomes for the children raised by same-sex parents. In view of the uncertainty of the outcomes for children of same-sex parenting it cannot be said to be in “the best interests of the child” for the law to allow stranger adoption for same-sex couples.