Thursday, 18 October 2012

Times: Adoption by same-sex couples

Thursday, October 18, 2012 by Gabi Calleja, coordinator, Malta Gay Rights Movement, Mosta

A great deal of emphasis is being placed by some sections of the media on the possibility that the Labour Party is considering the removal of the legal barrier in place with regard to same-sex couples’ access to adoption. LGBT people already enjoy this right as single parents.

The reasoning provided by the Labour Party, with which MGRM concurs, is that, as far as the well-being of children goes, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

This is a well-established human rights principle which also informs current policy as implemented by the Nationalist government through its social welfare agencies and the Adoption Board. The only difference would be that the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child or of any family member or other person would not be considered as being incompatible with such best interests.

What has not been picked up by the media is the statement, made by Family and Justice Minister Chris Said during the same Xarabank programme, that same-sex couples made equally good parents but that allowing them to adopt would go against the best interests of the child because they would be more likely to face harassment and bullying by their peers.

For the government to be consistent with this line of reasoning, then the personal characteristics of any couple coming forward as prospective adoptive parents that could potentially lead to increased risk of bullying and harassment should also be taken into consideration.

Since children are bullied for a multiplicity of reasons other than the sexual orientation of their parents, this reasoning could potentially exclude Muslim couples, black couples, persons with a disability, unattractive couples, fat couples, poor couples... the list is endless.

If the minister really believes, as he stated and as research has consistently shown, that good parenting is not dependent on the sexual orientation or gender identity of the parents, then the appropriate policy should be precisely to assess same-sex couples in the same way as any other couple applying for adoption.

The other appropriate response would be to ensure that same-sex-headed families would also be portrayed across the curriculum, that books and resources reflecting such families were made available in classrooms and school libraries and that a clear policy that specifically addressed homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools was put in place.

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