How the Bigots Slander Adoptive Parents

As they strain to justify their religion-based bigotry toward gay people on some reasonable grounds, the Christian bigots have seized on the idea that there is something special about a child being raised solely by their biological parents and something inherently bad about a child being raised by anyone else. A child has a “right” to be raised by their biological mother and father, they claim, negating the reality for millions of parents and children as inherently flawed. Tom Junod, who has an adoptive daughter with his wife (they are infertile), writes about his anger at being dismissed in that manner:

What has changed our understanding of the way some people see our marriage is, of course, the general debate unleashed by the last two days of argument before the Supreme Court on the subject of same-sex marriage. No, my wife and I are not of the same sex; I am a man and she is a woman. But we are infertile. We did not procreate. For the past nine years, we have been the adoptive parents of our daughter; we are legally her mother and father, but not biologically, and since Tuesday have been surprised and saddened to be reminded that for a sizable minority of the American public our lack of biological capacity makes all the difference — and dooms our marriage and our family to second-class status…

For a long time I was told that same-sex marriages somehow endangered my own, but like anyone who has ever been married, I understood that whatever threat there was to my marriage came from within rather than from without. I was not the only one to reject out of hand the logical fallacy of what might be called the “zero sum” defense of traditional marriage, and before long I started hearing an argument based on biology or, as groups such as the National Organization for Marriage would have it, “nature.” For all its philosophical window dressing — for all its invocation of natural law, teleological destiny, and the “complementary” nature of man and woman — this argument ultimately rested on a schoolyard-level obsession with private parts, and with what did, or did not, “fit.” There was “natural marriage” and “unnatural” marriage, and it was easy to tell the difference between them by how many children they produced. A natural marriage not only produced children; it existed for the purpose of producing children. An unnatural marriage not only failed to produce children; it resorted to procuring children through unnatural means, from artificial insemination to surrogacy to, yes, adoption. The argument against same-sex marriage now boiled down to a kind of biological determinism, and so became almost indistinguishable from an argument against adoption itself…

Since my wife and I adopted our daughter, we’ve come to know many same-sex couples who are also adoptive parents, and it is exactly as proponents of “natural marriage” fear: it is their prowess as parents, rather than as pro-creators, that turns out to be persuasive. I have come to believe that they have the right to be married because I know that I have the right to be married, and I know that they are the same as me — because I know that I have more in common with gay adoptive parents than I do with straight biological ones. In my wife and in me, the self-evident biological purpose of procreation may be broken, but by God, we earn the right to be called parents because of the effort required to raise our child apart from the sacred biological bond…and so they, our friends engaged in the same effort, the same mighty and holy labor, earn the right to be called married. People wonder why public opinion regarding same-sex marriage has shifted so quickly; although I can only answer from my own experience, I can tell you that in my case my recognition of the right of same-sex couples to marry grew directly from the arguments mustered against it, because ultimately I realized they were also mustered against my wife, against me, and against the one person all the pro-marriage protestors and pamphleteers have pledged themselves to protect:

My child.

Tens of thousands of gay couples have adopted children and given them a stable, loving home — something that they obviously did not have with their straight, biological parents, for any number of reasons. And a hell of a lot of those children were particularly difficult cases, older kids or ones with handicaps of one type of another that most heterosexual couples tried to avoid adopting. They should be praised, not denigrated.

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