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Gay marriage - itís all about the child

By David van Gend - posted Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The most serious objection to gay marriage is that it means gay parenting, and gay parenting means depriving a child of either his mother or his father. A child deserves at least the chance of a mum and a dad in her life, and same-sex marriage makes that impossible.

Marriage is a compound right, under article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, comprising both the exclusive union of husband and wife and the social license to form a family. The right to marry includes the right to obtain children - naturally, by adoption, or by assisted reproduction. The legalising of same-sex marriage means that gay couples would have equal standing with male-female couples for obtaining children. A baby boy in the household of two “married women” would be deprived of a father - his model for being a man - and the “marriage” of two men would deprive a growing girl of a mother to learn from and confide in.

The gay marriage debate, at its heart, is not about the rights and needs of the adults, but of the child. Gays are not second-class citizens (Syvret 9/11) but a gay man certainly makes a second-class mother. Two lesbian women may be model citizens, but neither of them can be a dad to a little boy. This violation of the fundamental right and profound emotional need of a child to have both a mother and father means - from the child’s perspective - that gay marriage is a deprivation, not liberation.


There are already tragic situations where a child is deprived of a mother or a father - such as the death or desertion of a parent. Some broken families reform as a homosexual household, and nothing can or should be done about that. But the tragedy and brokenness of a motherless or fatherless home should not be inflicted on a child by the law of the land.

David Blankenhorn, a card-carrying Democrat and supporter of gay rights in the US nevertheless draws the line at giving gay partnerships the legal right to obtain a child. He writes, in The Future of Marriage (2007):

Marriage is fundamentally about the needs of children … Redefining marriage to include gay and lesbian couples would eliminate entirely in law, and weaken still further in culture, the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child.

Margaret Somerville, an Australian Professor of Law and Medicine at McGill University, Canada, is a leading academic voice in defence of the child’s right to both a mother and father:

Giving same-sex couples the right to found a family unlinks parenthood from biology. In doing so, it unavoidably takes away all children’s right - not just those brought into same-sex marriages - to both a mother and a father and their right to know and be reared within their own biological family.

At this point the curious argument is always raised that it is better for a child to have two loving same-sex carers than a dysfunctional pair of biological parents. But neither of these scenarios is in the interests of a child - and only the same-sex scenario is preventable. It is a fallacy to argue that because a child in one household has abusive parents, we are therefore justified in placing another child in another household where there are two “married” men and no mother. No, we must reject both scenarios for the sake of the child, restraining and retraining those parents who would inflict abuse - or even removing the child from harm’s way - and also denying those adults who would wilfully deprive a child of a mother or father.


Another irrelevant argument is that children from same-sex households score equally well in outcomes such as maths, sport, and social skills. Even granting that highly dubious claim, such research would say precisely nothing about the primal harm we have done to the inner life of a developing child by depriving him of a mother.

Finally, the child-centred argument against gay marriage is mistaken for an argument against homosexual relationships per se. Not so, as the child-centred argument also opposes single men obtaining a baby by surrogacy, as allowed under Queensland law, and it would oppose even a pair of celibate monks obtaining a baby “of their own”, since that still deprives the child of a mother.

The task is to defend natural marriage in order to defend the interests of children. Claude Levi-Strauss - recently eulogised as the father of modern anthropology - calls marriage “a social institution with a biological foundation”. He notes that throughout recorded history the human family is “based on a union, more or less durable, but socially approved, of two individuals of opposite sexes who establish a household and bear and raise children”. And as philosopher Bertrand Russell noted in Marriage and Morals, “It is through children alone that sexual relations become of importance to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.”

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About the Author

Dr David van Gend is a Toowoomba GP and Queensland secretary for the World Federation of Doctors who Respect Human Life.

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