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Wednesday 08 October 2008

Proclamations of the Red Queen

27th June 2008

Same-Sex Parenting: Britain and New Zealand

Posted by: Craig Young

In Gay Times (UK) (May 2008), there are a couple of fascinating pieces on same-sex parenting in the United Kingdom, which deals with what will probably happen when our own Parliament eventually gets around to amending our Adoption Act 1955.

In some areas, New Zealand is ahead of the United Kingdom. While I understood that lesbians were able to access private fertility services to have their own children in the United Kingdom, apparently this didn’t apply to the state-run National Health Service. As for New Zealand, fertility services are regulated by the Human Rights Act 1993 in New Zealand, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and after the Ministerial Committee on Artificial Reproductive Technology (MCART) reported back positively to the then-Minister of Justice Doug Graham in 1994, lesbians have had access to fertility services ever since. Back in 2004, Parliament also passed the Care of Children Act to insure that amongst other things, lesbian coparents were recognised as joint custodial parents of lesbian birthmothers within the context of fertility service-assisted pregnancies and childbearing. After much rumination, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 means that the United Kingdom has now followed suit.

On the other hand, the United Kingdom are well in front of us when it comes to inclusive adoption reform. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 took effect in December 2005, and has made it possible for eligible prospective UK lesbian and gay parents to make joint adoption applications, as long as they pass strict agency vetting guidelines related to stability and duration of relationship, even if the number of children available for adoption in both New Zealand and the United Kingdom has droppsed as a result of straight women’s access to contraception and abortion, as well as the advent of solo parenthood. As a result the United Kingdom had 3300 adoption placements last year, while New Zealand had 291. In the case of the United Kingdom, about 33 went to prospective and eligible LGBT parents.

In the United Kingdom, straight and LGBT prospective adoptive parents apply to an agency, and then undertake a rigorous period of assessment, which includes a rigorous medical examination of both parents, investigation of their references, and whether or not they have any criminal records. Sadly, children are often placed for adoption because of histories of birthparent neglect and abuse. As a result they may have behavioural difficulties, relationship problems and may have to unlearn earlier aberrant behaviour from dysfunctional parental role models. Sometimes, given those circumstances, one partner may decide to forego their own career or job to be a full-time parent, or establish a home business that enables them to care for their children.

Granted, the above may sound challenging, but these children often have heartbreaking personal histories, and require love and stable parental circumstances. Parental responsibility is just that, too- it requires love, time, money and hard work, however rewarding it may be when one can undo the pain of the past that some of these children may have had.  In the case of the two Gay Times articles, neither of the cited articles discussed coparent adoptions, which occur when one partner has children from a previous relationship, so that the coparent has custody and responsibility for their children if anything happens to the birthparent.

Based on the Christian Right’s imbecilic statements about civil unions, when New
Zealand amends our own adoption laws, I suspect we will then see similarly gormless remarks about the low or slow uptake of LGBT adoptions. There are probably two reasons for that- one is that New Zealand LGBT prospective parents have had access to fertility services for nearly fourteen years longer than our British counterparts, while as I’ve noted earlier, there are fewer children available for adoption placement due to straight women’s greater reproductive freedom and the rise of alternative parenting models. 

In any case, the above suggests an ideal retort- there may be fewer LGBT adoptions once an initial surge in coparent adoptions has passed, because same-sex parenting requires serious deliberation and preparation, as well as maturity- just as there are far fewer divorces after our civil unions when compared to heterosexual marriages, it might be added mischievously.

Strongly Recommended:

Peter Hart: “Children in Need” GT 356 (May 2008): 76-77.

Richard Smith: “Are We Family?” GT 356 (May 2008): 92-93.

Tags: Politics

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