Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Sunday Circle: Gay Adoption: What you need to know

January 2013

Child adoption by gay couples shot to the top of the electoral agenda last week with politicians of the different parties all giving their views and the general public chiming in on the message boards. We give you all the facts you need to know.
PL leader Joseph Muscat can claim credit for putting LGBT issues on the agenda this general election and has said that a Labour government would introduce civil partnerships for gay couples, and expressed his personal opinion in favour of joint adoption by gay couples. But you probably shouldn’t hold your breath: the Labour leader refused to commit to actively change legislation to make it possible, while his party last year supported a controversial IVF bill that limited access to the technology for gay parents. 

“We don’t need to change any laws because what there is at present is a policy. What is crucial to me is the well-being of the child. If a social worker says it is in the child’s interest, then so be it….the State will no longer discriminate because we will seek the child’s best interest which for me means a loving and caring family.” – Joseph Muscat

The PN, which last year introduced a controversial new cohabitation law that provides different rights for straight and gay couples, says that in principle it agrees with the PL position, but will not regularise gay relationships or allow gay couples to adopt:
“It should be experts who decide what is in the child’s best interest, without any prejudice towards sexual orientation” – Lawrence Gonzi

AD is the only party to fully support gay marriage and equal access to adoption and IVF, and has announced that it fully endorses all proposals of the Malta Gay Rights Movement.
” We believe that LGBT persons should be treated at par with heterosexual persons in every social aspect including where civil marriage, adoption and the right to IVF treatment are concerned. Rights, obligations, procedures and criteria which apply to straight persons and couples should also apply to LGBT persons and couples.” – Angele Deguara
Despite what some people think, there is nothing currently stopping gay men and women from adopting children. Maltese adoption law allows both single individuals and married couples to adopt children, and in principle there’s no discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. The problem lies in the fact that gay couples can only adopt as single individuals, meaning that one of the parents can have no parental rights with regards to the adopted child.
Moreover, the distinction could allow for some backdoor discrimination by individual agencies: when the Church stopped adoptions by single people from its centres in Ethiopia with little explanation, for example, some questioned whether the move wasn’t in fact aimed specifically at stopping adoptions by gay people.
Not likely. The absolute majority of scientific research into gay parenting suggests that gay parents are as fit and capable as heterosexual parents, and their children just as psychologically healthy and well-adjusted. Similar studies have revealed no difference in school performance (one study in fact indicated that children raised by two lesbian mothers actually fare better than those raised in heterosexual families). Moreover, despite the persistent myth, children raised by gay couples are no more or less likely to be gay themselves.
“Rarely is there as much consensus in any area of social science as in the case of gay parenting, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics and all of the major professional organizations with expertise in child welfare have issued reports and resolutions in support of gay and lesbian parental rights” – Judith Stacey, New York University
Gay couples can jointly adopt children in seventeen countries worldwide, including seven in Europe: South Africa, Iceland, Canada, Mexico, Spain, UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, as well as in certain parts of Australia and the USA.
Moreover, step-parent adoption is available in three more countries: Israel, Finland, and Germany.
Among the Maltese general population, support for the idea is still low, but rising steadily. A survey conducted last year by MaltaToday found that some 33% of respondents supported the idea of gay marriage with full adoption rights. Support was predictably highest in the 18-34 age group, with 46% in favour of marriage and adoption. Among the 35-54 and 55+ age groups, support was at 35.9% and 18.3% respectively.
Support was also significantly higher among PL voters (31.5%) than PN voters (a remarkably low 12.8%)

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