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With Same-sex Marriage, What Happens to the Rights of Children?

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Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse believes we are experimenting with vulnerable children

Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage, the court heard testimony from adult children who grew up in same-sex relationship households. The Washington Post ran a piece about this just before the SCOTUS ruling. 

On one side were the advocates—those who claim to be living proof of the words Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote when the federal Defense of Marriage Act was struck down two years ago: that the law as it was “humiliat(ed) tens of thousands of children” being raised by gay parents. 

As part of legal briefs in the Obergefell case, some of these adult children shared their experiences of feeling marginalized, less-than, and unwelcome because their families weren’t recognized as "real" families.

Others who oppose gay marriage and were also raised by same-sex couples told their stories, too. One of them was Katy Faust who was raised by a gay mom in Portland, Oregon. Although Katy’s father remained involved in her life, when she began to reflect on her childhood and became a mother herself, she became convinced that no child should be deprived of a mother. 

Robert Oscar Lopez also gave testimony. A professor at California State University at Northridge and an outspoken critic of gay marriage, he believes same-sex parenting can even constitute child abuse. In July 2013, he wrote:

"Single-parenting and divorce have always been understood as a breakdown of the married mom and dad ideal, but the demand to view same-sex parenting as “normal” imposes a silence on children about the wound caused by the loss of one parent or the other."

Lopez has also said that he believes many adult children of same-sex parents like himself feel the way he does, but don’t speak up in order to protect their parents, "whom they love despite their ambivalence."

The Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage is now a reality, but the question remains: How does same-sex marriage change the rights that children do—or should—have as it relates to their parents? Do children have a right to know and be raised by their biological parents?  Is marriage an institution designed solely for adults, or do children’s rights factor into it—and what exactly are those rights?

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, president and founder of the Ruth Institute, an organization that promotes life-long marriage, says that what the Supreme Court has done with its decision is say that there is no necessary connection between marriage and natural parenthood. 

"Marriage has always helped assign parental rights. So when a baby is born, the mother is the person who gave birth to the baby—that’s the typical rule—and then after that we answer "who’s the daddy?" by saying the mother’s husband; he’s presumed to be the father of the children the women gives birth to during the lifetime of their union. With marriage now a genderless institution, we have broken that connection between marriage and parenthood. Children don’t have natural parents anymore; they have legal parents."

Morse says the idea that children have the right to know their biological identity, or to receive support, care and identity from their biological parents, is now in the process of being written out of the law. 

Some may point to adoption as a clear example of children being raised by non-biological parents where ties to biological parents are often completely severed, In adoption, however, the loss the child has experienced is recognized and acknowledged and it is understood that his or her new parents are stepping into the shoes that biological parents can’t fill for one reason or another. 

"Adoption is a child-centered, child-oriented set of legal rules, rather than adult-centered. And that is the difference between adoption and third-party reproduction," says Morse.

With same-sex marriage, it’s now discriminatory to say that the ideal family arrangement for a child is with his or her biological parents.

Related to this is the issue that Professor Lopez brought up: a child’s right to both a mother and a father. With marriage "equality," it is now discriminatory to say that a child is better off, or has a right to, both a mother and a father.

In the interivew above, Dr. Morse says married gay parents is a societal experiment and we shouldn’t be experimenting on children, especially those who too often have already experienced the profound loss of their natural parents. 

"What I see happening rhetorically, and probably even legally, is people saying that biology isn’t all that important; that we need to break our social belief in bio-genetic parenting as the norm. I think this is a very dangerous place to go. I think it’s just wrong for adults to say children have no right to their natural parents." 

Zoe Romanowsky is lifestyle editor and video content producer for Aleteia.
 

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