As I pointed out in my earlier response to Mr. Tolley, the same-sex marriage (SSM) debate is not about “should same-sexers have the right to reproduce.” Same-sexers do; that right is not, thank goodness, in much doubt in the USA. The SSM debate is about fairness and equality; but since they’re unable to make credible arguments against fairness and equality, SSM opponents resort to discussing children instead.
All right then. Let’s discuss children.
Characterizing the view he opposes, Mr. Tolley writes:
Here, Mr. Tolley is accurate. It is indeed my view – and, I think, the view of virtually all pro-SSM folks – that there is no “right” to be raised by a mother and father.
But I wonder if Mr. Tolley is using the word “right” in a way I’d recognize.
Children have a right to not be cruelly neglected, nor cruelly beaten. Children have a right to be fed and cared for. Children have a right to an education.
One way I can tell that children have these rights is, in our society, parents who lock their children in the basement or beat them or won’t feed them or care for them – are subject to having their children taken away by the government, by force if necessary. In other words, we can tell that children have these rights because we enforce those rights.
In contrast, I’m not – and I hope Mr. Tolley is not – prepared to endorse having children taken away from loving same-sex parents by force in order to have the children raised by heterosexual strangers. I’m not going to throw a lesbian in a committed relationship in jail for illegal use of a turkey baster. I’m not prepared to make single parents marry people of the opposite sex whether they want to or not.
That is what having a “right” to being raised by a mother and a father would entail. It’s self-evident, I hope, that children do not – and should not – have any such right.
Mr. Tolley also writes:
(Aside: I love the way Mr. Tolley defines what a “lesbian couple” is. Who is he writing for, that he imagines they’ve never heard the word “lesbian” before? Gosh, I guess red America really is different.)
Mr. Tolley is mistaken. A lesbian couple is not saying that “a father is not a critically vital and necessary part of any child’s development.” They’re saying that a father is not a critical part of their own child’s life. For a different child – one being raised by a heterosexual couple, or by two gay men – the child’s father (or fathers) is essential.
This may seem like minor quibbling over words, but it’s not; it brings to light an essential difference in the world-views of those opposed to and in favor of same-sex marriage. To pro-SSM folks, people are individuals; what matters is if Suzy and Jenny are loving, kind, capable parents.
To anti-SSM folks, people are judged not by their traits as individuals but by their sex. Suzy and Jenny have matching genitals, therefore they are BAD parents. Mary and Bob have non-matching genitals, therefore they are GOOD parents.
The question is, should the law treat Suzy and Jenny as individuals, or should it ignore everything about them but their sex?
* * *
Legal questions aside, are opposite-sex parents “essential”? I’d have to say not.
Think of it this way: suppose you had a child that could be placed in one of two adoptive families. Family A is a loving, economically stable gay male couple. Family B is a heterosexual couple in which the man brutally beats his wife every night, and plans to do the same to any children he’s put charge of. For the sake of this example, suppose no other couples are available.
Which family should be allowed to adopt the child?
Okay, now imagine the same situation, only this time family A is a loving, economically stable lesbian couple, and family B is a heterosexual couple who live in a large cardboard box, survives by eating scraps out of garbage bins, and has no prospects for economic improvement. For the sake of this example, suppose no other couples are available. Which couple should be allowed to adopt the child?
Would any sane person give the child to family B, in either of these situations?
I assume not. That’s because we can recognize the difference between what’s essential and what’s not. It’s essential that a child not be abused; it’s essential that a child be housed and fed. Compared to these things – things that are genuinely essential – it becomes clear that being raised by opposite sex parents isn’t.
It’s about treating people as individuals versus treating people as their sex. Someone who is pro-SSM looks at a family and says “Doug and Joe seem to be doing a swell job raising little William. Will is happy and well-fed and loved and cared for, and that’s what matters. Maybe Will doesn’t have absolutely everything he’d have in an ideal life, but he has everything he needs.” Someone who is anti-SSM looks at that same family and says “Will is being raised by two men, therefore he is being deprived of something essential, and I don’t need to know anything more. Asking if Will is happy and well-cared for would be irrelevant.”
Which view is more child-centered? Heck, which view is more human?