Attendees of her recent media conference on same-sex adoption might have been forgiven for mistaking the Premier of NSW, Kristina Keneally, for the Premier of No-Man’s Land.
Attempting to explain how she, a practising Catholic, could support independent MP Clover Moore’s private member’s bill to allow same-sex couples to adopt children in NSW, Premier Keneally proffered a politically-correct message with all the substance of a bag of fairy floss.
According to the Premier, a Christian may support same-sex adoption for the simple reason that the Gospels are bereft of any reference to same-sex relationships. What’s more, Scriptures prohibit all kinds of things which modern society embraces, including the charging of interest on loans. What we modern Christians must do is interpret Scripture according to prevailing community values.
I will leave it for the theologians to provide a thorough rebuttal of Mrs Keneally’s laissez-faire theology. Suffice it to say that for those members of the community who take their Christian faith seriously, the Premier’s simplistic ruminations on morality and same-sex issues are insulting and infuriating. All the more so for those of Mrs Keneally’s colleagues who intend to oppose same-sex adoption for reasons of conscience.
It is disappointing that a Christian of such political prominence should presume to speak so erroneously, and yet with such apparent authority, on the moral particulars of her professed faith.
The (Catholic) auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Julian Porteous, was anything but impressed by the proposed new laws. He declared that the Catholic Church harbours “grave reservations” on the issue of same-sex adoption (The Catholic Weekly, July 4, 2010).
The Premier’s populist pitch, as well as attracting the ire of Christians, has only served to pique the vigilance of those passionate proponents of a strictly secular public square.
Immediately following Mrs Keneally’s Scripture-quoting press call, NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon issued a statement condemning the Premier’s use of the Bible to justify her support for same-sex adoption. According to Ms Rhiannon, “extending adoption rights to people, regardless of their sexuality, is a sensible reform in line with international, federal and state human rights laws. The Bible should have no bearing on the issue”.
While the formidable Christian population of NSW might take umbrage with Ms Rhiannon’s flippant dismissal of the Bible, equally worrying is Ms Rhiannon’s admission that the Moore bill is designed to deliver some kind of “adoption right” to same-sex couples.
Such reasoning in entirely incompatible with the very ethos of adoption law in NSW. Section 8(c) of the Adoption Act 2000 (NSW) states unequivocally that “no adult has a right to adopt a child”.
The fundamental purpose of adoption is not to satisfy the desire of adults to become parents. Rather it is to serve the best interests of children whose parents are unable to care for them.
Serving the child’s best interests includes ensuring that the child is placed in a family environment in which his or her needs will be adequately met. However, fully serving the child’s best interests must also include providing the adopted child with an opportunity to experience that which they have been denied by circumstance: the love of both a mother and a father. Wherever we, as a community, are capable of providing such, surely it would be a grave omission not to do so.
Unfortunately, the right of the adopted child to experience the love of a mother and a father has, to this point, been overlooked in any discussion of the Moore bill. It is hoped that, in the coming months, the Premier will engage in the issue with greater intellectual rigour than has been evident thus far.
The bill is expected to be debated when parliament next sits in August this year. Premier Keneally has committed to allowing a conscience vote for Labor MPs, a commitment since matched by Liberal Party leader Barry O’Farrell. At this stage it is unclear how many MPs would vote for the Moore bill, although there appears to be significant support on both sides of parliament.
Some MPs, such as the National Party member for the NSW north-coast seat of Tweed, Geoff Provest, have cited community concerns over same-sex adoption as a reason for opposing the bill. Mr Provest has said, “It’s a difficult subject, but it’s not generally supported” (Tweed Daily News, July 8, 2010).
Given the controversial nature of same-sex adoption in the community, and with an election looming early next year, it may be that a conscience vote for both major parties will result in substantial opposition to the Moore bill.
However, given the lack of depth which has characterised the debate thus far, it is incumbent upon the constituents of NSW, and upon all interested parties, to ensure the MPs are fully briefed on what is a gravely important matter for future generations of adopted children in this country.
Tim Cannon works as a research officer with the Australian Family Association.