Via Family Scholars Blog, this (no doubt well-meaning) editorial in the New Hampshire Union Leader, by a Mr. Tolley, repeats a couple of frequently-used anti-Same-Sex-Marriage arguments that are worth examining in detail.
And if we take this to its logical conclusions, here’s what else we are really saying. We are thus proclaiming to future generations of children that it really doesn’t matter to us if they are brought up without either a mother or a father. Getting the opportunity to be brought up with both a father and a mother is not an inherent right of theirs that should be sought after and protected, nor is it a right that should be fought for. And although some of us may have experienced the love and care of a mom and/or a dad for ourselves, that doesn’t matter. Times are different, technology is more advanced and parenting is for anyone who really wants it. As long as two people “love” each other, they can be and should be, allowed to be parents.
Does Mr. Tolley believe that the debate is about if lesbian and gay couples should be “allowed to be parents”? If so, he’s badly misinformed. But it’s hardly a new mistake; anti-SSM folks argue that same-sexers should not raise children all the time, even though (to my knowledge) they don’t propose that the government take children away from same-sex parents.
This conceptual difficulty is common in anti-SSM rhetoric: they say they’re here to discuss same-sex marriage, but then they actually discuss same-sex parenting.
But although the two issues are linked, logically they are distinct. Banning SSM will not stop same-sex parenting; it just denies the children of same-sex couples from having the legal protections that children of married couples have. So therefore, even if they establish that same-sex parenting is a problem (which they have not), forbidding SSM isn’t a logical solution to the problem.
So why is Mr. Tolley talking about same-sex couples being “allowed to be parents?” Because he, like the anti-SSM movement as a whole, has no credible response to the real subject of the SSM debate. The basic demand of the SSM movement – that same-sex couples and their children to be treated no better than and no worse than opposite-sex couples and their children – is so moderate, so reasonable, and so obviously just and fair that SSM opponents are struck dumb. They have no response, and rather than admitting they have no response, they change the subject. Never mind fairness and decency and justice, they say – let’s talk about children!
It’s rhetorical jujitsu. It’s a devious appeal to old bigotries against homosexuals – every single anti-gay law in American history, after all, has at one time or another been justified by an appeal to “think of the children!” And it’s fundamentally dishonest, because what we’re debating is not the legal right of same-sexers to reproduce.
What we’re discussing is the right of same-sex couples and their children to equal treatment under the law. We’re discussing live and let live. We’re discussing having the law treat gays and straights the same. We’re discussing giving the marriages performed in a Reform Jewish Shul the same legal status as the marriages performed in a Roman Catholic Church.
It’s about equality. It’s about fairness. And until the opponents of same-sex marriage are prepared to discuss equality and fairness, they’re not prepared to seriously discuss this issue at all.