It wasn’t that long ago that we were listening to advocates for marriage change insist marriage wasn’t about children, and that it was misleading to use children as part of an argument for classical marriage.
For example, last year on QandA, the Federal Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, shouted down a fellow panellist for daring to connect marriage with raising children. The panellist was Katy Faust, an American blogger who was raised by two lesbians (one being her mum). She speaks affectionately about both women who raised her, she nonetheless believes children ought to have a mother and father.
“While my mother was a fantastic mother and most of what I do well as a mother myself I do because that’s how she parented me, she can’t be a father. Her partner, an incredible woman — both of these women have my heart — cannot be a father either.”
Penny Wong is also on the record, rebuffing Eric Abetz who submitted same-sex marriage would deny children the basic rights of a mother and father.
Di Natale’s and Wong’s outrage in not unique to them, it has been mimicked by other politicians and social commentators. Indeed it has become part of the narrative: don’t bring children into the marriage conversation.
The only problem with this plot line is that SSM advocates have now found ways to use children in support of their own case. Hence, it’s anathema for one side to mention children, but it is only right and natural for children to be front and centre waving rainbow flags.
Last weekend in Melbourne at a marriage change rally, young children were organised to be on the platform and talk about their positive experiences of living with 2 mums or 2 dads. These children then featured in weekend newspapers across the nation.
Today in Canberra, Bill Shorten and Mark Dreyfus met with ‘rainbow families’ at Parliament, and the ensuing photo-op has been splashed all over social media tonight.
This dramatic shift in narrative has taken an even stranger twist today; while children from gay families were being welcomed by Mr Shorten and Mr Dreyfus, in Canberra was another woman raised by 2 lesbian mums. But for some reason, Labor representatives were not keen to meet with her, and certainly no photography and selfies for their twitter accounts. Why were some children raised by 2 mums or dads put in the political spotlight, and 24 year old Millie Fontana was refused even a casual chat?
It appears as though her story doesn’t fit with story that is being written for Australia’s history books.
In an interview in Triple J today, Millie Fontana says,
‘I’m an atheist. But our story needs to be told. It’s natural to want a mum and a dad. But when we speak, we are told we are homophobes and Christians’.
Fontana is not alone in her belief that children should have a father and mother; there are numerous similar stories of children who were raised in same-sex contexts, but for the most part these testimonies are being ignored. Why? They don’t fit into the narrative being spun by certain political and social scriptwriters.
The changing story goes something like this: children are not relevant to this marriage debate…except now those raised by lesbian or gay parents…so long as those kids don’t believe that children should have a dad and mum.
Millie Fontana’s testimony is especially awkward because unlike someone like Katy Faust, Fontana is an atheist and even supports same sex marriage, but she does not believe children should be denied their mum and dad.
The reality is, there are many different Australians concerned with same-sex marriage and with its consequences, and they can’t be put in a box labelled, ‘heterosexual religious bigots’. In fact, very few people can accurately be described as such, but again, that’s not the story Mr Shorten, Ms Wong, and others want Australia to believe.
I’d love to see Mr Shorten and Mr Dreyfus meet with Millie Fontana, to hear her story. More important, the Australian public ought to be aware that the SSM narrative is not so neat and tidy, and contrary to reassurances from political leaders, there are real consequences that will flow from changing the definition of marriage.
Read more of the Triple J interview with Millie Fontana
While she’s for same-sex couples marrying, she has deep concerns about what same-sex marriage would mean for family structures. Families like hers.
“Same-sex parenting is not something I’m against,” Millie told Hack. “It’s got to be done ethically. There’s no easy way of raising a child in a same-sex scenario.”
“Same-sex marriage coming in basically says we don’t need biology,” she said. “Marriage itself has been so intertwined with child reproduction, and what I want to see happen is the preservation of child rights, regardless of who gets married.”
Not knowing her dad denied her “genetic integrity”, Millie said.
All children have a right to know who they are.”
Millie didn’t meet her dad until she was 11 years old. His absence had a big impact on her life.
She’d asked her mums to meet him as a young child, and they’d said no. She started acting out and having problems at school.
“It was very hard for me to establish a stable identity,” Millie said. “It was negatively impacting my development.”
‘There was always something missing’
No one ever teased her at school, and her mums were loving and provided all she needed for a stable home life. But Millie said she still clung to the “missing gender” in her life.
“There was always something missing for me, and I can honestly say that I always wanted to know who my father was.”
Millie is against same-sex couples denying their children access to their mother or father. She’s also against single people choosing to have children, for the same reason.