Gay couple ready to become parents

By James Fuller

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A homosexual couple considering adoption say sexuality should not be a consideration when choosing a good home for a child.

Kevin and Ben Haraki-Beckett, from Te Puke, say the decision on who should be allowed to adopt should be based purely on those concerned and the environment they could provide.

"Any child that is within the system that needs a good loving family and stable foundation should get that family. Kevin and I could provide that family," said Ben, a 26-year-old who works in invoice processing.

"I have always wanted a big family. Growing up I always told my mother I would give her three granddaughters and I still want that," he said.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

The couple were reacting to a recent poll which stated adoption by homosexual couples is now accepted by most New Zealanders.

According to the Roy Morgan Research State of the Nation Report, a countrywide survey of 11,500 people, the number who believe homosexual couples should be allowed to adopt has risen from 38 per cent to 56 per cent in the past eight years.<inline type="poll" id="5495" align="outside"/>

The report's authors said the survey showed New Zealanders have become more open-minded in their attitudes to some key moral and social issues and are now more accepting of homosexuals than ever before.

Ben and Kevin, who come from large extended families, have been together five-and-half years and in a civil union since 2010. The couple have ruled out surrogacy to begin a family and would not want the emotional wrench of being separated from children if they fostered. They first discussed adoption two years ago but said there were added aspects to be considered.

"Firstly, a same-sex couple has to deal with all the same feelings a heterosexual couple does about whether you can afford to care for a child adequately, the length of the adoption process, the intensity and invasiveness of it," said Ben.

"But there is the added element, of course, and the bottom line has to be what is best for the child.

"I struggle with the idea that I could send a child off to school and they would potentially get judged and bullied because we are their parents. I still think it's potentially selfish to know that and send a child out into the world knowing that.

"But equally it's selfish not to take on a child that desperately needs help or a loving home. There's a lot of contradictory feelings there."

Kevin, who is Te Puke Hotel's food and beverage manager, said there was more acceptance of lesbian couples adopting than gay men. "It's a lot easier for two women than two guys, there's a different level of stigma attached to two men adopting. People don't seem to be so judgmental about two women but can get very opinionated when it's two men.

"We are both very good with kids, have godchildren, and play a very pivotal role in some of their lives. One of our friends is a single mother with a daughter and from an early age I have been looked at as the father figure in her life.

"We both come from very open upbringings, with unconditional love and support, and I think we could teach our children those same values.

"I believe Ben and I could be better parents and offer a better home environment than many heterosexual couples do. But you always just have the added thing on top, is it fair on the child?"

While the 36-year-old welcomed the report's findings of increased acceptance, he said people's actions and words did not always match.

"What people say and what they really mean and do can be different things. Whilst people are more open about homosexuality I still think it's different when the cut comes to the chase and if, for example, your neighbours were a homosexual couple looking to adopt. Attitudes sometimes change."

The couple countered those who believed same-sex couples should not be allowed to adopt because it was not a natural process.

"That sort of opinion comes from a closed mind. It gets me very worked up actually," said Ben. "I don't believe anyone has the right to tell others they can or cannot bring up a child. There's a huge difference between what nature brings to the child and what nurturing can bring to the child."

Kevin agreed.

"People don't look at the facts. The statistics on there being abuse in situations where same-sex couples have adopted is well under half of what it is in heterosexual couples."

One of those who does not believe homosexual couples should be allowed to adopt is Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

"Nature dictates that a man and a woman are required for procreation. This limitation shows that a child's best interests are served by it having a mother and a father. The two most loving women in the world simply cannot provide a daddy - and vice versa. The gender of the parents does matter," he said.

"Same-sex couple and single parent adoption and surrogacy potentially harms children because it intentionally creates motherless and fatherless families - all at the same time as we express concern at the high rates of fatherlessness and solo parent households. There is no shortage of married couples willing to adopt.

"While a compassionate and caring society should come to the aid of motherless and fatherless children, it is dangerous ground to intentionally set out to create fatherless or motherless families."

Mr McCoskrie, who has a home in Mount Maunganui, added: "We must aim to give the child to be adopted the very best option we can - to be adopted by a mum and a dad".

Adoption within New Zealand is governed by the Adoption Act 1955. There is nothing within the law which precludes homosexual couples from adopting. The first adoption by a homosexual couple in New Zealand passed through the Family Court in 2002 setting a precedent.

For those wishing to adopt in New Zealand, the first step is an assessment process by Child, Youth and Family (CYF).

A spokesman for CYF Tauranga said there was a general misunderstanding that homosexual couples could not adopt.

"One thing that has not been clear in the media is that homosexual couples can adopt, as opposed to being forbidden to adopt."

Wendy Hawke, executive director at ICANZ (Inter Country Adoption New Zealand), said the countries it dealt with did not permit homosexual adoptions.

"Overseas countries we work with do not permit any adoptions at all by same-sex couples," she said. "All countries have their own laws and culture ... and we must follow their laws, cultural norms and procedural requirements."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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