The author of a report into family breakdown in Australia has rebuked commentators who seized on it to lash out at same-sex marriage and same-sex couples raising children.

The Australian’s Angela Shanahan pointed to Professor Patrick Parkinson’s For Kids’ Sake report in a column which called same-sex parenting “a silly game of let’s pretend” and “psychological abuse”, and referred to same-sex marriage as “social engineering” and “thought control”.

Former Victorian premier and beyondblue chair Jeff Kennett cited the report as part of a veiled attack on same-sex parenting in The Herald Sun.

“There is no substitute for parents of both genders,” Kennett wrote.

“Happy heterosexual marriages are the best environment for the mental health of children.”

Parkinson, a Sydney University professor of law, said it had been “remarkable” how many people had not seen the need to read the report before commenting on it.

“The report did not engage in any criticism about same-sex relationships of any kind,” he told the Star Observer.

“It includes same-sex couples in the recommendations concerning couple and parent-child education. My recommendation is that in any rollout of relationship education programs, gay and lesbian organisations should also be supported to provide programs that meet the needs of the same-sex [attracted] community.”

Parkinson confirmed that discussion in the report about risk factors for sexual abuse where an unrelated adult was in a live-in relationship with a child’s parent was in reference to heterosexual situations only and was not a comment on same-sex couples who had children through surrogacy or IVF.

“In terms of child sexual abuse, [there is a] very well documented risk from male partners of women,” he said.

“There is some interesting and important research on what are the protective factors that mean biological fathers are much less likely to abuse their children than non-fathers who have children in the home.

“One research study suggests that being involved very early on in the baby’s life, changing nappies and being involved in the routine care of a child, is a protective factor [where a male partner is not a relative]. If male same-sex partners who do not have a biological link with the child are involved in that care work, that may well be a protective factor.”

However, Parkinson said he was unaware if research had been carried out in that area.

Kennett’s comments are the latest in a series of homophobic gaffes and are badly timed for beyondblue, which is currently in the recruiting stage for a new LGBTI-focused mental health initiative.

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