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Marriage Equality and The War on Adoption

Thomas Whitley

I will be the first to admit that I have not always been a proponent on same-sex marriage. In a former part of my life I was as adamantly against same-sex marriage as many who have been protesting in support of Prop 8 and DOMA in front of the US Supreme Court over the past few days. That is to say, I was convinced that homosexuality was a "sin" and that it was "unnatural." I have been fully "out" in my support of same-sex marriage for a number of years now, but I cannot allow myself to conveniently forget how adamantly I opposed it to make myself feel better about where I stand now, on "the right side of history," as some are wont to call it. One line of messaging has stood out to me recently in the arguments over whether same-sex marriage should be legal in this country or not, but it wasn't until I read Tom Junod's wonderfully vulnerable and eloquent piece that I realized just why it was rubbing me the wrong way. The line of argument says that same-sex marriage is "unnatural" because 2 men or 2 women are incapable of physically producing offspring. I pushed back against this argument with the usual points: what about opposite-sex couples where one member is infertile? What about elderly people who are no longer able to have children but desire the companionship that the rest of us desire? Should these people also not be allowed to marry because they cannot procreate?

What Tom Junod laid out so clearly, though, is that the anti-same-sex marriage arguments of this stripe are not just arguments against elderly people and infertile adults, but this is also an argument against adoption, something the right has espoused support for as an alternative to abortion.

How the War on Gay Marriage Turned into a War on Adoption | Esquire: What has changed our understanding of the way some people see our marriage is, of course, the general debate unleashed by the last two days of argument before the Supreme Court on the subject of same-sex marriage. No, my wife and I are not of the same sex; I am a man and she is a woman. But we are infertile. We did not procreate. For the past nine years, we have been the adoptive parents of our daughter; we are legally her mother and father, but not biologically, and since Tuesday have been surprised and saddened to be reminded that for a sizable minority of the American public our lack of biological capacity makes all the difference — and dooms our marriage and our family to second-class status.

And there it was. The very nature of the arguments against same-sex marriage because same-sex couples are unable to produce children is just as strongly an argument against my own family, with a mother who was infertile and chose to adopt both me and my (biological) sister. Our family's very existence is, apparently, a threat to the good, straight, biological family units in this country, and thereby a threat to the very foundation of this country.

Junod rightly points out the elementary nature of these sorts of arguments:

For all its philosophical window dressing — for all its invocation of natural law, teleological destiny, and the “complementary” nature of man and woman — this argument ultimately rested on a schoolyard-level obsession with private parts, and with what did, or did not, “fit.” There was “natural marriage” and “unnatural” marriage, and it was easy to tell the difference between them by how many children they produced. A natural marriage not only produced children; it existed for the purpose of producing children. An unnatural marriage not only failed to produce children; it resorted to procuring children through unnatural means, from artificial insemination to surrogacy to, yes, adoption. The argument against same-sex marriage now boiled down to a kind of biological determinism, and so became almost indistinguishable from an argument against adoption itself.

The idea that the purpose of marriage in this country is procreation serves to label all marriages that chose not to or were unable to produce children as "less than." They are not real marriages. And as a result, those families are "less than." They too are not real families. To many - some much closer to home than one should have to admit - my sister and I are not our parents' "real children." And we are a threat to families everywhere. Never mind the fact that we have a better relationship with our parents than most everyone else I know. We have a relationship based on openness, honesty, communication, and above all love.

No one - gay, straight, or whatever - should have to share those negative experiences with my family. And as much as anything else, this is why I support marriage equality.

There is so much more that needs to be said like how cruel it is to actively keep children in a broken social services system and away from a loving family that desperately wants to love and raise children of their own. Or how, once again, the Right has offered nothing but lip service when it says it cares about children when it is really only concerned with its own "moral disapproval" of the love of others. Or how the only "threats" to anyone's marriage - gay or straight - come from within and not from without. Or how our country's very understanding of "family" needs to take step out of 1950. Or how ludicrous it is to expect that others who do not share your particular religious views to live their lives according to your specific interpretation of a few verses from your holy book.

But for now, urging you to read Junod's article is all I really have. For just as Junod did, I have realized that these arguments are not just arguments against same-sex marriage, but are arguments against me and my family too. Thank you, Tom, for the reminder that we are all in this together.