Leading Article: Children need loving parents, gay or straight

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The Independent Culture
BARRIE DREWITT and Tony Barlow are two gay men who want to have children. They wanted to adopt but were refused by their local authority. Precisely why Essex County Council took that decision is not obviously apparent. It is unlikely that children in Mr Drewitt's and Mr Barlow's care would want for much, as they are both millionaires. But more important than their material circumstances is that these two men have been together for the last 11 years and are, by all accounts, a very happy, stable couple. There is no reason to think that they would be anything other than happy, stable parents.

The difficulties that Mr Drewitt and Mr Barlow faced made them look, understandably, towards surrogacy. In 1997 they sought help in the US, where there are fewer restrictions on gay and lesbian partners seeking to have children than there are in this country. They found a donor, Rosalind Bellamy, whose eggs were fertilised in a laboratory. This is an unusual version of a rare procedure.

The whole question of surrogacy remains controversial, and raises legitimate ethical concerns. The Drewitt-Barlow arrangements are complicated, but the principles involved in surrogacy apply to all prospective parents. "Interfering in nature" to produce children in artificial conditions for an infertile heterosexual couple is, in principle, no different from such intervention on behalf of a gay or lesbian couple, provided that the prospective parents, gay or straight, are fit and proper candidates.

One thing is unequivocally clear. The reaction to this case, often homophobic and "outraged", and the decision by the Ministry of Defence to continue its ban on gays in the military, show that there is still a great deal of distance to be covered, despite recent progress on the age of consent, before gay people achieve real equality.