This argument is probably just as common as “marriage is between a man and a woman”, but its proponents are convinced it’s impossible to shake. Well I’m about to shake the shit out of it.
The argument in a nutshell
WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!
What they’re really trying to say
Get your filthy gay hands off our kids. Also, gay love is gross. It says so in the bible.
The Smackdown- Part 1
The first thing to note is that this argument has nothing to do with same sex marriage. Nothing. Much like straight couples, same sex couples simply don’t need marriage to have children. They are already free to adopt (in the ACT, WA and NSW at least), and there is nothing to stop a lesbian couple, for example, obtaining sperm from one of their male friends and conceiving a child, with a turkey baster the apparent weapon of choice. In fact, I know of three couples that have done just that – my uncle is gay, and donated his sperm to two lesbian friends; another of my gay friends did the same; and a lesbian friend obtained the sperm of her partner’s brother. Obviously, none of these couples are married. Gay couples will continue to adopt, or conceive children of their own, with or without same sex marriage.
If you want to argue against same sex parenting, go and do that somewhere else. You’ll still lose, but at least you’ll just be wrong, rather than wrong and irrelevant.
The Smackdown – Part 2
That should be the end of the argument, but, unfortunately, it’s not. As misguided as it is, it seems to have some traction, and not just with the religious bigots. Indeed, I have spoken with many liberal, open-minded people who not only agree that children need a mother and a father, but also think that it’s somehow relevant to the same sex marriage debate. So, let’s assume for the moment that it is relevant, and allowing same sex marriage will lead to a significant increase in same sex parenting. There are, then, two components to the argument:
All other things being equal, any children raised by same sex parents are likely to be worse off than the children of straight parents; and
The degree to which they are worse off is large enough that we want to actively prevent same sex couples from raising children.
Let’s look at the conclusion first. If we temporarily accept the premise, and we say that same sex couples don’t fit our definition of “ideal” parents, should we actively prevent them from raising children?
To answer that, let’s go ahead and construct this set of “ideal” parents. What traits would we give them? Well, for starters, it’s probably a good idea that they actually want children. We’d probably also want them to be loving, compassionate, dedicated, generally responsible, of a certain age, financially independent, and have a strong support network (grandparents, aunts, uncles etc). We also wouldn’t want them to be racist, or walruses, or Jim Wallace. If we really sat down and thought about it, we could probably list 1,000 things that we’d want our ideal parents to be (or not to be, as Hamlet would say).
We could then rank all of our desirable and undesirable characteristics in order of importance. For example, we could say that having walruses for parents would be marginally better than having Jim Wallace, and therefore place “Not Jim Wallace” above “Not walruses” on our list. If we proceeded in this way for each combination, we would eventually have a list of all 1,000 characteristics in order of relative importance. Such a list may look something like this:
Ideal parents should:
- 1. Not be Jim Wallace;
- 2. Not be walruses;
- 3. Actually want children;
- 4. Love and respect each other;
- 5. Be responsible;
- 6. Be older than, say, 16;
- 999. Love Deepak Chopra;
- 1000. Know what “transubstantiation” is.
Now, the opponents of same sex marriage will tell you that “Must have parents of opposite gender” is pretty important – so important, in fact, that they want to actively prevent same sex couples from raising children. Which brings us to the crux of the matter – where would they place it on our list? Would they say it was the most important?
I seriously doubt it. Surely even the most intractable bigot would admit that a child would be worse off with a couple of white-supremacist heteros than some nice, clean-cut queers. If that is indeed the case (and I would love to meet someone who disagreed), they must argue that there are potentially quite a few reasons to actively prevent people from parenting. But they don’t argue that at all.
If “white-supremacist heteros” seem a bit far-fetched for you, how about this? A lot of the opposition to same sex marriage comes from Christians. Now, if you’re a Christian, and you believe that the fate of your eternal soul depends on an abject submission to Jesus, wouldn’t you consider being Christian as the most important thing for parents to be? I mean, what’s worse, having gay parents or spending eternity in hell? If these guys had any intellectual honesty at all, or even the vaguest idea of argumentative consistency, they would be out there campaigning to ban all non-Christians from having children. Especially atheists. And Scientologists. But, as I said, they don’t.
Even Jim Wallace isn’t that stupid.
The bottom line is that, as a society, there are many things we’d like parents to be. But it’s simply illogical to single out same sex couples for exclusion, when any two lazy, irresponsible, violent, drug-addled, Satan-worshipping anti-vaxers can have as many children as they like… as long as they have the right “bits”.
The Smackdown – Part 3
So… We’ve just seen that even if we accept the premise that children raised by same sex parents are worse off, there are still no good reasons to prevent them from becoming parents.
But, do we have to accept the premise? Absolutely not.
Study after study after study has shown that children raised by same sex couples have psychosocial outcomes no worse than the children of heterosexual couples. In fact:
The scientific research that has directly compared outcomes for children with gay and lesbian parents with outcomes for children with heterosexual parents has been remarkably consistent in showing that lesbian and gay parents are as fit and capable as heterosexual parents, and their children are as psychologically healthy and well-adjusted as children reared by heterosexual parents.
Or, if you don’t believe Wikipedia, how about the Australian Psychological Society, who said that:
The family studies literature indicates that it is family processes (such as the quality of parenting and relationships within the family) that contribute to determining children’s wellbeing and ‘outcomes’, rather than family structures, per se, such as the number, gender, sexuality and co-habitation status of parents. The research indicates that parenting practices and children’s outcomes in families parented by lesbian and gay parents are likely to be at least as favourable as those in families of heterosexual parents, despite the reality that considerable legal discrimination and inequity remain significant challenges for these families.
Or, if won’t take their word for it, what about the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the Child Welfare League of America, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, or the Canadian Psychological Association? And that’s just North America.
But here’s the kicker, and the ultimate reason why this whole argument is completely bogus. It wouldn’t matter how much evidence you gathered to show that same sex couples are just as good at parenting as their heterosexual peers, the majority of the people who make this argument – that is, religious people – will never change their minds.
And if you’re not willing to enter an argument with a view that’s amenable to change, you’re simply not worth arguing with.
So, what are we left with? An argument that is not only irrelevant, but has a false premise and an illogical conclusion, made by close-minded, dogmatic bigots. In short, this argument couldn’t be more wrong if it was made by Bill O’Reilly in a sequined mankini.
And that’s pretty damn wrong.