Friday, January 3, 2014

Does Not Compute

"Utah officials wants an emergency stay so that county clerks in the conservative and predominately Mormon state can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples," NPR's Howard Berkes reports for our Newscast unit. "The state argues that children generally fare best when raised by heterosexual parents."
Couples Urge Sotomayor To Deny Utah's Bid To Block Gay Marriage
Okay. Let's stipulate (despite the fact that many people dispute this) that children do, in fact, do better with heterosexual parents. In that case, I have one question. Who cares?

The idea that same-sex relationships should be impeded because children will do better with a pair of opposite-sex parents seems to be predicated on the idea that children who would have same-sex parents would instead have opposite-sex parents. What rational basis is there for that assumption?

There doesn't seem to be a means by which blocking same-sex couples from marrying results directly in the children that would live with those couples winding up in heterosexual households. If the same-sex couple goes ahead and has a child or adopts, you wind up with a child being raised (from a legal perspective, anyway) by a single parent. If they would have had a biological child, by whatever means, but then decide not to do so, there is simply no child at all. If they would have adopted a child, but don't, the child stays in the system. And, as a veteran of the child-welfare system, I can say without much fear of contradiction that there isn't a viable amount of competition between homosexual and heterosexual couples for children - it's not like a child that isn't adopted by a same-sex couple has an opposite-sex couple just waiting to take them in.

So why make the comparison between how children fare in homosexual versus heterosexual homes, instead of between homosexual homes and foster care or institutions? Personally, this smacks of anti-homosexual prejudice more than anything else. Having worked with children in both foster care and institutions, I'm pretty sure that a stable family environment is nearly always the better option (there are, however, some youth that just can't make it in less restrictive settings - but they are unlikely to ever be adopted or fostered out in any event) - which may explain why no-one ever makes the comparison. But the current, disingenuous argument seems so openly flawed that I'm impressed that it's trotted out so often. One would think that most courts that weren't already predisposed to agree with the logic would simply disregard it up front.

Of course, I failed Omniscience 101 pretty badly the last time I took it, so the fact that I can't see how you ensure that children wind up with heterosexual parents through the simple expedient of preventing same-sex marriages doesn't mean that it can't be done. But if there IS a way for this to work, I'd like someone to explain it to me, because I've never come across an explanation. Accordingly, I'm inclined to think "that children generally fare best when raised by heterosexual parents," is really just a way of dressing up prejudice in the threadbare cloak of concern for children. (I've already pontificated on how we don't normally, even in reactionary states, privilege the supposed "rights" of children above the freedoms of adults to decide who they will or will not share their lives with, so I won't bore you with that again.) Or, perhaps more charitably, people are simply grasping at straws in the quest for legal standing for their attempts to tell everyone how they should live.

In any event, the choice presented is a false one, whether or not the research is sound. And that makes using it look bad, regardless of the reason.

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