A federal Liberal senator’s calls for lesbians to be banned from accessing IVF are homophobic and contradict credible research into same-sex families, gay activists say.

Tasmanian senator Guy Barnett, who last year spearheaded the successful effort to ban gay marriage, has called for legislation barring lesbians and single women from IVF to be again put before federal parliament.

Barnett has written to Prime Minister John Howard asking that the IVF-restricting bills rejected by Labor and the minor parties in 2000 and 2001 be reintroduced now the coalition has a majority in the Senate, The Weekend Australian reported.

I think [the IVF ban] was good public policy at that time and I still believe it’s good public policy, Barnett told Sydney Star Observer this week.

The evidence supports the principle that children are entitled at birth to embark on the optimum life experience, with both a mother and a father.

The comments came in the same week federal health minister Tony Abbott announced a review panel to examine Medicare funding of IVF.

Gay and lesbian lobby groups have slammed Barnett’s proposal, saying it is likely to stir up homophobic sentiment.

Senator Barnett’s comments are a reminder of the really conservative and regressive forces in the government, which will be trying to wind back gay and lesbian rights, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor David Scamell told the Star.

Barnett’s comments directly contradict all credible social research into lesbian and gay families, which shows that a parent’s sexuality has no bearing on the development of their child.

A Victorian Law Reform Commission report on assisted reproductive technology released in May found no evidence that marital status had an impact on children’s welfare.

The 2002 Meet The Parents report prepared for the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby by Sydney academic Jenni Millbank made a similar finding.

Felicity Martin, chair of Victorian same-sex parenting group Fertility Access Rights Lobby, said marital status and sexual identity don’t determine your ability to be a parent.

Any discussion that surrounds discriminating against the kind of families we want to create is a discussion that lights the fires of homophobia, she said.

But Barnett rejected claims the proposed IVF ban would foment discrimination.

I certainly don’t accept that and I don’t support that proposition, he said.

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