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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 11:56 GMT
Should gay and unmarried couples adopt?
MPs have voted to allow unmarried heterosexual and gay couples to adopt children, overturning opposition from peers to the law change.
The issue has divided the Conservative Party after Iain Duncan Smith ordered Tory MPs to oppose the change to adoption rules or stay away from the vote.
The stance prompted shadow cabinet minister John Bercow to resign and led about eight Conservative MPs to defy party whips and back the change.
Among them was Michael Portillo who criticised his party's line saying Mr Duncan Smith's stance on adoption was at odds with his promise to bring the Tories more in line with the modern world.
But with 5,000 children awaiting adoption, the pool of prospective parents needs to be widened and couples should be assessed individually for the endurance of their relationships, says Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement Jones.
Do you agree that the Tory position puts children first? Do you think co-habiting couples should be ruled out of adopting children? With divorce rates increasing, will the focus on married parents soon be outdated?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
There is no reason why unmarried couple should not be allowed to adopt children providing they have a secure lifestyle and are financially able to care for the child. Gays should not be allowed to adopt, the child has no choice in the relationship he enters and the stigma he would have to suffer at school and from his peers would lead to a lifetime of insecurity. Whilst I am opposed to discrimination against gays they must accept their sexuality is not "normal" and whilst they should not be vilified for this the example they would set to innocent children gives the wrong message.
Joanne Foley, Scotland
Good for Mr. Bercow for sticking to his guns. Gay couples have proven that they make fine parents, and they deserve the right to be equal parents. There are far too many children who need to be adopted to get caught up in this ridiculous homophobia.
No I do not think that gay or unmarried couples should be able to adopt children. The PC machine pushes these stories to fit its own agenda while truth is suppressed because it makes us uncomfortable. The truth is family works at its best where children have the security, comfort and balance of heterosexual parents in a relationship sealed in marriage.
Nobody could be more committed to each other and more loving than my partner and myself. Our same-sex relationship is, after over four years, so much stronger than the marriages of many of our heterosexual counterparts. We want to adopt together, and it is a nonsense that a single gay man can do so but, thanks to the Lords at present, a gay couple cannot. We are waiting to give a child a loving and nurturing home, free from abuse or fear and with every chance of a good education and future. We'll never understand the hatred and prejudice our love for each other engenders in some, thankfully fewer and fewer, people.
If we lived in a totally tolerant society, I would have no problem with this, but we don't. These children have already been through so much that to put them in a family situation which could lead to them being bullied, singled out or alienated by their own peer group is not acceptable. Society need to change before this can work. Politicians need to think about the children not the financial savings they would get or being politically correct at children's expense.
No, gay couples should not be allowed to adopt. Children need to be brought up in a stable framework with a reference point to what is "normal". While I don't care what gay men and women do in private and I have gay friends it is still too confusing for the child.
On the subject of unmarried couples, the evidence is there that married relationships are more stable. People complain that we don't promote marriage but you can't promote one without pointing out that the other is less desirable. If people are sufficiently "committed" Sophie that they want to adopt a child then why are they not willing to get married? I would argue that they are not sufficiently committed. Having said that I don't think there should be an outright ban, perhaps just the need for better evidence on the basis that people like Eileen are right, better a loving but unmarried couple than in care.
As far as I'm concerned, as long as a relationship is stable it shouldn't matter whether it is a heterosexual or homosexual one. Surely it is better for a child to be brought up in a stable, loving environment than to be stuck in a children's home. Most of the arguments against the scheme seem to be based more on anti-gay rhetoric than any concern for children.
Iain Duncan Smiths comment that couples "serious" about adoption can always get married reveals his main concern. His conservative Christian morality has no rational grounds and no place in a secular, liberal society. Do couples suddenly become a better bet as parents on signing a marriage certificate?
Jack Delawney, London, UK
Surely we also need to look at why so many heterosexual couples are not coming forward to adopt.
IDS is right: unmarried couples are proven more likely to split up and the law is not clear with regard to gay couples on who has the legal right to pay for and care for the child. Foster children already have gone through too much upheaval - do they really need yet more rejection or instability? It's a child we're talking about, not a dog.
What children need is a loving stable environment. That can be provided by most couples - including gay and single people. As the recent trend in divorce rates shows a piece of paper does not make a relationship stable, only love and commitment can do that - these are the things that make children well rounded and secure.
Sean Hammon, Belgium/South Africa
I can't say I'd be overjoyed to find I was the adopted dependent of an unmarried, homosexual couple. On that basis alone I'd go along with Iain Duncan Smith's stance on the issue.
You need a mum and a dad. If a child is brought up by gay parents, would that child then be pressured to become gay, due to the biased upbringing of their parents?
On average unmarried couples stay together for shorter periods than married couples. This is probably true - but irrelevant to this debate. Couples who go for adoption are clearly not representative. How does the government assess whether an adoption was successful or unsuccessful? Do people adopted by married couples end up paying more taxes? Do they have less chance of going to prison?
Gays can adopt, but a gay couple cannot jointly adopt, which reduces the stability of the family and acts against the welfare of a child. If an adopted parent dies then the other 'parent' is left holding a baby that is not technically theirs. The Tories should ask why cohabiting gay and straight couples are not as secure as married ones. Is it because the problems that only unmarried couples face help to erode the family unit?
I think the Tory position is spot on. Is marriage such a small price to pay to adopt a child? As for gay couples I think children need both a male and female role model when growing up and dodging school bullies is hard enough without having two dads!
I see that the Conservatives are again describing homosexuality as a "lifestyle choice". Are they and their supporters really still of the belief that everyone can choose their sexuality?
This isn't about longevity of relationships; it's about what message you want to give to children, the future of our society. The laws of society have developed over thousands of years, and we're currently breaking all traditional taboos. If the future for this country is a society without marriage then we're on the brink of social chaos. Children should not be used to score political points.
I think that John Bercow was right to resign in protest. This shows the Tories in their true light: as a party with attitudes that are mired in the nineteenth century.
It should be based on the quality and stability of the individuals - not their married status and sexuality. Given that nearly all paedophiles are heterosexual, married men I think an awful lot of children might actually be a lot safer - and happier than living in some institution.
David Patrick, UK
We should put children first by allowing them to be adopted by committed, caring unmarried couples, rather than having to stay in local authority care.
Gay couples should not under any circumstances be allowed to adopt children. A gay couple's relationship with one another is their own business, however their influence on a new life should not be tolerated, and the child's mind in later life would most probably be adversely affected.
The main reason I've heard against gay adoption is that this will lead to the child also being gay. Why then are most gay people the product of a heterosexual family?
Yes, yes, yes, anything is better for children than being in care, where nobody cares!
A child is far less likely to be abused with loving people who have gone through the adoption procedure than in care - historical evidence will support this!
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