Andrew M. Potts
NSW Premier Kristina Keneally’s churchy explanation of her support for same-sex adoption may rile some, but it will blunt conservative critics in the debate over this bill.

It’s said that only Nixon could go to China. Perhaps only the former minister for World Youth Day can back same-sex adoption in NSW — even if it’s only “in principle” at this stage.

This is not the first time Keneally has drawn on her Christian faith to argue for same-sex rights reforms.

In her first year as an MP, Keneally voted in favour of equalising the age of consent while some of her less publicly Christian Labor colleagues voted against it.

Then, while acknowledging Catholic teaching on the issue of homosexuality, Keneally said it was important to remember that we live in a multicultural society and that the state had to apply a separate standard to that preached from pulpits when deciding when it was appropriate to encroach on people’s private lives.

Today, Keneally seems more confident in stating that she sees no conflict between her personal faith and letting same-sex couples adopt.

The usual suspects will find it more difficult to criticise as a result. They can’t accuse her of being a radical social engineer, and will have to acknowledge the diversity of views held among the rank and file of faith communities in NSW — increasing numbers of whom, like our premier, have had contact with same-sex parented families and have seen that they are just as loving and good as any heterosexual home.

So far the response from the usual suspects has been muted — the Australian Christian Lobby is “disappointed” with Keneally. Days have gone by and the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and the Anglican Diocese of Sydney are yet to comment.

A slip-up came yesterday, when the premier said, “Jesus sat with the sinners and the saints,” in reference to her support for the bill.

The NSW Greens seized on the comments.

“Regardless of Ms Keneally’s clarifying statements, she was clearly unwise to use this parable and allow the public to equate same sex couples with ‘sinners’, ” Greens leader Lee Rhiannon said.

“The Premier should apologise to the gay and lesbian community.

“Kristina Keneally could go one step further in progressing her understanding that ‘Jesus loved all’ by removing loopholes in NSW’s Anti-Discrimination Act which allow discrimination against gay and lesbian people.”

And that final issue under NSW law will be a much longer fight.

Kristina Keneally: now and then
The premier’s statement to Sydney Star Observer, June 28

“I know of successful examples of gay and lesbian couples who successfully foster children but are unable to adopt them. I also personally know same-sex couples who are raising children together — like all good parents, they love their children and want the very best for them.

“What we know is that the best thing we can do for children is provide a loving home and stability, and adoption provides that to them.

“So I give my in-principle support to the legislation. I will speak on it when it comes before the House.  It will be a conscience vote for Labor Party MPs.

“I do recognise that this is an issue where there are many views in the community, and there needs to be an opportunity for the community to discuss this issue.

“I spoke about my faith when I spoke in support of the equalisation of the age of consent legislation in 2003 in the Parliament.

“What I know as a Christian, as a Catholic, is that Jesus himself was about love. He taught about love. Love each other as you love yourself. The greatest thing you can do is to lay down your life for someone else. Jesus loved all, he loved all and he accepted all and for me that is the strongest message that comes out of the gospel.

“When I see gay and lesbian people giving that unselfish love to a child, that’s something that I — not just as a Christian and a Catholic, but as the leader of this state — want to support.

“I do believe that we must be putting as a community the best interests of children first.

“Now to be sure there will people who will oppose this legislation, and they will argue that they’re putting the best interests of children first, and I respect that argument.

“And that’s why I say these debates must be held in a spirit of respect and towards working to common ground.”

Kristina Keneally MP May 20 2003
Debating the Crimes Amendment (Sexual Offences) Bill
“In a multicultural, diverse society such as ours, there are many views in the community with respect to the morality of sexual behaviour. As a Catholic, I recognise that Catholic teaching, while it accepts that homosexual orientation exists, does not condone homosexual activity. But I also note that this teaching is a matter for Catholics to judge with a fully-formed conscience. Further, I note that there is a distinction between what some judge as moral behaviour and what the state accepts as legal behaviour.

“Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1984. This bill only creates an equal age of consent for what is already legal activity. Thirdly, 80 percent of sexual abuse victims are female. I find it unjust that men who prey upon girls receive lesser penalties than those who sexually abuse boys. This bill will make no distinction between the genders of victims and will toughen the penalties across the board for sexual abuse.

“Fourthly, the Wood Royal Commission said that an unequal age of consent could encourage corrupt law enforcement practices and possible extortion of young gay men. Consistent laws will be more transparent for the public to understand and easier for the police to enforce.

“Finally, as a Catholic, I passionately believe in the gospel message of love, acceptance and tolerance. I want to encourage a society in New South Wales where the stigma of homosexual orientation no longer exists, particularly for young people, and where all persons are accepted and supported, not condemned and criminalised.”

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