Give Gays Equal Rights to Adopt, JPs Are Told

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE DOUGHTY

GAY and lesbian partners must be given the same rights to adopt children as married couples, magistrates are being told.

They have been warned that any doubts over the wisdom of adoption by homosexual couples amount to prejudice akin to racism.

New training for the magistrates who decide family cases tells them to be more receptive to 'different lifestyles, family

structures, and sexuality'.

The equal treatment scheme has been launched by the Judicial Studies Board, the Government body responsible for organising training for judges and magistrates.

The idea provoked anger among supporters of the traditional family yesterday. Critics warned that homosexual relationships are much more unstable than marriages and that the evidence on gay parenting shows that often only one parent shows an interest in the child.

Sociologist Patricia Morgan said: 'Ideology has been put before the needs of children.' The move, which follows steady pressure from the gay lobby, comes against a background of a collapse in the number of children being adopted.

The 'equal treatment' training, originally designed to combat racial prejudice in the courts, has been launched in a much-expanded form to 'meet a need for a much wider awareness'. A particular emphasis has been developed for JPs who sit

on family panels, specially-trained magistrates who decide in a quarter of the adoption orders settled in England each year. Last year, magistrates' courts handled 1,118 adoption cases.

In the courses, largely written for the JSB by advisers from the prisoners' rights group, the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, magistrates are taught about 'their own biases and how these might influence decision making.' They are asked to become 'more able to manage their own prejudices'.

One exercise requires the magistrates to discuss the statement: 'Gay couples - either male or female - can provide as good a home to young children as heterosexual couples.

This would be the case whether the children are their own from a previous heterosexual relationship, or adopted or fostered.' Magistrates are then required to

confess whether their thoughts stemmed from 'conditioning, background or stereotypical assumptions' and to explain what they learned about themselves from the process.

Course tutors are told to persuade magistrates to recognise their prejudices so they can change their behaviour. …