Thursday, September 9, 2004

The Australian - "Gays hit by society not mum and dad" by Michael Bachelard

THE main damage to children of lesbian and gayparents or people born of surrogates came not from their parents , but from society's prejudices.

The Victorian Government's Law Reform Commission report has found that ``overt prejudice'' from ``politicians, religious leaders, friends and even relatives'' was the factor most likely to harm children of unconventional relationships.

University of Melbourne academic Ruth McNair found that families created by artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilisation and surrogacy were, if anything, internally happier than other families.

``Mothers express more warmth toward their child, mothers and fathers are more emotionally involved and interact more with their child ... (and) children report less parental criticism than natural or adoptive children.''

In ``stark contrast'', the negatives come from outside: people who use donated eggs or sperm, surrogate mothers, who are gay, lesbian or infertile are ``all stigmatised'', Dr McNair found.

People in these categories had less support from extended family or society, were less likely to obtain information about self-insemination and were at risk of infection, and their children were subject to bullying and isolation at school.

She also found that children of lesbian or gay parents were no more likely to be homosexual themselves, but they were more likely to experiment with same-sex partners.

The state Law Reform Commission is examining the law surrounding these issues, including whether it should more easily allow women who are not biologically infertile but who are not in heterosexual relationships, access to reproductive technology.

It is also examining whether the children of donor sperm or eggs should be able to identify their biological parents. Dr McNair said secrecy surrounding the identity of donors was ``one of the most significant'' problems such children faced. Children should be told the truth well before puberty, and given the option of developing a relationship with the donor.

She said gay and lesbian parents tended to be much more open than heterosexual parents.

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