The Harm to Children of Same-Sex marriage

Dr. David van Gend, President of the Australian Marriage Forum

World Congress of Families, Sydney, May 16, 2013


Frank Brennan, the former Chair of Australia’s National Human Rights Consultation Committee, has this to say on same-sex marriage and the rights of the child:


In the name of equality of adults, future children should not be deprived the opportunity to be born of a man and a woman. Citizens need to consider not only the right of same-sex couples to equality but even more so the rights of future children.


This is the heart of opposition to same-sex marriage: that it means same-sex parenting, and same-sex parenting means that future children must miss out on either a mother or a father.


Marriage is a compound right under Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “the right to marry and to found a family”. Therefore homosexual marriage includes both the legal recognition of an exclusive relationship and the right to form a family by artificial reproduction – such as surrogacy - but any child created within that “marriage” would have no possibility of being raised by both her mother and her father.


Of course, there are already tragic situations where a child cannot have both a mum and a dad, such as the death or desertion of a parent, but that is not something we would wish upon a child, and it is not something that a government should ever inflict upon a child. There are already situations where broken families reform as a homosexual household, and nothing can or should be done about that. But what we must not allow is the situation where Government facilitates the deliberate creation of motherless or fatherless families.


That offence against the child, inherent in any institution of “homosexual marriage”, is the primary reason why the proposed reform is wrong and must be opposed, and likewise why any law is wrong that compels a child to live without a mother or without a father - such as single or same-sex surrogacy and same-sex stranger adoption.


Even the pseudo gay-marriage of a civil partnership can allow for this abuse of a child’s birthright. That is the case with Elton John and his civil partner, David Furnish, who in 2010 created baby Zach using an anonymous egg donor in India, a vial of their blended sperm and a rent-a-womb. The old rock star needed “someone to love into my old age.” Too bad if baby Zach needed a mother’s love, because the men ensured that Zach could never know her. Spurious “equal rights” for rich homosexuals to obtain a child, at the cost of authentic “equal rights” for all babies to enter the world with their own mother and their own father.


The life between mother and baby is the most profound human bond, but that primal relationship is abolished by the “marriage” of two men. Homosexual marriage heralds an authentic “gay stolen generation,” destined to the same disorientation and pain as children conceived by anonymous sperm-donor fathers or removed at birth from single mothers.


Australian ethicist Professor Margaret Somerville observed that demands for gay marriage “force us to choose between giving priority to children's rights or to homosexual adults' claims.” The claims of homosexual adults always take priority with the progressive media, who frame the debate narcissistically in terms of the desires and “equal rights” of adults. Who, then, will defend the child’s point of view?


A child has the right to her own mum and dad, to be nurtured by their complementary love. She has the right to look up and see the only two faces on earth that reflect her own: the woman and the man who together gave her life. A little girl should not have to look up and see two “married men” as her parents. Neither man can be a mother to her; they cannot guide her as a mother would when she is growing from girl to woman, nor model for her the complex relationship of husband and wife. Likewise, any boy needs his father’s companionship and example to help him become a man; no matter how competent and caring a lesbian partner may be, she cannot be a dad to a little boy.


Laws allowing “homosexual marriage” would abolish a child’s birthright to both a mother and a father; such laws would subject children, without consent, to an uncontrolled experiment on their emotional development.


On this question of emotional development, sociologist David Popenoe states the obvious: “Few propositions have more empirical support in the social sciences than this one: Compared to all other family forms, families headed by married, biological parents are best for children.”  However, we don’t need sociologists or social science to convince us that a child needs the love of both a mum and a dad; that insight is bedrock sanity, and if we lose it we will become a deranged culture.


Predictably at this point some raise the scenario of an abusive mother and father and argue that it is better for a child to have two loving same-sex carers than a dysfunctional pair of biological parents - but neither option gives a child what she needs. We must reject both, restraining parents who would inflict abuse while also restraining governments who would inflict laws that normalise the motherless or fatherless child.


Governments need to be restrained, because some matters are beyond the authority of any politicians to tamper with.


Marriage is not a social invention to be cut to shape according to political whim; it is a social recognition of timeless natural reality: male, female, offspring. The father of modern anthropology, Claude Levi-Strauss, called marriage “a social institution with a biological foundation”. He notes that throughout recorded history the human family is “based on a union... of two individuals of opposite sexes who establish a household and bear and raise children.” So all of our marriage laws and customs exist to reinforce this biological foundation, helping bind a man, a feral-by-nature male, to his mate for the sake of social stability and for the sake of the child they might create.


Not all marriages do create children - but typically they do, and the institution exists for the typical case. If adult sexual relationships did not have the momentous consequence, typically, of creating a child who needs nurturing for many years, there would be no need to urge the binding contract of marriage on sexual partners. Even the atheist philosopher, Bertrand Russell, understood this when he wrote back in 1929:


It is through children alone that sexual relations become of importance to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.


Self-evidently, homosexual relationships cannot create children, so society has no institutional interest in regulating such friendships. These relationships are of great importance to the individuals involved, and demand neighbourly civility, but they do not meet nature’s job description for marriage-and-family.


If we do choose to abolish the mammalian model of marriage and family and redefine it in terms of Oprah sentimentality - any two adults who love each other - then we must follow the logic of such a redefinition.

Lord Daniel Brennan, former Chair of the Bar Association in the UK, wrote in March 2012:

If you can abolish the most important pre-condition of marriage – namely that it requires a person of each sex – why should you be able to retain other pre-conditions, such as limiting it to only two people? In the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage was introduced in 2001, “cohabitation agreements” have been used to give three-way relationships a measure of legal recognition. 


Here in Australia, James Dominguez of Bisexual Alliance Victoria prefers four-way relationships. He told The Australian in May 2012: “Some time … we should look at the idea of plural marriage.” Right now he lives in a bisexual polyamorous foursome, awaiting true “marriage equality” for groups of deeply committed, loving adults.


And only last month in the mainstream journal, Slate, came an article celebrating group marriage. This is the working out of the logic of same-sex marriage: for if ‘equal love’ trumps gender, ‘equal love’ also trumps number.


The day we cut marriage adrift from the rock of nature, from the mammalian order of male-female-young, is the day we lose any fundamental reason to deny “marriage equality” to any combination of consenting adults. The only non-consenting party is the child brought into such a chaotic world: perhaps with three ‘fathers’ and no mother, perhaps a bisexual polyamorous foursome. All in the narcissistic name of ‘equal love.’ 


Back to Frank Brennan, who shows us the civil way forward on this debate:


I think we can ensure non-discrimination against same-sex couples while at the same time maintaining a commitment to children of future generations being born of and being reared by a father and a mother.


“Non-discrimination against same-sex couples” is exactly what Federal Parliament achieved in 2008, when over 80 pieces of legislation were amended by a bipartisan majority. There is now no unjust discrimination against same-sex couples in Australia.


What Brennan calls “commitment to children of future generations” requires that we discriminate, justly, between two quite distinct social projects: the widespread public task of marriage-and-family, and the rare private commitment of gay partnerships.


The number of gay partnerships in Australia is indeed very small, involving only 0.7% of all couples according to the 2011 Census. Respect even for tiny minorities is necessary, but appropriate discrimination in favour of the vast social goods of natural marriage and the child’s right to enter life, where possible, with both a mother and a father, is also necessary.


Homosexual couples now enjoy practical equality with married couples in every way short of marriage. The process must stop short of marriage, because marriage is about something much deeper than civil equality; it is about a natural reality – male, female, young – which society did not create and which only a decadent political party like the Greens, so out of touch with nature, would seek to destroy.


David van Gend, family doctor and President, Australian Marriage Forum www.australianmarriage.org

World Congress of Families, May 2013. Dr van Gend also blogs at www.davidvangend.com