Same-Sex Parenting: A Preferred Alternative?

“Thirty Days,” a television series on FX, recently ran a program entitled “Same Sex Parenting.” The program was about “Tom and Dennis,” a homosexual couple from my neighborhood who foster-adopted four boys, and “Kati,” a Mormon woman from California who was herself both an adoptee and adoptive parent.

Kati moved into Tom and Dennis’ home for thirty days, while they attempted to persuade her to change her conviction that gay and lesbian couples should not be allowed to foster or adopt children. (She kept referring to this alternately as her “belief” and “opinion.”)

The persuasion took a variety of forms, including …

Dinnertime confrontations: “Are you saying that these kids would be better off in a group home than with us? Are you saying that we’re bad parents?”

Mandatory attendance at gay and lesbian events and support groups, in which participants took turns at using her for target practice for her “prejudices.” (Groups included COLAGE, an Ann Arbor group for children raised in same-sex parent households and CARE, an advocacy group that seeks to have laws passed to protect same-sex couples.)

Forced labor, in which she had to hand out flyers to businesses in the downtown area (the owners had clearly been coached to make barbed comments about “those people” who are treading upon their rights).

A field trip with two social workers from Detroit, who took Katie into a crumbling neighborhood, to see a group home in which one of them had been raised, to demonstrate how much better off children are with ANY family than in a group home.

Is Any Family Better than NO Family?

This last point is usually the argument most groups return to, as it is the most difficult to refute. For a long time I avoided writing on this particular subject for the simple reason that I, too, had SEEN such a group home, and was horrified by the conditions in which the kids were living. Were the children truly better off in a place like this than with a gay couple? And, if so, how?

Watching “30 Days,” the answer became very clear to me. The first clue came when I saw that Katie was put on the hot seat over and over again for her “opinions,” yet at no time did the tables turn. Tom and Dennis were never made to sit down with sociologists or psychologists or theologians who could ask them the hard questions about what they were teaching the children about heterosexual relationships, and how it might affect the future ability of these children to form healthy families. No one suggested that any other considerations (including the developmental needs of the kids) might trump their “right” to have a family. They were never asked to confront anything more persuasive than “I’m sorry, but this is what I think.”

What they want you to presume, of course, is that no such considerations exist. And yet they do exist, and cannot be discounted without doing real and lasting damage to the well-being of children who have already suffered so much. (For more about this, click on this study from the Family Resource Center.)

Here are a few of them:

1. Children adopted by gay and lesbian couples are absorbed into a subculture is intrinsically different from the one in which they originated, and to which they very likely belong.

Many experts in adoption contend that it is highly undesirable to place an African-American child (or a child from any other non-white background) with a Caucasian couple. No matter how loving or well intentioned, the argument goes, the white couple is intrinsically “different” from the child, unable to give that child the tools he or she needs to get along in his particular corner of the world. (Some couples attempt to overcome this by exposing the child to others with similar backgrounds at school, in church, and even on play dates. However, in a very real sense, a white parent can never hope to teach by example what it is to be part of that particular community.)

Similarly, homosexual or lesbian couples cannot teach children by example the skills they will need to grow up and form healthy heterosexual relationships. Because the gay and lesbian community tends to form a distinctive subculture within mainstream society, the pressure to accept the gay lifestyle as “normal” or even desirable could not help but form an indelible impression on the children placed in their care. The tensions (such as those seen on the show) between the two camps cannot help but have a negative effect on the kids.

At one point in the program, one of the men (I think it was Dennis) commented on how the kids hadn’t warmed up to Katie. “I haven’t seen them hug her even once, and they are normally very affectionate kids,” he said. In reality, the children had picked up on the tensions in the house, between their “dads” and this lady who “didn’t want them to be a family.” Children tend to take their cues from their parents … and these two had already branded Katie “the enemy.”

2. Children placed in gay and lesbian homes become unwitting targets, exposed to greater censure and scrutiny by their peers than other adopted and foster children.

In the “30 Days” episode, a young child – six or seven years old – going to his first day at school was admonished by his “dad” to choose whether or not to tell his classmates that he has two dads. Katie was horrified by this. “You’re asking a six year old to make decisions about something he shouldn’t have been exposed to in the first place!”

While her horror is justifiable, the reality is that this kind of decision making about how much information to share, and with whom, is all too common for foster children and adopted children. This is especially true when children are adopted outside their racial or ethnic group; their coloring makes it immediately evident that their natural parents are not raising them. Children pick up on this quickly, and questions such as, “So where are your real parents?” or “How come you don’t live with your real parents?” are all too common.

Responsible parents talk with their children ahead of time, and help them to decide how to respond to these personal questions. Unfortunately, children raised in gay and lesbian households suffer an additional level of scrutiny. Their desire to blend in to their peer group is frustrated each time “both dads” or “both moms” show up for ballgames or other class events, or they are asked to do projects about their families. (Children raised by single parents generally do not have the same difficulties because of the prevalence of divorce.)

Although many schools try to smooth over these differences in the name of “tolerance,” the bottom line is that these children are forced to be a constant reminder of a lifestyle many other parents strongly object to … which only adds to their sense of being “different” or “unlovable,” making them unwitting (and undeserving) targets.

3. Children placed in gay and lesbian homes are not taught how to embrace God’s design for family life.

Children raised in gay or lesbian households don’t get to experience the positive ways men and women complement and complete each other, especially within marriage. Rather, they are subjected to conflicting and contradictory messages in their adoptive homes, no matter how otherwise “loving” and “supportive.” For these children, the “theology of the body” is all but lost, and their inherent dignity is further obscured.

So … Back to the Orphanage?

Whenever human choices cause them to take steps that are outside the revealed will of God, there are consequences that are very real, and often far-reaching. If Adam and Eve had imagined that a bite of fruit would have sent them so far from the Garden, do you think they would have taken that first bite?

The children currently in the system are not pawns in the war of political activism. Most of them were brought into this world through the ill advised and often sinful actions of their parents, and have scars that are both deep and permanent. There is no denying this. They are growing up in a world that is harsh and by all accounts unloving.

There was a time when whole religious orders were dedicated to caring for such children, forms of which continue to this day. However, no institution – no matter how well organized, or well-intentioned – can take the place of the family. The first Christians had a tremendous influence on the Roman Empire for the simple reason that they tended to the needs of the poor and marginalized, especially its discarded children.

The best thing for ANY child is to be raised by his natural parents — one man, one woman, lovingly united for life in the bonds of holy matrimony. Each time this plan is disrupted, the child is the one who suffers. The question is not “if” the child is going to suffer, but “how much”?

The child who is adopted by another couple will likely grow up wondering about his birth parents.

The child who is raised by a single parent will grow up wondering about the other parent who is no longer a part of his or her life.

The child who is adopted by a single parent grows up with all these questions, plus a few more in the event that single parent marries unwisely. (Two women in my family had children and subsequently married. Both children suffered at the hands of their birth fathers and their mother’s husbands.)

In the short term, placing a child with a gay or lesbian couple may seem like a better choice than leaving him or her in a group home … until you think about the consequences of that choice. As a result, that child is absorbed into a subculture to which he does not belong, forced to accept as normal a lifestyle that is far outside the mainstream. Instead of learning from his parents the tools he needs to understand the beauty of the complementarity of the sexes and the order of natural family life, he is subjected to conflicting and confusing messages that strike at the core of his identity … and his dignity as a human person.

However, until and unless we are prepared to accept responsibility for these lives, and teach them the things they need to know to form healthy relationships and enter into marriage and family life, our protests will fall on deaf ears. Resources are limited. The need is too great.

To the extent – and ONLY to the extent – that we are prepared to respond with tangible help, can we hope to effect real, lasting change. And so, there is only viable response to the social worker who says, “What can I do? Send them to the group home … or with Tom and Steve?”

The answer is the same as the one Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta so often gave. “Give those children to me.”

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12 thoughts on “Same-Sex Parenting: A Preferred Alternative?

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  1. Your sterotype of the “gay and lesbian sub-culture” not only is deeply offensive, it’s absolutely incorrect.

    I am one half of a same sex relationship. Our daughters birthmother picked us to parent the child she felt she couldn’t and she is a straight. She saw us as having the same values, likes and hobbies as she does, and to an adopted child, this is a much more powerful statement for us a a “couple” and not as some stero typical image you think will be harmful to a child.

    I have a older daughter who along with her fiance, (a man by the way) spend an enormous amount of quality time with their little sister. We choose to live our life not as “those lesbians” but rather as Deb and Monica, two great gals that live in a very small town with very open minds and hearts. We are completely “out” as you might say, but we just call it living the sort of life we grew up with. Members of our schools PTA, involved in girl scouts, community events and any other small town happening that 99.9% of this country’s citizens do on a daily basis.

    We don’t have a “majority” of gay friends. As a matter of fact like most “good” Americans we choose our friends by their qualities and not their sexual preferences. We’re good friends with our fire chief, city manager and guess what, their straight.

    Our child’s world is like every other child’s world in our community who have parents that are loving and open to their fellow neighbors.

    I am sure if you wanted to compare our “normal” life with your “normal” life, you would find that our child is much more adjusted and happy than yours.

    Happy and normal in spite of your ignorance…

    Deb and Monica

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  2. Thanks for writing, Deb.

    First, I found it interesting that for all your claims of “openness,” you posted your comment under an anonymous profile. But for the moment, I’ll choose to take what you say at face value. There are exceptions to every rule.

    (Let me also go on record as saying that this is the first — and last — such “venting” post from same-sex parents that will appear on this blog. If you find my view “offensive” simply because you disagree with it, too bad. My blog, my rules.)

    If you have something constructive to add, by all means drop me a line and I will respond privately.

    Bottom line: To be engaged in a gay or lesbian relationship (as opposed to simple same-sex attraction) is to choose against the natural order. Only heterosexual relationships are open to life. Basic biology.

    This doesn’t mean that gays and lesbians are evil, or should not be allowed around children. I’ve had gay friends and seen the particular burden they carry, some of them with great courage.

    However … and this is the point of my post … adopted and foster children already have so much that they have to overcome, so many struggles ahead of them, that it is important to minimize the additional baggage we as adults add to the mix.

    Which is why, at the end of the day, every kid needs a mother and a father. This is the arrangement that gives those kids the best possible chance at overcoming the past.

    God bless you!

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  3. Thank you, Heidi, for posting this. Documentation is hard to ignore.

    The media and mainstream culture continually tries to force solid moral teaching out the window, leaving our society most importantly, our families in a violent and angry state. Children are angry, schools are increasingly violent and the prison system is evermore crowded and overwhelmed.

    Why is this happening? What has changed? A look back 30 – 40 years may tell the story what what has grown and what had been hindered.

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  4. I know an “older” couple – woman in her mid 40s and husband in his early 50s – who wanted to adopt an infant. They were told they were too old. As ridiculous as it may seem, they were screened out because statistically there was a high risk that the father would not be alive when the baby reached adulthood.

    When it comes to establishing rules, the best we can do is go on statistical data. This particular couple might have made great parents (perhaps we need to re-examine age guidlines), and certainly their loving home would have been better than no home even if the dad died 10 years later, but the rules were put in place because the rules were designed to consider what was best for a child…and what is best for a child is to have a mom and a dad working together to raise him or her, not to be an orphan at a young age.

    If you consider statistics and not individual cases, G&L couples do not have a good track record for staying together (much worse than heterosexual marriage and even worse than unmarried, co-habitating couples who are generally not permitted to adopt). Statistically speaking, G&L couples have more friends who are G&L, therefore G&L relationships will be seen as “normal” which they are not (I’m not trying to be offensive, just scientific…males and females are, by nature, designed to be sexually attracted to each other in order for males and females to be born). Statistically speaking, children raised in single-sex parent homes have difficulty establishing opposite-sex relationships.

    While I’m sure there are plenty of G&L couples who can do a fine job raising well-adjusted children, the statistics are against that scenario as being what is best for a child.

    It is not fair to a child to merely give them “better than.”

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  5. Thank you Heidi for posting on this topic. I’ve not seen the show but it sounds like more of the same propaganda from the liberal agenda.

    It’s so very important for Christians to articulate God’s position on the matter, and for us to act on behalf of these children in whatever ways we can.

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  6. Excellent post, Heidi, defending the Church’s compassionate, widely misrepresented position on this controversial topic.
    You deftly handled Debbie’s comments with the right mixture of tough love and grace.
    If only people like Deb could see that we Catholics love homosexuals and their children enough to want God’s very best for them; healthy families on earth, and eternal happiness in Heaven.

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  7. I am sure if you wanted to compare our “normal” life with your “normal” life, you would find that our child is much more adjusted and happy than yours.

    I am interested in knowing what is it that makes a child more adjusted or happy? How would we measure this?

    Great post Heidi.

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  8. Good point, Therese. For most kids, happiness is directly related to security. Many adopted and foster children (including my own) do have security issues related to grief and loss. Within the “safe harbor” of their families, they can begin to heal.

    The challenge with same-sex households is that the very fact that these children have two moms/two dads makes them unfortunate (and unfair) targets. How can a child be truly secure and happy in such a situation?

    I recently heard an adoption podcast that discussed trans-racial adoption, how parents must journey alongside the child and identify with the child’s experience as “different” for the sake of the family’s identity. Otherwise that child will always be a non-white child in a (typically) white household.

    How can one begin to apply this to a household with same-sex parents? And can a child ever be truly happy living with this disconnect?

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  9. Good food for thought, Heidi, but I’d like to be logical for a minute. If we say that the “alternate” path chosen by the ss couple means it will add an extra burden to the already troubled children they adopt, then the ss supporters can say, “all the more reason we should be mainstreamed better.” By that logic, the more ss couples that have children mean the less that those children will feel awkward or extra-burdened. The sense thay have of being “targeted” would be all the more reason to institute “inculturation” programs for all American kids, so they don’t ostracise the kids from other homes. Since this is the present trajectory, it would seem as though this argument is dangerous to those who want ss adoptions to stop.

    I would put more weight on the need for children to have caring fathers than for simple “security,” unless one can make the case that fathers are intrinsic to security (which actually they are, we can prove).

    Remember that the nature of lesbian homes is significantly different than male ssa homes, so it’s possible that two loving women are able to provide much good guidance. Obviously, the aching need for fatherly love will not be met, nor with the two women even acknowledge the void.

    Finally, all of us are called to the “narrow path.” This means that arguing that fewer burdens placed on children make for better security could be dangerously twisted against large families, or home-schooled families, or families whose religious commitments put them well outside the mainstream. Imagine a Catholic family (daily Mass, home-schooling, maybe even homesteading) offering to adopt 2-3 more children because there is affection and room in their home. This argument could easily be used against them, saying that they would be “exposed to greater censure and scrutiny by their peers than other adopted and foster children” because the world doesn’t understand such things.

    All in all, “mainstream” and “security” are tricky words to use, I think, though I certainly agree with your conclusions.

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  10. Thanks for writing, Gen.

    The presence of a mother and a father is indeed the most secure of all family situations, and this is what every child deserves. I believe I said as much — Catholic social justice principles work within the parameters of natural law, which dictate that a family is formed by a man and woman who enter the sacrament of matrimony for life. Anything less is intrinsically less secure.

    Happily, these principles of social justice are confirmed by objective facts.

    If you look at studies (such as the one I reference in the article), you will see that homosexual unions are intrinsically less stable, no matter how you define stability. While there are some apparent exceptions (though these too tend to be less “stable” from the rates of infidelity within those long-term unions), gay and lesbian relationships dissolve at much higher rates than those of married couples (both in terms of number of partners and length of each relationship). And they have a much higher rate of domestic violence.

    The simple presence of a father is important. And yet, it could be argued that a significant part of the children being raised by lesbian couples are children from a previous (heterosexual) relationship, and these children do indeed have some relationship with their fathers. (Therefore, these children are no worse off than other children whose parents are divorced.)

    As I’m sure you would agree, the mere existence of a father is not enough. He must be fully present in the home for the family to be truly “stable.”

    Respectfully, I absolutely disagree that we should not give consideration to the additional pressures placed on a child by his or new home environment. Traumatized children have enough emotional turmoil, stemming from grief and loss, without the adults in their life adding to it.

    While homeschooling isn’t exactly “mainstream,” the peers of homeschooled children are being raised with similar values, such that the adopted child would not stand out as “different” in their daily interactions. If only more such families were willing to open their hearts and homes like this!

    Thanks again for writing.

    Like

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