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The Archbishop of Canterbury who represents 77 million Anglicans has added his voice this morning to calls by the Catholic church for an opt out on new equality legislation which would otherwise force them to allow gay couples to use their adoption services. Birmingham psychologists Dr Mike Drayton prays for a religious conversion.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the most senior Catholic in England and Wales, has written to Tony Blair warning that the church might close down its adoption agencies if the government insists they consider placing children with gay couples.

He's requested that his organisation should be exempted from a new anti-discrimination law - with the threat that some 4,000 children waiting to be adopted might otherwise face a bleak and uncertain future.

So does adoption by a gay couple put a child at risk or damage them?

Lets have a look at the scientific evidence.

Well, rather unsurprisingly, current research shows the most important factor in a child's upbringing is love and stability, and that being a good parent is about much more than the sexual orientation.

It's about loving, educating and caring for a child in the best way possible, whether you're male or female, gay or straight. Ah yes, I hear you say, but won't the kid grow up to be gay?

Well no, not necessarily. In fact, studies in both the UK and the US have shown that children brought up by gay parents are no more or less likely to be gay or straight than children brought up by heterosexual parents.

Ok, but they'll still lack appropriate male/female role models, won't they?

Again, this is not supported by the facts. Research has found that the majority of gay couples have close family and friends of both sexes who play an active part in the lives of their children, and this is more than adequate in providing an array of role models.

Alright, but they'll still be bullied, surely?

Quite possibly; but children face bullying for all sorts of reasons. In this case, the problem would be homophobia, not gay parents or their children.

How about the risk of sexual abuse?

Forget it. Most paedophiles are heterosexual. There is absolutely no relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia. However, one might understand the concerns of Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor about this, given the worldwide crisis in the Catholic Church over children being sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests.

I believe good parenting isn't about whether the parents are straight or gay, it's about how much time you invest in your child and the love and stability you show them.

Quality parenting results from putting your children first and there is absolutely no evidence from the psychological research that indicates that homosexual couples are any less capable of doing this than heterosexual couples.

However, back to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. He is, of course, not basing his views on current scientific research. No, his opinion is based on something written 2,000 years ago when our knowledge of the world was considerably less than it is now.

His opinion is directly informed by the views espoused by a man who lived in the middle-east two-thousand years ago, who was keen to tell us how we should live our lives.

I am a tolerant person, I really am. If people want to base their lives on a set of beliefs different to mine, that is absolutely fine by me. However, bigoted homophobic beliefs are one thing - bigoted homophobic behavior is another.

Being tolerant does not mean accepting behavior that causes suffering to others. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's rather spiteful threat to close down the churches' adoption agencies shows that he is willing to put his beliefs, before the needs of one of the most vulnerable groups of people in society, children in care.

His beliefs may deny children the chance of growing up in a loving home. This is the real moral evil. The Cardinal's views amount to nothing more than ill-informed prejudice and should be robustly opposed.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor should save his moral indignation for something that matters such as paedophile priests, world poverty or the war in Iraq.

Is Mike right? Are gay couples as capable of being equally good parents as straight couples? Or should the church's right to have an opposing view be backed by the law? Leave a comment on the Stirrer Forum.


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