Lesbian and gay families are finding a voice!

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Ruth McNair. Photo: Peter Hannaford.

“I went to New York last year and had the amazing opportunity to see where the Stonewall Riots happened. I want to draw some parallels with the current fight around gay families and Stonewall. Gay and lesbian families have existed for a long time privately. But there is now an increasing amount of public tension about our family formations. We are now finally fighting back. Like those at Stonewall, we are sick of being silent.

The 1969 term ‘gay pride’ is now part of our language. But what does gay pride mean? It means three things — people should be proud of who they are, sexual diversity is a gift and sexual orientation is not a choice. People cannot be altered. These are the three premises of gay pride. We now also have a sense of gay and lesbian family pride. And what we are seeing is a backlash by legislators, policy makers, church leaders who are saying that we should not exist in this form.

But gay and lesbian families are becoming more public and taking public spaces. We are appearing on Play School, we are getting letters published occasionally in the Herald Sun. People are starting to notice, and this is creating a reaction. There is more visibility which draws opposition, which promotes visibility, which draws further opposition. This is the way things have happened in various liberation movements.

Lesbian and gay families are the last battleground for equality. The Prime Minister has said a number of times that he ‘tolerates’ lesbian and gay relationships but that he will not tolerate them when children are involved. There is a line drawn in the sand between lifestyle and children.

The Prime Minister argues that the married family is the ‘normal’ or ‘real’ family and that it is the only way to go. But he puts forward no evidence to back this up. Despite his assertions, 31% of Australian children were born outside marriage in 2001.

We are starting to be much more visible. The Play School segment happened because some lesbian mums contacted the producers and said “we haven’t seen any lesbian parenting on your show.”

We are also developing a collective political voice through organisations like the Fertility Access Rights (FAR) lobby. FAR is submitting recommendations to the Law Reform Commission. We are basing these on some key principles. One is complete equality under the law — access to reproductive services, access to adoption and parenting rights should be equal, regardless of sexuality. If it is not equal, this disadvantages the children. We argue that lesbian, gay and single-parent families are legitimate ways to raise children. Eligibility to reproductive services should not be based on sexuality or marital status but on a person being unlikely to become pregnant any other way. We advocate the legal recognition of the parenting status of all parents, regardless of their biological connectedness to the child. Our final message to the skeptics who have so many reasons why we should not exist is that we do exist! We are finding our voice. Our children are turning out well. We are contributing to social change.”

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