THE running of the Australian Marriage Forum (AMF) advertisement on television last weekend to coincide with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade can only be described as pointless and cruel. This anti-same sex marriage message deliberately seeks to undermine the thousands of healthy gay parent child relationships in this country.
The advertisement asks us to “think of the child”, stating that a child has a right to a mother and a father. It is true that children have a right to know and understand their identity, including who their biological parents are. But what the Convention on the Rights of the Child actually says is that no child shall be discriminated against, whatever family type they come from.
In a 2013 report the Australian Institute of Family Studies noted that “overall, research to date considerably challenges the point of view that same-sex parented families are harmful to children. Children in such families do as well emotionally, socially and educationally as their peers from heterosexual couple families”.
The 2014 Report of the Australian Study of Child Health in Same Sex Families further found that children with same-sex attracted parents scored considerably better in relation to general health and family cohesion compared to Australian children from other backgrounds and family contexts.
Today, families come in many forms.
According to a 2011 survey by Leonard et al of 3835 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, about 11 per cent of Australian gay men, and 33 per cent of lesbians had children. Children may have been conceived in the context of previous heterosexual relationships, or raised from birth by a co-parenting gay or lesbian couple or single parent.
All these family structures are legitimate as long as they are able to protect and nurture children. In fact, the state has a responsibility to provide support to a child’s parents, whoever they may be, to act in their best interests.
Studies of Australian same-sex parented families show evidence that more could be done to develop policies and practices supportive of same-sex parented families in the Australian health, education, child protection and foster care systems.
Rather than recognise this need and calling on us to support and strengthen all families raising children, the AMF has instead chosen to attempt to delegitimise and diminish the lived experiences of the children of same sex parents.
Imagine the reaction of a child being reared by a same sex couple seeing the AMF ad on television last weekend and being made to feel less worthy or less loved than other children.
Imagine children being motivated to bully other children after seeing this advertisement.
Imagine the hurt administered to those same sex parents doing a fabulous job with their children.
As adults, we need to be thinking about the impact of our actions on children. We should also be seeking to protect children from attacks that have a negative impact on their self esteem, and that damage their good name and that of their families.
Sadly, the AMF has failed to “think of the child”.