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By Tom Cushing

Begging to Differ, chapter next.

Uploaded: Aug 3, 2015

From Tim Talk, circa July 23:

What is being lost in the discussion about gay marriage and the explosion of out-of-wedlock births is a focus on the children.
Marriage between one man and one woman has been foundational for centuries because it is the best way to nurture and raise children. Both mom and dad have key roles.
As American society has evolved or deteriorated depending on your viewpoint, the focus has been on what the adults want, not what's best for the kids. Research shows that outcomes are best for children when they are raised in a stable home with a mom and a dad. Long-term marriages also follow demographics: the better educated the parents, the more likely the marriage will endure and children will have brighter futures.
Move down the demographic ladder and the chances of out-of-wedlock birth soar.


I thought about just commenting on Tim's post, but it's so demonstrably wrong and confused that it requires a few too many words to unpack it. Besides, if I must again traverse this swamp (and I must!), I may as well get paid for penning what may end up being a fairly lengthy exposition on this mythology. So here goes.

First, I have no idea why he chose to conflate the apples of Same-Sex Marriage (SSM) with the oranges of out-of-wedlock births. They are remarkably different phenomena, with very different implications. To lump the two together casts an undeserved shadow on SSM at the very outset. It's a bit like Rick Perry equating homosexuality with alcoholism, when there are so many other, more fitting and non-pejorative characteristics he might have chosen ? say, handedness, or blue eyes, or red hair and freckles. It's never a coincidence, and it reeks of bias.

Second, there's the claim that child welfare has somehow been "lost" in the SSM discussion.

No, it hasn't ? indeed, it was the high-minded centerpiece of the attempt to disguise low-minded motives as anything other than what they were. Does anyone Not recall the insipid Prop 8 commercials with the little girl bringing home the "Two Daddies" book she'd supposedly been force-fed in elementary school? Ridiculous on the merits, but certainly not "lost."

In the Hollingsworth Prop 8 trial that spelled the referendum's doom, the central tenet of the defense was that children would be damaged by extending marriage rights to gay citizens. Plaintiffs' experts thoroughly debunked that claim, based on plentiful empirical evidence amassed since the 1970s. It unequivocally demonstrated that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are just as likely to be well adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents.

By contrast, the Prop 8 defenders' 'expert' on the subject, one of only two defense witnesses willing to testify under oath (and subject to cross-examination), was equivocal and 'unpersuasive' (per the judge) ? at one point admitting that the welfare of adoptive children of gay parents would be improved if their parents were married. He later recanted his opposition to SSM in a NYT Op-Ed. Indeed, Charles Cooper, the chief lawyer for Prop 8, did so as well ? after he (and other prominent Repubs like Dick Cheney and Rob Portman) was blessed with a child who is gay. This is an aside, but it's remarkable, ain't it, how actual experience evoked an empathy that could be resisted when it's other people's circumstances -- and children?

Further, the Opinions of the CA Supreme Court, all three courts in Hollingsworth AND the recent Obergefell US Supreme Court case are all rife with concern for children! Kids' interests were Always center-stage ? it's just that all those judges and majorities disagree with you that gay citizens are lesser parents.

Here's Justice Kennedy:

"As all parties agree, many same-sex couples provide loving and nurturing homes to their children, whether biological or adopted. And hundreds of thousands of children are presently being raised by such couples. Most States have allowed gays and lesbians to adopt, either as individuals or as couples, and many adopted and foster children have same-sex parents. This provides powerful confirmation from the law itself that gays and lesbians can create loving, supportive families."

Thereis One way that child welfare got lost, but I don't think it's the one that the blog intended. Recall the old saying that if you want to understand someone's motivation, you watch what they DO, rather than what they Say? There's a corollary that you also watch what they Don't Do.

Applying that wisdom here, if the True motivation of the anti-SSM 'discussion' was child welfare, they'd have done a few things differently. First, why focus Only on gay marriage when they could have gone for forbidding adoption or parental rights for biological offspring, as well? Indeed, why worry about marriage, per se, at all? After all, many gay couples are childless. If kids were indeed the concern, it would have made much more sense to focus All their efforts and money on the kid-stuff.

Instead, those with an anti-gay Agenda used children as a make-weight justification for their social conformity interest in a marital ban ? in the end a terribly cynical ploy that didn't work when subjected to actual proof. Did I write "cynical?" You may freely substitute "shameful."

Third, per Tim Talk, "Marriage between one man and one woman has been foundational for centuries because it is the best way to nurture and raise children."

A thousand more times No ? marriage has been foundational ? 'traditional' marriage has only been just that ? traditional. And it has been traditional because the animus against the LBGT communities has been so virulent that few dared stand up and demand equal rights under the law.

Marriage as a legal institution has never ever been static 'for centuries' (as Justice Kennedy indicated in Obergefell), and throughout its history it has mostly been about property rights (usually in favor of the male partner) and political alliances. Infertile couples have never been excluded from it. And the child-rearing chops of its participants have never been subject to scrutiny ? a simple blood test will do very well.

Again, per Justice Kennedy: "Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples."

So that blog has it backwards ? because there's no discernable difference in child-rearing outcomes between gay and straight parents, the impetus for the movement against SSM has to be found elsewhere. Further, exclusion of this significant minority from society's foundational institution does harm to children. It is irrational, and therefore cannot be squared with even the most basic conceptions of Equal Protection of the law.

And, as above, if the SSM opponents were Really concerned about child welfare and believed that heterosexual marital conditions are ideal, they might have better mobilized into making divorce more difficult, or at least into improving the general run of parenting skills. But they did not. Again, the anti-gay animus model fits the actions; the 'ideal conditions for kids' diversion distinctly does not.

Moreover and lastly, invoking those presumed "ideal conditions" is a false argument. Since when are only the ideal members of society permitted to do a thing? Drivers? Lawyers? Accountants? Pilots? No, in every venue except berths on the US Olympic Team, the requirements imposed by society are intended to ensure that the applicants are "good enough" to do something. Of course, in marriage, we have 'traditionally' not even done that.

Perhaps we should? Do you want Big Government, whose skills often scorned by The Right, involved in that licensing endeavor? Isn't that an incursion against a fundamental freedom? If you favor such an intrusion (seems doubtful), in the absence of evidence that heterosexuals parent better than anyone else, that licensing process ought not to exclude gay couples.

Should child welfare enjoy a higher place in the public policy hierarchy? Absolutely, it should. We don't do well at it. But demonizing SSM for that failure is wrong and offensive. Kindly bear childrens' interests in-mind the next time you hear a candidate call for cutting funds to school lunches or higher education.