Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Changes to the laws on gay marriage - and how they affect childminders

You might have heard in the news that gay marriage is on the Government agenda. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 set the stage for the changes to the law concerning gay marriage - and legislation is due soon to provide the opportunity for gay couples to marry.

The proposed changes will mean that many childminders might need to look at their provision and ensure they are being non discriminatory. For example, you should make sure your books, photos and displays offer equal opportunities for children to see different groupings of couples.

Books about same sex couples are becoming more readily available and might be considered a useful addition to your library - they should be offered to children as part of your reading box as ‘just there’ rather than presented as something different or special.
Similarly you must ensure your documentation - policies, procedures, welcome booklet etc is not discriminatory and refers to the ‘family’ in ways that include same as well as mixed sex couples. For example, you might want to check the wording on your child information / all about me forms and contracts to make sure they refer to ‘parent 1’ and ‘parent 2’ rather than specifying a requirement for parents to note the name of the child’s ‘mother’ and ‘father’.

When you talk to children about marriage and families, you should be careful that your language is not discriminatory - a marriage can be a man and woman, two men or two women - and it is important that you are sensitive to this because children might be attending the wedding of their 2 uncles at the weekend - how would you know unless parents told you?

Similarly, if you see children putting 2 boy dolls together for a kiss, you must deal with it sensitively and allow them to experiment with their play rather than stopping them. This might be difficult for some childminders, especially if their own beliefs conflict with the new laws - you might find it useful to take time out now and reflect how you want to project your beliefs to the children and the dangers of giving them a prejudiced view of the world.

Of course, you will also need to be sensitive to the beliefs of parents who may believe for religious or other reasons that gay marriage is wrong. It is not your role to parent the child - simply to provide information which accurately reflects the laws of our country so the child can make up their own mind without prejudice when they are older.

I hope you find this information useful. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me via my website or the Childminding Forum.

Thank you. Sarah

With thanks to Nursery World magazine (14-27 Jan 2013) for inspiration and a starting point for my research.