This week we’ve heard a great deal of testimony from the Proposition 8 court case about the historical and cultural implications of marriage. In expert testimony, we’ve also been told how, traditionally, the idea of “protecting children” from homosexuality has been used to block attempts at furthering gay rights such as basic employment non discrimination ordinances, and how today it is one of the arguments this is used to prevent equal access to marriage and adoption rights.
An example of this occurred last week when Portuguese lawmakers approved a bill that would allow same-sex marriage, and because President Aníbal Cavaco Silva is not expected to veto the bill, civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples in Portugal looks almost certain to become a reality.
This is a considerable victory for LGBT rights in the country. Yet the bill also sort to allow same-sex couples the right to adopt and unfortunately this provision was removed with lawmakers citing that it was necessary for child welfare reasons. So, while it seems entirely fitting that advocates should celebrate this move toward equality, the victory is somewhat bruised.
Portugal isn’t the only place where the issues of gay adoption and same-sex marriage are causing debate this month. Mexico City became the first Latin American region to pass a civil same-sex marriage bill in December of last year. Interestingly, this wasn’t what received the most attention. Rather, it was the bill’s broad reworking of how marriage was defined that drew staunch criticism because, in one elegant and emancipating stroke, the bill also allowed same-sex couples the right to adopt.
Now, a legal challenge has been launched by social and religious conservatives that aims to prevent the law from being enacted. The challenge calls the legislation “unconstitutional” and against “Christian principles”.
The main argument that being put forward against the bill can be found referenced in this article from the Houston Chronicle:
“That is “a bad and perverse law,” Cardinal Norberto Rivera, the Mexican church’s senior clergyman, pronounced after the initiative was passed. While expressing “respect” for people with “different tendencies” the cardinal said same-sex couples “can’t pretend that they’re a family, that they can adopt children.”
What strikes me most are the words that Cardinal Norbeto Rivera uses. Same-sex couples “can’t pretend that they’re a family, that they can adopt children.”
It underpins a major prejudice surrounding homosexual unions that undermines any “respect” that the Cardinal professes to have for LGBTs. It infers that same-sex parent families are false, pretend, and poor substitutes for heterosexual families.
What’s interesting is the notion that, simply because a couple have bound themselves by that frequently hyped gold standard that is a heterosexual marriage, they are now, as if by magic, suddenly endowed with all the qualities needed to be good and loving parents and spouses, and that by the mere utterance of marriage vows they have been transformed into shining paragons of virtue. Give me a break!
Events in Portugal or even Mexico City may seem quite remote to people in the US, yet the same arguments are being applied here too.
In Florida, for instance, gay people are banned from adopting. The law reads, “No person eligible to adopt under this statute may adopt if that person is a homosexual.”
Let’s take a minute just to appreciate the truly awful sentiment behind that, shall we? And the pro Prop. 8 legal team would like us to believe that LGBTs don’t face discrimination anymore? Read fellow Care2 blogger Scott P’s brilliant post about Florida’s gay adoption ban here. However, the basic idea of the law is this: that it’s necessary for the well-being of Florida’s children.
A piece of good news on that front, though. Award winning ‘out’ actress Cynthia Nixon, from Sex and the City fame, has joined the fight to have Florida’s ban on homosexual adoptive parents overturned, as has Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. They’ll both be attending several events that aim to educate “Floridians about the adoption ban and the negative impact it has on Florida’s children and families” according to the American Civil Liberties Union which is organizing the campaign.
Another story that was in the news recently comes from Utah. State Representative Christine Johnson recently announced that she is carrying a child for a gay couple who are her close friends.
Utah prevents unmarried couples from adopting, so they have a de facto gay adoption ban because they don’t recognize same-sex marriages either so while the biological father will be recognized as a parent, his partner will not.
Johnson, who isn’t charging for her services as a surrogate, told the Salt Lake Tribune that:
“I can very much empathize with their desire to become parents and share their lives with and open their hearts to a child… To watch [the gay couple] get emotional when we look at the ultrasound and we see their baby, it is so gratifying for me to know I’m helping them become a family. They are, in concert, just going to be perfect parents.”
The courageous Christine Johnson, who is both a lesbian and a mom herself, has said that she plans to remain in the child’s life as an aunt rather than as the child’s mother. She is aware that other lawmakers and her constituents may find her decision to be surrogate challenging, however, she emphasizes that, while certain colleagues have expressed their opinion that heterosexual families are “optimal”, most, if not all, have been supportive. Again the news here is largely positive, but there’s that little grain of prejudice.
However, this warmth of feeling is not always demonstrated in other states even if those states don’t have specific adoption bans. In this instance LGBTs are left to the mercy of various adoption agencies and judges, which can sometimes be a positive affair but can also bring about negative situations too. This CNN article from 2007 details how one judge decided to make her feelings about gay adoption known :
Others face opposition after being approved for adoption or foster care. For the Manford-Roach family, difficulties arose when they first tried to hyphenate Jackson’s last name.
The judge overseeing the legal procedure in Dallas, Texas, crumpled up the paper and threw it over her shoulder when she realized they were a same-sex couple, Manford said.
“Get out of my courtroom, I would never do this for you,” the judge said, according to Manford.
In short, even if no specific ban exists, same-sex couples trying to become parents in the US, whether through adoption, surrogacy or other means, face many hurdles and many prejudices. It all seems to hinge, however, on one argument. That it’s about doing what’s best for the children. That being gay makes prospective parents intrinsically not as good as heterosexual parents.
Well, what is the negative impact on a child that results from having same-sex parents? The answer, according to most current, verifiable research, is that there is none. There’s no effect. From the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry:
Current research shows that children with gay and lesbian parents do not differ from children with heterosexual parents in their emotional development or in their relationships with peers and adults. It is the quality of the parent/child relationship and not the parent’s sexual orientation that has an effect on a child’s development. Contrary to popular belief, children of lesbian, gay, or transgender parents:
These findings are also supported by groups such as the Child Welfare League of America and the National Association of Social Workers. You can go here to find a list of more organizations that have official policies that support same-sex parents.
Yet still, the pro Proposition 8 team would have you believe that they’re only protecting the “traditional” definition of marriage, and that, by extension, it’s for the sake of procreation, the family unit, and the children of America. From a 2008 LA Times article when the Proposition 8 campaign was in its final stages and only the most effective tactics would do:
Still, recognizing how politically potent the issue is, the Yes on 8 campaign has made it the center of its television advertising campaign.
“Mom, guess what I learned in school today?” a little girl says in one spot. “I learned how a prince married a prince.” As the girl’s mother makes a horrified face, a voice says: “Think it can’t happen? It’s already happened. . . . Teaching about gay marriage will happen unless we pass Proposition 8.”
It’s a smoke and mirrors argument. There is nothing in the Californian state education code that requires schools to say anything about marriage. Could it come up? Yes, under certain circumstances, more of which you can read about here. But could it still come up with Proposition 8 in effect? Yes, just as easily, because gay people are still around, still raising children. In both instances, the subject would almost certainly have to be included as part of sex-education classes, and so parents would have to be informed first and would then have the ability to withdraw their child from that class.
Instead, what happens under Proposition 8 – and under the federal Defense of Marriage Act – is that same-sex couples and their families are relegated to civil unions or domestic partnerships, and are unable to access the 1,138 benefits that are open to married heterosexual couples. What a great gift of inequality to force on children who have same-sex parents.
Also what about the children that are themselves growing up to realize that they’re gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender? It’s convenient to forget about them. But perpetuating this idea that gay couples should not adopt, and that anything to do with homosexuality should not be talked about near children for fear that it might rub off on them, well, that’s a great message to pass on to vulnerable adolescents – that they’re infectious, dangerous, and not worthy of the same rights and human dignity as the rest of society.
On Thursday, Judge Vaughn Walker, who is presiding over the Proposition 8 court case, heard how bans on gay marriage and inequality under civil law adds to the social stigma LGBTs face and how that, in turn, may contribute to depression and the high suicide rate among homosexuals and homosexual adolescents.
So the next time someone says “Won’t someone think of the children?” when it comes to equal marriage and adoption rights, perhaps you’ll answer back: “Let’s think about ALL the children, shall we?”
Meanwhile, the Courage Campaign is running a live blog on the Prop. 8 trial so that you can keep up with events in the court room as they happen. You can follow it by clicking here.
You can also follow the case on Twitter via the Twitter Feed of the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
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