Lisa Pryor
By LISA PRYOR

Australians are currently deciding whether our laws should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry, and the debate is proving to be only one degree more civilized than a cage fight. Surveys have been mailed to voters all over the country by the government, asking them to tick yes or no to this proposal.

Understandably some people are nervous, given that same-sex marriage has been introduced only in Belgium, Canada, Argentina, France, Denmark, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Britain and a bunch of other countries. We do not yet have long-term data on whether same-sex marriage will cause these societies to collapse, or the gates of hell to open.

Australia’s same-sex marriage survey is not compulsory and the result is not binding on the government. And yet it is having a profound effect on the national mood and conversation, as the kind of ideas that might usually be voiced only by a racist old uncle after a few too many Scotches have become legitimate topics of public policy debate.

Last week on a national current-affairs program, a business leader put the argument for the “no” case using race as an analogy, saying, “A black man and a white man are equal, but they’re clearly different. A black man will never be a white man, and vice versa.” Airtime has been handed over to plaintive warnings that same-sex marriage will usher in a gender-fluid fascist state, in which boys can wear dresses to school and homophobic bakeries are forced to produce lesbian wedding cakes. Nice work, Australia.

As the conversation ranges — hurtfully for so many same-sex couples — over gender, marriage and parenting, let’s imagine for a moment that there is value in examining such issues unflinchingly, free from the yoke of political correctness, no matter how hurtful it might be to the sensibilities of some. In this spirit I would like to consider frankly an aspect of the debate not adequately covered so far: heterosexuality.

Difficult as it might be to admit, there is some evidence that in an ideal world, and with all things being equal, one particular family arrangement does appear to have a slight advantage when it comes to raising children. Of course I am speaking about lesbian parenting, which multiple studies have shown confers certain advantages on children.

For example, in the United States National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, teenagers of lesbian mothers were reported to do better socially and academically than other teenagers, and had fewer problems with rule-breaking and aggression.

Other research suggests such advantages may apply to same-sex parents generally. Results of an Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex families, published in 2014, show that children raised by same-sex partners score higher than the general population on measures of general health and family cohesion.

We do not live in a perfect world in which every child has access to this ideal. Regardless of what laws we have in place, the reality of contemporary society is that it includes a wide variety of family types, including families headed by heterosexual couples.

Interactive Feature | Sign Up for the Opinion Today Newsletter Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, the Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

We know that many of these children have not had the good fortune of being the result of the careful planning and commitment that naturally flows from methods of conception used by same-sex couples.

Though you will rarely read about it in literature promoting the heterosexual lifestyle, in many heterosexual families children are conceived as an accident, euphemistically known in the heterosexual community as a “surprise.”

Worse still, heterosexual pregnancies typically come about as a direct result of a particular sex act heterosexual adults engage in for the purpose of their own pleasure. Despite years of warnings, public-education campaigns and public-health expenditure, heterosexual couples continue to indulge in this practice knowing full well the consequences and without apparent regard for the cost to society.

Putting aside the public’s understandable frustration with this behavior, we must acknowledge that many heterosexual parents prove themselves to be very much focused on the job of raising healthy children and put in a tremendous effort to achieve this. A majority of heterosexuals live purposeful and upstanding lives, working hard in a range of professions and paying taxes. Many things about heterosexuality may not be ideal, but these are on the whole good people who deserve our support.

Of course good will alone cannot overcome some of the challenges that the children of these people will face. And just think of how awkward it can become for heterosexual parents, as their children grow, develop ideas of their own, and start to ask difficult questions.

When children of gay couples ask where they came from, an accurate and age-appropriate answer can readily be provided, a story as clean as the tale of the stork, involving love, commitment, medicine and science.

Not so for children with heterosexual parents. In most cases, innocent young children have to be exposed to the concept of sexual intercourse to understand how they came to be, in the primitive manner of animals. Even worse, they are exposed to the concept that this sexual intercourse occurred between their parents. This is something no child wants to hear, and many children find it utterly disgusting.

The presence of heterosexual families in schools also exposes gay families to these unpleasant concepts. Gay families may be forced through exposure to straight families in the schoolyard to explain sexual intercourse at a time before any of them feel ready, especially as some parents flaunt their heterosexuality for all to see.

Despite all the hurdles that heterosexual families face, it is my strong belief that they should be allowed to continue to exist. I am myself married to the father of my children. Some of my best friends are heterosexual, and I can tell you they are great people, raising their children as best they can. They should be allowed to continue to marry and continue to raise children on one strict proviso — that they do not prevent those who are not heterosexual from doing the same.

Now that we have examined this topic frankly and in great detail, I am sure we are all much less angry and understand one another’s points of view better. Remember, sunlight is the best disinfectant. And also a cause of cancer and burns.