Anewsletter from my daughter’s primary school recently announced an
event to celebrate. A teacher and her female partner had adopted
sisters, aged six and eight. The teacher is on six months’ leave to
allow the new family to adjust. The girls attend our school as
pupils. The overwhelming response from a highly diverse community
in which many religions and cultures are represented, has been
truly positive. Why not? Two sisters now have roots, the potential
to be loved and, hopefully, long-term security – before they had
been without all three.
Last week, in the House of Lords, Conservative peers and bishops
blocked the provision in the Adoption and Children Bill that allows
unmarried and gay couples to adopt. A change that is desired by
charities, social services directors and most adoption agencies.
Polls indicate that the majority of the public is also in
The twin thrust of the arguments led by Lady O’Cathain, successor
to Baroness Young as the scourge of all outside marriage, is that
such unorthodox unions are more unstable and “different”. Plainly,
the latter is true, as is the former as a generality (although we
all know marriages which are not only short-lived but extremely
volatile before the final break occurs). It seems likely, however,
that over time, longevity will become increasingly common among
more affluent cohabitees (the pattern already visible elsewhere in
Europe) while society may become increasingly aware that gay
couples can and do remain together for life.
“Difference”, of course, remains a charge. But how different? It is
tempting to ask where the lords and the bishops have acquired their
knowledge of the gay and cohabiting worlds. Could it be that the
lords and bishops are secret viewers of Channel Four’s Queer As
Folk or the soft-porn fodder churned out by Channel Five? Is
that how they’ve arrived at the belief that gay and unmarried
automatically equals promiscuity and mayhem ?
If this is the case, one counter-strategy might be for Lady
O’Cathain and her supporters to embark on a series of fact-finding
trips (much loved by politicians if to hotter climes). They could
visit a range of “different” families in which adoption has been
successful. If their opinions remain resolute, then at least the
proof exists that what we’re really dealing with here is not an
attempt to put the interests of children first, as Lady O’Cathain
insists – but despicable old-fashioned homophobia and a Luddite
resistance to change.