Saturday, September 20, 2008

Prop. 8: "It's about the children"

So while I was sitting in my minivan yesterday waiting to pick up my oldest daughter from middle school, I was trying to understand an editorial by David Blankenhorn in Friday's L.A. Times on why gay marriage would have a negative impact on kids. In "Protecting Marriage to Protect Children," Blankenhorn starts by saying, "I'm a liberal Democrat. And I do not favor same-sex marriage. Do those positions sound contradictory? To me, they fit together." Well, I'm intrigued. Maybe Mr. Blankenhorn can enlighten me using his liberal Democrat point of view. Shed some new light on the subject.

I read the editorial twice over. The second time I really combed through it, underlining, even slowing my eyes down to study his arguments word by word, and still I wasn't exactly sure what points Mr. Blankenhorn was attempting to make. Was I missing something? I'll put them down line for line and maybe you can tell me.

[M]arriage is not primarily a license to have sex. Nor is it primarily a license to receive benefits or social recognition. It is primarily a license to have children . . .

[T]he anthropologist Henry Fisher in 1992 put it simply: "People wed primarily to reproduce."

Presumably, Mr. Blankenhorn is aware that the entire debate we're having here in California over Proposition 8 is whether gay marriage should be legally recognized. This is not a philosophical discussion about marriage ideals. This is a debate over whether to grant or withhold marriage rights from a certain segment of the California population. Given that context, Blankenhorn sounds like he believes that the marriages of all couples who are biologically incapable of producing children (including: the man or woman is sterile, or the woman is past childbearing years) should not be legally recognized. I don't think he is seriously suggesting that, but that's certainly the direction of his logic.

Marriage (and only marriage) unites the three core dimensions of parenthood--biological, social and legal--into one pro-child form: the married couple. Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you . . .

In 2002 . . . a team of researchers from Child Trends, a nonpartisan research center, reported that "family structure clearly matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage."

I agree that this is a beautiful ideal. I had it in my family as a child. My three children have it now. But, as we all know, it's not possible for all children to have that. Now, if we are serious about passing laws to minimize these less-than-ideal child-rearing situations, we should start by outlawing divorce. Such a law would make great strides in ensuring that "the man and the woman whose sexual union made [the child] will also be there to love and raise [the child]," wouldn't it? But again, I don't think Mr. Blankenhorn is serious about following through on his own logic.

Let's look at this from another angle. According to Blankenhorn, Child Trends says that the ideal family structure for raising children is "two biological parents and a low-conflict marriage." That means, in theory, a stable married gay couple who, let's say, adopts a child would provide a better family structure than a divorced single mother who shares custody of her child with her ex on the weekends. The household of the stable married gay couple would fulfill the "two parent" requirement, the "low-conflict" requirement and the "marriage" requirement. The household of the divorced single mother who still has to deal with her ex on the weekends would fulfill only the "biological" requirement and fails on the "two-parent," the "low-conflict" and the "marriage" requirements. By Child Trends' standards, the theoretical stable gay married couple is far more preferable to the single divorced mother.

So why aren't we voting on a proposition to penalize divorced single mothers, since they can't provide the ideal family structure according to Child Trends? The answer is, because this is America, not communist China. In this country we don't use the law to penalize someone because he or she fails to live up to everyone else's utopian ideals.

And, I might add, we also know too many divorced single mothers who have successfully raised well-adjusted kids. Why not give gay couples the same chance?

[C]hildren have the right, insofar as society can make it possible, to know and to be cared for by the two parents who brought them into this world . . .

Every child being raised by gay or lesbian couples will be denied his birthright to both parents who made him. Every single one.

Every child has a "right" to be raised by both biological parents, says Blankenhorn. This is where he really loses me.

When I picture a gay married couple raising children, I think of four different scenarios. 1) The children are biologically related to one partner from a previous heterosexual marriage. (One biological parent, one stepparent.) 2) The children are adopted. (Both are adoptive parents.) 3) A child being raised by a lesbian couple was conceived by implanting donated sperm into the womb of one partner. (One biological parent, one stepparent.) 4) A child being raised by a gay male couple was conceived by implanting the sperm of one partner into the womb of a surrogate mother. (One biological parent, one stepparent.)

Plenty of straight parents have or acquire children through these means. Plenty of straights are also involved in raising children who are not biologically their own. Besides stepparents and adoptive parents, there are also godparents and grandparents who step in to help raise a child where one parent is deadbeat, deceased, etc.

Shall we penalize all these people, whether gay or straight, because they are "denying" the child his right to be raised by two biological parents? What on earth does Blankenhorn mean by that anyhow? You could rephrase Blankenhorn's statement as follows:

"Every child being raised by a stepparent, adoptive parent, godparent or grandparent is being denied his birthright to both parents who made him. Every single one."

At best it's a dismal take on the situation. At worst it's an insult to the people who are unselfishly devoting themselves to the child's well-being. Someone who isn't even their own biological child.

I thought that people who weren't the biological parents of a child, yet still took on the responsibility of giving him love, attention, discipline, security and provision, ought to be commended for doing a noble thing. I thought that people who wanted children so badly they would go as far as adopting a child, using cutting edge medical procedures, or risking hiring a surrogate mother showed tremendous promise for being committed and enthusiastic parents.

I have an odd feeling that the real answer is, if you're straight you can be a noble, committed and enthusiastic parent. But if you're gay you are only capable of denying a child his "birthright."

* * * * * *
I know at this point you're expecting me to list more of Blankenhorn's arguments. But really, that's it. Read the article for yourself and let me know if I've missed any other profound insights from the liberal Democrat on why I should oppose gay marriage. For myself, I can think of plenty of socially conservative, even Christian reasons why I should support it. I think I'll stick with those.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ray Boltz's story

A friend sent me a link to this interesting article in the Washington Blade. I've never been a CCM fan so I can't say I knew the name, but apparently Ray Boltz is right up there with the likes of Sandi Patty and Steven Curtis Chapman. His journey to coming out as gay is, unfortunately, typical of many people I know. He was married for 33 years and has four children. He hated himself for his homosexuality and endured decades of pain, of hiding, and of fear. Although he never formally joined an ex-gay group, he tried all their methods. “I basically lived an ‘ex-gay’ life — I read every book, I read all the scriptures they use, I did everything to try and change.”

Boltz speaks for many, many people who have been down the same path. The difference is that he is a celebrated name in Christian circles, and evangelicals can be brutal when their idols disappoint them.

Says Boltz:

I don’t want to be a spokesperson, I don’t want to be a poster boy for gay Christians, I don’t want to be in a little box on TV with three other people in little boxes screaming about what the Bible says, I don’t want to be some kind of teacher or theologian — I’m just an artist and I’m just going to sing about what I feel and write about what I feel and see where it goes.

Sample lyrics from one of his recent songs:

I was so good at pretending/like an actor on a stage/but in the end nobody knew me/only the roles that I portrayed/and I would rather have you hate me/knowing who I really am/than to try and make you love me/being something that I can’t (from “God Knows I Tried”).

Boltz isn't the first Christian singer to come out, though he may be the most famous. Kirk Talley, a Southern Gospel singer, came out in 2005. The Washington Blade tried to interview Talley for their story on Ray Boltz but he declined, offering only one comment:

"I will definitely be in prayer for Ray," he said in an e-mail. "He has no idea the crap he will have to endure."