According to the census, in 2008, same-sex couples were raising close to 250,000 children. Today's NY Times takes a look at the growing numbers of kids helping to redefine the term "family values."
In a well-reported piece (placed in the, uh, Fashion & Style section of the paper), Sarah Wildman explains how more and more children are stepping to the forefront of the debate over same sex marriage. Some, like ten year old Kasey Nicholson-McFadden, make their stances clear:
"It doesn't bother me to tell kids my parents are gay," he said in a clear voice. "It does bother me to say they aren't married. It makes me feel that our family is less than their family."
Marriage rights activists are starting to involve the children of same sex partnerships more and more, to counter the rhetoric from organizations that believe marriage as an institution should be about heterosexual procreation and nothing more.
Supporters for initiatives like Proposition 8 argue that "society is not forcing same-sex couples to raise children" - in essence, that these children should not be extended the same courtesy and societal protections of children who are the progeny of heterosexual unions.
"The real question is whether same-sex relationships benefit children to the same extent that living with a married mother and father does, and we believe they do not," said Peter S. Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, the conservative Christian organization. "Children do best when raised by their own biological mother and father who are committed to one another in a lifelong marriage."
Psychologists disagree. Michael Lamb, a Cambridge University developmental psychologist, recently testified in the California court case. He explained that children are not generally impacted by the sex of their parents, but rather the parents' relationship to their children, and the parents' relationship as a couple.
In a stunning the-emperor-has-no-clothes moment, the defense tried to discredit Lamb by "proving"
he has a liberal bias. How did they do it?
"And you have even given money to PBS, isn't that correct?" asked David H. Thompson, who is defending Proposition 8. Thompson suggested Lamb was "a committed liberal."
This would be hilarious if it wasn't so serious.
Interestingly, there are a number children of same-sex unions (and, of course, other queer activists) who don't agree with all the activism around marriage equality. However, Thompson and other supporters of "traditional" marriage will not find a sympathetic ear.
As explained in the Times article:
"We grew up recognizing our families as families whether or not the government did, and we're frustrated by the suggestion that we should have to make our families look like straight ones in order to be considered a valid family by the government," Martha Jane Kaufman, a playwright and teacher in New York, and Katie Miles, a graduate student at Columbia University, wrote in an e-mail response to questions about their blog, Queer Kids of Queer Parents Against Gay Marriage! "From our point of view, marriage is an institution that contributes to the privatization of social services like health-care and immigration rights that actually should be guaranteed basic rights for all human beings," they wrote.
Other activists have discussed why marriage rights in general are flawed, and instead of fighting for inclusion in a broken system, activists would be better served by fighting against the attachment of legal rights and protections to marital status. Still, for those working to change the current system, the reason for the fight is easy to understand:
Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a New York-based organization that advocates for legalized same-sex marriage, said: "There is no good reason to punish children raised by gay parents by denying parents marriage and its protections. It harms kids rather than helping them."
(Image via New York Times)