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Same-Sex Marriage, Part 5: Depriving Children of Rights

Same-Sex Marriage, Part 5: Depriving Children of Rights

Same-sex marriage, as Part 1 of this series explained, does not simply broaden the group of people who are allowed to get married; it completely changes what marriage is. Part 2 demonstrated the benefits of marriage to people and to our culture as a whole. Part 3 explained how sexual complementarity, and a connection to biology, is the foundation for marriage, and Part 4 demonstrated the first way disconnecting marriage from its roots in gender complementarity is problematic – because changing one part of marriage leads to a legal basis for changing marriage completely, which ultimately will lead to its demise.

Read the rest of the series here:

 

This article seeks to address the next two reasons the natural, or conjugal view of marriage must remain intact:

2. Marriage’s connection to nature protects the child’s right to his or her mother and father. Gay marriage, on the other hand, is based on depriving one child of at least one parent.

3. When marriage’s connection to biology is lost, marriage becomes based on merely the interests of the adults involved rather than on the interests of the child that might be produced. This makes a child a commodity, and reduces parenting, which is a permanent, non-negotiable status, to a contract that can be negotiated.

How Marriage Impacts Society

Marriage is, in and of itself, a good for society, whether or not that marriage results in children. The union that is created between husband and wife is one that promotes the well-being and flourishing of both, and, from the point of the state, for this reason it is worthy of state promotion. However, there is a critical factor for state involvement in marriage between a man and a woman: the fact that it can result in the creation of children. More specifically, marriage is the best way by which the state can protect children and promote their well-being. Marriage encourages mothers and fathers to commit to one another and to whatever children they might conceive, and research has repeatedly demonstrated that marital stability means family stability. Family stability, in turn, leads to social stability (See Part 2 for a greater discussion of this issue).

Consider, for example, that family fragmentation is estimated to cost American tax-payers at least $112 billion each year, according to a major report by economist Benjamin Scafidi, entitled “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing”. These costs come in the form of measures to combat poverty, criminal justice expenditures, education programs, and lower level of taxes from individuals who earn less. Much research has substantiated that the breakdown of the husband-wife family is associated with higher rates of poverty, welfare usage, failure in school, crime, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse.[1]

Research has demonstrated, time and time again, that the intact, biological family, headed by two married parents, is the environment that produces the best outcomes for children, in virtually all measured indicators.[2] Marriage is society’s most efficient, most cost-effective and least restrictive way for ensuring children’s physical, social, emotional, economic well-being.[3]

Traditional Parenting vs. Same-Sex Parenting

Many in the gay marriage movement point to the 2005 American Psychological Association brief on Lesbian and Gay Parenting that claimed research demonstrated that there were no differences between the outcomes of children from gay and lesbian parents and those of heterosexual parents. However, “not one of the 59 studies referenced in the brief compares a large, random, representative sample of lesbian or gay parents and their children with a large, random, representative sample of married parents and their children”[4]. In fact, the majority of the studies on gay parenting either compare homosexual parenting not to parenting by married, heterosexual parents, but to heterosexual single parents, divorced parents, or step-parent families, or they compare a small, privileged (highly educated and economically well-to-do) homosexual population with a large sample that was representative of the general population[5]. In other words, the claims that children of homosexual couples fare as well as those from married biological parents are not supported by appropriately applied science.[6]

In contrast, a 2011 study by Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin uses the second largest nationally representative sample ever to compare the outcomes of children who reported having a mother in a lesbian relationship or a father in a gay relationship with the outcomes of children from heterosexual, biological, married parents. (Answers to critiques of the study can be found in “The Vindication of Mark Regenerus”). The peer-reviewed study, which has been lauded in the academic community as “more scientifically rigorous than most of the other studies in this area” found that, according to a variety of outcomes, including economic outcomes, social outcomes (propensity for involvement in crime, experiences of sexual abuse, etc.) emotional and mental health outcomes, and relational outcomes, children of intact biological families fared better than children raised in any other situation, by all measures.

One chilling finding? 31% of children from households with a lesbian mother in a relationship with another woman said they had been forced to have sex, compared with 25% of children from households with a gay father who was in a same-sex relationship, and 8% of children from intact biological families.[7] Another telling result: “Only 2 out of the 15,000 screened spent a span of 18 years with the same two mothers”.[8] None reported spending that amount of time with the same two fathers.[9] Also, “among those who said their father had had a same-sex relationship, [only] 1.1% of children reported spending at least three years together with both men”[10].

Despite ubiquitous attempts to make it appear so, gay family life does not look like what is portrayed by television’s Modern Family. What does it come down to? Traditional marriage, between a man and a woman, is society’s best option for protecting the well-being of children.

Children Have Rights to Their Parents

Children need a mother and a father. Tremendous research has demonstrated this fact (See Part 2). Mothers and fathers contribute different, and necessary things to their children’s lives. A report from the liberal organization Child Trends acknowledged this fact: “It is not simply the presence of two parents, as some have assumed, but the presence of two biological parents that seems to support children’s development.” The study further noted, “Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.”[11] Sociologist David Popenoe, in his review of the role of gender in parenting, found that “The burden of social science evidence supports the idea that gender-differentiated parenting is important for human development and that the contribution of fathers to childrearing is unique and irreplaceable.”[12] Mothers and fathers are not interchangeable, and for optimal development, children need both.[13]

Children not only need their mother and father, they have the right to their mother and father. In all of the gay marriage bruhaha you hear a whole lot about “rights”. But, whose rights, exactly? Of course the gay marriage debate is argued for the “rights” of gay adults. But very rarely in the debate is a different, yet incredibly important question:  What about the rights of the children?

Gay marriage takes an unprecedented step away from human rights – by depriving children of the right to one parent. Although same-sex partners can parent through such means as adoption, in-vitro fertilization by way of a donor, or through children conceived in a heterosexual relationship, they cannot co-parent the biological child created from the two of them. For same-sex partners to form a family, they must do it by violating the intrinsic right a child has to his or her mother and father.

This is a tremendously monumental shift.

It means we as a society would be endorsing a form of family relationship that inherently infringes on human rights.

Children Need Both Parents

Even President Obama, who supports same-sex marriage, acknowledged the negative repercussions of children growing up without one of his/her parents in a Father’s Day speech at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago: “Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation…. We know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it….. We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child – it’s the courage to raise one.”[14] There is cognitive dissonance, however, in decrying the consequences of fatherlessness while simultaneously seeking to enact policies around same-sex marriage that would automatically deprive children of one.

Although few in the gay community feel secure enough to talk publicly about their concerns about same-sex households, many have expressed, within the gay community, some of the hardships that have come from lacking a mother or father, including feeling “disconnected from the gender cues of people around them”,  “intermittent anger at their ‘parents’ for having deprived them of one biological parent (or, in some cases, both biological parents)”, the desire for having had “a role model of the opposite sex”, and “shame or guilt for resenting their loving parents for forcing them into a lifelong situation lacking a parent of one sex”.

Gay writer Doug Mainwaring, writes in his article “I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage”, about his decision to move back in with his ex-wife, after a number of years exploring his homosexuality, for the benefit of their children: “To be fully formed, children need to be free to generously receive from and express affection to parents of both genders. Genderless marriages deny this fullness.” He explains that he and his ex-wife chose to deny their own sexual impulses because of his homosexual orientation, which has led “to psychological health and a flourishing of our family” due to the choice to “resist selfish impulses and to seek the best for our children”.

When children come into the picture, the “rights” of adults should come second.

Rights of Adults vs. Rights of Children

Children are unable to defend the rights to their parents for themselves. It is up to the adults around them, and society at large, to do the protecting for them. However, a child’s rights to his or her mother and father are rights that must proactively be protected, not retroactively defended. Once the child has lost the connection with a parent, the damage has already been done. Marriage between a man and a woman, who commit permanently to one another and to the family they might produce, is the only way to protect the needs of children before harm occurs.

As a result of Regenerus’ study, many individuals, such as bisexual Professor Robert Lopez, have felt the freedom to come forward and share their experiences of gay subculture. Lopez, who grew up in a lesbian household, details the confusion and difficulties of growing up with two mothers in his essay, “Growing Up With Two Moms: The Untold Children’s View”, and opposes same-sex marriage, particularly because of the fact that it deprives children of their rights. Lopez’s experiences conform much more closely to the outcomes in Regenerus’ research than to the picture of gay families portrayed by the media and our culture. Lopez has launched a call for an international movement to address the ethical problems of the LGBT movement. Lopez says, in his opposition to gay marriage: “A same-sex relationship is always a choice, for even if one can’t help having same-sex attractions, one decides with whom to couple and whether to couple at all… Children of gay couples do not have a choice about being denied a maternal and paternal line of descent… There is no contest here. The child comes first. In any ethically grounded discussion, same-sex marriage is dead on arrival”.[15]

Traditional marriage is the best means for protecting the rights and needs of children. By encouraging a child’s biological mother and father to commit to one another and to their offspring, marriage protects the child’s interest in having a relationship with both biological parents. Gay marriage, on the other hand, deprives the child of this most basic right to have a mother and a father.

Children as Commodities, Parenting as Contract

The second reason severing the ties of marriage to nature is so detrimental to society is because doing so makes marriage based on merely the interests of the adults involved rather than on the interests of the child that might be produced. If marriage is separated from its biological basis and its ties to procreation, it then has to be about something else. It may be about companionship, financial or legal benefits, social recognition and acceptance, even a desire to raise children, or some other issue, but it cannot be a union that allows two systems to cooperate for a larger shared purpose – creating and nurturing the biological fruit that arises from the union of the mother and father. This is a highly significant step. Marriage becomes, in this new scenario, based not on the well-being of children within the unique community that a biological family produces, but on the emotional and sexual interests of adults. Doing so makes familial relationships about choice, and reduces children to commodities over which adults can negotiate.

Parenthood vs. Legal Contracts

Parenthood is a forever deal. It is a status that connects the child to the parent for the duration of both of their lives. The status of parenthood cannot be altered simply because the adults wish it to be so; a woman who has birthed a child will forever be a mother, regardless of her desires or parental actions toward that child. Two biological parents have a natural/biological connection with the child they produce, and, by virtue of their marriage, are to have a commitment to both each other and to the common project of children that might occur from the relationship. There is a fundamental reason, beyond merely contract or law – the issue of biology – that binds their permanent commitment to the child. This issue of biology serves to establish the fact that children, as a gift from nature and not the state, have rights that cannot be given or taken away by the state.

In contrast, gay marriage makes parenting a contract – simply an agreement that is negotiated between two parties for parental rights over the child. The focus is on the partners’ rights (who gets the right to parent the child), not the child’s rights. Instead of being seen as the gift or fruition of a mutually-satisfying body-mind-soul relationship with automatic rights to the parents who created him or her, the child is treated as a “thing” over which to be negotiated.

Unlike parenting, contracts are legal arrangements, limited in scope and duration by the agreement between the parties involved. When the parties change their minds, a contract can be renegotiated. This is fine when the commodity in question is an agreement to plumbing services, or the allocation of a person’s lifetime resources to family members. But when the commodity in question is a child, “contract renegotiation” means harm to a person. Gay marriage (and parenting) establishes the principle that parenthood is only a matter of adult choice, rather than anything else. By doing so, the child becomes objectified, without any rights of his or her own – simply at the whims of the adults whose current contract gives them legal rights to care for him or her.

Problems of Contract Parenting

LGBT activist and journalist Masha Gessen demonstrated the complexity of parent/children relationships within same-sex unions when she explained, in a panel discussion for the Sydney Writers Festival, about her personal family situation: “I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally. . . . I met my new partner, and she had just had a baby, and that baby’s biological father is my brother, and my daughter’s biological father is a man who lives in Russia, and my adopted son also considers him his father. So the five parents break down into two groups of three. . . . And really, I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.” When biology is no longer the determining factor for connecting children to their parents, parenting becomes merely a legal construct worked out amongst adults, and children become merely commodities over which to be negotiated.

Custody disputes continue to demonstrate the fact that biology is a tremendously powerful ingredient – much more powerful than agreements or contracts. Consider a dispute in Ohio between two lesbian partners, in which the biological mother of the child had had legal documents drawn up (contracts) to give the non-biological lesbian partner power of attorney over the girl and custody should she (the biological mother) die. In spite of these legal documents, the court ruled in favor of the biological mother – seeing the biological status of parenthood as trumping the legal contracts drawn up between these two partners.

Sperm donors can change their minds and decide that they are actually interested in contact with children, lesbian biological mothers may determine that they do not desire to share their child with their partner – but according to this idea of parenting by contract, biology should not be relevant, and the job of the law is to ignore biology and hold people accountable to whatever contract they decided upon before the child was born. A contract which, of course, was made in the best interest of the adults involved, not the child. Experience, common sense, and court decisions all underscore the significance of nature in ensuring the rights of children.

Traditional marriage is the best way of protecting the natural rights of children. Two gay partners who wish to parent may have a commitment to each other, but it is not possible for them, like married heterosexual partners, to have a commitment to the common biological project of a child conceived between the two of them. This reduces parenting to merely a contract based in nothing more fundamental than a legal construct. A child conceived by a donor would be biologically connected to one parent, but not the other. Even more concerning, even if both gay partners chose to adopt, they could only do so by depriving their adopted child of one parent (either a father, in lesbian relationships, or a mother in gay relationships). Gay marriage, and gay parenting, even through adoption, cannot circumvent the issue of denying the natural rights of children.

Summary

Gay marriage severs marriage from its roots in nature. This should concern everyone in society, because it violates the rights of children. It does so by 1) depriving children of the right to one parent or the other and by 2) objectifying the child and reducing parenting to a contract. Children cannot defend their own rights; they rely on the adults who brought them into the world to do it for them. Gay marriage makes parenting about the desires of the adults involved, rather than about the well-being and rights of children. To do so essentially promotes the principle that children, rather than being human beings with fundamental rights given by something higher than the state or another person (i.e. given by nature, or by God), children are merely commodities, or objects at the whim and discretion of the adults who contract for them.

In this way, the “human rights” to marriage that homosexuals claim they are denied become, in fact, simply a means by which the rights of children are sacrificed.

 

Sources:

Anderson, R. (2013, March 11). “Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It”. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/03/marriage-what-it-is-why-it-matters-and-the-consequences-of-redefining-it#_ftn19

Anderson, R. T. (2012, December 18). “Can the President Have a Marriage Agenda Without Talking About What Marriage Is?” Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/12/7437/

Girgis, S., Anderson, R. & George, R. (2013, February 11). “Marriage and Politics”. E-mail subscription from Ryan T. Anderson of Public Discourse. Can also be downloaded from https://www.nationalreview.com/nrd/articles/338682/marriage-and-politics?utm_source=Copy+of+RTA+Bradley+Paradox+of+Persons&utm_campaign=winstorg&utm_medium=email

Farrow, D. (2012, Jan/Feb). “Why Fight Same-Sex Marriage?”. Touchstone. Retrieved from http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=25-01-024-f

Franck, M. (2013, January 4). “Same-Sex Marriage and Social Change: Exceeding the Speed of Thought”. Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/01/7495/

Franck, M. (2012, June 15). “Supreme Court Take Notice: Two Sociologists Shift the Ground of the Marriage Debate”. Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/06/5634/

Franck, M. (2012, July 30). “Truth and Lies, Nature and Convention: The Debate Over Same-Sex Marriage.” Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/07/5905/

Gallagher, M. (2011, August 23). “Defend Marriage: Moms and Dads Matter”. Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/08/3761/

Head Start Bureau (2004). “Building Blocks for Father Involvement”. Administration of Children, Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Contract No. 233-02-0002. Arlington, VA: National Head Start Training and Technical Assistance Resource Center. Retrieved from http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/hs/resources/video/video%20presentations/building_blocks1.pdf

Huffington Post (2008, June 23). “Obama’s Father’s Day Speech Urges Black Fathers to Be More Engaged in Raising Their Children”. Huffington Post Politics. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/06/15/obamas-fathers-day-speech_n_107220.html

Lee, P., George, R. & Bradley, G. (2011, March 30). “Marriage and Procreation: Avoiding Bad Arguments”. Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/03/2637/

Lopez, R. O. (2013, February 11). “Truth, Metaphor, and Race in the Marriage Debate”. Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/02/7871/?utm_source=RTA+Lopez+Truth+Metaphor+and+Race&utm_campaign=winstorg&utm_medium=email

McLanahan, S., Donahue, E., & Haskins, R. (2005). “The Future of Children.” Marriage and Wellbeing, 15(2). Retrieved from http://futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=37&articleid=103&sectionid=658&submit

Moore, K. A., Jekielek, S. M. & Emig, C., (2002, June). “Marriage From a Child’s Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect Children, and What Can We Do About It?” Child Trends Research Brief.  Retrieved from http://www.childtrends.org/files/MarriageRB602.pdf

Morse, J. (2012, April 4). “Privatizing Marriage is Unjust to Children”. Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/04/5073/

Popenoe, D. (1996). Life Without Father: Compelling New Evidence That Fatherhood and Marriage Are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society. New York: The Free Press, p. 146.

Rosenberg, J. & Wilcox, W. B. (2006). “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children.” Child Welfare Information Getaway. Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, U.S. Children’s Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/fatherhood/chaptertwo.cfm

Samuel, Ana. (2012, June 14). The Kids Aren’t All Right: New Family Structures and the ‘No Differences’ Claim”. Public Discourse. Retrieved on from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/06/5640/

Scafidi, Benjamin. (2008). “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First Ever Estimates for the Nation and All Fifty States”. Institute for American Values: New York. Retrieved January 15, 2012 from http://www.marriagedebate.com/pdf/ec_div.pdf

Snell, R. J. (2012, November 27). “Reason and Compassion in the Marriage Debate”. Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/11/7215/

Tellez, L. (2012, November 26). “The Future of Marriage: Why The Inevitable Is Not Inevitable”. Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/11/7192/


[1] Scafidi, Benjamin. (2008). “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First Ever Estimates for the Nation and All Fifty States”. Institute for American Values: New York.

[2] Anderson, R. (2013, March 11). “Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It”. The Heritage Foundation.

[3] McLanahan, S., Donahue, E., & Haskins, R. (2005). “The Future of Children.” Marriage and Wellbeing, 15(2).

[4] Quote by Professor Loren Marks of Louisiana State University, in Tellez, L. (2012, November 26). “The Future of Marriage: Why The Inevitable Is Not Inevitable”.

[5] Samuel, Ana. (2012, June 14). The Kids Aren’t All Right: New Family Structures and the ‘No Differences’ Claim”. Public Discourse.

[6] Franck, M. (2012, June 15). “Supreme Court Take Notice: Two Sociologists Shift the Ground of the Marriage Debate”. Public Discourse.

[7] Samuel, Ana. (2012, June 14). The Kids Aren’t All Right: New Family Structures and the ‘No Differences’ Claim”. Public Discourse.

[8] Samuel, Ana. (2012, June 14). The Kids Aren’t All Right: New Family Structures and the ‘No Differences’ Claim”. Public Discourse.

[9] Tellez, L. (2012, November 26). “The Future of Marriage: Why The Inevitable Is Not Inevitable”. Public Discourse.

[10] Samuel, Ana. (2012, June 14). The Kids Aren’t All Right: New Family Structures and the ‘No Differences’ Claim”. Public Discourse.

[11] Moore, K. A., Jekielek, S. M. & Emig, C., (2002, June). “Marriage From a Child’s Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect Children, and What Can We Do About It?” Child Trends Research Brief.

[12] David Popenoe, Life Without Father: Compelling New Evidence That Fatherhood and Marriage Are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society (New York: The Free Press, 1996), p. 146.

[13] Head Start Bureau (2004). “Building Blocks for Father Involvement”. Administration of Children, Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Contract No. 233-02-0002. Arlington, VA: National Head Start Training and Technical Assistance Resource Center; Rosenberg, J. & Wilcox, W. B. (2006). “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children.” Child Welfare Information Getaway. Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, U.S. Children’s Bureau.

[14] Huffington Post (2008, June 23). “Obama’s Father’s Day Speech Urges Black Fathers to Be More Engaged in Raising Their Children”. Huffington Post Politics.

[15]Lopez, R. O. (2013, February 11). “Truth, Metaphor, and Race in the Marriage Debate”. Public Discourse.

 

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