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How Reasonable Is It To Grant Adoption Rights to Same-Gender Couples?

Adoption By Same Sex Couples

by Dr Andrew Corbett,
President ICI College Australia, Pastor of Legana Christian Church, DIrector of the Tasmanian Family Institute and Lecturer in Ethics and Contemporary Issues, Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies



To adopt is to “take as your own.” A person can adopt an idea as “if it were their own.” A club can adopt a constitution so that it becomes their own. In regard to the adoption of children it has always been the intention of the adoption laws to be able to provide an orphaned or unparented (or underparented) child with parents as if they were his or her own. It is claimed by some that the current adoption laws, which reflect this concept, are now discriminatory particularly against same sex couples. Therefore, firstly, it must be proved that the current adoption laws of Tasmania do not adequately serve the original intention of adoption. Secondly, it must be proved that these laws are unfairly discriminatory. Thirdly, it must be proved that any proposed changes to the Adoption Act will increase the likelihood of an adopted child’s welfare being improved not impoverished.
“Firstly, it must be proved that the current adoption laws of Tasmania do not adequately serve the original intention of adoption”

The relevant section of the current Tasmanian Adoption Act states -

20. (1) An order for the adoption of a child may be made in favour of a man and a woman who are married to each other and have been so married for not less than 3 years before the date on which the order is made.

(2) The period of 3 years referred to in subsection (1) may include a period during which a man and a woman resided together in a stable continuous de facto relationship immediately before their marriage.

(3) The court shall not make an adoption order in favour of a person who is, or persons either of whom is, the mother of the child or a man who, under section 29(3), is an appropriate person to give consent to the adoption of the child.

(4) Subject to this section, where the court is satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist in relation to the welfare and interests of the child which make it desirable to do so, the court may make an adoption order in favour of one person.

(5) The court shall not make an adoption order in favour of one person –

(a) if that person is married unless that person is living separately and apart from his or her spouse; or

(b) if that person is married and is living with his or her spouse, except with the consent of that spouse.

(6) Subject to subsection (7), an adoption order may be made in favour of the spouse of a natural parent, or of an adoptive parent, of the child concerned.

(7) Where an application is made for an adoption order in favour of the spouse of a parent, or of an adoptive parent, of a child and there is an appropriate person within the meaning of section 29 to give consent to the adoption, the court shall not make an adoption order unless it is satisfied that –

(a) the making of an order by a court of competent jurisdiction for the custody or guardianship of the child would not make adequate provision to serve the welfare and interests of the child; and

(b) an order for the adoption of the child would better serve the welfare and interests of the child; and

(c) special circumstances exist which warrant the making of the adoption order.

(8) On the making of an adoption order under subsection (7) relating to a child, the spouse shall be deemed to be a parent of the child jointly with that parent or adoptive parent as if the spouse and that parent or adoptive parent had been married to each other at the time the child was born but, notwithstanding section 50 –

(a) the child is not to be treated in law as if the child were not the child of that parent or adoptive parent; and

(b) that parent or adoptive parent is not to be treated in law as if the parent or adoptive parent were not a parent of that child; and

(c) the relationship between the child and that parent or adoptive parent is not terminated; and

(d) if that parent or adoptive parent is the guardian of the child, the order does not terminate the guardianship; and

(e) if, immediately before the adoption order is made, the child was the adopted child of that adoptive parent, the order does not terminate that adoption.

To date, there has been no suggestion that these laws do not reflect best practice for the adoption of children. In other words, no case has been made that the parental model of a father and mother is now defective. In fact, since these laws were passed in 1988 there has been much research done which actually validates these laws. This does not mean that single parent, or same sex parenting families are not viable but it most certainly means that a parenting model of a father and mother is the most viable model. Since the Adoption Act states that the interests of the child are paramount this should encourage us to maintain world’s best practice in this regard.

By far the overwhelming weight of social research supports this. Professor David Popenoe of Rutgers University puts it:

“Social science research is almost never conclusive. There are always methodological difficulties and stones left unturned. Yet in three decades of work as a social scientist, I know of few other bodies of data in which the weight of evidence is so decisively on one side of the issue: on the whole, for children, two-parent [father and mother, not same sex coupling] families are preferable...If our prevailing views on family structure hinged solely on scholarly evidence, the current debate would never have arisen in the first place.”
(David Popenoe, “The Controversial Truth,” New York Times, 26 December 1992, p. A21)

In Australia, the most significant research has been done by social scientist Dr. Sotirios Sarantakos, Professor of Sociology at Charles Sturt University. In 1996 he published his research, Children In Three Contexts in the Journal: Australian Children (Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 23–31). He investigated the overall welfare of children being raised by three types of couples: married, de facto, and same sex.

The children of the same sex couple had all been born in a previous heterosexual relationship. They were matched with children of heterosexual parents as to education, occupation and socio-economic status. The case study involved 174 children (58 in each category). The children were rated academically. The results were –

Children of married parents… 8.16

Children of co-habiting (de facto parents)… 7.36

Children raised by same sex parents… 5.63

Dr Sarantakos also evaluated their ‘sociability’ (their ability to mix and relate with their peers). The results were as follows –

Children of married parents… 7.5

Children of co-habiting (de facto parents)… 6.5

Children raised by same sex parents… 5.0

Prof. Sarantakos noted that the children raised same sex couples were “more effeminate (irrespective of their gender) and more confused about their gender” than the children of heterosexual couples. He concludes with the obvious -

…married couples seem to offer the best environment for a child’s social and educational development…

There can be little doubt that the current laws also reflect what is best for children by restricting adoption to a married couple where an adopted child can benefit from having both a father and mother.


Secondly, it must be proved that these laws are unfairly discriminatory.

Canada is cited as an international example of anti-discrimination. In July 2000 the Supreme Court of British Colombia began hearing a challenge to Canada's marriage laws, taken by a number of couples, and initiated by the previous provincial government. On October 3 2001 it found that restricting marriage rights to heterosexuals violates the right to equality enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However the court found nonetheless that the discrimination was permissible. (The Court relied on s 1 of the Charter to hold that even though it is discriminatory to exclude lesbians and gay men from marriage, to do so is legally acceptable. Section 1 of the Charter provides that if the government can show that a Charter breach is demonstrably justifiable, the discriminatory law can stand. In doing so, the Court said that it was "common sense that marriage is restricted to heterosexuals".

We agree with this ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court about right to take affirmative action in support of the traditional family unit and its implications for a child’s welfare. It is common sense to regard that a father and a mother will together form the best parenting model for a child. Tragically in life this is not always possible. Whether through divorce, desertion or death, a child is sometimes left without one of their birth parents. This makes the task of a single parent even more challenging but often they have no other choice. Yet with adoption there is a choice.

There is another reason why a child is sometimes deprived of either of their birth parents. This is when one of their birth parents enters into a same sex relationship thus relinquishing their existing heterosexual relationship. This is the case with 87% of homosexual single parents according to research done by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (Family Matters, No. 63 Spring/Summer 2002, page 43). Rarely, if ever, does a child in this context want to be parented by two mothers or two fathers. Granting a lesbian woman adoption rights over another lesbian’s birth child in no way provides more emotional security for a child. In fact the evidence tends to go the other way. Children of same sex couples are generally less emotionally secure according to the research of Dr Sarantakos previously cited.

Research shows that same sex relationships are far more likely to be shorter than a married relationship. For same sex relationships the length of the relationship averages at six years. For a married couple, despite a 50% divorce rate, the average length of the married relationship is forty years (Source: Booth, Alan, David Johnson, and John Edwards. 1983. "Measuring Marital Instability." Journal of Marriage and the Family 45:387-394).

Social researcher Dr Judith Reisman has extensively researched the comparisons between homosexual and heterosexual relationships. She has found that overwhelmingly same sex relationships are rarely monogamous or long term (lifetime). Based on her research she sees the need to guard against any legislation which might imply that same sex relationships are equitable with the marriage of a man and woman.

Cross culturally and historically when monogamous “marriage” is not honored and esteemed by men as the mark of the successful man, when rules and penalties venerating marriage are no longer etched into the male moral fabric, boys become increasingly narcissistic and war like, assaulting one another, family and strangers, individually and as roving bands of “bi”-sexually indiscriminate, nomadic tribal adventurers. Such young males endanger men, women, children and civil society.
Dr. Judith A. Reisman, Ph.D., The Institute for Media Education, 1999 http://www.drjudithreisman.org/whitep/MARRIAGE.doc

Drs Reisman and Johnson researched the comparisons between heterosexual males and homosexual males. Their research included candidates advertising for relationships. They used the Washingtonian periodical (attracting urban, white mainstream, upscale, heterosexual bachelors) and the The Advocate (attracting urban, white mainstream, upscale, homosexual bachelors).

The researchers said-

We asked the same simple questions of the bachelors advertising for companions in both magazines. The results of this study should be reviewed by all legislators, judges, educators, doctors, mental health professionals, television reporters and talk show hosts, counselors, parents and others examining male homosexual versus heterosexual “lifetime partnering” including fidelity and commitment to time.
The data found that male homosexuals (bachelors) rarely seeking time-bound, or “marital” relations. In contrast, heterosexually identified bachelors commonly did seek relationships by noting their interest in investing time, implicitly and often explicitly, inclusive of marriage.

The point to this is the claim that same sex relationships are just as stable as married relationships. The data does not verify this. In fact it strongly disagrees with it. Secondly, there is a claim made that there has been no social science data scientifically collected to support the notion that same sex relationships are intrinsically more unstable than heterosexual relationships. This again is false.

The American Academy of Paediatricians (AAP) conducted its own research into the issue of whether a child’s welfare was affected by the nature of parenting model, namely: were there any differences between same sex parenting and married parenting? It’s results were published February 2002.

Their conclusions contradicted what their research told them. Having already made sympathetic statements supporting the Gay Lobby, the AAP were seemingly blinded by their bias when they stated that they could detect no difference in parenting outcomes between married parents and same sex couples.

…no existing data to support the widely held belief that there are negative outcomes (for children raised in homosexual homes)…no studies pointed to any risk to children as a result of growing up with one or more gay parents…
Family First Journal, Capitol Watch, April 2002

So stunned were its members at their conclusions, that independent researchers evaluated the data of the AAP.

The independent findings of these US researchers, Paul and Kirk Cameron, were published in the Journal of Psychology. They also evaluated the claims made by the AAP that there were no differences in children raised by same sex parents as compared to a married couple. They found that the research, which the AAP cited, actually countered their conclusions. The Camerons commented-

numerous differences between the children of homosexuals and heterosexuals…were documented in the articles cited by the APA.”
The Australian Family, July 2001, page 28ff

Apparently the AAP has conceded this point. This is not the only example of Pro-Gay groups forming conclusions grounded in bias rather than objective data. Drs Althea Nagai and Robert Lerner examined 49 such research studies. They found no basis for a conclusion that children raised by homosexual parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexual parents. In fact, they found that every research study they examined had “significant flaws” (Family First Journal, Capitol Watch, April 2002).

Therefore, reasons why the current Adoption Act is not unfairly discriminatory:

1. The claims that there is no research to show a difference in parenting outcomes between same sex couples and married parents are not true. There is much research to substantiate this in favour of married couples.

2. We are obliged to accept the credible research into this matter and maintain our existing Adoption Act which applies affirmative action for married couples as the best parenting arrangement. In this sense, therefore, it is not true to say that the Adoption Act discriminates against unmarried couples.

3. Adoption gives a child what they are naturally deprived of (a father and mother). The current Adoption Act reflects this. Therefore it is not discriminatory to endorse what is most natural.

4. It is not discriminatory to acknowledge and recognise gender distinctiveness, neither is it discriminatory to acknowledge and recognise that there is a difference between same sex couples and married parents when it comes to parenting outcomes.

5. As a community we reserve and exercise the democratic right to collectively request that our laws reflect our community values of what constitutes the essence of a family. This is not discriminatory it is moral for a society not to endorse what it considers is fundamentally wrong. The State Government has no mandate for this legislative change.

6. While some countries have granted adoption rights to same sex couples they are generally very liberal on a range of other issues too which we would find unpalatable. It is not true that the majority of countries, which have Anti-discrimination laws, have granted adoption rights to same sex couples. In fact, many have deliberately changed or maintained their adoption laws to prevent same sex couples from adopting. This includes 38 states of the United States of America passing legislation forbidding same sex couples from adopting. They have done this while vigorously maintaining the principles of anti-discrimination. We can too.

7. Countries which have granted same sex adoption rights have generally already had same sex union registration for couples. In these instances, the same legislative bodies responsible for the registrations of marriages, and these unions, is also responsible for adoptions. This is not the case in Australia. Therefore, it is legitimate to have affirmative action in favour of married couples which should not be considered discriminatory against unmarried couples.


Thirdly, it must be proved that any proposed changes to the Adoption Act will increase the likelihood of an adopted child’s welfare being improved not impoverished.

The Adoption Act states as its objective that the best welfare and interests of the child be regarded.
8. In the administration of this Act, the welfare and interests of the child or adopted person concerned shall be regarded as the paramount consideration at all times.
Tasmanian Adoption Act, Part 1 – Preliminary, Point 8

It is just not worth the risk to jeopardise the welfare of children over what has been described as symbolic legislation. It could be a very dangerous social experiment to go down this path of granting same sex couples the right to adopt children. These are the conclusions made by Sociologist Dr. Patricia Morgan in her report on same sex parenting which was published as a book in February 2002 –

Children raised by gay couples will suffer serious problems in later life, a study into parenting has found. The biggest investigation into same-sex parenting to be published in Europe claims children brought up by gay couples are more likely to experiment with homosexual behaviour and be confused about their sexuality. The best way to bring up a child is within a traditional marriage, the study by sociologist Patricia Morgan concludes. The launch in Feb 2002 of her book, Children As Trophies?, which contains the claims, comes as the Government is poised to change adoption laws and allow unmarried couples to adopt if it is in the child's interest.
SOURCE: theadvertiser.news.com

Nearly all informed people are aware that even if the Adoption Act was changed, it would be next to impossible for a same sex couple to adopt an unknown child, and extremely unlikely that they could adopt a known child with the scrutiny that is involved in the current adoption process. Children are not trophies. They should especially not be the symbolic trophies of this proposed legislative change!

Urvashi Vaid, former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said "Children should be a special target for homosexual rights activists in the attempt to change society.”
World 4/99, Targeting Children, by Ed Vitagliano

There is research to show that children raised by a same sex couple are subject to bullying and harassment at school (Family Matters, the Journal of the Australian Institute For Family Studies, No. 59, Winter 2001).

However, the current research finds that children raised by gays and lesbians had been exposed to high levels of bullying, teasing and silencing. The effects of bullying are noted by Carr-Gregg (cited in Jones and Gibson 2000): “I am absolutely convinced bullying is the number one mental health issue in our schools. The apathy around this issue I find nothing short of astonishing.”
Vivien Ray and Robin Gregory, AIFS, No. 59, page 34

To argue that the Adoption Act should be changed to allow same sex couples to legally adopt so as to make it more socially acceptable and therefore less likely to lead to school bullying of these children is ridiculous. It is also shows a lack of creativity. School bullying in this instance is the issue which needs addressing, not the Adoption Act. In fact, changing the Act may lead to more bullying not less. We stress that bullying should not be tolerated under any circumstances but it will not be resolved by changing the Act.

Children raised by a same sex couple are more likely to be confused about their sexuality. This is despite the claims of Pro-Gay lobby groups. The research is unequivocal on this matter.

Children raised by a homosexual parent or parents are more likely to be confused about their sexuality and are prone to engage in risky sexual behaviour. An April 2001 report published in the American Sociological Review found that children of gay couples were more likely to be confused about their own sexual identity, more likely to engage in homosexual relationships and more likely to be promiscuous. For example, 64 percent of children raised by lesbians reported considering same sex relationships, while only 17 percent of children raised in heterosexual homes reported the same.
Family First Journal, April 2002

In Australia, Associate Prof. Sarantakos found similar results in his research. It is therefore not fair or true to say that it makes no difference.

It is also claimed that there is no difference in the rate of sexual abuse between children raised by a mother and father and children raised by homosexuals. They are far more likely to be the victims of homosexual child abuse.

The Cameron and Cameron study also found that of the examined dangers to children, including physical and sexual abuse, 97 percent were attributable to homosexual parents. Another study in the periodical ‘Adolescence’ found that a disproportionate percentage, almost 30 percent, of the adult children of homosexual parents has been subject to sexual molestation by a homosexual parent, compared to only 0.6 percent of adult children of heterosexual parents.
Family First Journal, April 2002

We stress that these statements are about increased likelihoods. This does not mean that every instance of same sex couple reared children will exhibit these traits. But it is not fair to say that there is no research to show that the likelihood of these things happening is noticeably increased.

Dr Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute completed a report on the viability of same sex adoption. Within his report he noted-

57 children who had homosexual parents were interviewed by lesbian researchers, who published the testimonies. Scientists at the Family Research Institute subjected these testimonies to content analysis and have just reported their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Psychological Reports. Children with homosexual parents reported many problems. More than half of the kids complained of instability of parent's lovers, and emotional distress. About a third of the older children engaged in homosexuality.
Most (92 percent) of the testimonies mentioned one or more problems: of 213 problems, 201 (94 percent) were attributed to the homosexual parent.
Dr. Paul Cameron, Family Research Institute, www.familyresearchinst.org

Dr. Cameron said –

"no one who reads these testimonies could possibly consider homosexual adoption a good idea. Indeed, just about all the investigators who have interviewed homosexuals' children have come to the same conclusion -- homosexuals make their kids bear a heavy burden. In addition, due to the examples of their parents and the association with other homosexuals a large proportion of them end up in homosexuality themselves. Homosexual adoption is a bad idea."

In Florida, two gay men challenged the State’s adoption laws which support affirmative action for married couple parenting. The Judge’s decision was not based on morality, which he stressed, rather it was based on the evidence presented-

A federal judge Aug. 30, 2001 upheld Florida's ban on adoptions by gays, accepting the state's argument that married heterosexual couples provide a more stable home for children.
U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King said that two gay men who challenged the law failed to demonstrate that "homosexual families are equivalently stable, are able to provide proper gender identification, or are no more socially stigmatizing than married heterosexual families." "Given there is no fundamental right to adopt or be adopted, there can be no fundamental right to apply for adoption.
" The judge noted that state officials consider families with a mother and a father to be important for a child's well-rounded growth and development. He also said primary consideration is given to couples who have been married a "sufficient length of time."
The judge did discount the state's argument that the ban is legitimate because it reflects the state's disapproval of homosexuality. "The court cannot accept that moral disapproval of homosexuals or homosexuality serves a legitimate state interest," he wrote.
SOURCE: The Associated Press

The point highlighted here is obvious. Even if the moral argument is discounted there is ample evidence to show that same sex couples can not provide what a father and a mother can. Again the law sided with the best instead of settling for the good. But in Tasmania it would also be the consensus of the population that children are best served by having a father and mother rather a two people of the same sex. In other words, our society’s morality regarding the nature of families is a factor.

Changing the Adoption Act to allow same sex couples the right to adopt cannot be proven to add increased likelihood of a child’s welfare being improved. There is research to show that it may actually be at least impoverished.

Therefore we would strongly urge the Tasmanian State Government not change any aspect of the Adoption Act.



Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania


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