An open letter to Lyle Shelton

Issue 

Australian lawmakers are set to begin debating marriage equality, and the anti-equality brigade is not happy at all.

The Australian Christian Lobby’s managing director Lyle Shelton is the public face of the campaign against marriage equality in Australia.

I certainly don’t agree with him on everything, but I do agree with his motto, which can be aptly summarised by Helen Lovejoy’s catchphrase, “won’t somebody please think of the children.” But for once in my life I should make a minor confession: I mostly agree out of pure narcissism.

This is my open letter to Shelton.

* * *

I wholeheartedly agree with the central thrust of your argument regarding marriage equality: that the welfare of children should be central to the debate. I find this argument appealing because it implies that I should be at the centre of this discussion – or at least, people like me who were raised by same-sex couples.

As the child of two women in a same-sex relationship, I have first-hand experience of the horrors of a same-sex household. If you have a free moment, I hope you’ll be interested in hearing a little about my experience.

To start with, we lived in a middle class suburb of … Adelaide. Yes, that place where indicators are optional on Holdens, and 50 Shades of Grey isn’t a book, it’s your drinking water. Most days after school I’d come home and be subjected to unspeakable horrors: like being forced to do my homework, and afterwards trying to play Mass Effect on an SDTV.

Worse still, Friday night was junk food night, which meant all weekend my Xbox controller would be slick with grease from my Big Mac. I’d normally be too lazy to wipe it off, so I’d just have to deal with it until Monday (when I could leave the controller in the sun while I was at school).

Yet this barely scratches the surface of the shocking life of a child in a same-sex household. Once Mum accidentally left a block of butter on the kitchen bench, and our cat licked it all morning. She (the cat, not Mum) then spent the whole afternoon infusing our dining room carpet with vomit that – and I swear this is true – smelt like well-buttered vegemite crumpets.

And now for the grand finale: the terrifying powers of gays are not to be trifled with. I had a Mum who could watch CSI and read a John Grisham novel at the same time - without getting her plots mixed up. She could even turn the pages while holding a cup of tea! To this day, my only explanation is that Satan gave her incredible multitasking skills. Sure, you could argue it isn’t quite a scene worthy of The Exorcist, but given that she could discuss politics on top of reading and watching TV, I think I’m well justified in believing the Dark Lord was probably afoot.

As you can see, living in a household with a same-sex couple is nothing like an ordinary, middle class Australian upbringing.

We had barbecues on Sunday afternoons, I did karate on Wednesday nights, and if the power went out we played Uno. Pretty crazy stuff, right?

Now I’m sure you’re wondering, after an upbringing like the one I just described, how could I have possibly turned out? As a journalist working for an international news organisation who has travelled to every continent except Antarctica, I get by comfortably and live happily. So do my brothers, for that matter. But what about others like me?

Well, it turns out that on average children raised in same-sex couple households only do slightly better in terms of general physical heath and family cohesion than those raised by parents in heterosexual relationships, according to a 2014 study published in the medical journal BMC Public Health. It was a pretty small study, with only 500 children. Plus, we all know that being physically healthy and having a loving family isn’t everything in life – surely we happy-go-lucky family-oriented folks are secretly as messed up as that family from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Well, not exactly. A year before the BMCPM study was released, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a report based on research covering three decades that found children raised by same-sex couples have a tendency to be more resilient in “regard to social, psychological, and sexual health”.

In other words, we’re significantly less socially awkward than your average internet-age spawnling. But that’s not the most interesting part.

Here’s another tidbit from the report: “Lack of opportunity for same-gender couples to marry adds to families’ stress, which affects the health and welfare of all household members. Because marriage strengthens families and, in so doing, benefits children’s development, children should not be deprived of the opportunity for their parents to be married.

“Paths to parenthood that include assisted reproductive techniques, adoption, and foster parenting should focus on competency of the parents rather than their sexual orientation.”

The conclusion is that same-sex couples make excellent parents. Moreover, the implication seems to be that if it wasn’t for the campaign against same-sex marriage, children of same-sex couples would be even better off than they already are. Furthermore, if we agree that the welfare of children should be central to the debate on same-sex marriage, then it seems we should be putting more babies – not fewer – in the hands of capable and loving same-sex couples like my loving mothers.

As an aside, you might think I’ve forgotten some qualifiers like “biological” and “adopted” to differentiate between my mothers. For clarity’s sake then, I’d like to point out that such qualifiers became irrelevant a long time ago; I have two mothers who raised me superbly.

As the experts at the AAP put it, competency is what really matters. Competency, combined with the unconditional love my mothers have always shown me.

So as the welfare of children is your prerogative, why don’t you want my loving parents to have the freedom to marry?

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