Opinion: David Jones is wrong on same sex parenting

It’s been a long time since something riled me so much I headed straight for the keyboard but the news of the comments made by Welsh Secretary David Jones regarding same sex couples bringing up children  did it. For anyone who missed it, t he said :

 I regard marriage as an institution that has developed over many centuries, essentially for the provision of a warm and safe environment for the upbringing of children, which is clearly something that two same-sex partners can’t do.

 He has now claimed that he was quoted out of context given that elsewhere he lauded civil partnerships and apparently has people in my life who are important to me who are gay. To be honest, it doesn’t matter how supportive you are of civil partnerships, how many gay people you have in your life that are important to you, to suggest, with no supporting evidence, that same sex partners “clearly” can’t provide a warm and safe environment for the upbringing of children is not only insulting,  it is without an ounce of evidence. And I’m sorry Mr Jones, but you may not have said you were against same sex partners adopting or fostering, but no amount of trying to blame your opponents for misinterpreting you can undo what you actually said.

Let’s think about it shall we. There are around 60,000 children in care at the moment.  I would presume that a good proportion of them come from married couples where they did not enjoy a warm and safe environment. And I would presume that very few of them come from same sex relationships. I may be wrong, maybe someone has done the research?

OK, I admit it. It’s personal. Firstly I have friends in same sex relationships who I know would be the most loving parents anyone could wish for. Secondly, my daughter and I are in the final stages of being approved as foster carers. As two women, does Mr Jones not believe we could offer children who may have been neglected, abused or abandoned – a “warm and safe” environment?  Believe me, no-one thinking of fostering or adopting, taking on someone else’s often hurt and confused children, does so lightly. We know this will have a huge impact on our lives. At my age I thought my mothering days were over but  apparently we are 9,000 foster families short in this country. If Lara and I, or any other family, of any shape or size, can offer a refuge to a child who would otherwise be condemned to an institution, a hostel, or the street, why on earth not?

* Linda Jack is a member of the party's Diversity Engagement Group

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162 Comments

  • Joshua Townsley 16th Feb '13 - 3:33pm

    Couldn’t agree with you more. My Dad is gay and is one of the best fathers a young lad could ask for in my opinion. It’s an absolutely awful assumption to make that gay couples “clearly” cannot provide a “warm and safe environment” in which to raise children. I find it deeply offensive as someone who was brought up with a gay Dad.

  • His views are offensive. I am white, male, married and heterosexual, none of which have any bearing on my qualities (or lack of them) as a parent. If the first of my list had been queried there would, quite rightly, have been uproar and any Minister doing so would be invited to resign. The very fact a Cabinet Minister can make these comments and remain in post shows this battle is far from over. Same old Tories, if Cameron really believed in equality the man would be warming a back bench..

  • Richard Dean 16th Feb '13 - 3:59pm

    It’s ridiculous to criticize Jones on the basis that some straight couples don’t provide that environment. There are always going to be variations about an average. But is there any reason or evidence to believe that, on average, the warmth and lovingness of the environment provided by the two types of couple are different in any important way?

    However, I wonder whether Jones and others may be meaning something quite different – that gay couples can’t provide the same role-models as straight ones? Parenting is about role-modelling as well as love and warmth and food. Is there evidence that the role-modelling done by gay couples is deficient compared to straight ones, on average?

    Presumably the environment provided in care homes is poor compared to either the gay or the straight family, through no fault of those homes?

  • “Secondly, my daughter and I are in the final stages of being approved as foster carers. As two women, does Mr Jones not believe we could offer children who may have been neglected, abused or abandoned – a “warm and safe” environment?”

    Of course he believes you could, because you are not in breach of Christian sexual morality.

  • I find the ministers comments both offensive and repulsive. It is views like that why the Tories will never shift opinion that they are and will always be the nasty party.
    He should resign from cabinet or be sacked.
    I take particular offence to his use of the word “safe” what was he implying.

    Gay/Bi men and women, single or partnered are just as capable of providing a “safe” loving and nurturing home as anyone.
    In my opinion, it is people like David Jones that make irresponsible parents, for raising children with a warped mentality that has no place in today’s society.

  • @Richard Dean – If he had said that a gay couple cant provide both male and female role models he would have on much sounder ground, as it’s obviously true in a simplistic sense. In that regard gay couples suffer from the same problem as single-parent families, although the fact that there’s obviously two of them give them an advantage over single-parent families (who you will notice Tories have mostly stopped bashing these days).

    However, in my experience gay couple are usually much more aware of this problem than single parent families and make more effort to include role models of the opposite sex in their childrens’ lives.

  • Alex Harvey 16th Feb '13 - 5:10pm

    ‘Opinion’? This is fact!

    Totally agree.

  • Simon Beard 16th Feb '13 - 5:42pm

    Its the fixation with the biological I can’t get my head around. Its as if some people just can’t accept that children come into the world in hundreds of different social contexts because, as they see it, there is only one way to make babies. Why is that even relevent? Do not many children, for so many reasons (some good, some not so good) end up being braught up by people who are not (both) their biological parents. Are the many many children who do get brought up this way really so anomalous that they can dismissed out of hand? I have not checked these statistics, but I am sure I have read somewhere that about 3% of the population are gay but also that about 10% of children are born into a relationship that does not include their biological father – GET A GRIP!

    The argument that we should not allow same sex marriage because it is somehow immoral is one I can accept, though I disagree with it, after all it would probably be my first point of call in arguing against the legalisation of polygamous marriages. But trying to move the justificaiton onto some biological imperative because you have lost the moral argument on same sex marriage is just wrong.

  • Helen Tedcastle 16th Feb '13 - 6:07pm

    David Jones’ phrasing was very unfortunate and he should not have said that gay people can’t provide loving environments for children.

    His reasons for opposing gay marriage are different to mine. Language and identity is an issue in this debate but also, crucially, marriage in my view and in the law describes the unique relationship of a man and a woman which like it or not in most cases leads to the founding of a family. Sever procreation and therefore children from the definition of this union and one ends up with marriage as a tool in identity politics – subject to redefinition as and when the zeitgeist moves.

  • Helen Tedcastle 16th Feb '13 - 6:23pm

    @ Simon Beard: I’m afraid the biological is important – is it good for society and the well-being of resulting children, to be ‘created’ by artificial insemination, surrogacy, than the biological way – through intercourse between a man and a woman? If you think it’s perfectly acceptable because it’s down to the choice of the partners, then certain things follow:
    1. resulting children have more than two parents ‘from conception’ not by social circumstance eg: divorce but deliberately engineered. 2. These children know that one of their parents ‘donated’ the material – they were not conceived in or are the product of a loving relationship as such – except that the process was willed , bought and paid for. 3. Where is the role-modelling with a father (or indeed mother), absent from even the conception? What is the emotional consequence for a child ‘made’ in this way?

    There are massive social implications of severing the biological from our current understanding of marriage. I would predict that the issues for future children will accelerate as well.

  • @ Helen

    Just so I am understanding you. Is it your opinion that no children should be brought into this world unless they are conceived through intercourse, including those of a heterosexual married couples who may have fertility problems?

  • daft h'a'porth 16th Feb '13 - 8:45pm

    @Helen Tedcastle
    ‘Role-modelling’ and conception are completely unrelated, or so one would sincerely hope.

    Very few people spend their lives fixated on the precise circumstances of their conception… fortunately, since it’s frankly a little prurient. How is it of any interest to the kid as a kid whether doggy style, frozen ova, test tubes, a surgeon or a donor were involved? All children are made through some minor variant of fundamentally the same process. The emotional consequence of one variant over another is nil to the kid. Why would they care? If someone decides that the circumstances of somebody else’s birth squicks, then I suppose that could emotionally damage the kid in question, just like any other form of name-calling. However, the fault in that case is not with the circumstances of the child’s conception but with the bully.

    The accusation of being a child of unmarried parents used to be a huge deal; now it’s a ‘so what?’ moment. The emotional health of children is very much about social acceptance and not very much about the squidgy details of conception. If anything, issues for future children would be more pronounced if we continued to treat all these details as hugely significant rather than viewing them as just a minor part of the background story behind the birth of a human being, details which are neither relevant to the child’s happiness nor to its ability to form bonds with a loving family.

  • Richard Dean 16th Feb '13 - 9:12pm

    Role-models are certainly very important for growing children – many a parent will realise that their son needed his dad – mum wasn’t enough – and their daughter needed their mum – a dad wouldn’t do it all . It’s not sexist, it’s real life. Single parents say things like “he needs a dad”, “she needs a mum”, don’t they? Same-sex couples must surely recognize that this can be an issue that need to be addressed realistically rather than through rosy specs.

  • Daft h’a’porth – you talk a lot of sense. Thank you – I could not agree with you more. Ditto to all the other sensible voices above who recognise that children born in same-sex families can be perfectly happy, well-adjusted young people.

  • Richard Dean “an issue that need to be addressed realistically”

    How do you suggest they do this? By not having children at all?

  • Richard Dean 16th Feb '13 - 9:23pm

    A good start would be to recognize that the issue exists.

  • Alison W “Perhaps what you need is to actually meet some of our children and the familys they have grown up in. You may be surprised at the positive ‘role models’ that those children become.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact it became clear to me in the previous thread about SSM that some contributors were in denial about the fact that same-sex families exist already and are growing in number. Much respect to your daughter, she is obviously a credit to you both.

    @Helen you say that David Jones ” should not have said that gay people can’t provide loving environments for children.”. But, interestingly, you make no comment on his use of the word ‘safe’.

  • “Richard Dean 16th Feb ’13 – 9:23pm
    A good start would be to recognize that the issue exists.”

    Well, let’s say that widows, divorces etc recognise it as an issue. Then what?

  • Richard Dean 16th Feb '13 - 9:34pm

    How about yourself, Phyllis, do YOU recognize it as an issue?

  • “Single parents say things like “he needs a dad”, “she needs a mum”, don’t they?”

    Yes, because that’s what they hear from the vociferous Daily Maily section of society on a daily basis, not because it’s true.

    Is anyone else finding it funny that here on LDV, bastion of liberalism, we seem to have created a whole new form of prejudice – IVFism! So who can put up their hand and say they’d have the slightest chance of picking an IVF-created person out of a crowd?

  • Richard Dean 16th Feb '13 - 9:51pm

    How about you, Catherine, do you recognize it as an issue?

  • Matt : “In my opinion, it is people like David Jones that make irresponsible parents, for raising children with a warped mentality that has no place in today’s society.”

    Once again, you have hit the nail right on the head! How true this is, not just in relation to bigotry against same-sex parents but also to anyone who is perceived to be in any way different from some idealised view of ‘the perfect family’. of “mum, dad and kids. “Of course there is no such thing, every family has it’s ‘distinctive’ qualities. Some of us are single parents, others are mixed-race couples, others still widowed or divorced.

    We had an insight into this last week with two families in court – one from Eastleigh and the other from Derby. Yet according to some contributors these two families would have a ‘valid ‘ marriage based on a man and a women procreating and raising children, whilst Angela W does not , by their standards, have a right to marry her loving partner with whom she is raising a very happy and well-adjusted daughter, completely at ease with her family situation. Go figure, as the Americans say!

  • Helen Tedcastle 16th Feb '13 - 10:49pm

    @ daft ha’poth: ” The emotional health of children is very much about social acceptance and not very much about the squidgy details of conception.” So a child would never ask where is my dad? Where is my mum? You don’t think that kind of question is relevant to a child’s identity or emotional health? My point about conception is a very simple one. If one redefines marriage to mean that there is no longer a law to protect the children of a union of a man and a woman, just a personal commitment between two persons (ie: bringing the law into emotions and personal relationships in an explicit way), then one will sever the link between heterosexual couples and their offspring in law. Therefore, it puts biological procreation on the same level as mechanical methods of reproduction.

    If the means to the end don’t matter, fine – that’s the ethical principle you live by.

  • Helen Tedcastle 16th Feb '13 - 10:59pm

    @ Alison W: ” Your comments about role models is amazingly sexist. Why do you assume that there are differences between how different family’s bring up children? What is the supposed ‘role model’ that is missing? What is there that can only be provided by one sex?”

    I don’t think it is sexist to realise that boys need a father figure – I’ve seen it in my own life experience – and it has been a hard lesson to learn – but it’s real. I’m sure the same is true for girls in an all-male household.

    I’m not saying that all families have to conform to marriage – quite the opposite – which is why the push to make all relationships the same by calling them all ‘marriage’ is fallacious.

  • daft h'a'porth 16th Feb '13 - 11:07pm

    @Richard Dean
    “Role-models are certainly very important for growing children”
    In general, but not at the time of conception – and this sentence alone does not remotely imply a dangly-bits requirement for one of two primary carers ;-)

    “Single parents say things like “he needs a dad”, “she needs a mum”, don’t they? Same-sex couples must surely recognize that this can be an issue that need to be addressed realistically rather than through rosy specs.”

    Parents are sometimes predisposed to knotting themselves up with guilt and stress, in pursuit of which they tend to focus on things they perceive as failures in themselves, their circumstances and their environment, becoming very critical of themselves, some throwing every accusation at themselves that they’ve ever heard from the peanut gallery. However, the fact that parents may acquire and relay heteronormative concerns does not imply that these have any special validity. Nor is there any special validity to the idea that kids require a full set of living grandparents, breastfeeding until the age of six months, the latest trainers, full-time parenting, trips to France or a fee-paying school, yet many parents feel fear of failing their children if such things aren’t going to happen. Parents occasionally get themselves into a surprisingly bad state whilst attempting to compensate for perceived failure, including stuff that is purely circumstantial and really need not be viewed as an issue at all, but again that is mostly a social problem relating to social pressures. Nothing fundamental about the essential needs of children in the observation that many good parents worry far too much…

    On the other hand, it is quite likely that a proportion of that subset of single parents who are not voluntarily single do feel that they would prefer to be sharing the parenting with a partner of the gender of choice, statistically likely to be the opposite – but that’s a slightly different issue. That’s their need, not the kid’s.

  • Apologies Linda, I was diverted away from the thread topic – first good on you and your daughter for giving a home to children who desperately need love and stability. You are absolutely right. With so many children in care, any couples who are prepared to love and cherish these children should be positively welcomed with open arms. There are very few things more important than being in a happy and loving family environment, regardless of whether this includes two men, two women or mother-daughter as in your case, bringing up the child.

    I think David Jones’s comments were appalling (esp the use of the word ‘safe’ – what does that mean for heavens sake?) and I initially mistook him for David Jones from ‘The Monkeys’ ( sorry David Jones from the ‘Monkeys’!). My best friend from School has a son (biologically hers) which she and her same-sex partner raised together from birth . We have known him all his life and he is a very happy and well-adjusted young man. We also know some of our children’s friends from School who are raised by same-sex parents -again one partner is the biological parent. All of the children at School accept their family situation quite happily, as they do themselves. That is because they are brought up by two loving parents.

  • Richard Dean 16th Feb '13 - 11:17pm

    What complex narratives people weave, all to avoid simple truths! :-)

  • Helen T : “Therefore, it puts biological procreation on the same level as mechanical methods of reproduction.”

    Our child’s teacher and her husband had a son through ‘biological procreation’ but for their second son they had to use “mechanical methods of reproduction”. Some heterosexual couples can only ever have children through “”mechanical methods of reproduction” . Therefore biological is already “on the same level as mechanical methods of reproduction.”.

  • Helen Tedcastle 16th Feb '13 - 11:34pm

    @ Phyllis: assisted fertility

  • Helen Tedcastle 16th Feb '13 - 11:34pm

    @ Phyllis: assisted fertility

  • Jill Garnett 16th Feb '13 - 11:36pm

    I used to be very opinionated about same-sex couples bringing up children. The I heard Michael Buerck’s Radio 4 documentary (‘Thinking Allowed’, possibly) about a same-sex (male) couple who had adopted a boy who was so severely disabled that nobody else wanted him. They took him out of an institution and gave him a loving and stable home. My personal belief is against same-sex marriage; nevertheless, how can I possibly say that an institution with paid staff, however caring, can provide anything like the same degree of ‘warmth and safety’ that this boy needed – then received from his new dads?

  • Helen Tedcastle 16th Feb '13 - 11:40pm

    @ Phyllis: They are the same in this sense – the end product is a baby. The means are different and therefore not the same.

    It is much harder to get pregnant through assisted reproduction – in IVF multiple foetuses are generated most of which are discarded – there is interference and intervention from ‘third parties.’

    If you’re arguing that it makes no difference to anyone how children are brought into the world or why, then that implies that you recognise no social or even moral consequences to a person’s or couple’s behaviour and actions.

  • So should a heterosexual couple who have failed to produce a baby be downgraded to a civil partnership when the wife is beyond childbearing age? In our case we did not bother to ask the doctors or ask for IVF. Are we less of a marriage than a second marriage where the mother ‘forgot’ her pill after a divorce and married the father before the child was born?

  • Richard Dean 16th Feb '13 - 11:54pm

    Why would you want that, Peter?

  • daft h'a'porth 17th Feb '13 - 12:38am

    @Helen Tedcastle
    “So a child would never ask where is my dad? Where is my mum? You don’t think that kind of question is relevant to a child’s identity or emotional health? ”
    Oh sure, I think a child needs to come to terms with its own identity and retain emotional health and asking questions is part of that, but I don’t see anything in an ‘unconventional’ upbringing that is unusually destructive to this process. I am very much aware that any problems a child does have in doing so are likely to be external/societal. The simple truth to which Richard refers (here you go, Richard…) is, in this instance: by and large, kids are okay until other people make it not okay. My suggestion is that, when other people do that, it is fundamentally their problem and not the kid’s.

    “If the means to the end don’t matter, fine – that’s the ethical principle you live by.”
    Odd comment. AFAICT the medical ethics have been comprehensively explored already and I am satisfied with the decisions implemented in this area. Legally I find that marriage is getting less problematic, not more.

    From the point of view of the kid, the means to its conception don’t and shouldn’t have any more significance than the missionary vs doggy issue mentioned earlier; whether a test-tube was involved or not is neither here nor there from the points of view of developing a secure concept of identity or feeling loved and cared for – why should it be? I am who I am, whether my mum needed help to conceive or not; if anything all that work she put in to conceive, the risks I know she took, they just make me more aware of how much she wanted to have me.

    I’m afraid I have no idea what you mean when you say that ‘[redefining marriage to] just a personal commitment between two persons [severs] the link between heterosexual couples and their offspring in law’ and that consequentially ‘biological procreation [is put] on the same level as mechanical methods of reproduction’, since firstly all human procreation is biological by its very nature and secondly, parental responsibility in law and marriage law are not unusually interdependent anyway. The legal link between individuals and children is based around parental responsibility; marriage is only one of several ways of asserting this. The link between individuals and offspring is only coincidentally linked to marriage and substantively linked to declarations made by individual volition.

  • Helen T “If you’re arguing that it makes no difference to anyone how children are brought into the world or why, then that implies that you recognise no social or even moral consequences to a person’s or couple’s behaviour and actions.”

    Well your comment makes no sense to me whatsoever. What ” social or even moral consequences ” are there for you, me or anyone else from the fact that my child’s teacher used IVF for her second child????? Genuinely bewildered!! :/

  • Helen T “in IVF multiple foetuses are generated most of which are discarded –”

    I am sure they are not foetuses but embryos at that stage,

  • Jill Garnett “how can I possibly say that an institution with paid staff, however caring, can provide anything like the same degree of ‘warmth and safety’ that this boy needed – then received from his new dads?”

    Absolutely. I think in that one sentence, you have said it all. Thank you.

  • Peter Hayes “So should a heterosexual couple who have failed to produce a baby be downgraded to a civil partnership when the wife is beyond childbearing age?”

    Nah, you and your wife have a perfect right to be married, because you are heterosexual you see. Even if you did not have children, there was always the possibility that you might, you see, because you are both heterosexual. Even if you had no intention of having children, ever, and had taken steps to ensure that it was impossible for you to have any children, you would still be entitled to marry and remain married. Because you are both heterosexual. You see? ;)

  • “How about you, Catherine, do you recognize it as an issue?”

    If you mean the desirability of having  two parents of different genders then no, I don’t – once you control for economic factors there is nothing to suggest children brought up in gay or single parent families have better or worse outcomes than comparable children brought up in straight families.

    The only “issue” I can see is in other people’s perceptions. Just like people used to complain about mixed race couples because of the “psychological impact” on the potential children. Which was a valid point – I expect there was a significant impact, just as there is still (sadly) a significant impact on children with glasses, or ginger hair, or anything else that society considers out of the ordinary. But as others have pointed out, that is society’s problem, not the problem of the children or parent(s) who suffer from the discrimination.

  • David Wilkinson 17th Feb '13 - 9:19am

    David Jones is sadly one of those blinkered Tories who have failed to noticed that the world is changing and for the better in society’s attitude to people.
    The words he used are completed outdated “provision of a warm and safe environment for the upbringing of children”, anyone can keep someone warm by just turn the heating on, the use of the word safe is a disgrace, it implies that children in a same sex relationship/marriage are at risk.
    Anyone who has dealt children’s issues will know that risk can come in any type of relationship and many child abuse cases come from the married kind that David Jones thinks is the only way to have children.
    What every child needs is to be care for, be loved, that there values in living.

  • jenny barnes 17th Feb '13 - 9:44am

    A discussion of exactly what consists of “natural” conception/ childbirth/ parenting taking place on the internet. Using computers, routers, optical fibre, electricity , transmission protocols, operating systems, silicon chips, etc etc etc.
    Surreal.

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Feb '13 - 10:14am

    @ Phyllis: ” Well your comment makes no sense to me whatsoever.”

    Phyllis, I was inviting you to give me the briefest explanation of ethical principle or at least ethical ideas behind your views.

    The wider issue is whether the best decisions in law and indeed in personal life are made by reducing issues to emotions or ‘feelings’ rather than reflecting on what exactly is the ethical basis of action and decision-making?

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Feb '13 - 10:27am

    @ daft h’a porth: ” I am very much aware that any problems a child does have in doing so are likely to be external/societal.”

    I don’t go along with that – many ‘problems’ faced by children are not just external but based in their home life.

    ” AFAICT the medical ethics have been comprehensively explored already and I am satisfied with the decisions implemented in this area. Legally I find that marriage is getting less problematic, not more.”

    I was wondering whether you had a view on medical ethics and ethical principles. I would hope at least that decisions made in law have some basis in ethical principle rather than emotional reasoning.

    I’m not sure what you are saying about this in the comment quoted above.

    ” The legal link between individuals and children is based around parental responsibility; marriage is only one of several ways of asserting this.”

    The whole point of the new same-sex marriage law is to redefine marriage – this will change the present law which states that marriage is a. the union of one man and one woman b. the offspring of that union – the two are related because the law secures the rights of the spouses and the security of offspring.

    ” The link between individuals and offspring is only coincidentally linked to marriage and substantively linked to declarations made by individual volition.”

    Not in law. If we live in a society of individuals, just as Margaret Thatcher believes then yes, everything that happens is down to the individual and there is no such thing as ‘society.’

    However, my view is that individual decisions have consequences for others because we live in communities . Therefore, how children are brought into the world, how they are brought up, how they turn out as young people is of relevance to us all – because we all have a stake in the welfare of society.

  • @Helen Tedcastle
    On what ethical principle do you decide that its better for children to be brought up in care rather than by same sex couples?

    As Linda suggested in her original piece, a good proportion of this children presumably come from married couples where they did not enjoy a warm and safe environment.

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Feb '13 - 11:20am

    @ Mark Inskip: Firstly, my ethical principles in relation to marriage and the family have been outlined pretty fully on this forum in the last fortnight. I would have thought that by the number of exchanges we have had, you could work out my position by now! I am for civil partnerships but have an issue with calling all personal commitments, marriage. I think it will lead to other social issues coming to the fore (as I have described above).

    On adoption/fostering which is really what Linda’s article deals with (!), I’m fully supportive of married people, civil partners, single-parents adopting and fostering vulnerable children, provided they can offer a suitable and secure home. Quite often, these children come from situations of violence, drug addiction, alcoholism, chaotic ‘families’, where there is no structure – some are co-habiting, some are single-parents, some are married.

    My view is that with gay couples – sure, adoption isn’t a problem for me but I would argue for a conscience clause for those religious groups like Catholic, Muslim, Jewish adoption agencies t opt out of gay adoption. However, despite the brilliant work they have done, they have had to close down because Harriet Harman forced them to act against their beliefs and allow gay couples to adopt from their agencies.

    This is religious oppression in my view and is a case of political correctness over-stepping the mark.

  • Helen, the ethical principle behind same-sex marriage is that of fairness and equality. The children born to same-sex couples (my friend is the biological mother of her son) have the same rights to protection under the law (which you cite so often) as those born to heterosexual couples.

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Feb '13 - 12:31pm

    @ Phyllis:

    Given that the issue of same sex marriage is not actually one of fairness and equality under the law – because, as was stated over and over again in parliament – it’s not a law about civil rights but of re-definition – what are the ethical principles behind the assertions that marriage should be redefined? Should the law be changed because some people ‘feel’ it’s only fair that one word is used to describe different relationships?

    The only reason Yvette Cooper could come up with in parliament for a change in the definition of marriage was – people like to go to weddings and enjoy a good party and the change in the definition would increase the number of weddings! This is possibly one of the most poorly argued and emotionally reasoned cases for a change in the law that could be constructed.

    By her line of argument, what about the emotions and feelings of those who believe in the traditional view of marriage? What about encouraging more young straight couples to tie the knot before they co-habit so that everyone can have a good party?

  • @Helen
    “Should the law be changed because some people ‘feel’ it’s only fair that one word is used to describe different relationships?”

    The point is that many people don’t consider gay relationships to be any different to straight ones, and therefore think the same word should be used to describe both. Obviously not everyone agrees, and those who don’t are free to consider that gay marriages do not fit their definition of marriage, just like presumably certain religious groups consider civil marriages to be inferior since they are not consecrated in the presence of their God or priest or rabbi or whatever.

    “What about encouraging more young straight couples to tie the knot before they co-habit so that everyone can have a good party?”

    Well there’s an excellent recipe for increasing the divorce rate! :)

  • Richard Dean 17th Feb '13 - 2:44pm

    The definition of marriage may have had many variations over history, but I bet most of them retained the male-female idea. And the relationship between man and woman seems to be at the heart of the value systems in so many human cultures.

    What we now have is apparently 3% of the population dictating what the other 97% should think and what the language they use should be. Is this democracy? Is it even wise?
    http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-david-jones-is-wrong-on-same-sex-parenting-33237.html#comment-240157

  • On the original topic, I’d tend to give David Jones the benefit of the doubt here. Reading his actual words and his later apology, I think he genuinely misspoke and was trying to say that a) marriage is all about children and providing a “warm and safe environment” for them and b) gay couples can’t have children together biologically therefore he doesn’t think they qualify for marriage. I don’t think he meant that gay couples can’t provide a warm and safe environment.

    It sounds like he just clumsily mixed up the two separate points. I still disagree with his actual argument, obviously, but if we take him at his word he’s not saying anything different to what our own anti-gay marriage MPs have said.

  • Here’s the link to the actual interview and you can judge for yourself whether his words were taken out of context or an exact quote.

    http://www.itv.com/news/wales/2013-02-14/face-to-face-david-jones/

  • daft h'a'porth 17th Feb '13 - 3:18pm

    @Helen Tedcastle
    “” The link between individuals and offspring is only coincidentally linked to marriage and substantively linked to declarations made by individual volition.””
    “Not in law.”
    I would politely recommend that you read the Children Act 1989, particularly the various segments relating to ‘acquisition of parental responsibility’ and the Adoption and Children Act 2002, as well as possibly also the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. Should you choose to do so you will note that, as I have stated, there are several mechanisms for assertion of parental responsibility including marriage, registration under relevant enactments, voluntary agreements of various natures, court appointment, court order and so forth. Marriage is relevant in that it is referenced within this area of law but it is by no means at the core of relevant law, which you would expect to be the case since marriage has been somewhat incidental to parenthood for many years now and the law has already developed ways to deal with this.

    “Therefore, how children are brought into the world, how they are brought up, how they turn out as young people is of relevance to us all – because we all have a stake in the welfare of society.”
    There are many constructive things an individual concerned about the ‘welfare of society’ could do. Broadcasting concern about the mechanics of conception does not strike me as one of them, not least because I have not yet seen anybody prove the relevance of this issue to birth, formative years or young adulthood. For once I’m going to make it sound as though I agree with David Cameron by saying that helping out at a youth club, school etc. would probably do more for society and provision of positive role models than concerning ourselves about the gender identities of a particular child’s carers.

    @Richard Dean
    You don’t want to go down the ‘historical definitions of marriage’ route. Historically, marriage usually has much to do with property law and often at best was only coincidentally linked to ‘relationships’. A good place to start if you really do want to go down this route is the term ‘coverture’ and the origin and passing of the Married Women’s Property Act 1882, but I warn you in advance that the history of marriage is by and large a depressing subject.

  • Richard Dean 17th Feb '13 - 3:36pm

    Typical. Someone telling you what you want to do. What does Lib mean? What does Dem?

  • daft h'a'porth 17th Feb '13 - 3:48pm

    @Richard Dean
    All I can tell you is it doesn’t mean ‘historically accurate’ :P

  • Richard Dean 17th Feb '13 - 3:56pm

    Huh! That itself is inaccurate, isn’t it? Some logician’s nightmare. Somehow I don’t think a daft half penny of value can tell anyone anything! :-o

  • daft h'a'porth 17th Feb '13 - 4:12pm

    Richard, there’s an entire network of open access information out there. Read it – or don’t.

  • Richard Dean 17th Feb '13 - 4:37pm

    How is it that supporters of gay marriage feel free to tell others what to want, what to believe, what to read, and how to define or re-define words? LibDem-ism is not at all about allowing 3% of the population to despotically override all the rights and freedoms and beliefs and languages of the other 97%.

  • Helen T – “Given that the issue of same sex marriage is not actually one of fairness and equality under the law – ”

    I was pointing out to you that under your own definition, marriage is about the ‘rights and protection’ of children and property and suggesting to you that the children of same-sex couples should be entitled to the same protection. You have ignored this point several times now.

  • I take it that the two chief concerns about SSM are:

    1) “Words won’t mean the same thing that they did when I was young! How dare these dictators change my language!”
    2) “Society will crumble! Civilisation will fall! That is to say — some children will grow up with two mothers or two fathers, and who knows who strange and different they will be! It frightens me!”

    I doubt that this will alleviate any of the above concerns, or whatever other concerns lie behind them, but I think it can be pointed out that:

    1) The meaning of words changes all the time. People can choose to use new meanings for words, or not, just as they please.
    2) Children are always different. Every new generation is a little strange, a bit alien, to the previous generation.

    This is not an argument about the blessed inevitability of “progress,” about which I am as dubious as the next person. It is, rather, a note that humanity have succeeded in adapting to an amazing amount of change over the past century. It’s what we do — and there’s no reason to think that you won’t be able to adapt as well.

  • @Richard Dean
    It is the opponents who want to tell others what they can and cannot do. Unless you can show otherwise, no one is telling you you have to go out and marry another man, they just don’t want you to tell them they cannot….

  • Richard Dean 17th Feb '13 - 5:30pm

    Actually, it looks more like the supporters who are telling the exclusively man-woman brigade that they can no longer be an exclusively man-woman brigade.

  • And there we have it: This has always been about excluding gay people .

  • Richard Dean,
    you’re arguing the debate proposes a false choice between a tyrrany of the majority and the tyrranny of a minority. It’s not the case. The question of rights is not a zero-sum game wher the advance of one person’s is at the expense of another’s.

    Marriage is marriage and partnership is partnership: love is love, gender issues are subsidiary. Role models are obviously important, but they cannot be legislated for, as all the evidence shows it can’t be assumed that any particular variant of the legislated relationship will guarantee it.

    The simple position is that the state should not prejudge what good individuals are capable of, rather we should introduce effective safeguards against abuses of responsibility and harmful relationships.

    The emphasis here is harm reduction, not moral crusading.

    The law should not prevent good parents from parenting, because it cannot ensure all parents are good parents.

  • Richard Dean 17th Feb '13 - 6:26pm

    Well, I asked this before and never got an answer. If all opposite-sex couples decided tomorrow that they wanted to be called blues, would same-sex couples demand the “right” to be called blues the following day?

  • Richard Wingfield 17th Feb '13 - 7:15pm

    Richard Dean, any couple is free to call their relationship whatever they liked. If all opposite-sex couples decided to call themselves “blues” tomorrow, I don’t think same-sex couples would do anything at all.

    If, however, the law reflected the change in terminology through popular use by amending legislation to provide that opposite-sex couples could “blue”, then, yes, I think same-sex couples would want the same terminology to apply to their situation.

    I have to say that your “us” and “them” language is not particularly helpful in the debate. Pitting gay couples against straight couples, as though a gain for one must mean a loss for the other, is not helpful. Remember that the majority of straight couples actually support same sex marriage. As all the polls consistently show a majority of the public support same sex marriage, your question could be re-phrased as “Why should the minority of people who oppose same sex marriage prevent the majority from permitting more people from accessing the institution?”

    In any event, your suggestion that “all the rights and freedoms and beliefs and languages of the other” are being over-ridden is slightly hysterical. Opposite sex couples (as will anyone else) can continue to believe that marriage is for a man and a woman only, they can define it that way if they wish, they can use the word “marriage” in any way they want to. People’s beliefs and the words they use are entirely unaffected by the legislation. As for “rights and freedoms”, there is no right – and there has never been a “right” – to have marriage defined in law as the way you personally want it to be.

    Also, looking at the historical definition of marriage is irrelevant here. As homosexual relationships were illegal before 1967 (at least for men), is it any surprise that the law defined it as an opposite sex relationship? History is a poor justification for anything. We are liberals, not conservatives, and so should not start any debate with the assumption that what has existed before now is correct.

    Finally, “dem” stands for “democrats” in the way that (1) our party overwhelmingly voted in favour of our policy of Equal Marriage in our internal democratic policy-making process; (2) this Parliament was democratically elected in 2010 and has voted in favour of same sex marriage ; (3) you are entirely free to propose policy within the party that marriage should be between one man and one woman; and (4) you are entirely free to vote for any candidate you wish in 2015 including candidates who would vote to repeal the new marriage legislation. However, I am afraid that this party – and the country – has moved on and an ever-increasing majority of people do not believe that same sex relationships should be segregated from opposite sex relationships in the law. Think very carefully as to whether history will look at opponents of same sex marriage kindly, or whether they will be lumped in with those who opposed giving women the vote, opposed the abolition of slavery, opposed the decriminalisation of homosexuality i.e. with contempt. I have a very strong feeling it will be the latter, and I myself would not want to be so remembered.

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Feb '13 - 7:38pm

    @ daft h’a porth: ” marriage has been somewhat incidental to parenthood for many years now and the law has already developed ways to deal with this.”

    It’s amazing then that so many people are fighting for ‘equal marriage’ then if it is so incidental to parenthood – a logical contradiction considering that marriage in law is linked to the security of children born to the couple and property rights.

    “” The link between individuals and offspring is only coincidentally linked to marriage and substantively linked to declarations made by individual volition.””

    ‘Offspring’ is a term used to describe the children of the individual biological parent or parents. In the case of adoption or AI or other forms of artificial reproduction, there is not necessarily a link to ‘offspring’ except for the anonymous donor and the recipient of genetic material. The other adult is not related.

    In adoption/fostering cases, we are dealing with new adults who assume the role of carer and overtime the term parent is used for adoptive adults. With AI etc… again only one of the ‘parents’ will be biological, the other would be adoptive.

    It is therefore, wholly unsurprising that in complex cases the law has to tease the issue out who it is that can make ‘declarations of individual volition.’

    This is related but not directly to do with the term marriage, which describes the basic unit of society since time immemorial and cannot be explained away so easily, from which through accident or design, there are variations.

    I have yet to be convinced that because a minority of the population wish to appropriate and change a term which signifies one type of relationship, the rest have to accept it as perfectly understandable because the monopoly of wisdom on what actually defines marriage ‘in reality’ comes from those who support gay marriage – or so they try to argue.

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Feb '13 - 7:50pm

    @ Catherine: ” The point is that many people don’t consider gay relationships to be any different to straight ones, and therefore think the same word should be used to describe both. ”

    I find this hard to believe unless of course one bases ones reason on emotions and ‘feelings’ alone. I have heard arguments from gay marriage supporters that ‘it’s all about love’ and personal commitment, the rest is incidental – I find this to be a very naive view – there are implications and consequences in every relationship – one cannot go around in a bubble. Children do come on the scene and their identities, attachments, emotional well-being is paramount. The fact that so many marriages fail among straight couples suggests to me that the government should be doing far, far more to support these relationships than it is – instead it may be redefined to get rid of the link between marriage and offspring altogether ( in this particular Bill) – so that it’s all about personal lifestyle choices. I can’t see how this move will shore up the position of children in the family.

  • Richard Wingfield – thank you for your insightful and well-thought out comments. I absolutely agree 100% with all the points you make. I would find it hard to add anything to the debate now as you have said it all. Bravo!!

  • Helen T – “Children do come on the scene and their identities, attachments, emotional well-being is paramount”

    Those children are already here and their “identities, attachments, emotional well-being” are doing just fine – see Joshua Townsley, the first poster on this thread for evidence of that.

  • Helen T,
    stop getting your knickers in a twist.

    People are fighting for equal marriage not because they think marriage is incidental to parenting, but because it shouldn’t be.

    It follows from equal treatment that NO couple in a stable and loving relationship should be prevented from adopting or fostering.

    Why should any child be prevented from growing up with the knowledge of what it means to be loved?

    Love cannot be reduced simplistically to sex, and therefore relationships cannot be restricted according to sexuality, while parenting cannot be artificially restricted according to physical ability and ignore emotional needs.

    That way leads to a society with excessive and unnecessary levels of poor mental health, which has huge impacts on everything from economic and educational life chances, through to physical health and criminality.

    LibDems oppose the oppressive society: we support the free society.

  • Richard Dean 17th Feb '13 - 8:29pm

    Oranjepan,

    Knickers in a twist? What does that say about your respect for others?

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Feb '13 - 8:47pm

    @ Oranjepan: I think you have misunderstood the points I have been making. Fostering and adoption by civil partners is not an issue for me. my issue is with redefining one type of relationship to mean other types of relationships – as if variations don’t exist.
    Who said anything about children not experiencing what it means to be loved? Love is very important to a child’s development, of course but to airbrush out issues like identity, emotional development, the right to parents ie: two parents, male and female, before a child is even conceived, is doing more potential harm to society in the long term.

    “LibDems oppose the oppressive society: we support the free society.”

    Couldn’t agree more – notice Lib dems don’t support a libertine society but one which ensures liberty for all – ie: freedom and responsibilities, not unfettered freedom of will.

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Feb '13 - 8:57pm

    @ Richard: ” Also, looking at the historical definition of marriage is irrelevant here. As homosexual relationships were illegal before 1967 (at least for men), is it any surprise that the law defined it as an opposite sex relationship? ”

    What about in other countries around the world, where marriage is/was a union between a man and a woman – you are describing UK only. There is one reason why we have a law on marriage – protection of offspring (of a male and female in marriage).

    “History is a poor justification for anything. We are liberals, not conservatives, and so should not start any debate with the assumption that what has existed before now is correct.”

    I see so as Liberals we simply live in the present? But how can one know what to do in the present and plan for the future without the benefit of historical knowledge and understanding of culture – even Liberals do not live in a neutral vacuum – we live amidst our history. By the way, we have a Liberal History group in our party – should it disband as it’s completely pointless, in your view?

  • daft h'a'porth 17th Feb '13 - 8:57pm

    @Helen Tedcastle
    “It’s amazing then that so many people are fighting for ‘equal marriage’ then if it is so incidental to parenthood – a logical contradiction considering that marriage in law is linked to the security of children born to the couple and property rights.”
    What is going on today with the spurious invocation of logic??? I am perfectly happy to move into formal logic if it would please you, indeed I will happily continue the conversation in Prolog if you really want to do so, but I don’t think it would really improve the thread. Does it really bake the noodle that much that, absent issues of parenthood (which we have already established are in general separately handled in law), many people figure that marriage and civil partnership ought to be viewed as fundamentally the same, since it *is* incidental to parenthood, since parenthood *is* in either case linked to the security of the child, property rights, etc??

    If you happened to have red/blonde/white/brunette hair, delete as appropriate, would you figure that you should be given a separate-but-analogous definition of personhood to people with other-dominant-hair-colour? If we decreed that blondes were not people, but *dolls*, would that be a meaningful distinction and worthy of preservation??

  • Richard Dean 17th Feb '13 - 8:58pm

    I agree with Helen, freedom does not come without responsibilities. The latter seem to have been somewhat absent from arguments by the supporters of gay marriage, particularly some of the rather self-focussed ones made in parliament.

  • Helen

    “the right to parents ie: two parents, male and female,”

    Why not just say heterosexual parents?

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Feb '13 - 9:22pm

    @ Richard Wingfield: Just read this comment : ” Think very carefully as to whether history will look at opponents of same sex marriage kindly, or whether they will be lumped in with those who opposed giving women the vote, opposed the abolition of slavery, opposed the decriminalisation of homosexuality i.e. with contempt. I have a very strong feeling it will be the latter, and I myself would not want to be so remembered.”

    Is this a threat? I think this a wholly fatuous and inappropriate comment to make towards people who do not agree with you on principle and have been at pains to argue reasonably. I for one consider these issues very carefully. If this was an issue of equal rights for gay people it would be different but it is not – it’s about perception and feelings .

    It’s interesting to me that you are quite prepared to argue that those who oppose gay marriage are free to believe what they like about marriage : ” Opposite sex couples (as will anyone else) can continue to believe that marriage is for a man and a woman only, they can define it that way if they wish, they can use the word “marriage” in any way they want to. People’s beliefs and the words they use are entirely unaffected by the legislation.”

    From this statement it’s clear that for you, how people use a term like marriage is pretty irrelevant as their beliefs are unaffected by legislation. The assumption here is that words and meanings are in flux, highly individualistic and are so fluid that any attachment to a tradition or cultural practice is somehow ‘not liberal.’

    But this isn’t the case and I think upon some reflection you would recognise this as not being true to human behaviour or instincts . If it was irrelevant I doubt very much people would be pushing for a change – beliefs and practises cannot be divorced from principles – if it’s changed to mean a personal commitment, that will reflect the views of people who support gay marriage and reflect fragmentation is society- it’s obvious really.

    Also, if the safeguards aren’t absolutely water-tight on protection of freedom of conscience, then it wouldn’t surprise me that before long ,the tyranny of so-called tolerant liberals will no doubt try to infringe upon the religions and their absolute right to conduct marriages as they see fit.

    The conclusions in your post, make this concern I have ,all the more urgent.

  • daft h'a'porth 17th Feb '13 - 9:31pm

    @Helen Tedcastle
    ““History is a poor justification for anything. We are liberals, not conservatives, and so should not start any debate with the assumption that what has existed before now is correct.””
    “I see so as Liberals we simply live in the present? But how can one know what to do in the present and plan for the future without the benefit of historical knowledge and understanding of culture – even Liberals do not live in a neutral vacuum – we live amidst our history.”

    Historically, it was reasonably commonplace for women to be bought and sold. Frankly, I reckon that’s probably incompatible with liberal democracy. Sincerely hope it is or this household has definitely been voting the wrong party for a good long time.

    @Richard Dean
    Of course freedom comes with responsibilities. Same-sex parents voluntarily assume those responsibilities on a regular basis, which is more than one can say about many more, err, traditional arrangements. And your point is??

    @Helen Tedcastle
    “But this isn’t the case and I think upon some reflection you would recognise this as not being true to human behaviour or instincts .”
    Citation *very much* needed.

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Feb '13 - 9:46pm

    @ daft h’a porth: ” Does it really bake the noodle that much that, absent issues of parenthood (which we have already established are in general separately handled in law), many people figure that marriage and civil partnership ought to be viewed as fundamentally the same, since it *is* incidental to parenthood, since parenthood *is* in either case linked to the security of the child, property rights, etc??”

    Yes it does bake the noodle as you put it. Marriage is the legal binding of one to another. It provides legal security for offspring – it is a sign of love and public commitment, as are children. This binding has sought to cement people to each other as well as different families – children are the fruits of the unique union – marriage reflects that – it is all interrelated.

    Despite the problems many couples face, marriage is still something which binds these couples, brings them some level of security and gives their children a stake in society. So to answer your point directly – parenthood and marriage go together – the fact that some don’t have offspring from that union is incidental, not the other way around.

  • Richard Dean 17th Feb '13 - 9:46pm

    My point may be gleaned by reading what I wrote!

  • daft h'a'porth 17th Feb '13 - 9:58pm

    @Helen Tedcastle
    *Absent* issues of parenthood, if you read the question more carefully. We have already established that parenthood is legally a different kettle of fish.

    @Richard Dean
    Read it. No substantive insight gained, beyond the general impression that you are particularly irritated with unnamed self-focused parliamentarians. So am I. So what?

    With any luck, politicking about marriage will eventually be an issue of the past.

  • Richard Dean 17th Feb '13 - 10:11pm

    How nice to have everything neat and tidy! Parenthood is a “kettle of fish”, and let’s not think anything more of it? The problem is, life’s not that simple, real people are involved, and all of us human, vulnerable, aren’t we?

  • “So to answer your point directly – parenthood and marriage go together – the fact that some don’t have offspring from that union is incidental, not the other way around.”

    It’s “incidental” just so long as you’re straight. But if you’re gay or lesbian it’s an insuperable obstacle, apparently.

  • daft h'a'porth 17th Feb '13 - 10:13pm

    @Richard Dean
    Nothing is neat and tidy, but the resolution does NOT reside in the definition of marriage. Sorry. Never did.

  • @Helen Tedcastle
    So shouldn’t you want gay people to marry so that any children they raise are brought up within the institution of marriage?

  • daft h'a'porth 17th Feb '13 - 10:20pm

    @AndrewR
    Hah! yes.

  • Richard Wingfield 17th Feb '13 - 11:19pm

    @Helen Tedcastle,

    I can assure you it wasn’t a threat! If one looks at history though, the trend is always towards greater equality. When we look back at other landmark social changes like votes for women, the abolition of slavery, the repeal of anti-miscegenation laws in the USA, the legalisation of homosexuality, do we ever look at those who resisted change and consider their arguments worthy? No! Of course not. We reject them entirely and laud those who had the courage to fight for change. I have absolutely no doubt that in 50 years time, when society looks back at this debate, it will look on those who resisted same sex marriage very unfavourably. It is a genuine question to ask: do you really want to be on the side of history that will be lumped together with those who defended slavery, the subjugation of women, and all of the other forms of discrimination that were historically accepted?

    The study of history is absolutely crucial, and we should learn from the past. However, it is conservatives (and the Conservative party) who believe in preserving the status quo, not us. Liberals have never assumed that just because something has always been the case, that justifies its continuance without change.

    What I mean by my comments on how people define marriage is that there is no single definition in society. Many people will see it as a solely religious event, others as entirely secular. Some may believe it should be for life, others accept that divorce is not a problem. Some may believe it is just for two people, others will believe it can be for more than two people. Some believe it is just a man and a woman, others that it can be any two people regardless of gender. No one group has a monopoly on the definition or the right to impose their definition on others. The state, however, can choose to define marriage as it likes, and the State has decided that marriage is ultimately about a personal commitment between two people. You are free to disagree, even after the legislation comes into force.

    One question I would like to see answered is whether there is any evidence that in any of the countries that have legalised same sex marriage, the welfare of children has in any way been harmed. The Netherlands and Belgium legalised same sex marriage 12 and 10 years ago respectively? I have never heard of any such evidence, and, when I lived in the Netherlands, never saw any either. Indeed, Save the Children produce a “Child Development Index” and the 2012 Index showed that of the Top 10 countries, 4 (Spain, Canada, Norway and the Netherlands) had same sex marriage and 2 more (France and UK) were in the process of legalising it. Clearly the children in those 4 countries are doing pretty well despite same sex marriage (or, perhaps in part, because of it). If there is any evidence whatsoever of a link between same sex marriage and the welfare of children, please do show it.

  • Richard Dean 17th Feb '13 - 11:26pm

    Why has the argument from the supporters of gay marriage so far mainly been about proposed “rights” of same-sex couples?

  • daft h'a'porth 17th Feb '13 - 11:31pm

    @Richard Dean
    Please do clarify?

  • I find this repugnant because:

    1=It is just plain wrong, and so for a cabinet minster to be saying such ‘backwards’ things is just shameful. I mean, not only is there is no evidence anywhere that suggests being raised by parents of the same sex is detrimental to a child’s development, there is actually research which outright refutes it.

    2=His comments imply that any child not raised in his ‘perfect’ 2 point 4 nuclear family are destined for the scrapheap before they have even started. I thought we were meant to be founding a society which did not use such crass judgments to value a person’s worth.

  • daft h'a'porth 18th Feb '13 - 12:05am

    @Linda Jack
    “The debate has drifted into same sex marriage – please can we accept that this is a different issue?”
    Yup. Fully agreed with both this and your later points about your personal experience, prejudice and discrimination.

  • Richard Dean 18th Feb '13 - 12:33am

    Linda, it seems to be yourself that has missed the point. The debate about marriage has not had anything at all to do with what people do in private, it’s about what they call themselves in public. Obviously. As it happens, few supporters seem to have stressed its possible benefits to children as their reason for wanting gay marriage.

    Sorry to hear about your problems regarding colour. My parents had no such hangups.

  • @ Helen
    “Marriage is the legal binding of one to another. It provides legal security for offspring”

    Er, no it doesn’t. Children of married parents have no more legal protection than those of unmarried parents. It’s been a long time since  UK law penalised illegitimacy! Children are protected by the law regardless of their parents’ circumstances.

    The only extra legal protection given by marriage is to the two married people – it gives them an inheritance tax break if they leave property to each other after death and gives them next of kin status to each other in cases of accidents, healthcare decisions etc. It also gives them a legal framework for division of property if they break up. 

    That’s the point – marriage impacts only the people marrying. Legally, it doesn’t affect the children (if there are any) at all.

    ” it is a sign of love and public commitment, as are children.”

    AFAIK it doesn’t require any love or commitment to create children. A drunken one night stand where neither party remembers to stop off for condoms is just as likely to do the trick. And any resulting children will have exactly the same legal status, rights and protections in this country as those born to married parents.

  • Richard,
    you’re arguing against yourself.

    Promoting equal marriage is the means for same-sex couples to take on additional responsibilities, such as adoption or fostering, and is something you should therefore encourage according to your own logic.

    Because the current legal definition of religious marriage confers implications for tax and property rights it is inherently discriminatory on a practical basis and actually hinders non-heterosexual families from taking on these additional responsibilities you want from them, and creates a blockage on society’s ability to prevent the harm to individuals wanting to form non-traditional families.

    Many adoption and fostering organisations are motivated by religious concern, yet this dispute over definitions is hindering their ability to do the work they want to do.

    So by refusing to modify your worldview out of fear of offending personal sensibilities you are indirectly causing real harm to those in vulnerable positions, which has untold consequences and immeasurable costs for society.

    Helen,
    thanks, I think there is potential for reaching common ground, on the basis that we can distinguish between civil marriage and religious marriage.

    As said, the current legal definition of marriage infers various practical tax and property implications, such as regarding inheritance where no will exists. For instance there are many cases where individuals have died in such situations causing unnecessary hardships on the surviving partner (including where next-of-kin took the inheritance but refused to pay for funeral costs despite having been become estranged over the issue).

    Similarly comments by people like Dave Jones which can be misconstrued regarding parenting are unhelpful. This is about making society fairer by enabling individuals to take responsibility for their own lives and give them the opportunity to offer loving relationships to kids – the nanny state is an inadequate substitute.

    Linda,
    I’m very pleased that on this area of social policy, you, as Chair of Liberal Left, have come out as more liberal than left.

    I hope this is the beginning of a trend!

  • Catherine,
    not quite – you’re not seeing the knock-on effects. The legal difference for couples who can marry has direct practical implications for dependents in their household, which also means kids.

    Inheritance law provides guidelines in Family Courts, where guardianship rights are often hotly contested. Equal marriage therefore will provide additional protections for kids compared to now – it means they left in the cold.

  • @ Oranjepan
    But the courts determine guardianship rights based on a) the child’s welfare and b ) who has parental responsibility. Both parents named on the birth certificate – regardless if they are married or not – have parental responsibility unless the child has been adopted, in which case the adoptive parents – married or not – have parental responsibility.

    In the case of e.g. a step parent becoming a child’s guardian after death this isn’t affected by marital status but rather by whether the step parent has either formally adopted his/her partner’s child or was nominated as a guardian before the partner’s death. I know you used to have to be married in order to adopt your partner’s child, but that hasn’t been the case for some years now I think.

  • Richard Dean 18th Feb '13 - 4:20am

    Why do people get so personal on LDV? I am not arguing against myself at all. I am just arguing. The “rights” case for gay marriage is wafer thin, in fact I think non-existent. The “responsibilities” case might be one I might agree with.

  • Helen Tedcastle 18th Feb '13 - 10:32am

    @ Richard Dean: You have been writing a lot of common sense and, crucially, regarding this whole question from the point of view of not just adults but children.
    If you ask a child what would they prefer – to live with their mum and dad – or to live with their mum’s boyfriend or girlfriend, a step dad or adoptive parents – I think we all know the answer. Children do better when living with their parents and in a stable married family. Yes circumstance does change things for a lot of children – everyone knows this. But here is the crucial difference to enshrine in law variations based on lifestyle or personal commitments and call it the ‘same’ as the most basic unit of family, I think leads to the legitimation of negative social ‘values’ that personal choices are more worthy of protection by the state than children of two heterosexual parents.

    To those others who think we’re not on the ‘right side of history’ like those who argued for women’s suffrage – that’s bunkum. If believing in marriage makes me and other Lib Dems like John Pugh and Sarah Teather small-c conservative in family matters – fine, we’ll live with that but I have held that view since I joined the Liberal Party in 1985 and it perfectly legitimate to be a Liberal and believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and that children and their welfare have to be considered first.

  • Richard Wingfield 18th Feb '13 - 11:41am

    @Helen Tedcastle
    “But here is the crucial difference to enshrine in law variations based on lifestyle or personal commitments and call it the ‘same’ as the most basic unit of family, I think leads to the legitimation of negative social ‘values’ that personal choices are more worthy of protection by the state than children of two heterosexual parents.”

    But do you actually have any evidence of this and that the welfare of children is in any way affected by the opening up of marriage to same sex couples? The Netherlands, Belgium and the US State of Massachusetts have all had same sex marriage for over ten years and there is not one jot of evidence from any of these places that the legalisation of same sex marriage has had one iota of any impact on children. Indeed, there is a rather excellent article from the University of California School of Law which comprehensively demonstrates that the argument that the welfare of children is harmed by same sex marriage is entirely without credence:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1800382

    I would love to see an evidence-based article which shows that the welfare of children is harmed.

    @Richard Dean, the reason why so few equal marriage supporters cite the impact upon children is because, by and large, these proposals do not affect children, save that (1) it may ultimately reduce the level of homophobic bullying against children due to the removal of differences between gay and straight relationships in the law (see the evidence of the PSHE Association to the House of Commons Bill Committee); and (2) the children of same-sex couples will have their families recognised in law in the same way as those of opposite-sex couples. Those are both excellent things.

    I ask again, can either of you show me any actual evidence (rather than mere assertion) that legalising same sex marriage will have any negative impact upon the welfare of children?

  • Richard Dean 18th Feb '13 - 12:48pm

    While living in a bad neighbourhood in the West Indies. I met a European backpacker with “Have you seen my dad?” written on the back of her backpack, followed by his name. I was living next door to a politician with that name, and we got chatting.

    She was the daughter of a West Indian man and a European woman and had been put out for adoption when very young. She was miserable, even though her adopted parents were very loving, and she felt different, and she was looking to find out whether the difference came from her biological parents.

    In this bad neighbourhood, it’s routine to distinguish between your dad and your biological dad, and it’s common not to know the biological one, so her enquiry was nothing unusual. The politician was not the dad, but she did eventually find an aunt who told her that her biological dad was still living in the European city she came from. She went back there and wrote later that her biological mum refused to tell her where he dad was, and didn’t want to know her.

    A moral of this true story is that ordinary people really do feel that biology is important. They get to be miserable about it. Many people get to a stage in life when they start to wonder about how they came to be who they are, and they often try to find the answer in the biological family tree. While else do people like to trace their ancestors?

  • Richard Dean “A moral of this true story is that ordinary people really do feel that biology is important. They get to be miserable about it. Many people get to a stage in life when they start to wonder about how they came to be who they are, and they often try to find the answer in the biological family tree. While else do people like to trace their ancestors?”

    As Linda has pointed out above, this applies to adopted children of both heterosexual and same-couples.

  • Richard,
    I think you’re trying to have your cake and eat it.

    It’s not clear whether you’re actually advocating resitance to inequality or doing so to elicit a more comprehensive case in favour of equality by explicit link between rights and responsibilities.

    You then go on to indicate the argument you wish to be convinced by, in which case that’s your opening to make a positive contribution to the debate.

    So either you are arguing in the abstract and essentially against your own hypothetical, or you’re failing to make your personal intervention and then complaining about your failure being highlighted.

    I mean, you’re on the spot – we’re talking about something our party is introducing, so make your proposal.

  • Richard Dean 18th Feb '13 - 5:51pm

    Oranjepan – I have no idea what you’re writing about. Are you sure you are in this century?

  • Richard Dean 18th Feb '13 - 5:56pm

    I am happy, Phyllis, that we are now agreeing that many human beings perceive biology to be important. Who knows where we can go from these small beginnings! :-)

  • David Allen 18th Feb '13 - 6:26pm

    Clearly, gay marriage is liable to lead to increased demand for parentage by adoption. The question is, is that in any sense a bad thing, or a cause for concern?

    I think the answer is that we already do have some concerns about adoption. On the one hand, any heterosexual couple who are able to do so can conceive a child, and unless they are demonstrably dreadful parents, they will be allowed to keep the child. On the other hand, not every heterosexual couple who apply to adopt a child will get permission to do so. The bar is set much higher. Why is that? Because adopting a child into a new environment is more problematic than bringing your own baby home from hospital, and to some extent, because of feelings such as those expressed above by Richard Dean in his story about the backpacker. In the interests of the child, some prospective adopters have to be ruled unsuitable. Those who say that this is evil dictatorship by bureaucrats should reflect on the likelihood that more lives would be wrecked if the bureaucrats did nothing.

    So what should we do about gay marriage and adoption? First, we must start with the equality principle: gays must have the same right to marry as straights. Simple. The we should go on to consider the adoption question. Just as it is not always allowable for heterosexual couples wanting to adopt, so it should not always be allowable for a gay couple wanting to adopt. In my view, that’s pretty simple, too.

  • Stuart Mitchell 18th Feb '13 - 6:45pm

    The one person who has hit the nail on its proverbial head here is Catherine, 17th Feb 2:49pm. David Jones expressed himself poorly, but the first time I read his quote in context it seemed pretty clear to me (and Jones subsequently confirmed this) that he was merely making the somewhat humdrum observation that same-sex couples cannot procreate. Theoretical genetic experiments aside, that’s true enough.

  • David,
    removing the unnecessary restrictions on adoptive parents is not about removing bureaucracy, it’s about removing the need for bureaucracy. More adoptive parents and foster famillies means fewer children’s hostels and more chances for individual care and attention to help those kids achieve their potential.

    Instead of paying for the fixtures and fittings, resources can be directed to finding more placements and creating a more effective social structure for people in vulnerable situations.

    If you want to reduce this debate to an ideological level then the humanist side of the argument will always trump the materialist side.

  • Richard – to paraphrase: “My point may be gleaned by reading what you wrote!”

  • Richard Dean 18th Feb '13 - 6:58pm

    Your point can be gleaned by what I wrote? Please do glean, and then perhaps expound!

  • Helen Tedcastle 18th Feb '13 - 8:49pm

    @ Richard Wingfield: On the welfare of children in gender-neutral marriages when the adults are same-sex. A piece of research in Norway, one of the most liberal in attitudes to gay marriage, shows that there is still considerably less support for gay parenting. Even in this liberal, tolerant and open-minded country, which experiences the fame fragmentation in family life as in Britain, Norwegians still see two parents, male – and female as providing the best environment for bringing up children – these ‘attitudes’ have changes far more slowly that the acceptance of same -sex marriage. One the the main reasons for concern in this area is social stigma and possible identity confusion amongst children in these families. Of course, you might argue that all this can be changed but remember, Norway has had these laws for a decade – and this is still an issue. Some of the findings will make good reading for you but not all, especially when it comes to gay parenting:

    https://bora.uib.no/bitstream/handle/1956/5600/A%20Nationwide%20Study%20of%20Norwegian%20Beliefs%20About%20Same-sex.pdf?sequence=1

    The lesson to learn is that when it comes down to the nitty-gritty,even many liberal Norwegian adults still follow a traditional family script in relation to children ie: the tradition a millennia or more is rather difficult to de-construct in a couple of years – and more especially it is premature to condemn opponents as being in your opinion,on the wrong side of progress towards a gender-neutral society – it ain’t as simple as that.

  • Helen Tedcastle 18th Feb '13 - 9:17pm

    @ Richard Dean: ” A moral of this true story is that ordinary people really do feel that biology is important.” Of course you are right – identity is not just social but inimical to us as human beings.

    It really is an inconvenient truth for some people .

    @ David Allen: ” gays must have the same right to marry as straights. Simple.” An interesting assertion. Firstly, it’s not an issue over equality as civil rights are already granted, homosexuality is decriminalised. The discussion is about perception – marriage has a higher status in the perception of opponents of traditional marriage and they want to redefine the word simply to mean ‘coupling’ rather than its original meaning .

  • Mark Inskip 18th Feb '13 - 9:23pm

    @ Helen Tedcastle
    What an interesting report;
    “In relation to questions about equal parenting rights for lesbian, gay and heterosexual couples, a children’s rights perspective fronted by the opponents of the new gender-neutral Marriage Act may therefore also be understood as a euphemism for more controversial arguments based on religion or tradition, or even taboo arguments such as lesbian and gay parents being of less value or of a different quality.”

  • Mark Inskip 18th Feb '13 - 9:36pm

    @Helen Tedcastle “….and they want to redefine the word simply to mean ‘coupling’ rather than its original meaning”

    Reminder me again of the ‘original meaning’, and also of you origin, 342 AD perhaps?

  • Helen T – the study you link to does not say what you claim (it actually says the opposite if you read it carefully) and certainly does not show what Richard Wingfield was asking for, as I understand it.

  • daft h'a'porth 18th Feb '13 - 10:00pm

    @Helen Tedcastle
    “Of course you are right – identity is not just social but inimical to us as human beings. ”
    Identity is not just social but hostile to us as human beings??? Did you perhaps mean ‘innate’?

    As for inconvenient truths … I’m just not finding this immense heap of literature that suggests that the construction of identity is [innately] damaged by same-sex parenting. I read Bos and Sandfort (2010), Children’s Gender Identity in Lesbian and Heterosexual Two-Parent Families, but the effects identified by Bos and Sandfort really don’t sound particularly concerning!

    That said, it’s clear that there are concerns about the impact on children of other peoples’ distaste for their parents’ choices (social stigma). If one reads Clarke et al (2004), “Kids are just cruel anyway”, then one comes to realise that this bullying argument has actually been used to further stigmatise same-sex parenting (‘isn’t it cruel to children when you know they’ll be bullied?’). It’s just a self-fulfilling straw man; bully kids, then blame the parents for letting the kids be bullied. Not really seeing how that’d be a problem unique to or indeed caused by same-sex parenting.

  • Daft ha’p’worth “That said, it’s clear that there are concerns about the impact on children of other peoples’ distaste for their parents’ choices (social stigma”

    Yes absolutely!! When I read Helen’s comments I am forcibly reminded that the same arguments were thrown at me when I married my husband who is of a different colour and race – the children’s identity would be confused, they wouldn’t know where they belonged, that it would harm their emotional well being etcetc and later that they would be stigmatised and bullied.

    Our children haven’t been bullied or stigmatised,nor ate they ‘confused’ about their identity, and they are growing up with children in their school who come from same-sex families – no-one thinks anything of it. All the children are happy and achieving great things. This is only a problem for people who have a problem with mixed-race couples or same-sex couples having children. It is their attitudes which can harm our children, not the loving families our children come from.

  • Luckily in our community we are surrounded by people who are open-minded and accept people as they are, , rather than those who tell children who come from different backgrounds that their emotional well being is going to suffer as a result of not coming from a ‘traditional family’.

  • Oranjepan,

    I see that you believe all restrictions on adoption should be scrapped. That’s because you are a doctrinaire liberal extremist who believes that freedom is always right, however much harm it might do. Pragmatic social workers, who see that adoption can sometimes be disastrous, and that they sometimes need to intervene for the sake of the child, would disagree.

    Don’t you dare lecture me with your “If you want to reduce this debate to an ideological level”. It’s not me who is obsessively ideological in pattern of thinking!

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 19th Feb '13 - 9:57am

    “Some people are gay. Get over it!” states Stonewall, but sadly many in the ‘Nasty’ Party have not grasped this simple statement yet!

    Whether one is Gay or not has no relevance to ones parenting skills, for “All you need is love, love, love is all you need” as the song goes.

    There are simply far too many children living in care (residential accommodation such as secure units, children’s homes, hostels and residential school) stated the BBC in 2011. The situation has not changed for the better, so the more people who are eligible to foster and adopt would appear to be a positive step in the right direction.

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th Feb '13 - 11:46am

    @ Phyllis: I did read the report carefully and that is why I posted it – it raises questions over parenting in a very liberal jurisdiction – neutral-marriage is accepted but the question of the up-bringing of children is still done best by the parents who brought them into the world – that is the finding – not my spin. I can’t see why you find that finding so threatening.

    Also in relation to your later post on race – this issue is not the same at all. It amazes me that some people can go so far as to make insinuations to make a point. Desperate stuff.

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th Feb '13 - 11:56am

    @ Mark Inskip: ” controversial arguments” -yes of course. I notice you missed the bit about Norwegian society still having reservations about gay parenting. Understandable I suppose – another inconvenience.

  • daft h'a'porth 19th Feb '13 - 2:31pm

    @Helen Tedcastle
    “neutral-marriage is accepted but the question of the up-bringing of children is still done best by the parents who brought them into the world – that is the finding”
    ^ This right here: detailed quotation/explanation needed. I’ve read that report in detail and I do not believe that the authors claim this to be the case.

    Hollekim et al are perfectly clear that they are reporting on beliefs held by Norwegians rather than evidence identified through study of Norwegian same-sex families; even if the Norwegian public were of the opinion you identify (and they are not) then it would tell us only what Norwegians think, rather than what Norwegian experience demonstrated to be the case. The study’s authors wanted to ascertain what views the general public held regarding same-sex parenting, aaaannnnnd…

    Their findings were, to quote from the article, that participants ‘seemed to perceive outside factors that are beyond the control of the parents (e.g. bullying or negative social reactions) to be a greater threat to children’s welfare than growing up with lesbian and gay parents in itself. [… Respondents’] main concerns seemingly focus on how children and their lesbian and gay parents are treated, accepted and included in the wider society.’ Oh, also they found that religious and political views were good predictors of participant views, which isn’t unexpected.

    60% of those surveyed ‘said that sexual orientation does not matter for good parenting’, although only 40% of their sample figure that Norwegian society is ready for it. In other words, according to Hollekim et al (2011), the majority of 1,246 Norwegians are of much the same opinion as many participants in this thread, e.g. okay with the idea of same sex parenting but worried that society isn’t going to be able to do their part. It wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable to read the study as containing the implication that Norwegians are a little cynical about their society’s tendency towards conservatism – see the section ‘Why Norway? Why Now?’ – but it does not appear to contain the conclusion you identify.

  • David,
    your comment is illuminating, you are the one who raises the prospect of extremism, and you are the one who jump from one extreme to another by putting words into other people’s mounths. In nobody’s language does ‘unnecessary restrictions’ translate to ‘all restrictions’. Except perhaps your’s.

    And this is, as I indicated, because you have a habit of taking the debate away from practical matters and reducing it to ideology – you try telling a kid that they must continue suffering because a viable solution ‘isn’t explicitly left-wing enough’ for you. And then once you’ve done so you do an about face to blame someone else.

    You’re attacking me because of what you think I think based on previous exchanges, I’m returning the favour based on what you’ve said (like Richard earlier).

    The point here (and this is where Norway’s solution falls down) is that neutrality doesn’t exist. If someone can show me a gender neutral parent then I’ll go and find a gender neutral law.

    The issue isn’t about biology, it’s about responsibility.

    Those who argue for the importance of biology are saying that a gay parent may be worse than no parent, while those arguing for responsibility are saying that this cannot be prejudged because there is no universal test except in the exercise of parenting.

    Yet there is plenty of common ground for the two sides to agree on.

    We are talking about parenting, after all, not procreation, and the argument from tradition simply doesn’t stack up.

    I wasn’t confused about my antecedents when I was left with a babysitter, just as millions of kids whose fathers or mothers may have disappeared for any reason throughout history – from going to sea for months or years on end, or died at war, walking out or whatever. Communal living was a regular solution, while those who were lucky enough to have stable relatives may have been taken in. In many cases it was simply a matter of survival – which always came before qualms about what happened behind bedroom doors.

    For those with the means they still pack off their kids to boarding school, in many cases not co-educational, yet nobody even asks about the relevance of these experiences.

    Of course the state has a role to promote and uphold standards, just not to prosecute false or questionable morality.

  • *If someone can show me a gender neutral parent then I’ll go and find a gender neutral law on parenting.

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th Feb '13 - 6:18pm

    @ daft h’a porth: Yes I did note when I posted it, that the report was positive about gay marriage in Norway. However, I was trying to show that even in a very liberal-minded society, there are still significant reservations and concern about the welfare and ‘rights’ of children ie: to be born to two parents of a different sex – sounds obvious but some reproductive techniques bypass the need for a father beyond sperm donation and in surrogacy, the mother foregoes her right parenthood in return for a cash payment (stark but true). To quote from the report:

    ” Population concerns in relation to lesbian and gay parenting and the welfare of children with gay and lesbian parents are therefore to be expected(Herek 2006). Concern and uncertainty were prevalent both in the Norwegian public debate preceding the new gender-neutral Marriage Act and in our findings. Both supporters and opponents of the Norwegian gender-neutral Marriage Act (Proposition nr. 33 2007–2008) seemingly placed high value on children’s welfare, needs and interests, and the importance of children as own right holders in relation to lesbian and gay parenthood. On one hand, this may reflect that children, as bearers of their own rights and with their
    own interests to be heeded, have become a well-established construct in Norwegian society.”

    ” Whilst there has been relatively high and stable support for same-sex marriage rights in Norway over time, there has been more indecision and uncertainty in relation to equal parenting rights for lesbian, gay and heterosexual couples. This may have left the field more open to influence or discussions about what children’s needs and interests are in relation to gay parenthood and what is meant by children as bearers of their own rights in respect of these questions.”

    One of the main points I and others have been making in relation to the whole issue of gay marriage and the family is that we really need to consider children as central to this whole debate.

    I don’t regard gay marriage as a rights issue as I have explained before – rights are already won – this is about perception and status issues.

    However, if there is a related ‘rights’ issue it is to do with children – their rights to two parents – mother and a father, as well as I would argue (and mentioned in the report: ” Folgerø (2008) argues that lesbian and gay parenthood challenges cornerstones of Western civilization such as normative discourses on genetic parenthood (the right to know one’s genetic origin).”

    Hence, I’m clear in my own mind that gay marriage is a serious challenge to the ‘normative’ discourses on parenting and this is why I am not convinced of the need or urgency to break the link with marriage and the offspring of that union, in law.

  • Mark Inskip 19th Feb '13 - 8:46pm

    @Helen Tedcastle “I notice you missed the bit about Norwegian society still having reservations about gay parenting. Understandable I suppose – another inconvenience.”

    From the report “Overall, more than half the women and more than a third of men reported that they were in favour of granting gay and lesbian couples the same parenting rights as heterosexual couples”
    and
    “A minority expressed concern about the welfare of children with lesbian and gay parents.”

    Its clear from the report that there is significant minority from the political right-wing and high religious belief groups which oppose liberal reform. Is that so different from the UK?

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th Feb '13 - 9:30pm

    @ Mark Inskip: ” Its clear from the report that there is “significant minority” from the political right-wing and high religious belief groups which oppose liberal reform. Is that so different from the UK?

    Lets break it down further: 29% of males of ‘no faith’ recorded negative attitudes towards equal parenting rights for gay/lesbians
    45% of males with ‘some faith’ expressed negative attitudes towards equal parenting rights
    64% of males of ‘high faith’ expressed negative attitudes

    Even with regard to political parties: of those males who align with left of centre and socialist parties, 27% are negative in attitudes towards gay parenting rights as opposed to 50% for centre and centre-right parties.

    What’s interesting is that females on the whole are more supportive than males but that the differences between males in various groups is not that starkly different.

    I think males are more concerned about ‘equal parenting’ because their role has already become more precarious in relation to heterosexual parenting with the breakdown in family life, co-habitation which then breaks up – more often than not, the father becomes the non-resident parent.

    Plus, the possibility of co-motherhood of lesbians after artificial insemination, leaves the role of a father practically redundant.

    Another interesting aspect for our policy-makers in the sharp rise in negative attitudes towards gay parenting rights around the age of thirty onwards – could it be that once one has children or starts thinking seriously about the life-changes children bring, that the wisdom of age and experience kicks in?

    It rather gives the lie to those who love to post the ‘wisdom’ of their 12 – 13 year old children about gay marriage on LDV , who can’t understand how ‘older’ people are against it: Males – 15-20 yrs= 6% against gay parenting; 21-30= 30% negative; 31-40=37%; 41-50=42% negative; 51-60=39%; 61-80=51%.

  • Helen T – “Also in relation to your later post on race – this issue is not the same at all. It amazes me that some people can go so far as to make insinuations to make a point. Desperate stuff.”

    Exactly what is it that you think I was ‘insinuating’ ? I was actually being very clear. The report you quoted from Norway suggests that it is other people’s attitudes which are the problem – something I have found to be very true in my own life experiences. I have personal experience of ‘the race issue’ and also have friends from same-sex families and their children. You do not have either, therefore I think I am in a stronger position than you to comment on whether these issues are the same or not.. You have also ignored the children of gay parents when they have commented, despite professing your over-riding concern for the welfare of children – it’s ‘inconvenient’ , to use your word, when the children whom you claim will be somehow damaged by being in same-sex families actually tell you that they are not and that “My Dad is gay and is one of the best fathers a young lad could ask for in my opinion” (See our first poster above) . Why do you ignore this? Don’t the views of the very children under discussion matter to you?

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th Feb '13 - 10:07pm

    @ Phyllis: ” I have personal experience of ‘the race issue’ and also have friends from same-sex families and their children. You do not have either, therefore I think I am in a stronger position than you to comment on whether these issues are the same or not.. ”

    On race, seeing as you brought it again in relation to this issue – you really don’t know what experience I have so I’m not sure yo’re on strong ground there. I have gay friends and family – so what? Even if I had no experience whatsoever, i would still have every right to comment.

    I don’t see this issue as anything to do with race or just ‘attitudes’. This issue is about the redefinition of a term which means one thing to mean another – it’s not just about feelings or attitudes but fundamentals – as the Norwegian report also notes.
    I suggest that you read the report more carefully . There is a clear distinction between parenting and same-sex marriage. This particular piece of research is about attitudes – it’s just you prefer the positive attitudes to negative (which is a sizeable minority in every category but particularly among males above the age of 21) – my reason for including it in the discussion is that there is not an overwhelming acclamation for gay parenting equality even in Norway . Why? people realise that children have rights too – it’s not just about couples and their feelings.

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th Feb '13 - 10:22pm

    @ Phyllis: ” You have also ignored the children of gay parents when they have commented, despite professing your over-riding concern for the welfare of children”

    It was a good comment but what more can be said in relation to the definition of marriage and parenting, except that one person has had a good experience – you can’t extrapolate an entire policy from this.

  • @Helen Tedcastle ” the differences between males in various groups is not that starkly different.”

    29% of males of ‘no faith’ verses 64% of males of ‘high faith’ expressed negative attitudes
    or 27% of males who align with left of centre and socialist parties, verses 50% for centre and centre-right parties?

    Looks pretty damn stark to me!

    As to male concerns, have you any evident to support your statements? I can certainly state as a male neither of the issues you raise are a concern to me.

    What is it you fear so much about same sex couples, that you would rather condemn children to childhood in care rather than being adopted by a sex same couple?

  • daft h'a'porth 19th Feb '13 - 11:40pm

    @Helen Tedcastle
    Again, that report is about attitudes and does not, therefore, demonstrate that X is done better by group AA, BB or AB. Nor does it even prove that the majority think that X is done better by AA, BB, or AB. All it proves is that the majority are worried that their society is not ready to deal with X being done by AA or BB…

    The Harek et al paragraph is essentially saying ‘we observe that people talk a lot about kids’ welfare when it comes to same-sex parenting’, which I have no difficulty with since it’s a pretty well-supported observation if a touch obvious.

    As regards Folgerø (2008), it’s an open access paper and quite a good read. Tor Folgerø is an ethnologist and essentially took to exploring how same-sex families explored their own concerns about the issues that he identifies, which Hollekim et al list and which you quote above. He suggests that ‘queer nuclear families’ are absolutely an aspiration of same-sex families, that ‘their family practices and their ideals and principles do not necessarily represent a break with traditional norms that encompass family life in society’ and that as a consequence, by ‘opposing notions of “naturalness” to concepts of family, kinship, relationships, parenthood, and reproduction, these families exert a potential subversive effect–they turn the focus back on heterosexual conventions and make them appear as precisely conventions’. He is describing same-sex families as engaging actively with the concerns identified in popular discourse and finding non-traditional but effective answers. IOW he’s saying that the families he’s studied are, according to his observations, absolutely aware of and engaging actively with the sorts of issues identified, making decisions accordingly, etc. He’s basically saying that these families are as aware of potential problems as you are and finding mechanisms to resolve all those issues.

    I’m not sure how that sort of ‘challenge’ to our understanding of traditional norms can be seen as harmful; it’s simply challenging us, the peanut gallery if you will, to review our preconceptions. I think that’s something that adults should do regularly as a matter of course.

    “the need or urgency to break the link with marriage and the offspring of that union, in law.”
    Marriage and parental responsibility are separate beasts today. It’s a fait accompli.

    “Another interesting aspect for our policy-makers in the sharp rise in negative attitudes towards gay parenting rights around the age of thirty onwards – could it be that once one has children or starts thinking seriously about the life-changes children bring, that the wisdom of age and experience kicks in? ”
    A testable assertion. For one I’m utterly certain that there are many stats from the past that you could review; if the sharp rise results from ‘wisdom of age/experience’ you will notice that it stays relatively static. I’m guessing it’s relative to social change following the Sexual Offences Act 1967 and I would be very surprised if it turns out that thirty year olds suddenly undergo a sea-change and ‘the wisdom’ kicks in. However, if you can demonstrate that this effect occurs I will happily go with it, because, hey, that’s science ;)

  • Richard Dean 20th Feb '13 - 12:13am

    What about the inequality of it all?
    Opposite-sex couples aren’t going to have the same opportunity for civil partnership as same-sex couples.

  • daft h'a'porth 20th Feb '13 - 12:20am

    @Richard Dean
    On the one hand ‘PACSing’ is extraordinarily popular in France between heterosexuals. On the other I have to wonder how that relates to the topic of the thread, eg. same sex parenting. Suspect it’s something of a red herring.

  • Richard Dean 20th Feb '13 - 12:49am

    That’s about the level of this debate isn’t it? Anything the supporters of gay marriage can’t answer is deemed a red herring.

  • daft h'a'porth 20th Feb '13 - 1:00am

    @Richard Dean
    I can’t believe you’re even trying here. I just stated that PACSing was wildly popular amongst the French and you said ‘anything that the supporters blah…’. You got an answer, even the answer you were hoping for (‘ooh civil partnership is popular amongst heterosexuals in France!! must make it good!’) but you can’t be bothered to bite?

  • Daft h’porth

    Thanks for your sensible analysis of the report. That’s also how I read it.

  • Richard Dean 20th Feb '13 - 2:10am

    Are you really so full of hate for me, daft h’a’porth ? Have the straight community been reading this all wrong? Is it really not about love at all, but about gay people expressing hate, getting back at straight people for some hurt?

  • Richard: I would dispute the claim that there is such a thing as “the straight community” (heterosexuals do not have, for instance, a shared experience of suffering bigotry and oppression; nor, at least until quite recently, was there such a thing as a “straight” self-identification, the term being created (to the best of my knowledge) not by heterosexuals but by gays looking for a way to identify people who were not part of their community. In other words, socially speaking (and biology aside) what “straights” have in common is that they’re not gay (or, nowadays, various other “genderqueer” identities). But a negative definition doesn’t create a community.
    However, if there were or were to be a straight community, I do not think that you would be representative of it. Your views certainly don’t match mine.
    It is one thing to claim victim status because you have experienced real oppression in your life. It is quite another to seek victim status, as if it were a prize one would want to have. There’s something strange about wanting so much to be a member of an oppressed minority that one will seek to find slights and “hatred” where none exist. Could it be that a very small number of “straights” are jealous of the seeming unity and camaraderie of gay people, and wish they could have that for themselves? Do they feel that it’s an exclusive club that they’ve been shut out of? Why, when there are so many privileges that heterosexuals get without even trying? Gay solidarity has come at a very high cost, and I personally don’t begrudge it at all.

  • Mark Inskip 20th Feb '13 - 8:02am

    @Richard Dean “Are you really so full of hate for me, daft h’a’porth ?”

    I really don’t think it reflects well on you to resort to this sort of trolling.

  • Helen T – “It was a good comment but what more can be said in relation to the definition of marriage and parenting, except that one person has had a good experience – you can’t extrapolate an entire policy from this.”

    You have no evidence that gay parenting harms children, as you claim. In addition to the first poster, I have given our own experience of others like him, who have not only suffered no harm but are in fact very happy. And yet you want to ‘base an entire policy’ on your very strong feelings (for that is all they are) that gay parenting is harmful to children and society and you would deny our first poster his very happy home life based on that.

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Feb '13 - 10:01am

    @ Mark Inskip: ” Looks pretty damn stark to me!”

    So nearly a third of males of no faith who express reservations is easily dismissable – those on the left with concerns are likewise to be brushed aside. it’s quite ironic really – we Lib Dems with just 23% of the popular vote expect to be taken seriously by others but when it comes to attitudes ‘we’ don’t like, lets dismiss it. Funny that.

    Personally, I was surprised how many people in different age groups, with variations of religious faith and political beliefs, express reservations .

    Especially so, when we’re constantly told by spokespeople for the so-called ‘liberal and tolerant’, pro-gay marriage/parenting supporters, how its only old religious people on the centre-right who are concerned about this apparent progress to a gender-neutral, future for families etc etc.. –

    “As to male concerns, have you any evident to support your statements? I can certainly state as a male neither of the issues you raise are a concern to me.”

    And your point relates just to you – this is research involving more than one male in a more liberal society than this one. That’s its significance for this debate.

    Incidentally, more females in Norway are more ‘relaxed’ about these changes than males for reasons I gave earlier.

    I’m a female, a member of the Lib Dems and the same age as Cameron – and I can state that I am against this Bill – there you go – it proves nothing either way.

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Feb '13 - 10:25am

    @ daft h’a porth: ” Again, that report is about attitudes and does not, therefore, demonstrate that X is done better by group AA, BB or AB.”

    Yes it is – that’s clear but it’s interesting to me that the researchers have found that on Norway, a country with very liberal views on gay marriage, there are still reservations about gender-neutral parenting.

    The findings show that these attitudes are not wholly confined to the stereotypical right-wing, old religious person – as we are told on LDV (in articles), by pro-gay marriage supporters etc.. More males are reserved about the changes – not so surprising as the role of fathers and males is more precarious in a society where less people marry and then found a family.

    Also, the rise of reproductive technologies like AI, leave the male role to sperm donation only as lesbian co-mothers do all the parenting – perhaps more males in Norway feel that men do have a role and that fathers are important to children.

    ” I’m not sure how that sort of ‘challenge’ to our understanding of traditional norms can be seen as harmful; it’s simply challenging us,”

    Actually I agree with you there – :-) . I’m not afraid of challenge to norms as such but I think one has to balance the levels of harm done with draconian changes. I think the difference between us is this – we both see the challenges of these alternative lifestyles and many think we should embrace these changes and sweep away the old norms – as the law should reflect a mosaic rather than provide a model; while I think that sweeping away this particular norm or model will presents more problems and will cause more long term harm – to children and to the concept of man-woman unions ie: this law will not encourage more heterosexuals to marry but undermine the very concept (not because gays will marry but because of the new, watered-down definition of marriage). Also I don’t think that effectively making civil partnerships redundant is necessary, as it has not been proven not to work.

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Feb '13 - 10:30am

    @ Phyllis: ” And yet you want to ‘base an entire policy’ on your very strong feelings ” Likewise. ;-) although, to be fair, I think I have tried to use reasoned argument and some evidence.

  • Helen T – haven’t seen any evidence to be honest. And your ‘reasoned argument ‘ has huge laws in logic which others on this and other threads have pointed out in great detail. I am now watching the news – lesbian couples are going to be given free IVF on the NHS. The world moves on. Since you cannot stop these developments, perhaps you will welcome any resulting children, should you ever meet any (perhaps they may even be future students of yours) as blessings rather than telling them that they are going to be harmed by their family situations?

  • daft h'a'porth 20th Feb '13 - 12:06pm

    @Helen Tedcastle
    The study of attitudes (and social change) is in itself interesting, definitely! I do have my own hypotheses about the causes of the variations identified: for age-linked variation, same-sex sexual activity in Norway became legal in 1972 and absent data demonstrating otherwise I would tend to see that as a likely cause of a generational change in attitudes, but as mentioned it is a testable assertion. For gender-linked variation, your mention of the precarity of the male role is insightful although I would tend to express it more generally as reflective of the developing construction of social roles across both gender and population. I would also tend to view such concerns as primarily emblematic of (reactionary) concern for one’s identity rather than informed concern but this, too, could be tested…

    To some extent I agree with your characterisation of the key difference between us, although I would say that this is not about sweeping away social norms but challenging our expectations on how those norms may be accessed or implemented. In some ways what Folgerø calls the queer nuclear family is a surprisingly conservative construction and appears far more referential (and reverential) to social norms than other common constructions such as the single-parent family. I am not greatly concerned with semantics, but it seems to me that this is if anything a positive endorsement of social norms that much of the population have discounted. Ultimately, same-sex parenting would at this time be an emerging phenomenon with or without the explicit blessing of the law or indeed society at large, there are certainly no grounds for opposition to the practice, and ignoring its existence would be extraordinarily problematic, since an adequate legal framework serves to protect the interests of everybody involved.

  • Richard Dean 20th Feb '13 - 12:39pm

    I don’t think it reflects well on the supporters of gay marriage that they ignore relevant issues.

  • daft h'a'porth 20th Feb '13 - 12:44pm

    @Richard Dean 20th Feb ’13 – 2:10am
    “Are you really so full of hate for me, daft h’a’porth ? Have the straight community been reading this all wrong? Is it really not about love at all, but about gay people expressing hate, getting back at straight people for some hurt?”

    The funniest thing about this comment is that I’m not even gay.

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Feb '13 - 6:55pm

    @ daft h’a porth: ” …what Folgerø calls the queer nuclear family is a surprisingly conservative construction and appears far more referential (and reverential) to social norms than other common constructions such as the single-parent family.”

    Yes, I had read that article – fascinating, I must say. It seems that the issue of ‘sameness’ through gay marriage and the possibility of parenting in Norway is challenging self-concepts within the gay community as well. As the heterosexual norms are so pervasive , (because of its natural ends). it’s inevitable, as Folgero states: ” Although the structures of these families are different from those of the heterosexual nuclear family, their family practices and their ideals and principles do not necessarily represent a break with traditional norms that encompass family life in society. ”

    Although having said that, the sheer complexity of arrangements, the multiplicity of parents – whether they be social or genetic – makes those networks quantatively different:

    “Homosexual parenthood is complex and ambiguous and challenges seemingly consistent categories, such as “father,” “mother,” “man,” “woman,” “heterosexual,” and “homosexual.” These families can be interpreted as a category of “in-between” that potentially might have a destabilizing effect on concepts of fixed and universal categories–be it “the natural heterosexual nuclear family” or the notion of “the authentic child-free homosexuality.” They challenge concepts and identity constructions based on thinking in terms of dichotomies (Young, 1990; Roseneil, 2000).
    Bringing children into a same-sex relationship, these new family practices have a subversive potential through fracturing and destabilizing the hetero/homo-binary (Weeks et al., 1999)”

    As we discussed earlier, the challenge of these complex arrangements is just that, a challenge to accepted and consistent norms and as such, society has to come to terms with it.

    However, it’s a question for me of how far one accepts and integrates these challenges into society’s own collective self-understanding – before all of the challenges have been fully thought out and discussed eg: the relationship between parents and children – who are parents? What rights to children have? etc…

    Of course, gay couples with resident or non-resident children are negotiating these complexities every day – but how should society bring this alternative complexity into its own discourse, when there is still insufficient evidence of the effect on these children of being born into deliberately fatherless homes with two co-mothers, (except in the knowledge their dad was a sperm donor), or at the other extreme, having to live with multiple dads and mothers – in one case 5 parents – (whether genetic or social) .

    I think that although these arrangements and ‘projects’ as one lesbian couple described it, go on at a small scale – this is qualitatively different from altering society’s discourse in law, to accommodate these lifestyles. On the news today it was announced that lesbian couples could have fertility treatment along with women over -40 – again it’s a case of lifestyle choices running policy at a time when the NHS is in financial crisis. I don’t think we’re going to agree on the efficacy or otherwise of this, as I do value the natural parent-child relationship and would wish to see this remain enshrined in law in some form.

    As for adoption, I think there is a good case for civil partners to adopt or foster so long as a secure and stable home can be provided ( (as long as religious groups can opt out on conscience grounds) – but this is different to sanctioning highly complex , alternative and problematic parenting networks and the questions it raises for children in that environment – it is too subversive for me, social small c-conservative that I am, in this area.

  • Richard Dean 20th Feb '13 - 7:50pm

    @daft h’a’porth. Well, fine, and you’re doing pretty well at finding excuses not to answer awkward questions.

    One of the curious aspects of this whole affair is that many gay couples seem to identify themselves in roles of husband and wife. The curious thing is that the distinctions implied by these identifications have been defined by an institution of opposite-sex marriage, so the introduction of gay marriage will destroy the identities on which they are based!

  • daft h'a'porth 21st Feb '13 - 12:06am

    @Richard Dean
    “Well, fine”
    My sexual orientation meets with your approval? Glad that’s sorted, then.

    “many gay couples seem to identify themselves in roles of husband and wife. The curious thing is that the distinctions implied by these identifications have been defined by an institution of opposite-sex marriage”
    Yes, we were having a perfectly civil conversation on this very subject, see above.

    “so the introduction of gay marriage will destroy the identities on which they are based!”
    ‘Gosh, unconventional variant on traditional role’ is a perfectly reasonable observation from which it is possible to proceed in many directions, including exploration of the effects that it may have on participants, society at large, etc, but if one is going to explore the likely effects of something it is necessary to work from available evidence. In the quant science community (which is presumably an honorary part of the gay community/conspiracy) we would describe what you have done above as ‘extrapolation from unavailable evidence’. Therefore, please explain your leap from ‘Unconventional variant!’ to ‘Unconventional variant! Will automatically cause destruction of traditions!!’ so that we can all review the evidence on which you base that viewpoint… Sagan said that ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence': where’s the evidence behind your claim?

    “and you’re doing pretty well at finding excuses not to answer awkward questions”
    Just so that we’re clear: to have the faintest hope of getting an answer to an awkward question you would have to formulate and ask an awkward question. Obvious statements twinned with unsubstantiated cliches are not awkward questions. Helen has come up with interesting, thought-provoking points here, because she is engaging with the subject in depth – and I am enjoying figuring out just where and how we really agree and disagree, so it has certainly been interesting for me. Perhaps if you tried to base your observations in evidence or theory, we would have something to debate, but the points you make are so vague that I would have to begin by extrapolating from the evidence to figure out a plausible theoretical basis for your single-sentence interjections and effectively write your part of the debate, as well as my own.

  • Richard Dean 21st Feb '13 - 12:33am

    Well, daft, you have excelled yourself in reading into my comment many times more than is there, in finding bizarre reasons not to address perfectly valid observations and concerns, and in hiding all of this in verbosity! 10 out of 10!

  • daft h'a'porth 21st Feb '13 - 1:13am

    @Helen Tedcastle
    “However, it’s a question for me of how far one accepts and integrates these challenges into society’s own collective self-understanding – before all of the challenges have been fully thought out and discussed eg: the relationship between parents and children – who are parents? What rights to children have? etc…”

    For anything that is happening anyway, society has something of an obligation to think fairly urgently if pragmatically about the various scenarios that are lived today, to work out where the rights and responsibilities lie, what if anything needs to change in the law to minimise foul-ups and injustices, and so on. The details of family life (who gets to care for a kid if the biological parent unexpectedly dies, how inheritance is handled, who gets to sign off on the kid’s hospital treatment) are not very glamorous and their absence would not stop anybody from choosing to live with a same-sex partner and child, but they are helpful when things go wrong. I would tend to see relevant recent law as mostly remedying potential/evidenced problems, patching up the rough edges to ensure that the law does the sensible thing.

    From a government point of view there is a limit to the amount of dissuasion that could be achieved without draconian policy-making- assuming that people will find a way to achieve something that is legal and which they desire, then the problem becomes handling the processes involved in a way that doesn’t put themselves or dependents at unnecessary risk, that means that everybody involved can get the support they need, and so on. It would be easy for the govt to write itself out of the equation, meaning that people do their own thing without bothering to share the details with NHS/health workers, which is fine on one level but means that where there are potential issues or places where a little advice could really improve things, the discussion just won’t be had. On which note, it would be interesting to explore the NHS reasoning behind the decision you mention – without having read the detail as yet, I would expect it has to do with health risks behind unlicenced donors, sperm that hasn’t been adequately screened and the like. It is worth keeping in mind that there are serious risks associated with failure to bring legislation up to date, which I would expect to be a major motivating factor behind the decision to implement changes. It’s tempting to see legislation as a mechanism for expressing disapproval/approval but it isn’t a great fit for that purpose – as my lawyer colleague says, “If you want to send a message, use Western Union”… :-)

    Although I would say that this is true of any population, relevant agencies should be (and undoubtedly are) keeping tabs on any issues that may arise, sharing lessons, identifying issues that may be particularly relevant to that cohort, if any, and so on. Yes, there certainly is the far larger and more diffuse issue of handling the social complexities, the contradictions etc – and I would agree with you that some of it is pretty challenging and legislation does not on the face of it bless all of the cases that you mention, such as the ‘five parents’ example – and there is a question of how to fit that into the social discourse. I wouldn’t put that on quite the same level as the everyday practicalities , not as a matter of disrespect, but more because I would see that as more of an interaction between society, culture and media and hence something that is not directly under government control. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t need working through – just means that it may not be something that can be achieved through politics or the law. Anyway, so we may never agree entirely but I think on the whole we have found some common ground…

  • daft h'a'porth 21st Feb '13 - 1:19am

    @Richard Dean
    “Well, daft, you have excelled yourself in reading into my comment many times more than is there, in finding bizarre reasons not to address perfectly valid observations and concerns, and in hiding all of this in verbosity! 10 out of 10!”
    No, I didn’t think you could justify that argument, but ten out of ten for the bluster anyway.

  • Richard Dean 21st Feb '13 - 9:23am

    I think we were all agreed, many comments ago, that Linda Jack was right that David Jones was wrong, which was also recognized by David Jones himself.

  • Helen Tedcastle 21st Feb '13 - 1:43pm

    @ daft h’a porth: ” Anyway, so we may never agree entirely but I think on the whole we have found some common ground…” Agreed .

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