Professor Kerryn Phelps, via,  writes an open letter to Miranda Devine.

Dear Miranda,

It’s been a while since we crossed swords, so it was intriguing on the weekend to read your theories about the cause of the UK riots. It was such a master stroke linking the riots to the announcement that Senator Penny Wong and Sophie Allouache are expecting a baby. Nobody would have thought of that!

Except maybe Bob Katter.

Or Barnaby Joyce.

Or that Murphy guy from Western Sydney who nobody had heard of before.

David Cameron must be relieved. I am sure he had a sleepless flight on the way back from Tuscany once the riots were nearly over, thinking about how complex the solution to this perplexing problem was going to be. That was, until he read your piece showing how it all boiled down to “a fatherless society”. Lesbian mothers. Single mothers. Penny and Sophie.  Pass a law to make fathers compulsory and stop them ever leaving and bingo. Problem solved!

Bummer when the UK papers reported how many rich kids from private schools and living with biological mum and dad were arrested for looting.

Don’t you hate it when the facts get in the way of a good theory?

Apparently you were also concerned that some people were “having a field day, cynically using the four-month pregnancy as a weapon in the relentless push for same-s-x marriage”. Well, I wouldn’t exactly say cynical. But two people in a committed relationship expecting a child in a country where marriage equality is one of the top three political issues of our time … certainly had the potential for comment don’t you think?

Oh, and before I forget … you know that invitation I sent to you on Twitter over the weekend? … You know … the one asking you to come to our place for a family dinner, meet the wife and kids and tell us what rights we don’t deserve?

Some people thought I was being sarcastic. But I wasn’t. Not really.

You see, for years Jackie and I have beaten a path to the doors of politicians with views EVEN more right wing than yours seem to be, and we all managed to express our views without the need for a first aid kit or a dose of Valium. Some of them even managed to see that legal protection for each other and for our children and other families like ours would actually be a stabilising factor for the community. A “conservative value” even.

It’s less of an uphill battle these days because we have the weight of public opinion behind us. You’d have to be Rumplestiltskin to have missed the plethora of opinion polls saying, well pretty much “Just change the Marriage Act and get on with it”.

Like many others, I really felt for you when you implored people to stop giving you a hard time. It must have come as such a shock. Fourteen or so years ago when I started writing responses to your columns there weren’t as many people prepared to declare their hand as it were.

In what is obviously a shock to you, there was actually a big backlash. Really big.

You see, there are so few people still in the closet these days you can’t turn around in a major city or even a big country town without bumping into an “out” gay man or lesbian.  We’re everywhere! And we don’t just sit in the background any more feeling hurt and angry and depressed at comments like we caused the London riots or we are bad for our children.

No, we fight back. We speak out. We don’t put up with unsubstantiated and hollow accusations that our reasonable expectation for respect and social justice is some sort of  vendetta against well-meaning religious fundamentalists.

I must say, one of the things we could talk about at our dinner party is this other intriguing theory of yours:

“Sure, there are aberrations, and you can always find evils within traditional families, domestic violence and child abuse. But even this imperfect institution is better than the Hobbesian social chaos the children of the underclasses have been born into for the last 50 years.”

I can’t wait to hear how you worked through research to draw the conclusion that a child being beaten up or s-xually abused is better off than one raised by a loving and secure single parent or two mothers or two fathers, or functional step-parents. That could be a social science breakthrough.

So just one question remains … red wine or white?

Professor Kerryn Phelps, AM

August 17, 2011

*Professor Kerryn Phelps, AM is Adjunct Professor at Sydney University in the Faculty of Medicine in the School of General Practice and Con Joint Professor at the University of New South Wales in the faculty of Public Health and Community Services.

This piece was originally published at The Hoopla.

Peter Fray

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