The Hon. David Clarke MLC

Liberal Member of the Legislative Council
Parliamentary Secretary for Justice

David Clarke MLC


Tuesday, 3 June 2008

I will not support the Miscellaneous Acts Amendment (Same Sex Relationships) Bill 2008 if it remains in its current form. Whilst the bill contains some proposals that I do not oppose, these mainly relate to extending certain financial, administrative and work-related benefits to same-sex couples. Unfortunately the bill goes much further than just dealing with such matters.

    The bill is staking out new and unacceptable parameters in some important social areas, parameters that the great majority in our community do not accept. In a general sense the bill is pushing the frontier forward for the eventual goal of legalising the adoption of children by homosexual couples and for the eventual goal of legalising same-sex marriage. Like the majority within the community, I do not support the legislation of the adoption of children by homosexual couples and I do not support the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

      I note that both the Coalition and the Labor Party in the Federal Parliament voted against the proposition of same-sex marriage. This bill acts against the best interests of our children, who are the most vulnerable in our community. Our children need special protection, yet this bill lets them down very badly. I, like other members of Parliament, have been inundated with a great flow of complaints by citizens of New South Wales objecting to this bill, or major parts of it. Understandably, many people have expressed outrage that the Labor Government slyly, cunningly and mischievously held back this legislation until after the State and Federal elections last year. The Government sat on the report on which this bill is based for two years so that it would not impact negatively on Labor's electoral prospects. This is standard practice for the Government. Honourable members will recall that during the lead-up to the State election of 2003 the Labor Government kept secret from the people of New South Wales that it would support a lowering of the age of consent for males from 18 years to 16 years if it were returned to power. It cunningly and misleadingly gave no indication to New South Wales voters that such a policy would become law within weeks of its re-election. Now history repeats itself.

        What does this bill mean in a practical way for children in this State? When we cut through the legal jargon, what does it mean? The Marriage and Family Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney in a letter to members of this House sets out clearly, unambiguously and in practical terms what the passage of this bill means. As Mr Chris Meney, director of the office, states, it means that a mother and a father will be an unnecessary duplication. It means that intergenerational biological connectivity of fathers with their children will no longer be important and a child will have no right to the complete knowledge of his or her biological heritage. It means that mothers can, for all practical purposes, "father" just as well as men and the needs of children will be secondary to the desires and wants of female adults in a relationship. It means that children will not have a presumed right to the complementary role modelling, care and affection of their biological father.

          Given that the bill provides a female same-sex partner with the legal right to, in effect, adopt a child, it means that it will be discriminatory to refuse this right to homosexual men in a relationship under subsequent legislation. It means that persons and organisations that do not support the right of same-sex adults to acquire parenting rights over their non-biological children could be subject to potential legal sanction. Given the willingness to move from a position that accords special status to or preferential support for the ordinary family structure to the proposed acceptance of a shared parenting arrangement as sufficient, the recognition of polygamous and polyamorous relationships could come under serious consideration. I am indebted to Mr Chris Meney, Director of the Marriage and Family Centre of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, for clearly setting out in practical terms what this bill will mean for children should it become law in this State.

            I also place on record my thanks to the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church, which clearly and unambiguously opposes those provisions of the bill that so adversely affect children. Yet again the Anglican Church in this State has taken a forthright stand for the rights of the child and for the protection of the family as it is traditionally and universally understood. During the debate, supporters of the bill have referred to studies that purport to show that children raised in homosexual households are in no way disadvantaged compared to those raised in heterosexual households. I take issue with that assertion and I will refer to the findings of studies and authorities that come to the opposite conclusion. For example, a study by G. Andersson in 2004 entitled "Divorce—Risk Patterns in Same-Sex Marriages in Norway and Sweden" concluded that lesbian relationships were significantly more unstable than heterosexual marriages, with a break-up rate three times higher in the first eight years of the relationship.

            Dr Sotirios Sarantakos, Associate Professor of Sociology at Charles Sturt University, in his paper entitled "Children Industry Content" published in 1996, found that children raised in families where the biological parents were married to each other achieved higher scores in language ability, mathematics and sport than children raised in cohabitating heterosexual couple families. The study found that children in both groups achieved higher scores than children raised by homosexual partners. A 1994 study entitled the "Health of Our Nation's Children" by M. Coiro, N. Zill and B. Bloom of the National Centre for Health Statistics found that three- and four-year-old children with two biological parents are three times less likely than those in any other type of family—including, by deduction, homosexual families—to have emotional or behavioural problems such as a deficit disorder. A study entitled "Father Absence and Incarceration" by C. Harper and S. McLanahan of the Center for Research on Child Wellbeing found in 2003 that male adolescents in all types of families without a biological father were more likely to be incarcerated than teens from two-parent homes, even when demographic information was taken into consideration. Youths who had never lived with their father had the highest odds of being arrested.

            In a 2008 Swedish review of over 20 studies of father involvement by Anna Sarkadi, Robert Kristiansson, Frank Oberklaid and Sven Bremberg entitled "Father's Involvement in Children's Development Outcomes", clear evidence was deduced to support the positive influences of fathers on the social, behavioural and psychological development of children. A study entitled "Going Further with Fathers: Can Fathers Make a Unique Contribution to the Lives of Their Children", published in a bulletin of the Maxim Institute dated 1 November 2007, concluded that:

                The best available research shows that children with involved and responsive fathers tend to have better psychological wellbeing, fewer behavioural problems, achieve better at school, have higher self-esteem and are more likely to connect well with other children than those who do not experience active father involvement.

            In an important study entitled "Lesbian Mothers and Their Children: A Comparison with Solo Parent Heterosexual Mothers and their Children" contained in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour 1986, an analysis by R. Green of the homosexual community using modestly large samples of children reared by homosexual parents found:

                developmentally important statistically significant differences between children reared by homosexual parents compared to heterosexual parents. For example, children raised by homosexuals were found to have greater parental encouragement for cross-gender behaviour and greater amounts of cross-dressing and cross-gender play role behaviour.

            A study by Golombok and Tasker entitled "Do Parents Influence the Sexual Orientation of their Children", published in Developmental Psychology in 1996, found:

                With respect to actual involvement in same gender sexual relationships, there was a significant difference between groups None of the children from heterosexual families had experienced a lesbian or gay relationship. By contrast, five of the 17 daughters reported to have had at least one same-sex relationship.

            A study published in 2006 in the American Sociological Review found higher rates of homosexuality among children of homosexual households. The mountain of research continues to grow. In 2005, for example, the Spanish Association of Pediatrics concluded that a family nucleus with two fathers or two mothers was clearly more detrimental to children than a family with heterosexual parents. During debate on the bill, mention has been made of studies that purport to establish that children raised in homosexual households are no more at risk in their development than children from heterosexual households. Indeed, it has been suggested that they may be better off in some circumstances. However, those who advocate this assertion seem to have overlooked or ignored an important study entitled "No Basis: What the Studies Don't Tell Us about Same-Sex Parenting" published in 2003 by the Marriage Law Project, Ethics and Public Policy Centre, Washington DC. In this study Dr Robert Lerner and Dr Althea Nagai, experts in quantitative analysis, found fatal research flaws in every single study that concluded in favour of homosexual parenting. Indeed, they found data in those studies that indicated that a homosexual parent may be harmful. In fact, among that material were studies that were relied upon and quoted tonight in this House to support the bill.

            Should there be any lingering doubt that serious deficiencies exist in most studies purporting to show the absence of adverse effects on the great majority of children raised by homosexual parents, members should look at the investigation and analysis by researchers at the University of Southern California that was published in the American Sociological Review in 2001. That research found significant flaws in the majority of such studies and that in fact most of the studies showed a higher degree of detrimental effects on children raised by homosexual rather than by heterosexual parents.

            In specific terms, the bill omits reference to the term "the father and mother" from section 18 (a) of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995 and inserts instead the term "both parents". The bill will amend the Births, Deaths and Marriages Regulation 2006 to remove under section 5 (1) (e) references to "mother of the child" and "father of the child" and replace them with the term "each parent of the child". It will also delete the term "the mother and the father" from regulation 5 (1) (k) of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Regulation 2006 and insert instead the term "either of the parents".

            I will briefly respond to those who argue that supporters of this bill in some way display a deeper humanity, a greater compassion and a more sympathetic understanding of the issues relating to children raised in same-sex households than those who express opposition to the bill. To those people I can only respond that they display an intellectual arrogance of mammoth proportions. They think they have a monopoly on compassion but they do not; they may believe that they display a deeper humanity, but they do not.

            I conclude by again confirming my deeply held view that the changes to the existing law contained in this bill severely undermine the position of the father in a number of circumstances and will place many children in a position of disadvantage. In the circumstances, and as I have indicated earlier, I oppose this bill in its current form and will support amendments to be moved by the Hon. Charlie Lynn and Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile.

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