Monday, 4 February 2013

"Children's Rights" and Marriage Equality

This is another deviation from the stated themes of the blog~ absolutely nothing to do with Japan. You have been warned.
From WikiCommons
One of my brothers has started writing a blog. We differ on a lot of things, and marriage equality is one of them. He wrote a blog post a few months ago about children having the right to a mother and a father, and therefore no gay marriage.  Now, here's the thing. When conservatives say "children's rights", it's usually code for "we hate gays but it isn't socially acceptable to say that any more, so, uh, think of the children." Usually I just assume that this is what people mean, and I don't bother engaging. In my brother's case, however, I know that he genuinely means what he writes. He supports civil unions. Despite being of the evangelical, creationist, literal hell-fire persuasion he doesn't see homosexuality as a choice or even as inherently immoral. So when he says "think of the children", illogical though it is, I know he must truly believe it. I thought I'd try to write a polite and respectful comment on his blog, but then it got really long so I thought I'd post it here, and then it got kind of sarcastic because a good old reductio ad absurdum is just so damn tempting.

Here's the main body of his argument:
I opposed the Bill simply to uphold the principle that children have a right to be raised by a mother and a father.  Both genders contribute different and complimentary things.  Both are necessary for the raising of well adjusted and resilient children.  While that is not always possible in the messiness of real life, the law should as far as possible safeguard that right.  For that reason it should be unlawful for anyone to access IVF who is not a married heterosexual – and yes, we really do need to stop subsidising a culture of intergenerational illegitimacy.
Of course some homosexuals can be better parents than some heterosexuals.  Bad parenting and social dysfunction crosses all boundaries of gender, orientation, ethnicity, nationality and religion.  Some kids are better off raised by wolves than by their parents.  That doesn’t change the argument. 
And here is my response:

When you say "both genders contribute different and complimentary things", what exactly do you mean? Should heterosexual couples take a test to ensure that the male is sufficiently skilled in mechanics and the female suitably enthusiastic about baking cup cakes before they can reproduce?  Since your argument is against same-sex parenting, I assume you mean sex when you say gender (no, they are not the same thing). If so, surely the usefulness of having a certain set of genitals is limited in its parenting applications? I mean, I can tell my daughter what my periods feel like, but hers will almost certainly not feel the same way. There is also no reason why she couldn't have the same conversation with her grandmothers, aunts or godmother. She might even feel more comfortable talking to those women. It seems like a very small thing to be put on a pedestal above any other consideration of parenting ability. Don't mistake the stakes in this debate: your argument is that the law should see the very best homosexual parents as less than the very worst heterosexual ones. You acknowledge the flaw in this yourself but then brush it aside as inconsequential. It isn't. It is the very heart of the argument. To support such profound discrimination surely the onus is on you to provide some evidence or explanation for these "different things" the genders/sexes do for children.

The law has in fact been used in the past in Australia to uphold the principle of only married heterosexuals having children. We ensured that children had this "right" by tying unwed mothers to hospital beds and placing pillows over their faces as their baby was born so that they couldn't see it being taken away. If you genuinely believe that children have the right to married heterosexual parents, you presumably want to see a return to this policy? We should also consider legislative approaches to resolving custody disputes after divorce. Obviously custody should be awarded to the parent who remarries the fastest, to ensure the children's right to married parents is upheld. Likewise if a parent dies and the surviving parent refuses to quickly remarry, the State must step in to remove the children from this gross violation of their rights. If a heterosexual couple has children out of wedlock we need coercive measures to ensure their immediate marriage. Perhaps forced readings of Jude the Obscure. It would greatly simplify matters if everyone were fitted with a contraceptive device they could only deactivate after providing the State with proof of marriage and suitably cisgender-normative hobbies. It's the only effective way to really protect the children.

Once we have taken these measures, the child preparing to move to his eleventh foster home or the toddler dying from treatable illness and malnutrition in a third world orphanage can rest easy at night knowing that they are safe from the TRUE horror: having parents with matching genitals.

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  1. Wow, what a very interesting read!

    It's amazing in a world where there are millions of children without love in their lives, people can still focus on how the worst possible situation is in fact- as you so aptly referred to it- that two people who the same genitals could become parents.

    There have been countless studies which show that gay parents care for children in comparable- and sometimes even better- ways to straight parents.

    Even, to think of it in practical terms, the fact that gay couples must actively seek out avenues to have a child, as opposed to many heterosexual couples who fall pregnant unplanned is something to consider in terms of the debate. Someone who has to jump through hoops to have a child is more likely to be better prepared, informed, and desiring a child than someone who falls pregnant unintentionally.

    And then, there's the fact that we're all humans, each with our individual assets. If we're going to say straight parents are better- why not start saying which ethnic groups make better parents? How can you lump a whole group together and label them to be unfit?

    Anyway, good on you for this great post!

    1. Thanks for such a long and thoughtful comment :)

  2. Some comments from facebook:

    "What I want to know is, when did it become OK for every man and his dog to publicly express an opinion about who shouldn't be allowed to have kids? Because I have a long long list but I havent blogged about it because it seemed a bit impolite. Maybe even a bit mean spirited? After all, who knows what kind of birth parents my kids had? Perhaps if I'd had my way and there was mandatory contraception for drug addicts, liberal voters, chavs, and anyone under 21, they would never have been born at all. And that would have been a shame."

    "As someone who grew up in a traditional and Catholic household, I can also argue that each parent doesn't bring a set sort of masculine or feminine perspective to the table. My father for instance, did a lot of what is traditionally considered feminine (cooking, cleaning, making lunches, etc.), and a good example being that he is the one who taught me how to shave my legs. My mother was the one who spent most of her time at work and now she spends a lot of time exercising. They defy traditional gender roles but raised two decent kids, and had/have just as much right to do so as a traditionally masculine dad and feminine mom, or homosexual parents for that matter. My point is, being a man or a woman has nothing to do with what stuff or values a parents will pass on to their kids. The content of their character and how much time they are willing to invest in their kids is what determines that."

    "So far I have yet to see a situation in which our son (3.5 years) should not base his actions on the values we are trying to teach him, and the empathy towards others, but the fact that his parents have different sets if genitals.
    I am trying to make our child become a generous, gentle, thoughtful person. That is just what my husband does, too.
    At no point in time our behavior was based on the gender we have.
    I never make cakes, I hate cleaning and I refuse to iron. But then again, I actually grew up in a *single parent* household so I guess I do not have a great stand at all "

    "I don't see how having two moms is any different from having only one mom...i.e. single parent households. Unless you outlaw divorce or sex out of wedlock, it's an absurd argument to make."

    "I think the burden of proof is on people assuming gay couples can't raise their children as well as heterosexual couples. Unless you can give me hard evidence that this is the case (and circumstantial "well, they fulfill different roles" is not good enough) I don't think the argument has much of a leg to stand on legally."

    1. And some more:
      "As far as the 'different genders (sexes) contribute different and complimentary things' goes - I think it's a load of bollocks. Different PEOPLE contribute different and complimentary things, regardless of sex or gender.
      The only way I see that having a parent of both sexes might be more beneficial is that as so much of our society is based on gender (and learning to performing the 'correct' gender for your sex) it might help to have one of each sex to look to as examples. That doesn't necessarily mean making sure little girls learn to be girly and little boys learn to be boyish - rather, society will tell children how they're supposed to be, and having two trusted role models of both sexes available to counteract those restrictive messages could be beneficial.

      On the other hand, who's to say that they will be good role models, or even good parents. I'd rather see a child with two parents of the same sex, who actively decided and committed to having children, than one with two parents of opposite sex, who bumped their genitals together one drunken night, made a 'whoops' baby and decided they'd better get married."

      "I have a 3 year old nephew and a 8 month old niece. They have 2 mums and no dads, except for the biological ones required to create them. Both kids seem to be totally fine and well adjusted at this stage, and both mums fulfil all the required roles of parenting - from playing sports with them to bathing them. I don't see what difference it makes if a child has 1 dad, 2 dads, 1 mum, 2 mums or one of both, as long as the fundamentals of parenting are carried out."

  3. When we started our first adoption, from the US (we're Canadians), our social worker told us to register with a Christian adoption agency, since because we are Christians, we would "get a child faster". That was the first turn off, because in essence that's not even legal any more. The next one and much larger negative issue was that the application form asked for sexual orientation (at any point in the present/past of the applicants' lives) and did not allow same sex couples to apply.

    In the US, the law states that the Birth Parent has the basic right to choose the adoptive parent(s) she/they would like to have parent their child.
    We felt that by limiting that choice, the adoption agency was working against all that's been done to make adoption a more open and equitable process to all involved (in North America).
    Not to mention that by doing this, this organization (and there are many) basically says: the right for every child to grow up in a family is not what's really important to us - our personal agenda is far more important to us than the welfare of any child. We would rather see a child go into foster care than be adopted by a same sex couple the birth parent chooses. We are arrogant enough to say we know better than birth parents in general.

    Needless to say, we chose a wonderful all-inclusive adoption agency and were chosen by a birth mother who had a full range of choices as to who would parent her infant daughter.
    Now, after countless adoption picnics and get-togethers, adoption camps and play dates - I can honestly say that seeing children grow up with same sex parents is just as much a joy to behold as seeing them grow up in single parent families and heterosexual partnered families. These children have families. My children have friends who have a Mom and Dad, 2 Moms, 2 Dads and some who have a Mom.
    And we are still Christians.

    1. Thank you for commenting, it's especially nice to hear from adoptive parents.

      From what I have read and heard, it seems that the US adoption system has some serious flaws.

  4. If we want to focus solely on children's rights, then there shouldn't be any IVF at all until there aren't anymore children up for adoption. IVF is about focusing on people's right to have children. If we were to focus on children's rights to have parents then it wouldn't make sense to prevent suitable child-desiring parents from adopting children.

    1. I'm honestly not sure I have ever encountered anyone using the term "children's rights" who did not in fact mean it euphemistically as a cover for advancing their own political agenda, and I mean that equally in reference to left and right sides of politics ^_~


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