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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Marriage and family under further attack

The Evening News on the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Bill. All the official stuff on the Bill can be found on the Scottish Parliament website here. I know nothing about adoption procedures and practices, but there is one part of the Bill, as noted in the Evening News article, which is clearly troubling: the official acknowledgement that unmarried and homosexual couples may adopt jointly. Section 31: 'A couple is “relevant” for the purposes of this section if its members are—(a) persons who are married to each other, 15 (b) persons who are civil partners of each other, (c) persons who are living together as if husband and wife in an enduring family relationship, or (d) persons who are living together as if civil partners in an enduring family relationship.'

The explanatory notes (103) about this section say: 'A “relevant” couple is defined in subsection (3) and means a married couple, civilpartners or a couple that is living together in an enduring family relationship, whether or not that relationship is heterosexual or homosexual. The phrase “enduring family relationship” is used to indicate two people who are in a relationship that is akin to a marriage or civil partnership. The length of a relationship or financial interdependency will be relevant factors in assessing the overall strength of a relationship and the suitability of a couple to adopt.

104. The definition of enduring family relationship does not apply to two people who do not have a relationship akin to a marriage or civil partnership, such as two platonic friends or two siblings who live together.'
(So, Anne of Green Gables wouldn't have been able to be adopted by Matthew and Marilla...)

Now as far as I know, individuals have already been allowed to adopt, so it has been legally possible for adopted children to live with unmarried couples and gay couples anyway, even if they are not both the child's adoptive parents. Which is not great. It is clearly worrying, however, that this legislation further elides the remaining legal distinctions between marriage and other forms of cohabitation, never mind continuing to make guinea-pigs out of particularly vulnerable children.

(It also strikes me as worrying that the first function of the Bill is described (in the explanatory notes, section 4) as 'modernising, improving and extending' existing legislation. Improvement, hurrah; but what does it mean to 'modernise' legislation? Most simply, it must mean to change it in order to take account of circumstances which have altered with the passage of time, which is fair and good; and it may well be that there are other laws or procedures which have changed such that alteration of adoption legislation is necessary. I must admit that I fear it is being used here also to imply that the present is necessarily better than the past; but perhaps I am being paranoid and cynical.)

Time to write to your MSPs, lectores cari!