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Sep 14, 2010

Rundle: against male same-sex couple adoption

To not have a father, because they were distant or absent from the start by choice is a sad thing for most kids. To not have a mother for the same reason seems somehow abominable.


God, oh God, something like a quarter of the world still lacks access to running water, basic medical care, and 2000 calories a day. So in the scheme of things, the passage of the NSW adoption Bill 46-44, is a small matter.

Yet, on the other hand of course, it isn’t. It represents an enormous change in our understanding of what rules and conditions society should set. Furthermore, it’s an issue that’s not easily compared or assimilated to others.

Legalisation of homosexuality, equal financial, legal, etc, status for same-sex partners, etc, — these days no one, save for religiously based conservatives could have any objection to these. And the vast majority of liberal-minded people believe that the issue of adoption and child-raising can be assimilated to this larger question.

The trouble is that really, the issue isn’t and can’t be constructed as a mere extension of consenting rights. Fundamental questions have to be asked about a fairly dramatic socio-legal change — and reflection on that would, I suggest, lead one to conclude that same-sex adoption — specifically male-couple adoption — should not be legalised.

Typically, pro and con sides of the debate square off over complementarity. A child, they argue, is better off with a mother and father. The stronger version is that a child has a right to a mother and father, a right grounded in biology.

The pro-faction disputes any evidence that a biological couple, or an adoptive replica of one, provide better outcomes, and tend to take a “social constructionist” view — that same-sex parenting is a liberation of general parts of life — love, care, discipline, etc — that were hitherto assumed to be either masculine or feminine in purview.

Both the “rights” argument and the “social constructionist” one are full of merconium.

To take the “rights” one first. You have to be seriously ignorant to think that the biological couple is the standard unit of parenting. Pre-cultural humans appear to have lived in multifamily bands, and the “parental unit” in many traditional “kinship” societies usually consisted of a woman and her maternal brother.

Ancient societies overwhelmingly turned child-raising over to groups of women, and feudal and early-modern (i.e. post-1400) societies tended to exchange children between mothers and grandmothers, sisters and cousins, convents and other institutions, with great fluidity, until the state took over the adoption process in the 19th century. And there are a few societies in which the concept of a father more or less has no meaning altogether.

That variety of child-raising possibilities led some to argue that parenthood itself is purely a social construction. But that’s where the social constructionist model runs out, for the idea of complementarity leads some to assume a type of equality between the roles of father and mother, which isn’t the case. They’re obviously asymmetrical. The father is overwhelmingly a culture role, the mother — and the mother-child bond — is one that lies on the boundary between culture and biology.

That shouldn’t be necessary to point out, but the times dictate that it is. We’re a biological species, with an unusual degree of infant dependency, and species reproduction has depended on the sustained bond of a feeding mother and infant. It would be bloody unusual if an infant were not oriented to the female body in a pretty hard-wired and powerful way. It would be doubly unusual if the sustained existence of that bond did not lie at the root of psychic development.

“There’s no such thing as an infant,” the great psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott said, meaning that for untold millennia, any surviving infant had to have a feeding woman — biological mother or not — pretty close to hand. It seems undeniable that a predisposition to seek, to hold, to cling to the specifically female body is part of our given nature.

I cannot see how that reasonable assumption does not become centrally relevant to the question of same-sex adoption — and how it cannot but make clear that we are dealing with two radically different cases in same-sex female and same-sex male adoption. Women have always raised children collectively, and the sleeping arrangements are irrelevant at the crucial stage I’m talking about.

But to deprive a child of a figure it can call a mother, a female with whom it has had a pre-linguistic, bodily relationship, that strikes me as an utterly different type of act, a wrong against the child — and in that respect same-sex male adoption should be ruled beyond the bounds of what we permit culturally and legally.

When I advance this case to, well, y’know, the Tsiolkas BBQ crowd, rather than the John Howard BBQ crowd, the response is usually one of first incomprehension, then ridicule. The incomprehension is usually a gut response to the proposition that the structure of existence may mean that there’s a gap between what we want and what’s best for someone else, even when we’re all good people who recycle and carbon-offset. The ridicule comes when the forebrain realises this might serve as a challenge to that illusion and deploys the social constructionist idea that human beings are infinitely malleable, abstractable, transformable, etc.

This is ’80s nonsense, of course, but more interestingly the belief is contradicted by most of the shelf of parenting books people usually have above their Jim Jarmusch DVD collection. For increasingly parenting books are filled with the findings of neurology, biology, behavioural studies that suggest exactly how hard-wired children are, in terms of fundamental psychic categories.

Does that mean men should not be involved in infant parenting? Of course not. Does it mean that the argument about the limited malleability of infant development is certain? Of course not. Does it mean that some children might have terrible and destructive mothers they’d be better off without? Of course not. Nor does it suggest that every other issue has been settled on the side of consent. Should we really have sperm banks at all, regardless of who uses them? Or should we abolish them, and discontinue industrialised anonymous fatherhood altogether? And so on.

But what the argument above does suggests is this: serving the best interest of the child — always the aim of child-centred policy — means in this case erring on the side of prudence, and cultural and biological inheritance. Abhorrence or shock is never sufficient moral argument, but it is sometimes a clue to a categorical difference we should heed. To not have a father, because they were distant or absent from the start by choice is a sad thing for most kids. To not have a mother for the same reason seems somehow abominable, the measure of adult desires that cannot be squared with the universe, or the being of children.


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72 thoughts on “Rundle: against male same-sex couple adoption

  1. Carol Bruce

    Thank you Guy for a thought provoking article. Obviously very well researched. It certainly made me stop and think this scenario through. I guess people are all for equality etc, but sometimes it is necessary to look at the big picture. Well done.

  2. Gareth Perkins

    Crikey, you’ve lost me.

  3. reb of Hobart

    Wow! What a load of bollocks thinly disguised as intellectual pontificating.

    Sure, who wouldn’t disagree that the ideal upbringing for a new born infant is with both biological parents providing that they are both capable of providing a loving supportive environment for the baby concerned.

    The reality is that there are many children languishing in temporary care, often being moved from foster home to foster home and subject to physical, psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of unfit step-parents, relatives or friends of relatives.

    Would these children not benefit from a more supportive and loving environment that could be provided by a couple of the same gender, rather than being abused and shoved from pillar to post in a dysfunctional hetero household or as wards of the State?

    Honestly, I usually enjoy reading your articles, but your ignorance on this issue leaves me gobsmacked.

  4. amy c

    Look, I ususally love Rundle but this struck me as anything but well-researched.
    Is there any evidence for any vitally important connection between mother and baby besides for breastfeeding (which the majority of women don’t do for anywhere near long enough anyway)?
    And even if there was, is there any evidence at all that this has any long-lasting effects on the child, or any effects at all the child will even remember?
    This just strikes me as a stongly-held opinion of Rundle’s only very loosely backed up by some theory. An opinion that, if wrong, is extremely hurtful to many people. TO be honest I’m kind of disappointed.

  5. Jim Reiher

    Are you saying then at a certain age, kids could then be adopted by same sex male couples? Is this argument you are using, just for babies? Or to the age of no more breast feeding?

    Also: realistically… I belive it takes about 12 years to actually adopt in Australia (is that still the case?) By allowing male or female same sex couples to adopt in NSW, does that mean that none actually will adopt till 2022? Do they just go to the end of the list? (I would imagine so… otherwise that would be an act of queue jumping, and we all know how incidious that is).

  6. New Cassandra

    Good argument Guy but it has been totally disproved by the gay couple in Modern Family. One of the “fathers” just has to be fat and cuddly.
    TV never lies.

  7. John

    Rundle, you’ve dropped your bundle!
    The majority of male-male couple adoptions will be of known children and not necessarily what you would describe as infants.
    Some known children will be the biological children of one of the men.
    Other known children will often be older and difficult foster children whom the men have successfully fostered for a couple of years at least.
    The other likely scenarios are adoption of relatives such as nieces and nephews who have been orphaned.
    Despite your prejudice against the law being drafted in as close to an anti-discriminatory fashion as was politically possible, there will still be a queue for the preferred perfect darling newborn adoptions, and the male-male couples will be at the back of the queue. They might be considered for the babies who none of the other couples want. You know, the sick and damaged ones. They won’t even get a ticket number for overseas adoptions!
    The only likely new born adoptees will be by private surrogate arrangemnets. You know, where the men jerk off into a jar and a willing women impregnates herself and then hands back the baby.
    Rundle, why don’t you read up on it before you pontificate?

  8. Tank

    Sorry Guy, doesn’t fly, for a few reasons.

    The first is, as others point out – that you’re talking about infants, and infant adoptions make up a tiny, tiny percentage of total adoptions. A lot of adoptions are of much older children, whereby the kinds of issues you raise about infant-mother bonding and such ceases to apply. In any event, the work that adoption agencies do to match parents to children is extremely detailed. In all cases, the best interests of the child are considered. I feel very confident that an adoption agency could decide that it may not be in the best interests of a particular child that they go to a male same-sex couple – there is no need to blanketly ban all male same-sex couples.

    Your argument also overlooks the fact that the essential baby-female mother bond you’re talking about is broken already for children who are up for adoption. Their birth mother who they bonded with (or in many cases didn’t bond with) is already long gone, and I suspect it would be a long bow to draw to say that they would establish a new bond of equal importance and significance with another female figure. It is important that the child develop strong attachment relationships, but the gender of who the attach too later in their young lives is unimportant.

    The other problem I have with this argument is that it is constructed based on essentialist gender notions. How are you constructing the all important female/mother figure you say each child needs? Could a transwoman be that mother? Or could a transman, given his XX chromosomes? Where would an intersex person fit? The second you realise that actually the world doesn’t neatly divide up into ‘male’ and ‘female’, is the second this whole argument of yours runs into some troubles.

    Finally – same-sex adoption (including male same-sex adoption) has been legal in WA since 2002.
    No fundamental or seismic socio-legal shifts have occured.

  9. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    But to deprive a child of a figure it can call a mother, a female with whom it has had a pre-linguistic, bodily relationship, that strikes me as an utterly different type of act, a wrong against the child — and in that respect same-s-x male adoption should be ruled beyond the bounds of what we permit culturally and legally.

    I’ve known quite a few people who’ve been deprived of their mothers at an early age – or in my wife’s case, during labor. Yet most have grown up to be well adjusted individuals. Some people have to manage without a mother, and find they can.

  10. syzygium

    Guy, I generally love your stuff but I think you should have left this one at the first paragraph to be honest. First, I don’t know what you mean by “pre-cultural” but there are NO pre-cultural human societies. Second, where do you get a divide between what is “cultural” and what is “biological” – are fathers not equally capable of providing love and affection? What is the magic mother’s mojo that you speak of? Is there any evidence of poorer outcomes from single-parent fathers as opposed to single-parent mothers, and is a two-father household better or worse than a single-parent household (or a mother-father or mother-mother household)? Third, the child care books on my bookshelf don’t cut it as a reference.

    If this were a student’s paper I’d give it low marks. As it is I suggest you go back and do some research before speaking out – start with Margaret Mead’s Sex and Temperament.

  11. Jonathan Maddox

    Wonderful writing.

    I think it would be great to see some serious research into any actual negative consequences for children thus raised in the absence of a mother-figure.

    There does seem to be some evidence that having a mother around does help in child development.

    There’s a cute summary here : http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/mother-absence.html

    I accept this as a fairly overwhelming statistical fact in society as-it-is-and-has-been, but I’m not at all convinced that it isn’t a consequence of traditional constructed and learned gender roles. It’s ok to say children tend not to do so well without a mother around.

    But it’s another thing altogether to say it’s child abuse to let a man (or pair of men) raise a child in the absence of a mother. I would not go that far. Such kids may not always, statistically, do as well as kids raised by their mothers, but they can do ok and some do very well.

    Dads *can* do ok. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

  12. Jonathan Maddox

    (posting again without the link, cos I don’t *want* my comment to await moderation!)

    Also — to all the other posters who defend dads and decry Rundle — Rundle has a point. There is solid evidence that kids do better when raised by their own mothers, single or not, rather than by their fathers with or without a stepmother. Stepmothers don’t hurt or improve results. Stepfathers don’t bring them down except in the case of serial relationship breakdowns.

    @Rundle : Wonderful writing.

    I think it would be great to see some serious research into any actual negative consequences for children thus raised by caring father figures alone in the absence of any mother-figure, as compared with other children raised in the absence of their own mothers.

    There is evidence that having a mother (one’s own mother) around does help in child development.

    There are cute summaries online, you can find them by googling or (one of them) by waiting for my original comment to pass moderation.

    I accept this as a fairly overwhelming statistical fact in society as-it-is-and-has-been, but I’m not at all convinced that it isn’t a consequence of traditional constructed and learned gender roles. It’s ok to say children tend not to do so well without a mother around.

    But it’s another thing altogether to say it’s child abuse to let a man (or pair of men) raise a child in the absence of a mother. I would not go that far. Such kids may not always, statistically, do as well as kids raised by their mothers, but they can do ok and some do very well.

    Dads *can* do ok. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

  13. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Jim, John and Tank – each of you write about adoption as if it is a common, routine process across Australia. I’m pretty sure there are less than a hundred (100) adoptions per year throughout Australia at the moment. It is now a quite rare event. Sure Jim, it is a long-winded process, mostly ending in the adoption not actually taking place.
    I enjoyed Guy Rundle’s rather daring foray into this little-known world. My one criticism is the lack of any up-to-date statistics which would have given provided a modicum of background.

  14. seanbedlam@gmail.com

    What I like about Guy’s writing is he chews over received wisdom to make sure he understands it. If he arrives at a different conclusion in the process he’s brave enough to say so out loud. Wish I could say the same about most other writers in Oz.

  15. kate

    It is only after trawling through all the reams of psuedo-intellectuall bollocks that the truth finally shines through in the very last paragraph:

    ” Abhorrence or shock is never sufficient moral argument, but … ”

    Your argument has no substance, Guy. None. I am happy to go through paragraph by paragraph (as others have done) and explain why, but what it really boils down to is “eeeuw, I don’t like it, it shouldn’t be allowed”.

    And as you admit, this is no basis for moral judgment on other people’s lives.

  16. Andrew Le Clercq

    Don’t think so Guy. Where do you draw the line? If a child is living in a male same-s-x couple home and one is the child’s natural father, should the child be forcibly removed and bunged in foster care?

    If a child adopted into a male same-s-x couple houshold is “wrong” to you, ergo all male same-s-x couple households must be “wrong”, “flawed”, “sub-optimal” or whatever if a child is living there.

  17. reb of Hobart

    Couldn’t agree more Kate…

    A load of unadulterated, pretentious crap….

    “The pro-faction disputes any evidence that a biological couple, or an adoptive replica of one, provide better outcomes, and tend to take a “social constructionist” view — that same-s-x parenting is a liberation of general parts of life — love, care, discipline, etc — that were hitherto assumed to be either masculine or feminine in purview.”

    Oh for f**k’s sake, just f**k off!


  18. Broggly

    Johnathon, while he does have a point you refuted it right away with the bit about how “Stepmothers don’t hurt or improve results.” If having a woman around who’s not the actual mother has no effect on the child either way, then it would seem male same sex couples should be no worse off than any other adoptive parents.

  19. Elizabeth

    I agree with Rundle! There is a big difference when a woman nurtures a child than males/males or female/female. We should never distort God’s plan of creation of man and woman to multiply and have dominion over the earth. There are so many male couples have been depressed over their relationships and are in therapy. If the relationship breaks up, how are they going to handle the adopted child’s needs? Are they going to have a custodial battle? Or dump the child in the end to a foster home. There is no easy answer to this dilemma!

    Yes, there are times that a child have had to live with their family member who might have been a female due to unforeseen circumstances. This relationship is considered as a family unit and there is great trust, happiness, and protection.

  20. reb of Hobart

    Oh well said Elizabeth… How remiss of me to overlook “God’s plan of creation of man and woman to multiply and have dominion over the earth.”

    Why didn’t Guy mention that before?

    “There are so many male couples have been depressed over their relationships and are in therapy.”

    Yes, it’s the logical conclusion of “those sorts of relationships” eh?

  21. Matthew

    I know Guy Rundle likes to think he’s ‘edgy’ and ‘cool’ and use uncommon words to show off how clever he his – what a writer! – however, he’d be well advised to learn to spell them. In this case, “merconium” is actually spelled “meconium”, if, indeed, he was trying to (cleverly) say that both arguments are full sh-t.

  22. kate

    @Elizabeth “God’s plan of creation of man and woman to multiply and have dominion over the earth”.

    Oh well that’s just lovely. How come God can get his plan for dominion over the earth through council, and I can’t even get a second story renovation approved?

    Mutter mutter mutter, it’s discrimination, I tells ya…

  23. reb of Hobart

    I won’t be renewing my subscription to crikey after reading this crap.

  24. kate

    Oh come on Reb. Yes, this article is clearly crap, but it does provide a good opportunity to express our views, and it’s far outnumbered by the useful/interesting/quirky/informative articles. It would be boring if you only read what you agreed with, no?

  25. Michael R James

    Matthew, correct and for once I knew this word:
    meconium /me·co·ni·um/ (mĭ-ko´ne-um) dark green mucilaginous material in the intestine of the full-term fetus. me·co·ni·um (m -k n – m) …

    A PhD student of mine in Oxford was in a rock band called Meconium (he was a big fan of a rather more famous Oxford band, Radiohead. I reckon the name is very Tom Yorke. And in a way it would take me a book to describe, very Oxfordian.)

    On this argument I am not sure I have a strong opinion but when I read of Elizabeth’s/God’s plan, meconium does come to mind followed by revulsion. Let’s keep God (and Elizabeth) out of it.

  26. reb of Hobart

    “It would be boring if you only read what you agreed with, no?”

    Yes agreed, but if I want to read stuff I don’t agree with, I’ve got The Australian for that…

    But there’s just so much fundamentally wrong with this “editorial” it beggars belief.

    It’s just pretentious twaddle. I amazed that it got past the editor.

    I will miss First Dog on the Moon though…… 😉

  27. Paul Hodgson

    I’m hijacking hubby’s log-in here because I am compelled (for the first time) to comment on a Crikey article.

    Guy – I love your work, really I do……..usually. This one is your opinion, and that’s fine – you’re entitled to it. But you are so, so, so wrong it beggars belief.

    I will never understand how having the capacity and the motivation to love, nurture and grow a child is EVER a bad thing. As a mum of three, I know the hard work that child-rearing is. I also know the overwhelming love and joy that our children bring to our lives and can’t fathom any government telling someone they can’t have that just because of who they love.

    Children who are loved know it to the core of their being. Love is good.


  28. sparky

    Some hijacks are good Nicole. C’mon Reb, you would can your sub because of one article ? Guy was patently expressing an opinion, without much if any research, but matey you have to read things that you don’t agree with. Otherwise you may as well write your own copy, it is the only way you’ll be satisfied.

  29. Andrew Le Clercq

    Don’t go Reb. One of the strengths of Crikey is we the readers ability to (usually) instantly comment of each article – try that at News Ltd, Fairfax or even Auntie and you will be “moderated” to oblivion.

    Another thing that makes Crikey worthwhile is the breadth of opinion. At times the commentary ranges from dullards like John Pasquarelli and David Flint to Christine Milne, Greg Barns and (a couple of times) boring lefties like me.

    Sometimes I agree with Rundle. This time I disagree with him. But that is the strength of Crikey. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater…

  30. John james

    @Kate ” Your argument has no substance..”

    Why am I not surprised that an apologist for the killing of unborn children thinks kids are fine separated, intentionally, from their mothers.
    Talk about the pot calling the kettle…

  31. oldsalt

    Guy has stimulated the bile ducts yet again resulting in a series of responses reminiscent of Orwell’s “two minute hate sessions.” He provides a great service of catharsis for the more excitable among our Crikey readership.
    Not having any particular stake in the argument I found the piece, as with most of Guy’s work, interesting and thought provoking. It is not a proviso of my subscription that I have to agree with him.
    Confusion to the literalists!

  32. Liz45

    In NSW there are only about 20 newborn babies per year who are available for adoption. At this time, there’s approximately 1500 children who are being fostered by same sex couples – this Legislation now makes it possible for those people to legally adopt these children if all other requirements etc are fulfilled. At present there is no Law against one gay or lesbian person adopting a child – but not a couple! This Legislation will correct that injustice. Both the parents will have legal rights and responsibilities and the child will benefit accordingly.

    There are lots of different types of families in Australia. There are many sole parents(usually women)who are raising kids alone – in many cases, they were in what they believed to be permanent relationships, many breaking up due to violence – either to the women the kids or both. The most important thing for kids is to be loved; to have a stable, warm and supportive environment in which to live a full and rich life – this can be provided by people – some in same sex relationships; some as a mixed couple; some as sole parent, either male or female, and these kids flourish and thrive in these environments. In all studies, kids haven’t shown any negatives due to same sex parents – the same applies to kids who are raised by a sole parent. There are lots of places where kids can have access to other people of both sexes – they don’t necessarily have to be living with them!

    As to the ‘natural order of things’? There’s lots of kids who’ve grown up in mixed ‘ideal’ relationships and have been either physically or sexually abused by their biological father or other family relative or friend – the overwhelming majority are ‘straight’ men. The churches attitude is hypocritical in the extreme – the recent report on child sexual abuse of kids by priests in Belgium maintains, that kids were abused in every parish, some were only infants when the abuse started???Churches don’t have the right to take the high moral ground on this issue!

    If we’re all capable of showing love; of being responsible people and aware of the needs of children, we’re all capable of establishing a great environment for a child to grow in – in every facet of their life! Same sex couples are already providing homes just like this, now!

  33. Dogs breakfast

    Firstly, as one contributor points out, the point is largely moot. The number of adoptions in Oz is miniscule. This argument verges on the ‘Where is it gonna gestate, in a box?” argument in the Life of Brian.

    Secondly, it’s always nice to be able to express an opinion on a difficult subject matter, no matter how gently one puts it, and be thrashed by militant rantings (and/or threats of pulling subscriptions). Apologies to anyone who is offended, but gay adoption doesn’t sit well with me either, and although I haven’t fully rationalised those thoughts, I don’t feel any great need to. This is because the point is largely moot (see above) I also don’t spend much time wondering where Loretta’s child is going to gestate. (in a box, obviously!)

    A biological father with children in a gay relationship is not what this is about and nobody is suggesting that this is in question, are they? Biological parents have full rights before adoption is considered, so that has nothing to do with it.

    Nor is it about fostering, so maybe sticking to the issue would help some of those on the verge of hysteria.

    Nor is this about comparing a loving homosexual relationship with a dysfunctional hetero relationship. Nobody is suggesting that a dysfunctional relationship of any type is a good one for a child. The hetero parents who have been screened for years by the adoption agencies are not going to be one of those dysfunctional relationships, so bringing that point up as a ‘reason’ for introducing gay adoption, is as absurd as it is offensive.

    My discomfort with it is more to do with the difficult teenage years where being ‘different’ is such a finely calibrated social phenomenon. Isn’t being a teenager difficult enough without having to go through life explaining that you have two dads or two mums? I know things are different these days in what is acceptable in the playground, but that is a genuine discomfort I feel. I’m sure someone is ready to accuse my of thought crimes, but bugger you, that’s where I am on the subject, and hysterical reactions and non-sequiturs are unlikely to change my thinking or open my mind to new perspectives.

    So take a chill pill and maybe square up to the fact that a hell of a lot of people won’t be comfortable with gay adoption, and maybe they have a good reason for it, or maybe not. In any case, it is now on its way to being legal, so this isn’t a rights issue, this is about people insisting that others must accept their point of view, and isn’t that a form of fascism?

  34. claudedwalker

    Guy is too sophisticated to say “full of sh-t” so he says full of “merconium,” which, i think, is supposed to be spelt meconium. ?

  35. savvy_90

    Hmmm…. am unsure how to interpret this opinion piece.

    I usually enjoy reading Guy’s pieces but this one seems to lack his usual depth/ passion.

    I guess I can understand the intention of the piece if it was to deliberately express a controversial opinion to invite comments/discussion.

    Personally, I didn’t really enjoy reading it as a logical piece. I also could not agree agree with most of the arguments it tried to present. Other posters have done a decent job dissecting the flaws in the article.

    Hmm…. then again, the article did manage to motivate me enough to comment. Bravo… I guess!

  36. baal

    Why is it that Rundle can’t make a case without lampooning (invented) characters he imagines are his opponents – apparently they can be despised because they are ‘The Tsiolkas crowd’ who have a ‘collection ‘of Jim Jarmusch DVDs – how ridiculous is that? Or is this the new short hand to replace ‘latte sipping chattering classes’? Or are we being introduced to #Fakeguyrundle – if so, be off to Twitter and make do with 140 characters.

  37. Salamander

    One major advantage women have is breastfeeding, which is recommended for at least 6 months. This is apparently quite a significant health and even developmental plus for the child (owing to superior nutritional aspects of breast milk). Also in breastmilk are antibodies that the child ingests and is then protected from specific infections.

    This article has made me realise I don’t know whether antibodies in breast milk are only effective when transmitted by the biological mother, or whether antibodies from an adoptive mother (via induced lactation) would also work for the child. Any biologists here?

    Anyway apart from all that I disagree with Guy’s argument. His idea strikes me as something akin to the Catholics’ “natural law” stuff that they use to justify their doctrines on all things gender and sexual, including the forbidding of contraception. Completely unscientific.

  38. Ronson Dalby

    I think Guy’s trying to be the Crikey’s Miranda Devine: controversy simply for the sake of it.

  39. Jon Hunt

    You can argue all you want but at the end of the day you can not prove you are right. The only answer, if there is one, is through research and analysis. Until then all anybody can do is guess, albeit intelligently, but it is still a guess nonetheless.

  40. reb of Hobart

    “controversy simply for the sake of it”

    Perhaps. However if that’s what the standard of “journalism” has descended to here at Crikey, then I’m not inclined to pay for it. I can get this sort of shit at News Limited for free!

  41. Jillian Blackall

    I am disappointed to see Crikey publishing such rubbish. As many have said, there are multiple valid scenarios for male (and female) same sex couples to adopt children.

  42. caesarboy

    Ha ha! What a joke. This State is falling apart, and the agenda to include same-sex adoption is given priority. A ploy to lock-in a few inner-city votes?
    God in heaven, I get the feeling that we’re very close to the period of decline of the Roman Empire.
    You can talk all the social science bullshit you like, but a kid is better off with male and female, natural family role models.
    Most gays wouldn’t want to adopt in their wildest dreams. Most prefer partying, coke-snorting, short-term relationships. Sure there are some in long-term stable relationships, but the number of adoptive same sex parents must be very small.
    It’s just another politically-correct pandering to minority groupings, that also takes the focus off the big issues facing New South Wales.
    As for Reb of Hobart’s comment, well the standard of journalism compared to, for instance, the SMH of the 1930s-1950s, there is no comparison. Perfect grammar, incisive, intelligent reporting. Seems to be in decline since it became a university course, and the current basically left-wing clones don’t seem to have any sense of balance at all.

  43. nico

    Like many of the other commenters I generally admire Rundle’s writing but can’t be persuaded on this point. It’s an argument with loads of holes in it.

  44. John

    @Dogs breakfast
    Your discomfort about “the difficult teenage years…without having to go through life explaining that you have two dads” is a case of confusing cause with effect.
    As a gay stepfather of three children starting 35 years ago, I can tell you that the playground bullying is the result of adult prejudice being taught to children. You old farts need to get with the program or die off.
    I am now the grandfather of 7 grandchildren between the ages of 4 and 12 years. They happily counter idiot children who think it is weird that they have a BigPop and a LittlePop by reciting the extra love and other advantages.
    My grandchildren are spread from Singapore to Alice Springs to Hobart, so don’t even think of bullshit labels such as inner city trendies!

  45. Jon Hunt

    I agree with caesar boy. Whoever heard of straight people being interested in”…partying, coke-snorting, short-term relationships.”?

  46. DAAT

    This just strikes me as a stongly-held opinion of Rundle’s only very loosely backed up by some theory. An opinion that, if wrong, is extremely hurtful to many people. TO be honest I’m kind of disappointed. AMY C WROTE:

    Guy has used Hebrew Physics to illustate this beautifully. Not sure if he meant that or not. In fact, his writing in general has elevated itself to a new level. imo

  47. SBH

    This is just one of the most disturbing pieces I’ve read in a long time. This is just prejudice, That is, an opinion that judges something before listening and considering the evidence. I don’t understand it, I feel its wrong, therefore I oppose it. In the process the only people this speaks to and encourages are people like ceasarboy whose logic is disturbingly similar and just as fact based as Rundle’s. Shame.

  48. Julius

    I am worried that I, on the atheist, empiricist, right of Rundle increasingly find myself applauding what he has written. In this case my prejudice in favour of recognising the long developed outcomes of evolution in matters psychological and physiological applauds despite the good points made about few adopted children being babies. His argument would appear to be cause to hesitate before supporting, legally or in practice, the production of babies for adoption by male couples (and maybe female).

    I am sorry that his nicely metaphoric use of “meconium” (which I shall happily plagiarise with discrimination) was slightly spoiled by spelling it “merconium”.

    On the wider front of equality for people of varied sexuality it strikes me as a pity that the opportunity hasn’t been taken to clean up a lot of now unwarranted features of tax, social welfare, occupational pension and superannuation arrangements which mean that, e.g. an aging gay couple in the public service can pass on their pension rights to each other as much as if one had been a mother who had devoted most of her life to raising children, and that, unlike – in practice – most such mothers when they get the residual pension, the survivor would then be able to pass on his (or conceivably her) pension rights (or a proportion thereof) to a partner acquired after retirement! Most of that particular anomaly can be wrapped up in a changeover to well-designed defined contribution schemes where the outcome is determined mostly by what one has paid for and the risks (including the risk of lump sum against pension) that one has contracted for.

  49. Russell

    For all those here who have attacked Guy and Crikey for running this, just a thought:

    What about those us who haven’t made up our minds, or don’t have rigidly fixed viewpoints? This was the only story I read on Crikey today, and if I’d seen that headline in the Oz or the Herald, and saw it was written by Cardinal Pell or a Paul Sheehan, I wouldn’t have bothered reading, I would have known what to expect.

    But I read Guy because he is not afraid of breaking ranks, and I want to be challenged, have my prejudices tested and see what his arguments were. I still don’t know what to think about all of this, but it was a good read and helped me process some pretty difficult issues.

    Less useful were those who responded by spiting, flaying about hysterically and hissing like schoolchildren who’ve had their lollies confiscated by the teacher because they were rotting their teeth. They did their case no favours.

  50. Jillian Blackall

    Come off it Russell! There is nothing moderate about Guy Rundle. He deserves everything he gets.

  51. Janet Rice

    @dogs breakfast. My transgendered partner and I are the parents of two wonderfully well adjusted teenage boys, who just somehow have managed to get through their ‘difficult teenage years’ despite their father becoming a woman some 7 years ago. Yes it gets complicated to explain at times but big deal. They and we laugh at the fundamentalists and shock jocks who tell us we are inflicting untold damage on us all. We love them, they love us, we are family. I have no doubt at all that the same applies for other same sex couples, male, female, trans or intersex, and adopted children.

  52. baal

    Just thinking about this ‘controversy’. Most people ‘experiment’ with children, all they know is what they see or have tried out for themselves. The instinct to breed may run deep but the skills of raising are learned. We all know how common is the dysfunctionality of the standard heterosexual family, so not let gays have a go? They can’t make a worse job of it than some of the catastrophes that surround us. The rest of us might even learn something.

    Why is it that columnists think they have to have a position on so many Issues of the Day? And why do they think they should be able to write this stuff as if it must be taken seriously as a contribution to the evolution of civilisation rather than a cheap and easy way to get a reaction? Crikey is not helping anyone with this kind of thoughtless thoughtfulness. Take another holiday son.

  53. Janet Rice

    forgot to add, like others I was disappointed in this piece. I like Guy’s work usually – usually well argued, and well researched. This wasn’t, and was hurtful and damaging to male same sex couples who are raising children and doing it well.

  54. Neil Appleby

    What a load of pretentious clap trap. If you must pontificate on social issues, at least do some real research and speak in plain English. Honestly, it was almost impossible to read this without thinking it was written by some try hard undergraduate.
    Stick to what you do well Guy and spare us these pompous rants.
    Very disturbing sentiments anyway.

  55. SBH

    yes Russell I’m sure many people haven’t yet made up their mind. Rundle isn’t one of them. His mind is made up, not based on human rights, fact or rational argument, just on whatever personal prejudice he bears. That’s the problem.

  56. Liz45

    @JOHN JAMES – Your comment was predictable, but you omitted to acknowledge, that in NSW at this time, there are approximately 1500 kids living with same sex couples. A single gay or lesbian can adopt but not a couple(prior to this Legislation being enacted). What sort of logic is that? Only one parent out of a couple is the legal guardian, that is they can’t even sign excursion notes; they don’t have the authority to give consent to surgery only the other partner can do that – the designated legal guardian – when this becomes Law, those anomolies will be removed. This has nothing remotely to do with abortion – you’re fixated like the rev Fred Nile – obsessed!

    @CAESARBOY – It was an Independent, Clove Moore who introduced the Bill into Parliament, not the govt? Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell supported the Motion, as did the Premier, Kristina Keanelly!

    @DOGS BREAKFAST – As to the difficulties of being a teenager and “differences”. Lots of kids are ‘different’ – some via their skin colour or shape of eyes or language or some other ‘difference’? We don’t do a good job when it comes to the issue of ‘difference’ when it relates to people with disabilities, or have black skin or something else that is perceived to make them different. If kids are hurtful they’ve learnt it from us – supposedly mature, balanced and non-judgemental adults. Go and speak to some aboriginal kids and see what sort of insults they have to face, or a woman wearing a hijab or a bloke wearing a turban?
    We overcome these difficulties by teaching our kids about acceptance, not tolerance(I tolerate a cold, I accept people, except for the ignorant and hurtful ones?) – it’s part of our responsibilities as parents. Hateful parents breed hateful kids!

    It’s an indictment on the rest of us that lovely people like JOHN and JANET have to defend or explain their reality – I bet they have great well adjusted, competent, confident kids and grand kids. I’d imagine, that they have well rounded kids free from prejudice, because they know first hand how it feels to be pre-judged without the accusers knowing anything about them.

  57. Mark Duffett

    …there’s a gap between what we want and what’s best for someone else…The ridicule comes when the forebrain realises this might serve as a challenge to that illusion and deploys the social constructionist idea that human beings are infinitely malleable, abstractable, transformable, etc.

    For example, Guy might have added, please see the comments below.

  58. r mcphee

    Is Guy having a go at my man boobs?

  59. Andrew Le Clercq

    Credit where credit is due – our lad Rundle has sparked a seriously worthy debate among Crikey folk. I disagree with what I perceive is his position but thank him for giving Crikeydom the opportunity to debate it.

    One amusing result of controversial articles on Crikey is the folks who take the time and effort to make a comment to the effect that they have no particular opinion about the issue at hand but still feel the need to sneer at the people who do have an opinion. You know who you are… tossers.

  60. Nicole Eckersley

    All of this seems to revolve around two hypotheses: one, babies need boobs, and two, that women somehow instinctively know better than men what to do with a baby.

    Unfortunately, neither of these is true. Breast milk banks mean a baby can have all the immune benefits of breast milk without ever seeing one, and I’m assured by mothers of my acquaintance that the paralysing fear of dropping and permanently damaging the baby is not unique to fathers. The loss of mass social parenting means babies don’t come with instructions any more – for anyone.

    I might be mistaken, but I can’t help but detect a whiff of ‘I don’t know what to do with a baby, and I’m a bloke, so what would two blokes know?’ about Guy’s article.

    This is one of those dangerous ‘common sense’ arguments that let people get away with murder. It sounds like it might be true. Green tea might prevent cancer? Sounds like it might be true, and there are plenty of studies. Eight glasses of water a day? Sounds like it might be true, and is actually a hideously distorted factoid.

    But until there’s evidence – solid evidence – then there’s no justification for making sweeping judgements about other people’s life choices.

    And really, Guy, if you’re going to talk about ‘evidence’ for something this inflammatory, you’re going to need to provide a journal reference or six, and show you’ve read the articles to the contrary. Otherwise, you might as well be waving your wineglass at a dinner party.

    All of this, however, cuts to the heart of a very interesting question: why worry about a study that says that babies with their biological mother do slightly better, when there are a thousand rock-solid studies showing drastic corellations between children’s success and money, education and affection?

    Any slight disadvantage that might arise from a lack of ambient breast tissue at a young age will almost certainly be cancelled out by the advantages accorded to a baby who is wanted, planned for and – given the cost of surrogacy – probably being born into money. It’s like saying a parent with one leg shouldn’t have kids because they won’t be able to teach the kids how to pogo.

    Of course, I’m biased; I know a large number of extremely lovely gay dads, and their equally lovely and well-balanced children. Maybe you’d like to explain to them why they’re ruining their children’s lives?

  61. DAAT

    “You should have seen them kicking Guy Rundle”..is that a song?. I not sure which is worse indignation for the Man..that time when he was poked in the face with the threat of eviction from that NSW Arts Fest by that “lady” security guard ( seen it on YouTube ) …or even today as many of the above comments are in a similar vain and bitter lacking deep understanding. World needs mnore to that Man.

    Even I tell you that no Harmony and no Balance = no Keter and no Keter mean no Cosmic Restoration and without opposing polls coming together in perfect union is cosmic model of life you dickheads!!! it’s male and female so get over you fking selves and getagrip. Nobody here is mocking different attributes of other family structure or examples…NO WAY!!! no judgement on any other man’s meat or different circumstances and situations that people find themselves in for let him chuck the first rock .

    i sorry so but the cosmic model is still Male and Female..take a look at nature, even the picture in the Garden with Adam & Eve is deeper picture of cosmic occurence and shattering of vessels

    no jdgement and may all people be blessed

  62. Stephen Woods

    HOLY SH#T, Guy! Have you just had your ‘Rice’ moment and stuffed up completely? I don’t think I have seen any article have such a strong response and a response that seems to be mostly against you!

    I will add my two cents here and say that as a teacher of many boys, I disagree with both your conclusion and the arguments supposedly supporting it. I have witnessed many boys who need a strong and loving father but don’t get it. Their maturity is obviously lacking in some circumstances. Their ‘need’ for a male basically begins about three years of age. Yes, it would be wonderful to have both parents raising the child, but we have a lot of classes in schools with about a third coming from single parent (mostly female) families.

    As a male teacher, I am constantly required to be an adult male role model for many boys. I don’t mind being it, but would prefer the male parent to be there instead. I DO NOT witness anywhere near the same amount of deprivation in boys who have been raised in male only families. The father has had to bend and change their ‘parenting’ to suite the circumstances and it shows.

    Sorry, Guy, but you are very wrong on this issue. Get out into the schools and see the evidence for yourself.

  63. Jillian Blackall

    If I were a child being adopted, who would I prefer as parents: one of the gay male couples I know or Guy Rundle? It doesn’t take long to work that out.

  64. AR

    Great article.
    Of course times dictate spelling out the basics:
    ‘We’re a biological species’ and our infants are ‘oriented to the female body in a pretty hard-wired and powerful way.’
    As are the animal infants of almost every mammal on the planet.
    The uproar caused by such audacious construct bursting, another sign of the times, when ‘me’, ‘my rights’ and ‘my equality’ are believed to be the most relevant of ideals.
    No amount of outrage will change the fact that infants do not have the primary & universal bond to men, be they gay or straight, and it is correct to undertake the view, as demonstarted by aggressive campaigns by fathers in various countries, that the young suffer from an insistance that the male bond is on a par.

  65. zut alors

    I tip my hat to Oldsalt, Andrew le Clerq and Russell – it’s worth discussing this subject and Crikey is a forum where it can be done unfettered.

    As for Elizabeth and ‘God’s plan’: I wasn’t hitherto aware that he/she/it had one. You learn all manner of things by reading Crikey.

  66. KeterSon

    *‘God’s plan’: I wasn’t hitherto aware that he/she/it had one.*

    I tip my hat to YOU Zut, you are coming along very nicely.

  67. David Siebert

    Guy you lost me at the begining, i.e “God, oh God, something like a quarter of the world still lacks access to running water, basic medical care, and 2000 calories a day. So in the scheme of things, the passage of the NSW adoption Bill 46-44, is a small matter…….” What a silly argument. Does that mean we shouldn’t be looking to fix our transport system, discussing becoming a republic, etc. because the situation around the world isn’t right? Just plain daft.

    As others have said. adoption of babies is a small percentage. There are many older children out there that need a loving family. I know some hetrosexual couples who won’t adopt because they want a baby. That could be seen as a selfish want but you don’t decry that. Their want is their own rather than the child’s. If they were prepared to accept any child that would be different.

    I personally know of children who need to be away from their mother and won’t ever thrive whilst with her. To deny them ‘belonging’ to someone who affirms they actually want them, and to restrict their lives to foster care (because “it’s not natural” ) is utterly stupid and cruel.

    Your atricle lacks form and rigour. It wanders all over the place. It does you a disservice to put your name to it.

  68. Attila Nagy

    By the way,
    there is literature regarding breast feeding by men. It was not uncommon during the second world war.
    Men’s breast have all the equipment for breastfeeding, and with appropriate stimulation, are easily capable of it. It is true though that it is easier with moobs – to act as a scaffold for the secretory glands.

  69. Jack Dempsey

    Rundle is usually good but… Not enought tits around?? puhleeze…

  70. Catherine Bannister

    Rundle’s assertions here are based on assumptions, worth absolutely nothing unless backed up with evidence. Before anyone opens their mouths on this subject again, can they please read and digest the following report by Elizabeth Short, Damien W. Riggs, Amaryll Perlesz, Rhonda Brown, Graeme Kane, for the Australian Psychological Society, reviewing literature on the health and social outcomes for children raised in lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender families. The research, including longitudinal studies following children to adulthood, suggests that children raised in such families have outcomes at least as good as heterosexual families, and in some cases, do a lot better.

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