Friday, June 28, 2013

Children first in the acceptance of same-sex marriage

I may later thicken up this post, which has been stalled by a few reading blocks, but just to get the basic idea down...

When I read Justice Kennedy's reasoning on behalf of the children of gay parents in his opinion striking down section 3 of DOMA in U.S. v. Windsor...
This [federal non-recognition of marriages sanctioned by states] places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage. The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, see Lawrence, 539 U. S. 558, and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify. And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives...
...I flashed back to Jeffrey Toobin's profile of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which thanks to dysfunction on the New Yorker website I have not been able to access, subscription notwithstanding. According to Toobin, Ginsburg is at least a bit ambivalent about Roe v. Wade, which she thinks may have brought too much change too quickly. Held up as a counter-example was the low profile manner in which gay would-be parents won adoption rights -- in relatively non-adversarial family court proceedings. I can't recall whether Ginsburg had a hand in this, or simply admired the steady under-the-radar progress.

When you think about the relatively quiet acceptance of gay parenting, it's kind of astounding. Like most Americans born before, say, 1970, I can recall some thoughtless, bigoted perceptions of gays (e.g., a male teen milieu in which insults and mockery focused reflexively on "gayness").  I suspect, before I was driven to any rational thought at all on the matter, that I would have been likelier to worry about gay parenting, which I could have imagined might have harmed children, than about gay marriage, which I would never have had any cause to think would harm anyone.  I can't recall the evolution of my own perceptions very accurately. But fifteen years ago my family and I moved to a town that was something of a haven for gay couples...and about ten years ago, a same-sex-married relative of my wife had her first child...and gay parenting became a comfortable part of my mental furniture.  While that is likelier to happen in metro New York than elsewhere-- and to have happened faster -- I think it's also the story of much of the country as a whole. Contact with gay parents dispelled any suspicion or notion, conscious or otherwise, that they couldn't parent as well as anyone else.

In the Windsor decision afterglow, Jonathan Cohn spotlighted plaintiff Kris Perry, an advocate for early childhood education, who echoed (and perhaps had helped plant) Kennedy's focus on children:

“We believed from the very beginning that the importance of this case was to send a message to the children of this country that you are just as good as everybody else, no matter who you love, no matter who your parents love,” Perry said. “And today we can go back to California, and say to our own children, all four of our boys, your family is just as good as everybody’s else’s family, we love you as much as anybody else’s parents love their kids, and we are going to be equal.”
By way of context, Cohn noted:
In briefs filed with the Court, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Sociological Association all argued that same-sex parenting causes no harm.
Again: perhaps the real miracle is the speed with which same-sex parenting has entered the mainstream -- and carried same-sex marriage along with it.  I would have guess it would have been the other way around.

1 comment:

  1. In France, the US's doppelgänger, it is the other way around: adoption-rights and acceptance of same-sex parenting as legitimate and non-pathological has remained much more controversial than civil unions and marriage rights and benefits.