The stories are heartbreaking. Some told boldly. Others told in whispers. All told with tears. Growing up as a homosexual in a world that treats you like a monster, the worst of sinners, is hard to imagine if you’ve never lived it. Those on the outside can’t even begin to grasp the pain that courses through the heart of a young child who is rejected, silenced, and even abused because he’s different.
Homosexuals just want to be accepted, to be treated as normal, to have their rights respected, and to have families of their own. These are the feelings and desires that drive the same-sex marriage movement. They’re understandable and valid, but there’s more to the issue of marriage than the unfulfilled desires and feelings of homosexual couples.
Growing Up Gay
Wes Hurley grew up in Russia, and when he realized he was gay, it “felt like a terminal disease diagnosis.” Gays were called “pediks,” which is the same as “faggot,” but it also means “pedophile.” “I heard both my peers and adults say that pediks are viler than serial killers and that anyone admitting to be one deserves to die a terrible death,” Hurley writes.
When Hurley realized he was gay, he wondered what he did to deserve it. “I’d look in the mirror and imagine a reptilian creature lurking beneath my skin. . . . I obsessed about concealing my secret. But having no idea what being gay looked like, I was completely lost. I became so anxious and self-conscious that at times I would forget how to walk. Every step I took seemed like a huge undertaking. Does this step make me look pedik? Will this word sound pedik-like? Better sit still and keep my mouth shut.”
Hurley’s story can be heard around the world, from Pakistan to America, as homosexuals are denied rights others so freely enjoy. Many can easily identify with Jonathan Rauch, who writes about sitting at the piano at the age of 10 or 11, daydreaming, when he hopelessly realizes he will never get married. “So baldly clear is this realization that I might as well be acknowledging that I will never have eight legs and spin a web.”
Much Ground Still to Gain
The freedom homosexuals have found to live together without condemnation, to love whom they will without being called monsters, and to express themselves without fear has been long in coming and, in some ways, still incomplete. In many parts of the world, they are denied even basic human rights. In Iran, Mauritania, Qatar, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia, they are killed, according to sharia law. In Syria, members of the Islamic State threw a gay man from a seven-story building. After surviving the fall, he was stoned to death by a mob.
While homosexuals face none of these terrors in the United States, they still don’t have the same privileges others do. When one partner dies, the other is not always entitled to bereavement leave from work, to file wrongful death claims, to draw Social Security from the deceased partner, or to automatically inherit shared assets. They are often not considered next of kin for the purposes of hospital visitation and emergency medical decisions, and they can’t put their partner on their health plan without paying taxes on the coverage.
Many privileges and obligations should be extended to homosexuals through civil partnerships and unions. Their right to make contracts concerning property and healthcare should be recognized and considered valid by the government because doing so does nothing to threaten social stability. These unions, after all, are personal and should not be denied by the state. It’s no one else’s business who loves whom or what they do with their own property.
Marriage Is a Social Institution, Not Just a Personal One
While there are still many things that can be done to overcome prejudice against homosexuals, marriage is not one of them. Unlike civil partnerships that are personal in nature, marriage is social. It’s social because it involves the creation and nurture of children.
State recognition of marriage is fundamentally about preserving the rights of children—which, in turn, promotes the public good. Individuals don’t just spring into existence as if they slipped from gel-filled pods in the Matrix or were manufactured along an assembly line in a Brave New World. They are born to one man and one woman, who share their DNA and who are intrinsic to their own identity.
Their sense of self, their stability as a person, their wholeness and happiness are bound to their biological parents. Their development as individuals is nurtured in the arms of those who are most intimately and inextricably connected to them, which makes the family the fundamental unit of a stable and free society. It is the best place where children flourish, the civil society is stabilized, and government is limited. When children grow up under the authority of their parents and nurtured by their love, they are protected from the control of an intrusive state.
This is something our country has historically understood. In one of the earliest opinions, arising from a challenge to Washington’s marriage law, the court stated, “The fact remains that marriage exists as a protected legal institution primarily because of societal values associated with the propagation of the human race.” The court also said that the state’s decision not to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples “is based upon the state’s recognition that our society as a whole views marriage as the appropriate and desirable forum for procreation and the rearing of children.”
Proponents of same-sex marriage Jeremy Garrett and John Lantos published a paper in Pediatrics, admitting that this “category-based argument” for traditional marriage is straightforward and logical. They confess that if it is indeed true that traditional marriages make them uniquely efficacious in promoting the well-being of children, then “this claim would be a powerful reason why it might make sense to grant exclusive state sanction for traditional marriage.” But this claim isn’t true, Garrett and Lantos say, because it’s based on categorical differences rather empirical cases, and “existing data regarding the relationship between traditional marriage and children’s well-being are, at best inconclusive.”
As well-meaning as Garrett and Lantos are, their argument is illogical. “Categories” do matter. Biology matters, gender matters. It’s fundamental to the definition of marriage. The state does not, and never has, defined marriage. Love doesn’t define marriage. Economics don’t define marriage. Political agendas don’t define marriage. Religion doesn’t define marriage. Nature does.
When Rauch said that realizing he would never be married was like acknowledging he would never have eight legs and spin a web, he was more right than he realized, precisely because of this point: two people of the same sex can never bear a child together, no more than a human can spin a web (unless you’re Peter Parker, of course). Even in three-way insemination where a third-party donor contributes 1 percent of the DNA, there is still the fundamental requirement of an egg and sperm, making up 99 percent of the person’s genetic makeup.
Gays Disagree About Same-Sex Marriage
Some outspoken homosexuals have agreed with this definition of marriage because they understand it is fundamentally about children’s rights—the right to have a mom and a dad. Italian fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have opposed gay marriage despite being gay themselves, and most recently they have focused on children as being a major issue in the debate. “I am opposed to the idea of a child growing up with two gay parents,” Gabbana said. “A child needs a mother and a father. I could not imagine my childhood without my mother. I also believe that it is cruel to take a baby away from its mother.”
Elton John, who has two children with his partner, lashed out at Dolce and Gabbana, who called children born through in vitro fertilization (IVF) “synthetic children.” He even called for a boycott. “Shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at IVF—a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfill their dream of having children,” John said.
The reality is, despite their insensitive choice of words, Dolce and Gabbana have a lot of proof backing up their claim about children needing both parents. While John focuses on the feelings and dreams of the homosexual couple, Dolce and Gabbana are interested in what’s best for the children as IVF relates to fatherless and motherless homes. But John’s feelings indicate what is driving the same-sex marriage movement and joint gay adoption—their feelings, their desires, their dreams.
No doubt, gay couples love their children, but it’s possible to love someone and still act in ways that more express our own desires and dreams and not what is best for the person we love. This is why it is so difficult for children of gay couples to talk about their feelings. They don’t want to hurt those who love them.
Children of Gay Couples Speak Out
However, some are stepping forward, speaking out about what it’s like to be raised in a fatherless or motherless home. Here is one story recorded in the book “Jephthah’s Daughters: Innocent Causalities in the War for Family ‘Equality.’”
My interaction with and exposure to these parts of the larger gay culture and my missing father created the perfect storm that led to my early sexualization. As I got older, I used attention from boys to try to fill the wound my missing father left. . . . Do I wish my mom lived a miserable life married to a man she didn’t love? No. I want my mom to be happy. But I also wish that she and my dad did love each other and that somehow it could have worked out. Her happiness cost me a great deal. We have to recognize that all children of same-sex parents are being raised in brokenness. Something precious and irreplaceable has been taken from us. Two loving moms, or two dads, can never replace the lost parent. In my case, and in many like mine, I was raised by same-sex parents because I was intentionally separated from my other biological parent, and then told that ‘all that matters is love’ and ‘love makes a family.’ Love matters, but accepting and promoting same sex parenting promotes the destruction of families, not the building of families.
“Her happiness cost me a great deal”— the words are haunting and, no doubt, horrifying to gay couples who have raised children. It would almost take a supernatural power for anyone in this situation to admit that what they did out of their quest for happiness and to fulfill their own dreams actually hurt the very person they love. It takes a supernatural power for any of us to admit how we’ve hurt those we love, especially children. Yet we do it. We allow our dreams to rob them of their happiness, and we quell our guilt by speaking of love.
Marriage: Creating and Nurturing Children
Love, however, no matter how well intentioned, doesn’t change the truth. “The only family is the traditional one,” Dolce said, and there’s plenty of evidence to back up his claim.
First of all, only opposite couples can bear children—the evidence for this is as clear as the nose on your face (or the genitalia between your legs). You need an egg and sperm to make a baby. But actual procreation is only part of the picture. The relationship between a man and a woman has an intrinsic, not merely an instrumental, value, which is why a married heterosexual couples without children are still married, a point well made by the Witherspoon Institute.
In their research, Garrett and Lantos oddly gloss over “categories” as being irrelevant, saying that being a man and a woman has no “actual value.” Instead of lingering on the importance of these distinctions and the fact the child whose well-being they’re talking about comes from a man and a woman in the first place, they redirect our attention to the act of child-rearing.
That’s because, to make a sound argument for equality, you need to find elements that can actually be equal. An opposite-sex couple and a same-sex couple are not equal in kind (gender distinctions matter for birthing a child). The environment, however, in which a child is raised could more easily be established as “equal,” especially if you focus on external and material factors.
Same-sex marriage advocates believe if it can be proved that it is optimal to raise a child in some context other than a traditional family, then the traditional-marriage argument falls and same-sex marriage should be given equal status. In other words, they want to ignore the first requirement to marriage—that it takes a man and a woman to produce a child—and move to the second, which they claim doesn’t require a mom and dad. They even go so far as to say that there is no compelling evidence that it’s best for a child to be raised in a home with his or her biological parents.
Children Need Mom and Dad: It’s Their Right
There’s plethora of evidence that children fare better being raised by a mom and dad. Children need their father. Children need their mother. Children need their married parents. Children need to know their identity. Even adopted children have a right to a mom and dad, which is why Dolce and Gabbana say they oppose gay adoptions.
When a traditional home is not available, only then should single women and men be allowed to adopt children. It’s reasonable, with the number of older children in foster care, that single people should be allowed to adopt, but only if there are absolutely no options for adoption by a qualified married man and woman, given that this is the optimal environment for the child. Public policy should be concerned with doing what’s best for kids, especially kids who are already in a suboptimal situation.
In addition, charities and private groups that are doing so much to get kids out of the foster-care system and into homes with a mom and dad should not be shut down because they oppose adoption by gay couples on religious grounds. And certainly, homosexual adoption agencies should not be allowed to choose fatherless or motherless homes over available traditional homes where an adopted child will benefit from a mom and dad, whom they have lost. Too often adoption is all about the adults, while the children’s rights and needs are neglected and ignored—and those rights include having a mom and a dad, something statistics bear out.
Of course, statistics are slippery things. Studies counter studies. Interpretations of statistics are called into question. The argument and the real point get lost in the numbers, the shifting definitions, and the scientific biases. Even if statistics like those showing that children need their biological parents to have a fully developed sense of identity, often these statistics are ignored and the testimonies silenced because the wants and desires of the adults are deemed more important than rights and needs of the children. Emotions cloud reason. Agendas obscure experience.
Yet, in instances like these—when statistics are twisted, manipulated, or convoluted—reason and experience are needed. Why do so many adopted children long to know their birth parents? Why are donor kids really not all right? Why is it that a person’s identity is so inseparably connected to his or her mom and their dad? Why is it that some kids of gay couples are speaking out against same-sex marriage despite heated and threatening backlash?
The answer to these questions is rooted in the need for human beings to know themselves, to know their identity, and to be raised by the two people who created them, not to be intentionally alienated from their biological parents and forced to live in fatherless or motherless homes, having the will of others imposed on them as they are helpless to express their feelings and their needs. When it comes to the rights of children, biology does matter.
“You are born to a mother and a father,” Dolce said, “or at least that’s how it should be…I call children of chemistry ‘synthetic children.’ Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog. The family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.”
Donor Children Share Their Pain
Even though it was uncalled-for and callous of Dolce to label children “synthetic,” his point about the family is true. Nothing reveals this fact more than the testimonies of donor kids who have been raised in fatherless or motherless homes.
Here is a testimony (written as a poem) of one donor child:
It’s Father’s Day
But I don’t see mine
Kids create cards in class
To give to their daddies
That they love so much
It’s Father’s Day
But I don’t recognize mine
I sit as a guest at her wedding
Her daddy walks her down the aisle
Linked arm in arm
It’s Father’s Day
But I don’t feel mine
I cross the finish line of my first race
It’s Father’s Day
But I don’t hear mine
A project about ancestry
A family tree
But how can I draw only half a tree?
It’s Father’s Day
But I don’t know mine
Today I graduate
But who is there supporting me
Among the crowded sea?
Because there is no mine
I do not have a daddy
Another girl who was raised by two women pours out her heart, saying, “‘The people who want you are your parents’ is just bullsh—. It’s just sh– people say so they can have an excuse to give away their children. You can’t just decide you want to raise some of your kids, and donate the others. What the f—? What about me?
“I feel like a freak show, and I don’t hate gays, I loved my moms and I appreciate they wanted me, but if they loved me why the hell didn’t they consider how I felt about all this stuff?”
Testimonies like this sadly echo studies showing that emotional problems among children with same-sex parents are more than double those among children with opposite-sex parents.
You can read many donor child stories like this from various points of view, but all touch on the same question, “Who am I?” Nearly all struggle with the reality that the adults in their lives who say they love them have purposely deprived them of their biological parent—a loss that robbed them of their childhood, of their happiness.
Not All Children of Gay Couples Agree
There are, of course, stories from other children that are more positive. Will Miller testified in a same-sex marriage case that growing up in a fatherless home was “extraordinary in that it was simply ordinary.” “They loved me, and that was all that mattered. It’s all that should matter.”
Malina Simard-Halm, who grew up in a motherless home, said her family was “not that different than everyone else’s”—they watched movies and played games. One dad cooked the meals while the other one took the kids to school.
Most children of gays and lesbians who have filed court briefs in same-sex marriage cases say their parent’s inability to marry deprived them of legal protections and hampered them from living typical lives—an odd claim considering that their testimonies state that they lived “typical” and ordinary lives. Others say same-sex families should be recognized because they have the same rights as everyone else.
Katy Faust also focuses on rights—but not the rights of the adults. She says the courts should put the rights of the children first. There are “two rights” that every child shares when they come into this world: “First, the right to live. Second, the right to have a relationship with his/her father and mother.”
Robert Oscar Lopez, who was raised by lesbians and lived as a gay man for years, calls intentionally denying children the right to be raised by their mother or father abusive. “This holds true not only for same-sex parenting, but for any choice to parent a child in a less-than-ideal setting for a less-than-grave reason. It’s abuse, for example, for a single parent to adopt a child when many other equally good two-parent homes are available. It’s abuse for parents to divorce simply for reasons related to their own emotional happiness. It’s abuse for LGBT couples to create children through IVF and then deprive them of a mother or father.”
Many want to impose a sense of normalcy on these children that simply isn’t real. Lopez says this “normalization” demands a kind of silence from people in the child’s life. “The child’s lost biological parent(s) must keep a distance or disappear to allow two gay adults to play the role of parent. Extended family must avoid asking intrusive questions and shouldn’t show any disapproval through facial expressions or gestures. Schools and community associations have to downplay their celebrations of fatherhood or motherhood (even canceling Father’s Day and Mother’s Day in favor of ‘Parenting Day’). The media have to engage in a massive propaganda campaign, complete with Disney productions featuring lesbian moms, to stifle any objections or worries. Nobody must challenge the gay parents’ claim that all is being done for love.”
This silence, however, does not make the feelings of loss go away. The child still feels it, deeply, but she has to remain silent “because her loss has become a taboo, a site of repression, rather than a site for healing and reconstruction. The abuse comes full circle,” Lopez says.
These are harsh words, and whether you agree with the term “abuse” or not (some prefer to use the term “neglect” or simply “thoughtless”), the fact remains that adults are harming children by denying their fundamental right to their mother or father. The results are stories like those from donor kids who find themselves “searching for ghosts” to fill in the emptiness of their lives, but so often failing. One donor kid writes, “I feel like every day I’m losing hope. Every day I feel more isolated and alone.”
Doing What’s Best For Children
Homosexuals, more than anyone, should empathize with this pain. They have suffered because they’re different. They have felt the isolation, the loneliness, the pain of being denied a sense of their own identity. They know. They’ve lived it. They’ve felt the heat of tears and the ache of a longing heart. They know what it’s like to be shut down and oppressed by someone else’s agenda and beliefs. They know what it’s like to live in the shadows, not being able to express what they really feel, forced to be silent because what they say, what they feel, is taboo.
How can homosexuals rob children of the very things they longed for as children? How can they allow children to feel like “freaks” just as they were made to feel like monsters? How can they stand idly by as children cast secret glances at strangers, questioning, always questioning, Is that my father? How can they raise a girl, purchased like a commodity from her mother’s womb, to wonder as she looks in the mirror, Do I look like my mom? Does she have blue eyes? Is her skin pale like mine? Does her face turn splotchy red too when she cries, her heart broken because she doesn’t know me?
How can they so easily dismiss a child’s feelings, telling him he doesn’t need a mom like he thinks he does, because he has two dads? How can they smile and say, “We love you, and everything is wonderful!” as the child casts his wet eyes to the floor, shamed in silence and afraid to hurt those who tell him they love him? How can they be complicit in shattering the lives of beautiful, vulnerable human beings who just want to live a normal life with their mom and dad? How can they use those shattered precious pieces to patch up the brokenness of their own lives? Is this love? Is this compassion? Is this caring about the rights of others?
Even if you think it is your right to get married and even if you think marriage isn’t legally about both bearing and raising children—that it’s just about love—doesn’t love mean laying down your life for another, even setting aside your rights at times for the benefit others? Isn’t love and grace about giving up what you “deserve” so that others can have what they so desperately need? As adults, shouldn’t we be the ones who sacrifice for the most vulnerable among us? Can we call ourselves parents if we don’t truly want what’s best for our children, if we rob them of their happiness so we can have our own? Can any of us—homosexuals and straight—even call ourselves good when we repeatedly put ourselves first and leave children to endure the pain of our selfishness?
Can the gay community show the same compassion, the same love, to children that they need themselves? I believe they can because they can rest in knowing that they are loved by their families, their neighbors, their friends, their country, and even those who disagree with them. They are loved and they are accepted as they are. They don’t need to be just like heterosexual couples to find peace. They can accept who they are, and in that acceptance, show grace to others, especially to children who just want to be happy and loved by the man and woman who brought them into this world.