Earlier this month Katy Faust, a blogger raised by same-sex parents, wrote an open letter to Justice Kennedy, a traditional swing vote in the Supreme Court.
In the letter, which has been shared more than 270,000 times, she argues that same-sex marriage presents inherent disadvantages to children. Because same-sex partners cannot have children in a conventional fashion, the institutionalization of same-sex marriage would “guarantee” that a child would be denied a “natural right” to be raised by his or her biological parents, “whether by adoption, divorce or third-party reproduction.”
While Faust concedes that LGBTQ individuals should receive all of the same rights as their straight counterparts, she states that legalizing same-sex marriage “moves us well beyond our ‘live and let live’ philosophy into the land where our society promotes a family structure where children will always suffer loss.”
Faust adds that she and five other children raised by same-sex parents will submit amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in which they detail how being raised in a same-sex household was detrimental to their development. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans later this year.
I don’t want to detract from the experiences of Faust or the others filing amicus briefs, and I’m certainly not in a position to tell anyone what to think or feel about their own childhood. And as Faust correctly states, a conversation about the institution of marriage in the United States will get nowhere without due consideration for the children involved.
However, anecdotal evidence simply is not strong enough to make a judgment call on same-sex marriage as an institution. Just as no two individuals are the same, no two households and no two parents are the same. As a result, the experience of these six individuals cannot possibly reflect the experience of a whole community of individuals raised by same-sex parents.
Moreover, it’s dangerous to assume that the dysfunction and psychological trauma these individuals underwent during their childhood had anything to do with being raised by a same-sex couple. In a typical “correlation does not equal causation” situation, dissatisfaction with how you were raised in a same-sex household does not subvert the validity of same-sex marriage.
For example, Faust’s adoptive parents separated in a way that would presumably be traumatic for any child, regardless of his or her parents’ gender or sexual orientations. Her problem seems to be less with the reality of having two mothers than it is with the fact that her parents’ relationship had fallen apart.
I think we can agree that divorce and broken relationships have a negative impact on children’s upbringing, but we cannot confuse that reality with the effect of a particular lifestyle or household.
True, same-sex couples generally have to adopt in order to become parents. But the government has long since abandoned the idea of unilaterally protecting the “natural rights” of children to be raised by their biological parents. We have an extensive foster care system that screens prospective parents for financial stability and (at least in theory) parental competence. And Faust, as far as I can tell, isn’t arguing that we should stop allowing heterosexual couples from adopting.
While there may be six individuals raised by same-sex parents who believe the idea of same-sex child-rearing harms children, there are certainly tens of thousands of children raised in “traditional” households who would argue the same thing about their experiences.
Marriage as an institution may not be perfect, but that doesn’t mean the government has the authority to determine the best modes and environs of parenting, nor can it deny individuals their rights to happiness.