Father's Day this year has fallen at the end of a week during which the issue of equal civil marriage was widely debated as the government's consultation on it in England and Wales came to a close. Listening to the arguments, I have become increasingly incensed by those who hold the opinion that a marriage between a man and woman automatically makes for the optimal situation in which to bring up children and parent.
As the chief executive of the UK's largest children's charity and having worked with vulnerable children for the last thirty years it is clear to me that it is not the marital status of parents or even their relationship status that distinguishes between good and bad parenting. Raising children is about providing emotional security and developing a positive approach to parenting by being a good role model, encouraging good communication, and challenging bad behaviour. These are qualities that can be found in couples, whether they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or straight as well as in individuals whatever their sexual orientation.
That is why for a number of years Barnardo's has taken the lead in encouraging a diverse range of people to come forward to be potential adopters or foster carers. Having met a diverse range of Barnardo's carers, I can safely say these individuals are more than good parents, they are incredible parents who give so much of themselves to support those children who have had the hardest start in life. And with the rising numbers of children being taken into care and a significant shortfall in the number of foster carers we desperately need more people who can offer a loving and supportive home to come forward.
So my support of equal civil marriage does not come from strongly held view about marriage being critical to bringing up children; after all I doubt our LGBT carers will parent any differently as a result of being able to marry.
My support of an equalisation comes from a deeply held belief that this proposal removes yet another distinction between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families and straight families. Anything that helps reduce stigma and make families and the children in them feel more accepted can only be a good thing.
Some of our carers have pointed to the proposals not going far enough and as church goers would want to see religious institutions being able to perform marriages between same sex couples. I am sure this debate will rumble on publically and within religious institutions but this consultation is a step in the right direction.
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