First published at 365gay.com on January 30, 2009
I don’t have children, I don’t want children, and I don’t “get” children.
Some of my friends have children. I like their children best at two stages of their lives:
(1) When they’re small enough that they come in their own special carrying cases and stay put in them.
(2) When they’re big enough that they don’t visit at all, but instead do their own thing while their parents do grownup stuff.
In between those stages, children tend to run amok, which makes me nervous. My house is full of sharp and heavy objects. I did not put them there to deter children—honest!—but I am more comfortable when children (or their parents) are thus deterred. It’s safer for everyone involved.
Having said that, I admire people who have children. I have a flourishing life largely because I was raised by terrific parents. When others choose to make similar sacrifices, I find it immensely praiseworthy.
Which may be why opposition to gay adoption makes me so angry.
Mind you, I am not by nature an angry person. Regular readers of this column know that I go out of my way to understand my opponents. Rick Warren compares homosexuality to incest? Well, what did he mean by the comparison? What was the context? What’s motivating him?
Attack gay parents, however, and my first impulse is to pick up one of the aforementioned sharp and heavy objects and hurl it across the room.
That’s partly because these attacks criticize adults who are doing a morally praiseworthy thing. And it’s partly because the attacks hurt innocent children, toward whom I feel oddly protective, despite my general aversion.
Back in November, a Miami Dade circuit judge ruled that Florida’s law banning gays from adopting is unconstitutional. This is very good news.
The Florida ban took effect in 1977, the era of Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell. We’ve come a long way since then—or so I’d like to think.
Yet the Florida religious right is trotting out the same old arguments, repeatedly insisting that having both a mother and father is “what’s best for children.”
Let’s put down our sharp and heavy objects for a moment and try addressing this calmly.
Every mainstream child health and welfare organization has challenged this premise. The American Academy of Pediatrics. The Child Welfare League of America. The National Association of Social Workers. The American Academy of Family Physicians—you name it.
These are not gay-rights organizations. These are mainstream child-welfare organizations. And they all say that children of gay parents do just as well as children of straight parents.
But let’s suppose, purely for the sake of argument, that they’re all wrong. Let us grant—just for argument’s sake—that what’s best for children is having both a mother and a father.
Even with that major concession, our opponents’ conclusion doesn’t follow. The problem is that their position makes the hypothetical “best” the enemy of the actual “good”.
Indeed, when discussing adoption, it’s a bit misleading to ask what’s “best” for children.
In the abstract, what’s “best” for children—given our opponents’ own premises—is to not need adoption in the first place, but instead to be born to loving heterosexual parents who are able and willing to raise them.
So what we’re really seeking is not the “best”—that option’s already off the table—but the “best available.”
What the 1977 Florida law entails is that gay persons are NEVER the best available. And that’s a difficult position for even a die-hard homophobe to maintain.
It’s difficult to maintain in the face of thousands of children awaiting permanent homes.
It’s difficult to maintain in the face of gay individuals and couples who have selflessly served as foster parents (which they’re permitted to do even in Florida).
It’s difficult to maintain in light of all the other factors that affect children’s well-being, such as parental income, education, stability, relationships with extended family, neighborhood of residence, and the like—not to mention their willingness and preparedness to take on dependents.
What the Florida ban does is to single out parental sexual orientation and make it an absolute bar to adoption, yet leave all of the other factors to be considered on a “case-by-case,” “best available” basis.
Meanwhile, thousands of children languish in state care.
For the sake of those children, I resist my urge to hurl heavy objects at the Florida “family values” crowd. Instead, I ask them sharply and repeatedly:
Do you really believe that it is better for children to languish in state care than to be adopted by loving gay people?
Those are the real-world alternatives. Those are the stakes. And our opponents’ unwillingness to confront them is an abysmal moral failure.