Committee meeting on civil unions bills exposes plenitude of divergent opinions on gay couples and adoption
Tuesday 18 February 2014 - 22:00 by Matthew Charles Zammit
A parliamentary debate on the civil union law and adoption of children by same-sex couples open to the general public, academics and non-academics alike, this evening expressed their divergent views on the controversial issue in what turned out to be a fiery and argumentative session.
The main guest during the Parliamentary consideration of bills meetingwas Angela Abela, Head of Department of the Family Studies in the Faculty of Social Well-Being, who held that the department's philosophy was always "one of collaboration, and not of polarisation, because the latter usually comes as a result of lack of reflection."
Abela added that "this is a very sensitive subject, and this responsibility must be entered into with a sense of collaboration, only then can our society flourish."
Naming a number of studies which focused on the effects of children in adoption by homosexual couples, such as the "Same-sex parented families in Australia" research conducted by Deborah Dempsey, and another study by Charlotte J. Patterson, "Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children: Summary of Research Findings," Abela pronounced her judgement that "within the limitations of all studies composed up to this point, there exists no proof that the structure of the family, whether homosexual or heterosexual, proved to be either detrimental or beneficial to the child's upbringing."
"What matters are the following variables: the quality of the upbringing of the child in question, the relationship that the child has with her parents, the quality of the relationship of the child with other children and people outside the family, and the richness of the social and economic resources in the family. Only these four factors are seen to be able to help or negatively affect the upbringing of the child."
Abela also cited the Maltatoday survey and the Church-commissioned MISCO survey regarding the general population's attitude towards same-sex adoption. While the former showed that 25% of correspondents were in favour, according to the former, the latter showed that only 20% favoured adoptions by same-sex couples.
"Although I haven't seen clearly either how each survey was conducted, the miniscule 5% discrepancy for me is a clear sign that there is a large population in Malta still affected by stigma, and it's the latter which proves more detrimental to the child's upbringing than the structure of the family."
"We had stigma during the 1970's when homosexuality was decriminalized, and the same stigma arose during the introduction of Divorce during the last couple of years. This is why I emphasis on two points: Education, and a constant fight against the social stigma."
Concluding her address, Abela said: "Culture informs law, and law informs culture."
Another intervention was by Miriam Sciberras, who holds a Masters in Bio-ethics. She said that: "There are a number of first-hand experiences out there, written by people who were brought up by homosexual parents, who argue that half-heartedly, their adoption was more detrimental."
In reaction to Sciberras' intervention family therapistr Charles Azzopardi argued that "I have seen the same psychological and social problems which you have mentioned here in heterosexual couples. It's not the family structure that's relevant, it's the quality of their upbringing."
The speaker who stood out the most however was Lana Borg, a homosexual; who described herself as being "afraid" of the thought that her current partner's daughter, who was born through artificial insemination, could be left legally parentless if her mother dies before the legal amendments could be brought forward, which made it possible for Borg to adopt this child as her own daughter.
PN Deputy Leader Beppe Fenech Adami argued against the inclusion of same-sex adoption in the Civil Union's Act, reiterating that "other countries have first brought up the issue amidst controversy, discussed it and then the laws were introduced after the proper studies were carried out. Here the situation is different: Everything is being rushed."
Meanwhile, Opposition MP Claudette Buttigieg asked: "Is it true that other countries have first enacted laws enabling same-sex marriage, and only later allowed homosexual couples to adopt, and not add together these two drastic changes at the same time?"
Another speaker, Silvan Agius, a Minsitry for Social Dialogue advisor held that "What is being proposed is a hybrid of both Danish legislation and other soruces."
He explained that when the United Kingdom introduced same-sex marriage, they not only focused on marriage, but also on other possible rights. "Contrary to the British model, we are talking on 'equality on all counts.' This law is trying its utmost so that any difference between homosexual and heterosexual couples is eradicated."
Gabi Calleja, the head of the LGBT Community in Malta concluded the public meeting by saying "I believe that the Civil Union's Act does not regulate the couple, but also of the offspring. This law is a law which belongs to the family, and it's obvious that such a law is child-oriented."