In the DOMA and Prop 8 hearings, Justice Scalia has questioned whether its safe for children to be raised by same-sex parents; he should be careful what he wishes for
The following is a scenario many of us have likely experienced at the park:
Parent A is sitting on a bench and hasn’t looked up from her iPhone in 20 minutes. Her three- and four-year old children have not allowed my two-year old son to use his favorite slide and have not-so-gently jumped in front of him and pushed him out of their way. I try to engage her children and politely try to get them to share the slide, “Hey, why don’t you use the left slide and let others use the right slide.” Parent A looks up for a second, sees that I’ve got it “handled” and continues to update her Facebook status.
Parent B is standing on the play structure with her three-year-old son – they are both pretending to be pirates. She is helping him swing from the monkey bars and talking about how Parent C is coming to meet them at the park very soon. We say hello, talk briefly about our children and collectively guide them through taking turns of the pirate wheel they both covet.
So, which parent is the lesbian?
What, you mean you don’t know? It’s obvious, isn’t it?
Actually, it’s not at all obvious and it doesn’t matter because sexual orientation has nothing to do with whether one is a good parent or not (and by the way, we can’t really tell which is the good parent based on the example above by itself).
Unless, of course, you’re Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He seems to think the jury is still out on sexual orientation and parenting.
Last week during the Supreme Court hearing on Prop 8, the California law that bans same-sex marriage, Justice Scalia said that there was “considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family [are], whether that is harmful to the child or not. Some states do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason.”
This was followed closely by soft-spoken Justice Ginsburg replying “California, no California does” (allow adoption by same-sex couples).
Now, I’m no Supreme Court scholar, but shouldn’t that have been the point when someone bangs the gavel and dismisses the case and those Law & Order “doink doink” sounds are made?
Massive contradiction aside, what really bothers me is Justice Scalia’s ignorance related to existing data on children raised by same-sex parents when only a few days before the hearing, the American Academy of Pediatrics, a non-partisan organization representing more than 60,000 pediatricians, released the following scientific paper and policy statement outlining their support for same-sex marriage based on their review of over 30 years of existing studies on the topic.
The AAP stated, “A great deal of scientific research documents there is no cause-and-effect relationship between parents’ sexual orientation and children’s well-being…In fact, many studies attest to the normal development of children of same-gender couples when the child is wanted, the parents have a commitment to shared parenting, and the parents have strong social and economic support.”
Yes, it’s true, that one cannot draw a definitive conclusion on the well-being of children raised by same-sex parents, but being able to draw such “yes” and “no” conclusions in science is rare. Plus, in the overly data-driven society we live in, what we see with our own eyes should still mean something. Surely, one would think that at least one of Justice Scalia’s Harvard-trained clerks knows how to use Google, as even I found these articles in less than a few seconds. I personally would expect more from a Supreme Court Justice than such a general statement not backed up by facts – he’s a justice, not a politician (oh wait…).
We adopted our son in 2010. And except for my man crushes on Derek Jeter and Dave Grohl, I consider myself heterosexual. Parents who adopt a child are part of a community and many feel a certain kinship with other adoptive parents based on our unique shared experience, without regard to sexual orientation. That shared experience is based on the choice we made to become parents. In a nation in which almost 50 percent of pregnancies are unintended, of which 19% are unwanted, we make a choice. We make a decision that, in a different world, would be encouraged and heralded by others.
What parents who adopt know is that we don’t make the choice to become parents once – it’s not a single act like getting pregnant can be. We make the choice when we are fingerprinted, go for medical exams, meet with a social worker with and without our partner numerous times, fill out comprehensive forms detailing our financial background, ask our friends or colleagues to be references and meet and get to know potential birth moms (for those of us who had open adoptions). By the time we hold our baby for the first time, many of us have clearly demonstrated that the child is wanted. We’ve shown a commitment, as well as social and economic support – all elements necessary for normal child development according to the AAP. And yet there are still states that don’t allow same-sex parents to adopt. I’m not quite sure that’s based on any data, Justice Scalia.
During last week’s testimony, Justice Scalia said “I take no position on whether it’s [children raised by same-sex parents] harmful or not, but it is certainly true that – that’s there’s no scientific answer to that question at this point in time.”
Underlying these comments is the assumption that children are better off being raised by opposite-sex parents. Has that been proven to the level that Justice Scalia requires for same-sex parents? By his own comments, if there isn’t enough data on same-sex parenting, by definition there isn’t enough data to compare to opposite-sex parenting. After all, children raised by opposite-sex parents have done some incredibly horrendous things to other children throughout history.
According to authors of the AAP article, results stemming from a “longstanding longitudinal study of children born to lesbian parents” showed that at 17 years old, “the children had high levels of social, school/academic, and total competence, and fewer social problems, rule breaking and aggressive and externalizing behavior compared to their age-matched counterparts.”
Be careful what you wish for Justice Scalia.
Image: public domain