Friday, June 30, 2006



In the ballot XIII: Gay adoption

Two years ago we saw the biggest shitfight in recent memory in New Zealand politics, over civil unions. The law passed, but the level of opposition and the decision by the National Party to reject equality and human rights and instead pander to bigots led many to see it as a high-tide mark for social reform, at least for the next few years. But a bill in yesterday's ballot may put that to the test.

The bill is Metiria Turei's Adoption (Civil Unions Equity) Amendment Bill. In case it is not apparent from the new title, the bill would amend the Adoption Act 1955 to extend to civil union and de facto partners the same adoption rights as married couples. Which means that, if they are judged "fit and proper persons" and are not rejected by the birth mother, gay couples could adopt.

I support this bill, and I'm looking forward to it being drawn and passed. The current situation is blatantly discriminatory, and for no good reason; Gays make perfectly good parents, and that's what should matter in adoption decisions. But what I'm not looking forward to is the public "debate" that will result from the bill being put before Parliament. Civil unions saw an unprecedented anti-gay hatefest, complete with its own blackshirted Nuremberg rally marching on Parliament. Gay adoption will be worse. The fundamentalists will label every gay in the country a paedophile, and seek to tar those who support equality with the same brush - and while there's an obvious comeback to such vile bullshit - Graham Capill, anyone? - its really not something I'm looking forward to. Which is, I suspect the point: to deter progress through sheer viciousness and prey on the desire of most people not to deal with such lunacy. Which is also precisely why we cannot give into it.

I've commented earlier that gay adoption is (somewhat ironically) the progressive issue with the best chance of passing this term. The biggest danger is that the Exclusive Brethren's man in Parliament will decide that its a perfect issue to demonstrate his "anti-PC" agenda, and use the whip to force his MPs to vote against it rather than allowing a conscience vote. If that happens, the bill will fail. So while it hasn't even been drawn yet - and may never be, despite the Ballot Mojo - it might pay to start laying some groundwork and lobbying MPs to try and ensure that it has at least some chance of success.

21 comments:

Presumably we could lobby the govt to put it through as government legislation.

Posted by Anita : 6/30/2006 09:01:00 AM

*yawn* And when we're finished going on the Brash bash, how about turning a little attention to the 'progressive' bigots in the Maori Party and Labour's Maori caucus? I also wouldn't be over confident that Winnie Laban, Philip Field and Ashraf Choudhary are on the side of the angels on this one either...

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 6/30/2006 09:35:00 AM

Craig - at least only a few people in my caucus are wobbly on this. How does it feel to belong to a party where most of the people in the parliament representing it would vote against your rights any second of the day, given the choice?

How do you handle it?

Posted by Jordan : 6/30/2006 10:22:00 AM

Or whose leadership will calculatedly sell you out at a moments's notice to whip up a public campaign against equality?

I have a particular dislike of Brash for this, because he damn well knows better.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/30/2006 11:09:00 AM

I can feel comfortable saying "bring it on", as a straight person who is thus not at risk by the back lash campaign that the bigots launch when this stuff comes up. I respect that this isn't always so easy for those in the firing line, who may understandably be exhausted after the last bout. But each time we have these debates I feel we grow a little as a society, as part of the human race. And of course people like Brash are shown up for what they really are, which can only be a good thing.

Posted by span : 6/30/2006 11:19:00 AM

Craig,

Yep, I don't like the idea of Labour MPs voting against it either.

There is, however, a difference between a individual voting in a way which I consider to be bigotted/intolerant/stupid and an individual trying to force all of his caucus to vote in the same bigotted/intolerant/stupid way as him.

This is a matter of conscience and I absolutely believe all the parties should allow their MPs conscience votes (even if that allows their socially conservative MPs to vote against my opinions).

The idea that Brash (or any leader) would try to get the vote whipped is pretty unpleasant really.

Posted by Anita : 6/30/2006 11:23:00 AM

CR, John Key is going to take over the National parliamentary leadership sooner or later, so you might want to get used to that.

It wouldn't be so bad either. Key supports LGBT adoption responsibilities and rights, compared to Dr Dicky Brollard*.

"Dr Brolllard, do you support lesbian and gay rights?
"Yeah but Exclusive Brethren dosh/no but yeah but expensive citizens initiated referenda/no but..."
"Don't be giving him the evil!"
twittered Muzza, hanging around the credibility challenged Leader
of the Opposition like a fly
around rotting meat...

Craig

Posted by Anonymous : 6/30/2006 12:17:00 PM

"Gays make perfectly good parents, and that's what should matter in adoption decisions." No actually, what matters is what is best for the child, and ADOPTION IS NOT GOOD FOR CHILDREN. For years adopted children and birth mothers have been telling this society that no matter how nice a family the child goes to, the loss on both sides is agonising. The loss of identity caused by adoption can be life-crippling, even in an "open" adoption. The reality is that in open adoptions often the child is effectively lost to the birth family from about the age of 3 - the contacts after that are highly controlled and few and far between.

The solution to not being able to form your own family cannot continue to be that you take someone else's child. Nor should someone else's child be expected to give up their right to their own birth parents, their name and their bloodline/whakapapa.

Rather than extend the legislation to more groups of adults, adoption should be abolished totally (and I agree, gays make perfectly good parents, so that is not my issue at all). A solution that would work in the interests of the child, the birth parents, and those wanting a child to care for would be to strengthen guardianship for long-term carers.

Don't entrench the 1955 law, get rid of it - it was a bad law then, and it's worse now we know the damage to children adoption causes.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/30/2006 02:11:00 PM

Anon: adoption may not be good for children - but its a far better solution than simply abandoning them, which is what used to happen.

Given that it exists and repeal isn't on the table, I think it is far better that it be done in an equitable manner, rather than a discriminatory one.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/30/2006 02:27:00 PM

Equitable for who? Not the children. Bad laws aren't made better by allowing more people to take advantage of them.

Perhaps it is time that repeal was actually put on the table, and the voices of the victims of adoption got heard, instead of being shouted down - as they have been at every select committee hearing I've ever attended on the issue. Like the women from ICANZ who screamed at a grieving birth mother that she was a bad person and deserved to lose her child.

There are too many people and groups who have a vested interest in maintaining adoption as a solution to social problems. Previously is was to "save" abandoned babies rather than improve the social conditions that lead to their abandonment, then it was to "save" illegitimate babies from their "bad" mothers, now it is to provide an easy solution for those unable to form families naturally.

This is not an issue that should be controlled by the consumers of adoption, i.e. the potential adoptive parents, but by those who actually give up their rights to facilitate family formation by others - the birth parents and adoptees. Why is it so hard to see that there is a huge power differential going on here, and once again women and children are the losers?

Posted by Anonymous : 6/30/2006 03:01:00 PM

I wonder how Lockwood will vote on this one. or Tony Ryall for that matter.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/30/2006 03:09:00 PM

I would have thought that there are some (perhaps rare) circumstances where we all agree that legal adoption is the best outcome. So we need legislation to govern it and the legislation needs to focus on the welfare of the child - not enshrine historic bigotry and intolerance.

I also think we all agree that adoption has be overused, and has been encouraged in situations where it has not been the best option for the child. Changing that behaviour by our govt agencies and communities is something we should work on - but not by leaving in place bad legislation.

Posted by Anita : 6/30/2006 04:09:00 PM

Leaving aside the arguments about whether adoption is damaging, this bill is about extending equity in law to people who are currently disadvantaged in law, as being seen as less desirable citzens to parent children.

It is untidy law to say that two people can marry, but that they cannot adopt children (who might, btw, be the children of one partner, and wishing to be adopted so that the family carries the same surname, a situation in law that heterosexual couples can and do deal with using current adoption law).

Posted by Anonymous : 6/30/2006 09:16:00 PM

Jordan:

I'd check again to see where the comfort zones are in your party on same-sex adoption - because I understand there's a good chunk of the Labour caucus who won't vote for any such thing without the whip being very vigourously applied, however discreetly. Pseudo-marriage is one thing. Children, well... Don't get complacent about things on your side of the fence, and I'll do the same. Because we both know this is going to be a hard enough pull, without any partisan hyperbole.

Anita:

When it comes to invoking the whip on so-called 'conscience issues' - well, remind me who's actually done so? Correct me if I'm wrong: New Zealand First and the Greens.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 7/01/2006 08:46:00 AM

Craig,

Correct me if I'm wrong (and I'm sure you will :)

Some leading lights of the National caucus, including Brash, wanted to whip the Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill. It wasn't whipped, but Brash tried.

Can you remind me which conscience issue the Greens whipped on? My understanding is that where they have all voted the same way on conscience matters it's been because they all individually chose to.

Posted by Anita : 7/01/2006 09:30:00 AM

mklqaznzDuring the various debates in the House on adoption legislation during the nineties and the last six years, the Labour MPs tended to take the position that instead of tinkering with the 1955 Act, the entire Act needed to be replaced by new legislation, completely overhauling that Act. Unfortunately, at times they didn't have the numbers, other times they appeared not to have the political will to make it a priority. It was probably seen as too hot a potatoe, not worth the votes to put an effort in.
For that reason i anticipate (and hope) they may take the same position, e.g. no amendments or minor changes without a complete overhaul of the '55 Act.

A good model for a revised Act was presented in the Law Commission report about 3 or 4 years ago. But during the Select Committee reports on implementing these recommendation, National block voted and blocked any change. The Nats, under influence of Maurice Williamson, don't want anything changed to the '55 act, because it may restrict the numbers of adoptions taking place.

With Labour blocking an amendment, and the Nats blocking a major overhaul, I expect the status quo, e.g. a totally outdated and archaic piece of legislation, to stand for many years yet.

One argument why the conservative and pro-adoption camp will want to block this amendment has to do with intercountry adoption.

Most adoptions in NZ (at least until recently, I don't have recent figures) have been from overseas. Mostly what one could call 'conservative countries' ( generalising here). Many of these countries, if it were known that NZ allows 'their' children to be adopted by gay couples, would probably cease to allow adoption to NZ. That would reduce the total number of intercountry adoptions, not in the interest of the pro-adoption lobby.

As for the issue of adoption by gay couples, I am with 'anonymous', who believes that the first consideration in adoption should be the "best interest of the child", and adoption in most cases is NOT in the interest of the child. Whether gay people should be allowed to adopt is a side issue that can only be adressed once the main issue "When and under what circumstances can adoption be in the best interest of the child?" has been dealt with.

As for Gay adoptive parents, I have known good lesbian couples, being excellent parents, and cannot see any reason why a gay couple couldn't be equally good at parenting than a straight couple.

However, adopted children's needs are not identical to 'non-adopted' childrens needs. Adoption can create a stigma, many adopted children want to conform as closely as possible to the societal norm, in order 'not to stand out even more'.
While their is still discrimination against gay couples in society (as much as I abhor that), having gay couples adopt children may add furtehr to the 'stigma' the child has to deal with. Since any action should be in the very first place in the best interest of the child, gay adoption may not be so.

I am not talking about women or men who are parents wanting to give full parental rights to their new same sex partner, IMHO that is a totally different situation, and shoudl be made possible.

I am not entirely ruling out that in some situation some children need alternative 'parents', but it should only be used as a last resort, and under betetr conditions than those spelled out by the 1955 Act.
So I suggest that any peopel wanting to change the current situation start by campaigning to completely change the 1955 Act. But don't hold your breath.

Kees S.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/01/2006 08:11:00 PM

why should gays in civil unions be able to adopt kids but gays who are not in a civil union cant?

Posted by Dave : 7/02/2006 01:37:00 PM

Dave: The bill also extends adoption rights to de facto couples, gay or straight.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 7/02/2006 02:58:00 PM

i/s,
then why is it called the adoption (CIVIL UNIONS) Amendment bill, rather than the adoption
(UNMARRIED COUPLES) Amendment bill. What has civil unions got to do with this bill?

Posted by Dave : 7/02/2006 04:46:00 PM

I think it is a "pile of crap" saying adoption is damaging - I think it depends on where they go and since the families they come from are generally bad (as per the decision of the mother) and the ones they go to are better (as per their decision and the rules governing adoption) - usually it will be better. The counter effect is that parents naturaly love their own children slightly more but that is a lesser effect than the other.

Gay adoption should be a "cakewalk" IF you can get it properly debated in the public and the adoption rules are strict enough. I.e. that we keep out potentially bad parents regardless of whether they are gay or not or even concentrated in gay homes.
so the other side says "gays are bad parents" the easy argument is "look they cant be bad, we excluded all the bad ones already!"
I understand generally the demand exceeds the supply anyway.

If national breaks out the whips I think they could be in trouble because I think deep down National is a liberal country once you have dealt with the pragmatic concerns (as mentioned above) Maybe you could tie onto it some review of adoption procedures.

Posted by Genius : 7/02/2006 06:03:00 PM

Dave: the bill is correctly called the "Adoption (Equity) Amendment Bill". It was entered into its first ballot under the wrong name. Which you'd know, if you'd actually read it.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 7/02/2006 09:55:00 PM