This is in the old news category. (It was in the New York Times last week.) From my purposes here, the main point here is that lots of lesbian and gay couples who live in the southern US are raising children–something like 32% of the gay (NYT word choice–I take it this includes lesbians) couples in Jacksonville, FL, for instance. Apparently this percentage is the second highest in the country–the highest (34%) being in San Antonio, TX.
I’m not concerned with exactly how many children this amounts to, but surely there are a large number of children with two lesbian or gay parents in the southern tier of the US. I’ve been thinking about that in conjunction with two other stories I commented on last week.
One is the continuing saga of Adar v. Smith, where a gay male couple completed a joint adoption of a child from Louisiana and now wants a new birth certificate listing their names. Louisiana won’t give it to them. The second is the denouement of Martin Gill’s case challenging Florida’s ban on adoption by lesbians and gay men.
Both of these cases are victories for lesbian and gay parents (at least thus far) who happen to live in the southern tier. The cases establish stronger legal rights for lesbian and gay parents. But the postings on both cases also document strong and continuing resistance to lesbian and gay parental rights.
The New York Times article reflects the same pattern–on the one hand growing tolerance for lesbian and gay families, but on the other hand continuing concerns about community responses. (I’m thinking here of the mother on the second page of the article who tells no one at her child’s school that she is a lesbian because her partner teaches at the school.)
It’s easy to think about the law in grand sweeps and discuss the trends you can see here or there. But if you look beneath the grand sweeps there are individual children. So, for example, there’s the daughter mentioned in the NYT who gets mixed messages at her school. It seems to me that the hostile attitude of state officials in Louisiana and Florida cannot help but take a toll on these kids.
I don’t mean to suggest that these parents should up and move to some more supportive jurisdiction. Rather, I just want to remind myself that all the high-profile news stories and major cases don’t tell us the whole story.
As I noted in the last post about Martin Gill’s adoption, those opposed to lesbian and gay parents would rather keep the discussion general. They’d rather we not think too hard about Martin Gill’s children, because who could look at them and say it would be better if they weren’t adopted? In the same way, they don’t focus on the thousands of kids who are living with lesbian and gay parents and whose lives are made more difficult by these sweeping public statements.
For me, this harkens back to a point I made a long time ago. The environment in which we live shapes how we feel about our families. If a child finds her or his family is of a type commonly portrayed as unhealthy, unnatural and/or undesirable, then it cannot really make her/him feel good about her/his situation.
My recollection is that this point came up before with regard to donor-conceived children–if they are made to feel like freaks of nature it cannot possibly help matters. I’d say the same thing with regard to children of single parents.
I don’t mean to suggest that the discussion of family forms is off limits and shouldn’t be part of the public discussion. Rather, I just think we should be mindful that even if we think we’re talking generally, there are people out there who will find it has greater meaning in their lives.