My regular readers will now that gay adoption rights are a personal, touchy area for me. As a father and grandfather myself, I am acutely conscious that what matters to a child is not the status or orientation of the parent, but the depth of love and the quality of the care. My daughter Robynn has gone on record in stating , on the first occasion, that her experience when living with my partner and myself gave her a more stable emotional environment, and better examples in moral standards, than she saw given to her classmates from more "conventional" backgrounds. Later, she made it clear in a post here at QTC, that we should listen to the voices and experiences of children themselves who have grown up in gay - headed households, before making judgements. Giving her own verdict, she concluded: "Gay parents? I recommend them".
The issue of gay adoption tends to get less press than same sex marriage, but in many ways has greater importance for long term progress to gay equality and inclusion. Here in the UK , gay adoption is fully accepted in law, but a Catholic adoption agency has just won an important court appeal, granting it exemption from the statutory requirement of equal treatment for all candidate parents. This is a topic I am not yet ready to discuss properly, but will do at some stage. In the US, the situation varies by state, but in only one state, Florida, is there an outright legal ban. There is no sign of this ban being lifted by legislative process any time soon, but meanwhile there have been a string of favourable court decisions, with an important court ruling due any day now. In the meantime, here is another personal story of one child who would clearly agree with Robynn, and recommend gay parents. In his case, he voted with his feet, and actively left his one-mother-one-father version family for a gay single father - and in the process made a huge improvement in his life:From Palm Beach Post:
Grade-A gay 'parent' saved a child from two-parent straight home
James was a bright boy with a dark future looming when he made a decision to change his destiny.He traded his two-parent home in the Midwest for a single-parent abode in Florida. At 12, he discerned that his odds of success were better if his uncle raised him. His mother has abused drugs for most of his life. His father simply enables her. And, far too often, James has been the primary caretaker of his younger siblings. He wanted better. So last June, he headed south with his mother's brother — my cousin. "I want," he told me, "a better life for myself." He got one. His uncle, Benn Setfrey, is an educator who has seen firsthand the results of inept parenting. He wanted to make a difference in his nephew's life by doing it the right way. He also is gay. He chose the pen name Setfrey when he wrote a book on homophobia because, in doing so, he felt set free. But in Florida, the only state that denies gays the right to adopt, he's not truly free. (They can't marry either, but that's a subject for another time.) James had a 0.5 grade-point average when he arrived at Mr. Setfrey's home. After a few months, he had a 3.5. In an essay titled "The Fresh Prince of Hallandale Beach," James credited his uncle. "He told me I have to de-program and re-program my brain, and it worked," James wrote. "It also took love, sweat and tears. I have a great life in Florida."
Does the gender of parents really matter?
The assumption that children need both a mother and a father is widespread. It has been used by proponents of Proposition 8 to argue against same-sex marriage and to uphold a ban on same-sex adoption. In 2006, the New York Court of Appeals, ruling against same-sex marriage, found that ‘‘the Legislature could rationally believe that it is better, other things being equal, for children to grow up with both a mother and a father. Intuition and experience suggest that a child benefits from having before his or her eyes, every day, living models of what both a man and a woman are like'' (Justice Robert Smith in Hernandez v. Robles, 2006). To what extent do these rational beliefs, intuition, and experience match the findings from scientific studies?
This is the question addressed by the lead article in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family. Extending their prior work on gender and family, Dr. Biblarz and Dr. Stacey of New York University, analyzed relevant studies about parenting, including available research on single-mother and single-father households, gay male parents and lesbian parents. Their review included 30 studies that compared two-parent lesbian couples to heterosexual coparents, 1 compared gay male to heterosexual coparents, and 2 compared lesbian to gay male coparents. They also reviewed 48 studies of single male or female parents.
In their analysis, the researchers found no evidence of gender-based parenting abilities, with the "exception of lactation," noting that very little about the gender of the parent has significance for children's psychological adjustment and social success. They found there are far more similarities than differences among children of lesbian and heterosexual parents. On average, two mothers tended to play with their children more, were less likely to use physical discipline, and were less likely to raise children with chauvinistic attitudes. Studies of gay male families are still limited.
As the researchers write: "The social science research that is routinely cited does not actually speak to the questions of whether or not children need both a mother and a father at home. Instead proponents generally cite research that compares [heterosexual two-parent] families with single parents, thus conflating the number with the gender of parents." So the Court of Appeals was right in saying that children benefit in some ways from the resources that come from having two parents, but their intuition was wrong in believing that those parents had to be of different sexes. Hopefully the California court that is currently considering Prop 8 will follow in the footsteps of the Iowa Supreme Court in relying on scientific reason over intuition.
Now, there's a thought: using reason and evidence instead of mere intuition and prejudice when taking decisions on these important family matters! Wouldn't if be good, too if the Catholic Church could follow the same principle? Oh, for some reality-based theology!