~oOo~

2013-03-16

it's not just about marriage law

cross-posted from the family scholars blog.

April DeBoer (second from left) sits with her adopted daughter Ryanne, 3,
and Jayne Rowse and her adopted sons Jacob, 3, and Nolan, 4,
at their home in Hazel Park, Mich., on Tuesday. [caption by NPR]
We've been talking a lot lately, at the Family Scholars Blog, about the upcoming DOMA/Prop 8 cases before the Supreme Court and debating the cases for and against marriage equality. Sometimes "gay marriage" can seem like the only or most important issue for LGBT folks. In fact, many of us have had the experience of talking with someone who assumes that once gay marriage is legal then anti-gay prejudice and marginalization will -- poof! -- be a thing of the past. We'll be able to put down our "activist" hats and embrace our mainstream status.

But the marginalization of LGBT individuals and families goes a lot deeper than marriage law. One such example comes from my home state of Michigan, which has some of the most restrictive laws in the nation regarding recognition of same-sex relationships -- including a ban on same-sex partners adopting together. While heterosexual couples and single people are welcomed as prospective adoptive parents, gay and lesbian couples are explicitly denied the ability to provide their children with two legal parents.

 A lesbian couple who are parenting three adopted children have sued the state for the right to co-adopt. From the NPR story on their case:
As foster parents, Rowse and DeBoer shared legal guardianship of Jacob. When they decided to adopt the boy, they faced the same decision they'd faced with the two other children: which of them would be the legal parent. They chose Rowse, who is also Nolan's legal mother. That meant DeBoer actually lost legal rights she had as a foster parent.

"I lose the right to make medical decisions for my boys," DeBoer says. "I can't enroll my boys in school. I am on an emergency card at school — I am listed as just an emergency contact person. I am not a parent. I am nothing."
You can read the whole story over at NPR.

There have been a number of people at the Family Scholars Blog who have expressed varying degrees of concern about the sanctioning of same-sex relationships through marriage because they feel this legitimizes gay and lesbian parents as procreative partners in some way.

What I think gets lost in such abstract discussions -- about same-sex couples somehow, in future, creating new life together -- is the fact that LGBT parents are already parenting without the full legal recognition that, in hundreds of little ways, ties parents to their children and ensures kids will have their parents or guardians present for them -- advocating and decision-making as necessary -- throughout their childhood. Statistically speaking, LGBT parents are also generally caring for their own biological children or adopting children who would otherwise spend their lives in the foster system. Parents (straight, gay, lesbian, or otherwise) who have used assisted reproductive strategies, too, are parenting children who -- regardless of their origins -- deserve the security of knowing they will have access to their parent-carers when they need them.

The argument that legalizing same-sex marriage gives social approval to all manner of assisted reproductive practices glosses over the fact that by supporting restrictive adoption laws, marriage laws, and other legal restrictions on the recognition of same-sex families, those who oppose recognition of same-sex relationships  are actively marginalizing existing children and their parents.  You aren't stopping future families from being created; people of all sexual orientations have, and will continue, to create families irrespective of the law. Instead, you're stopping already-established families from accessing the full range of social supports that, as a nation, we've decided interdependent couples and parents with dependent children need to thrive.

Maybe your concerns regarding reproductive ethics are strong enough that such a cost is worth it to you. But I don't think it's honest or responsible to simply ignore the human cost of such discriminatory practices.

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