Ian O'Doherty

Friday 1 August 2014

Opposing gay adoption doesn't make you a bigot

Published 23/01/2014|02:30

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Alan Shatter

Here's a little story that came to mind yesterday while I was perusing Alan Shatter's comments at the Marriage Equality convention.

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Back in the day, I was friendly with a gay couple who looked after a teenage boy. The kid came from a typically horrible dysfunctional background. He had been in and out of care and was beginning to dabble in smack. In short, he was well on his way to becoming another statistic, fodder for either Mountjoy or Mount Jerome and a menace to everyone else in between.

However, under the unofficial guidance of my two friends, he began to get his head together and the more time he spent with them the more he began to see that there was more to life than hanging off a needle.

His parents were a different matter, however. Astonishingly unaware of their own repeated betrayals of their son, they were livid when they discovered that their son was staying with "those queers". Let him become a junkie, but God forbid he catches The Gay.

Threats were made and the last I heard, the two guys were living abroad – and the hostility and violence they had encountered for trying to do the right thing by a kid was one of the reasons they left.

Now, as I said, that's just an old story; an anecdote about two good guys who paid the price for trying to do the right thing. It's not scientific and it's not going to appear in any academic report, but it was their life. So does this mean that I now automatically support Alan Shatter's stated intention to open up adoption to gay couples? No, not necessarily – but it goes one hell of a long way towards convincing me that it is the right thing to do.

That's because, like everybody else, I form opinions based on experiences and in my experience I saw two men who could improve someone's life slipping through a system that could have used them.

But would it have been any different if both of my old friends had been terrible guardians who allowed their young charge to run astray?

Would that have convinced me forever that gay adoption was a terrible idea? No, because that would have been stupid. After all, the only dysfunctional, toxic relationship in that particular equation was what we laughably call the traditional, nuclear family. And on that basis, if you're going to oppose gay adoption on the grounds of child protection or fears that they will be abused, then you might as well ban families, full stop.

But that doesn't mean that I can't understand why people have an objection to it and, unlike so many other positions that are discriminatory, it's not necessarily motivated by homophobia.

Because the way the debate has been framed has made it appear that anyone who thinks it is best if a kid is brought up by a man and a woman is a Bible-bashing fundamentalist who hates gay people; a ridiculously antagonistic approach that immediately alienates anybody who has even the mildest question about the issue.

It's not homophobic to think that an ideal world would see a child raised by a father and a mother. But we don't live in an ideal world and plenty of single people raise a child on their own. So, as the minister points out: "It makes no logical sense, in circumstances in which an individual who is gay can individually adopt, and that a couple in a civil partnership should not be able to adopt."

And this, of course, brought out the conservative fundamentalists – as opposed to the liberal fundamentalists – on the other side and the whole argument, as happened on the Indo website yesterday, once again descends into claims and counter claims about which system is better, with the odd demented detour into nonsensical arguments about paedophilia and the Catholic Church.

So, as someone who is guardedly pro gay adoption but can see why some people are reluctant to go down that road, what do I have to say to either side?

Well, nothing, they're not going to change their mind.

But maybe if people listened to what the kids involved actually had to say then something might be learned.

That would seem as good a place to start as any other.

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE...

So, young Irish couple, Leighann Riordan and her fiancé Graham O'Connor are the latest people to fall victim to the Garth Brooks mania that has descended upon the country like a Stetson-wearing mass psychosis.

The pair's plans for their big day, on July 25, coincide with one of his shows in Croke Park and up to 40 guests have warned the bride-to-be that they are going to skip the wedding and go to the gig instead.

To counter this rather unfriendly exodus from her nuptials, she now jokes that she is planning a Garth Brooks-themed wedding.

So, one way or the other – that's at least 40 people who won't be attending, then...

NOW WE CAN UNDERSTAND THEM

Seamus Hanratty has written The Culchie Dictionary in an attempt to help the rest of us grasp what they mean. I've three copies for the first people to email the usual address.

Samples can be found on The Culchie Dictionary Facebook page.

Irish Independent

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