Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Independent: Adoption and gay couples
Sunday, 19 January 2014, 09:28 , by Deborah Schembri

I have always been fascinated by the depth of wisdom of certain people and the way they impart it in words to be treasured for posterity. So, in honour of one such man who has left the world a better place than he found it, I repeat his very own words in awe and sweet remembrance: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear.” (Nelson Mandela)

I recalled this quote as I was listening to discussions regarding the current debate on civil unions and adoptions by couples forming such unions. What brought it to mind was the fact that lately I could feel a certain apprehension every time the topic on adoption came up in a discussion. It is an apprehension that I understand because, although I think that it is nothing except the proverbial ‘fear of the unknown’, on the one hand there is a general lack of information; and on the other an unfortunate abundance of misinformation. To add to this confusion, the Church has decided to throw in a survey to try and suffocate the logical and civil argument with nonsensical statistics. This it has done alongside an attempt to exert pressure on Members of Parliament to vote against this legislation because if they voted in favour of it they would be committing a “grave immoral act”.

First of all I believe that a distinction should be made between civil union rights given to gay people in order to finally start recognising their union and adoption by such couples. The former is a new concept under our law since till now our society has never recognised rights originating from a union of couples of the same sex. Adoptions by gay people, however, are not new to our law at all. Single gay people have been able to adopt, and indeed have done so, for quite a few years. They have never caused any ripple in the fabric of our society and no accusation that such adoptions were “grave immoral acts” has ever made the headlines in this regard.

So what happens when single, gay people adopt children and later couple up with partners of the same sex? Are the children taken away? Obviously not. Those children are brought up in a household with same sex couples for parents, for all they know. Yes, even today, before the bill currently before Parliament passes into law. Children don’t go snooping in their parents’ treasure trunk looking for civil union certificates in order to see whether their ‘parents’ union is recognised by law or not. They couldn’t give two hoots about legislation because for them that’s their family right there and what matters is whether they feel loved and appreciated, supported and cared for.

So if it doesn’t make any difference to the children, one might ask, why change things at all? Isn’t this law going to be enacted in the best interest of children? A very pertinent question indeed and the answer is a simple one. Today, as the law stands, if a gay person adopts a child, given that that child will technically have one parent, although in actual fact it will have two, scrutiny by the Adoptions Board is restricted to that person.

In the near future, since that parent will have the right to enter into a civil union with his or her partner, they would adopt the child jointly and therefore both prospective parents would have to be scrutinised before the adoption takes place. This cannot but be in the child’s best interest. Other civil issues come to mind, such as the right to inherit one’s parents. As things stand, children adopted by a single gay parent will only inherit that parent even though they spend their lives living with that parent and a partner who could well wish to recognise them as their children.

So adoptions shall remain available to gay people but now, given that for the first time ever gay people are going to have their relationships recognised by law, such adoptions shall also be possible by legally recognised couples. This is most definitely an improvement.

Now having seen the logic behind the argument it is easy to see why a simple “yes” or “no” answer to a survey questioning whether respondents are in favour or against gay adoption doesn’t mean much to me except an attempt at misleading the general public. How a question is posed in a survey makes a great deal of difference. Had the question been whether it was preferable that both parents, as opposed to one, be scrutinised by the Adoption Board before being entrusted with a child, for instance, the results would have been very different.

There is a great deal to say on this topic and the proposed legislation in general however I just wished to make a few remarks here in an attempt to stop one from jumping to conclusions too abruptly, and to make a genuine appeal for a rational debate.

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