Saturday, 3 May 2014

Times: No ‘mum and dad’
Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 00:01 by Frank Muscat

It is important to stress from the outset that I have always been in favour of civil unions, uncomfortable with the notion of same-sex adoption for reasons given below, and certainly against same-sex marriage. As one who has professionally worked in different settings with children, young persons and families, locally and overseas, I contend that the government’s decision to combine civil unions with adoption was a step in the wrong direction. My contribution focuses on same-sex adoption.

The well-articulated, level-headed and liberal Opposition leader Simon Busuttil is right in saying that, on a personal level, he is all out in favour of civil unions but had reservations on gay adoption. Busuttil would have supported gay adoption had a local social impact assessment been carried out, resulting in same-sex adoption being in the best interest of the child.

The scheming and arrogant Prime Minister Joseph Muscat derided Busuttil’s child-centred argument. Muscat is reported to have said that the option suggested by the Opposition, of legislating in favour of civil unions without any reference to the issue of gay adoption, would have led to discrimination against same-sex couples. This is tantamount to saying that the Malta Gay Rights Movement’s aspirations are paramount, a child’s best interests takes second place. In political terms, Muscat’s argument certainly paid dividends as was manifestly evident from the ecstatic reception the MGRM crowd and their sympathisers, including the American Ambassador, assembled at St George’s Square in Valletta, gave to the passing of the Civil Unions Bill.

Undoubtedly, Muscat’s phoney staunch support for MGRM bullied members of his Cabinet and parliamentary group into submission, including the then Family and Social Solidarity Minister Marie-Louise Coleiro-Preca, nationally renowned for her commitment to vulnerable children.

The ‘government that listens’ rode roughshod over the findings of national surveys and professional opinion. A May 2013 report titled ‘Same-sex: same civil entitlements’ by The Today Public Policy Institute presented to the Prime Minister concluded among other things: “A longitudinal scientific study should be established before determining how legislation in this regard should be framed.” The Today Public Policy Institute is not affiliated to any political party or movement.

According to a January 2014 survey commissioned by the Church and carried out by Misco, 80 per cent of Maltese were against child adoptions by same-sex couples. Opposition towards gay adoptions was found across all age groups.

In February 2014 the Malta Paediatric Association said there was “ a lack of scientific research in the local context” and urged MPs to “ proceed with caution” before enacting any law.

To my knowledge, during the drafting of the Civil Unions Bill, neither the Malta Psychological Association nor the Malta Psychiatric Association dared to take a position on the issue of same-sex adoption. The mind boggles!

What I find most disturbing is the Commissioner for Children’s deafening silence . In the spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the commissioner should have provided children capable of forming an opinion with information concerning draft legislation on civil unions, listened to their wishes and feelings about the issue, and subsequently presented the findings to Parliament. Her silence certainly calls for an explanation.

Apparently when Civil Rights Minister Helena Dalli was asked in a ‘Government that listens’ meeting at St Paul’s Bay primary school whether the Commissioner for Children had been consulted on the matter of same-sex adoption, Dalli skirted the question: “I assure the Commissioner there will be no changes in the adoption process” (Malta Today, February 24).

Two women can both be good mothers but neither of them can be a good father

Proponents of same-sex adoption maintain that what children need is love, and they can shower it on children in great abundance. Children need more than love. Undoubtedly, two women can be both good mothers, but neither of them can be a good father; similarly, two men can make good fathers, but neither of them can be a good mother. Children go through predictable and vital developmental stages. Mothers are more in sync with their babies and infants than fathers; however, at some stage, a boy has to detach himself from his mother to help him form a healthy masculine identity.

The central question to be addressed is not whether a child needs a loving family; rather, the issue is whether it is in the best interest of the child to be effectively barred from having a mother and a father. To have a mother and a father is a separate issue from discrimination against people of same-sex orientation.

It goes without saying that if society permits same-sex adoption, it will in due course usher in new forms of same-sex parenting such as surrogate mothers and donor-insemination. Same-sex couples who acquire children in this fashion are loath to acknowledge that their choice to parent may hurt the child, thus perpetuating the myth that two mummies or two daddies are just the same, or even better, than a mother and a father. They are in denial of the child’s desire of the parent of the other sex.

In the wake of the Civil Unions Act, both the judiciary and the Adoption Agency would need the wisdom of Solomon in the exercise of their respective duties to implement legislation relating to same-sex adoption. Hopefully, the envisaged comprehensive Children Act will be the vade-mecum of the judiciary and the Adoption Agency in addressing the wishes and feelings of children, their needs and rights. Children would be poorly served in the absence of separate legal representation by a child-lawyer working in tandem with a child’s guardian.

Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the retired senior female judge in the UK, described a child’s guardian at the time of the implementation of the Child Act 1989 as “the lynch-pin to the successful implementation of the Act”.

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