In honor of Argentina's legalization of gay marriage, I am reposting this essay, originally written on April 8, 2009:
Good for Vermont and Iowa. The Vermont legislature voted with comfortable margins to override the governor’s veto and legalize same-sex marriage. In Iowa, the supreme court voted unanimously that not allowing same sex marriage is unconstitutional.
These are great steps that promote two fundamental American principles - support for the family unit and fair governance.
In Iowa, the court consulted studies on children raised by same-sex couples, including findings by the American Academy of Pediatrics showing that children raised in same-sex families do just as well as children raised by different-sex families. This is based on empirical evidence rather than myth, circumstantial evidence or ancient morality codes. Surely even our common sense tells us that two loving parents can do a great job at parenting. We should support that as a society.
Even if the court had found evidence that showed a slight disparity in the ability to raise children between same sex and different sex couples, we should consider how the state should be involved with families. We live in a society of day care, divorce, single parent households, and severe income inequality - all of which present challenges to raising children. One could argue that these situations are different, because they are not officially endorsed by the state, and the status of marriage is an endorsement by the state. Fair enough. But a lack of that endorsement can also have adverse effects on the family. Despite not being the ideal situation, no one would suggest doing anything to a single parent to make raising his/her child more difficult. No one would suggest taking away a child from a mother, simply because there is no father. No one would suggest applying some sort of government approved label to that home, such as “not an ideal family.” That stigma would be another difficulty on top of difficulty. But an additional difficulty is exactly what denying same-sex parents the status of marriage accomplishes. By denying them that status, the government is making an official judgement call on the household’s legitimacy, having tax implications as well as emotional implications for the family within society. (Obviously suggesting that a single parent being denied the status of “marriage” is similar to a gay couple being denied that status is not relevant, as no one denies that marriage requires more than one person).
There will always be a fine line between child welfare and the freedom of individual families. Basically, same-sex couples will have children. That is certain, as it is a fundamental aspect of existence for many people. Is it in those children’s best interest for their parents to be denied the status of marriage?
But this is all COMPLETELY hypothetical, as the objective evidence supports the conclusion that same-sex couples can effectively raise children, just as different-sex couples can.
We might also consider that homosexual couples did not necessarily choose their orientation. Shall they be denied access to marriage based on that one difference? If so, then what is the alternative? Separate but equal (civil unions)? A life in the shadows? A life without partnership and/or children?
I certainly do not regard myth or religion as an enemy. I regard it as an essential element in trying to understand our existence and spirituality today. But ancient writers had an ancient understanding of the world, so basing our laws today on the prevailing moral code of their day, at the expense of observation and reason, is surely not advisable.
Even to those good folks who have a hard time processing “gay marriage” because of prejudice, religious or otherwise, we might ask what our society should base its laws on. Ancient authority? That uncomfortable feeling that you get around gay people (most likely because they’re different)? Or empirical evidence, based on the best scientific data available, coupled with values that no American disputes - support for families and equality of governance.
Check out this link for many endorsements of same-sex marriage by medical organizations.
Here’s one example from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)
"The basis on which all decisions relating to custody and parental rights should rest [is] on the best interest of the child. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals historically have faced more rigorous scrutiny than heterosexuals regarding their rights to be or become parents. There is no evidence to suggest or support that parents with a gay, lesbian, or bisexual orientation are per se different from or deficient in parenting skills, child-centered concerns and parent-child attachments, when compared with parents with a heterosexual orientation. It has long been established that a homosexual orientation is not related to psychopathology, and there is no basis on which to assume that a parental homosexual orientation will increase likelihood of or induce a homosexual orientation in the child. Outcome studies of children raised by parents with a homosexual or bisexual orientation, when compared with heterosexual parents, show no greater degree of instability in the parental relationship or developmental dysfunction in children. The AACAP opposes any discrimination based on sexual orientation against individuals in regard to their rights as custodial or adoptive parents."