Not surprisingly the controversy arising from this relates to the exclusion of the most marginal of family groups. First off was Iain Duncan-Smiths comments that gay parents did even come “on the radar” when talking about families. It seems because his report is an overview of existing research (and obviously a highly selective one) and that gay parenting has very little research attention paid to it (well except from a radical social agenda point of view which the Tories seem to be trying to ignore by studiously staring past it) then it doesn’t count as an issue in terms of parenting.
Second the report suggests that cohabitation (and break-up thereof) is the cause of many social ills. Now whilst we know that family instability is linked to negative outcomes for some who experience it the cohabitation bit is interesting. Even the IPPR is suggesting that cohabitation is a symptom of unstable and insecure family relationships rather than the cause – that is cohabitation is a sign of relationships not prepared, for whatever reason, to make the commitment of “marriage” rather than the cause of it. And that instability is often a result of material deprivations, more couples in poverty, for example, cohabit than those in affluence. However, If IDS, as appears to be the case, thus goes ahead and suggests that cohabitation and it’s sequelae are at the heart of social problems he, yet again, will reinforce the second-class status of these families. It also totally ignores the financial barrier to “marriage” that some families face, “marriage” is not free and when you live in poverty the decision to spend around £120 on a civil wedding (more for a religious ceremony) or £120 on food, clothing, rent and bills is not really a difficult one to make.
Hopelessly flawed? You and I might think so but David Cameron has given the report a positive welcome thus ensuring that the Conservatives remain a heterosexist party focussed on the needs of the affluent rather than the socially excluded.