Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Times: No one has right to adopt

Monday, April 28, 2014, 00:01 by Helena Dalli

Former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi re-entered the political fray last Tuesday. This, to tell us that children have a right to be adopted by the best possible parents, and that it is not the right of the parents to adopt.

Agreed. That is what the government has been saying all along. There is no such thing as the right to adopt a child.

Dr Gonzi then goes on to say that the civil union law purports the right for gay couples to adopt children. Wrong. The law establishes the principle of equality and thus equal rights for same-sex couples and heterosexual couples. It follows that when prospective adoptive parents are scrutinised by the adoptions board, their application is judged with the best interest of the child in mind, irrespective of the parents’ sexual orientation.

The decision on adoption is taken by experts in the field after thorough assessment and not by law makers. If, after the potential parents have been examined, a favourable decision is taken, this does not mean that the couple – whether heterosexual or same-sex – may adopt. The case will be taken to court whereby a curator is appointed to examine the whole process in order to finally decide whether the adoption will be entirely in the best interest of the child.

It is bizarre that Dr Gonzi resorted to writing a piece here to tell us that no one has the right to adopt when he surely knows all this. It is even stranger when he writes that the government has subjected the child’s best interests to those of someone else when it is evident that this is not the truth.

What is also peculiar is how Dr Gonzi speaks about the draft Bill which was presented by his government and the way he now wants to take ownership of the Civil Union Act. In a very serious tone he told us: “Let me set the record straight. The Bill was originally drafted by the PN government.”

Euphemistically speaking, the former premier is being parsimonious with the truth.

The Civil Union Act has nothing to do with the draft Bill which Dr Gonzi is referring to. The said Bill provided minimal recognition, so much so that the LGBTI community rejected it en masse. This government started from scratch.

Existing social realities had to be addressed if we were to present a good law. For instance, there already are in social practice, biological and adopted children living in gay-parent families. These realities were also mentioned by Dr Gonzi when interviewed on the issue before the election. What the law does is give children more security by legally recognising both social parents.

Dr Gonzi is saying now that he has been quoted in a manner that is unacceptable to him and to the values he has championed all his life. I will not quote Dr Gonzi, but am giving you the link (ah the wonders of You Tube) so that you may watch and listen to him declare his standpoint before the election. We stuck to that position, which was also Labour’s stance, and have put words into legislation.

What comes out of this equality measure is that the experts will decide in the best interest of the child without any prejudice with regard to the family structure: http://youtu.be/81SxKtUoQ_4

When Dr Gonzi had the power to address these injustices, he looked the other way

Dr Gonzi’s tone is somewhat different now. Maybe it is because he is not hoping to be re-elected, as he was when he was interviewed? Or it could be he’s doing it in the interest of the party so as the current leader will not appear too conservative next to him? We can never really know.

The perennial question arises: convenience or conviction?

The title of the former prime minister’s piece was: ‘After gay adoption, what’s next?’ There is so much that still needs to be done, such as legislation on gender identity and on cohabitation (the PN government’s draft on the latter was evidently too little, too late).

These are social realities which consecutive Nationalist governments, for nearly a quarter of a century, failed to address. That’s what’s next.

We shall indeed not ignore the rights of minorities like Dr Gonzi did. We had then a situation whereby instead of dealing with issues, even when they came up because those seeking their rights took the government to court – such as the rulings in favour of the rights of transgender people – the court decisions were appealed under Dr Gonzi’s watch. This instead of taking the opportunity to turn these judgments into concrete action in favour of the aggrieved citizens.

When Dr Gonzi had the power to address these injustices, he looked the other way. Now that there are laws in place which do justice, it seems he has a problem.

What next Dr Gonzi?

Helena Dalli is Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties.

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