Queer Families in the Crosshairs

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but at the beginning of the year we started the process for our second adoption. (Even before Parker was born, we agreed we wanted two kids, and that we’d do the second adoption after the first kid turned three.) At this point, it’s just paperwork that has to be signed, etc., and the ususal "flaming hoops" that anyone seeking to adopt has to jump through. The plan is that we’ll finish the process and get on the agency’s waiting list around the beginning of summer, and the hope is that we’ll have a short a waiting period as we had for Parker’s adoption (the birthmother picked us just  a couple of months after we we finished the paperwork and our profile became available).

So, I’m watching with increasing interest the news regarding gay adoptions, and I’m a little worried. The fight against Florida’s gay adoption ban is stalled due to lack of support, and it would only allow gays and lesbians to adopt foster children already placed placed in their care like the case of Bert Lofton and his family, whose story was one of the catalysts for challenging the Florida ban. (Once Bert tested HIV negative at age 14, he became "adoptable" and the Lofton’s started getting letters to the effect that the state of Florida was looking for an adoptive family for him. That is, other than the one he’s had from infancy and in which he received the love and care that helped him grow into a healthy teenager. You can get the Lofton family’s whole story at www.lethimstay.com.)

Meanwhile, there’s a gay adoption ban in proposed in Ohio, where legislators say banning gay adoptions is not a priority. That’s small comfort considering that the push in on to outlaw our families in at least 16 states.

Efforts to ban gays and lesbians from adopting children are emerging across the USA as a second front in the culture wars that began during the 2004 elections over same-sex marriage.

Steps to pass laws or secure November ballot initiatives are underway in at least 16 states, adoption, gay rights and conservative groups say. Some – such as Ohio, Georgia and Kentucky – approved constitutional amendments in 2004 banning gay marriage. (Related story: Both sides cite concern for children)

"Now that we’ve defined what marriage is, we need to take that further and say children deserve to be in that relationship," says Greg Quinlan of Ohio’s Pro-Family Network, a conservative Christian group.

Once again, an election year is upon us and conservative christians have queer families in their crosshairs. Their theory, according to the article is that it worked for them in 2004 on same-sex marriage. And though it’s too soon to know for sure, I’m willing to bet that at least some of those proposed state laws  would have the same potential affect as Oklahoma’s on whether the state will recognized gay adoptions finalized in other states, thus calling into question the status of gay families who have the misfortune of finding themselves in Oklahoma.

That’s nothing new. What worries me is whether we can count on any of our traditional political allies to "have our back" in an important election year in which the stakes are high for our families. I’ve written before about the recent trend of Democrats running conservative on gay and lesbian issues in order to attract more conservative voters — like Virginia governor Tim Kaine, who recently delivered the Democratic response to the State of the Union address. In the same vein, recent discussion of reaching out to christian democrats doesn’t inspire confidence either, because doing so successfully may well require changing positions on issues like gay adoptions, or at the very least keeping quiet about them even at a time when familieslies are threatened in state legislatures. Even if such a strategy helps Democrats return to power, it doesn’t mean they’ll return to openly supporting gay & lesbian equality, especially if the conservative voters they win over won’t let them do so and remain in power.

I’m only slightly encouraged by Chris Bowers’ post about how this strategy may not be the way to go in 2006.

Dems in DC may be convinced that Tim Kaine is the model candidate for Democrats in 2006, largely because he seemingly was able to do well among exurban voters and talk values. However, if you are looking to make a long-term change in the electorate, I don’t think the focus should be on "talking values," otherwise known as to appeal to white Christians who go to church regularly. While "talking values" may lead to narrow, short-term victory, I am pretty convinced, based on long-term demographic data, that becoming a second "party of white Christian values" is not the path to long-term dominance. As I discussed in The Rise of the Non-Christian Coalition, the number of non-Christians in this country is growing at a much, much faster rate than the number of Christians. And when you compare white Christians to people who are either non-white and/or non-Christian, then the differences in growth rates are astronomical. When you consider that people who are either non-Christian and/or non-white are voting Democratic in large numbers, this just won’t represent our coalition very much not long from now. Besides, I really don’t think we can appeal to the "values voters" long-term, especially considering the way that those votes are themselves changing.

Conclusion: To pass up appealing to the fastest growing demographic in the nation and in our coalition in order to appeal to a shrinking group whose values are truly antithetical to progressivism itself, count me as someone who doesn’t see that long term "change" potential though "talking values."

I hope he’s right, and I hope people are listening, though I think that African Americans and black churches might upset Chris’ argument a bit. My experience is that the majority of African American christians, however progressive they may be on a host of other issues, lean conservative on gay & lesbian equality (and thus make excellent targets for conservatives trying to increase the number of African Americans in their ranks). Sadly enough, Corexceptionn expception to the rule as far as I can see.

Where I come from, any politician who want’s anything from the black community had better come to church. The church is still huge in many African American communities, and even those who rarely ever darken the church’s doorway fall under its influence. doorway They all knew it too, and they all came. I witnessed many a campaign stop on Sunday morning. They also know that if you come, you’d better come "correct." And that means, at the very least, keeping quiet about gay & lesbian issues. That is, if you want to get any "amens" that might translate into votes. You may be supportive of those issues, and you may be supportive of gay families, but you’ll keep that support quiet if you want support in return.

The problem is, as Peter’s Cross Station aptly points out, we don’t need our friends to be quietly supportive.

I want each and every one of my heterosexual allies out there to understand something loud and clear: your moral support is not enough to keep our families safe. Don’t get me wrong, your moral support keeps us smiling day-to-day and reminds us that not everyone in the U.S. would like to return to biblically mandated stoning of queers in the public square. And some days, that’s hard to remember. But being reminded of your good feelings towards us is not enough.

… When I say your moral support isn’t enough, I am really, really not trying to be an ungrateful jerk. It’s just that playground taunts about having two mommies isn’t really the problem our children face. Our children do sometimes face that problem, but all children face playground taunts about something. The real problem our children face is laying awake at night after a disturbing piece on the news about a state trying to de-legalize same-sex parenting and worrying that someone might come take them away from their families. Our children face not just individual "homophobia" that leads their great-grandmothers to refuse to acknowledge their existence (um, yeah…) but systemic heterosexism which leads to dangers not only of the legal variety but of the personal, psychological sort.

We need more than moral support, particularly silent moral support. We need friends who will speak up and stand up with us when we face threats like this. And doesn’t look likely to come from the top down where Democrats are concerned. Not based on anything that I’m seeing.

From day to day, as we go through life as an obviously gay family, I often wonder how other people perceive us. I wrote a whilefamily about the famly we met at a playground last year, who were friendly and unfazed by Parker calling us "Daddy" and "Papa," and how we were surprised to find out that they were Republicans. Just this weekend, we went to Baltimore to get fingerprinted as part of our adoption process (a criminal background screening), and one of the women who processed our forms was an African American woman who wore her nametag around her neck, attached to a chord that read "I (heart) Jesus." I found myself wondering about her the same thing I wondered about the family we met earlier: how do they perceive our family?

It’s impossible to tell, because most people would probably be likely to keep their disapproval to themseles. But what I find myself wondering more lately is just how these people vote. Can they, do they smile and nod supportively at our families, only to step into the voting booth and vote for politicians, parties, and platforms that actively legislate (or seek to legislate) against families like ours? And if they do, are they our friends?

We’re fortunate to live in a state where we’re unlikely to face obstacles in our adoption process based on our orientation. (Indeed, we were fortunate enough to be able to move to a state that was "blue" enough to convince us that we wouldn’t face any such obstacles.) But there are thousands of gay families who live in states where legisltures may be poise to vote them into a state of legal limbo, if not out of legal existance altogether. As far as I’m concerned, no matter how "safe" a state I live in, their familes are threatened then my family is threatened, because if bans against gay adoptions succeed in more states, its only a matter of time before someone tries it in my back yard.

The upside is that it’s times like these when we find out just who our friends are. Based on what I’m seeing and hearing, the downside is that when the votes are counted, we may find out that real friends — who offer more than closed-mouth moral support — are surprisingly few. And maybe, when it really counts, we have almost none at all.

Update: Via Daddy, Papa & Me comes a bit of good news on gay adoptions.

Recent polling by Democratic consultant Peter Hart for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, also indicates the issue may not find favor among the general public. Asked about a constitutional amendment to ban adoptions by gays and lesbians, 58% of Missouri voters polled in November and 62% of Ohio voters this month said they would vote against it.

"Conservatives may well overreach if they try to ban gays from adopting children," Brookings Institution political analyst Thomas Mann says. "Americans have become more tolerant of same-sex relations, and this action may strike them as unnecessarily punitive."

Again, I hope they’re right. Answering a poll is one thing. Now we need those same people to speak up to their representatives and political leaders, and make them feel it at the polls.

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
This entry was posted in Adoption, Current Events, Family, General, Parenting, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Queer Families in the Crosshairs

  1. Pingback: Daddy, Papa & Me

  2. Shaula Evans says:

    I hope they are right, too, T.
    I’ll keep my fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly with the newest addition to your family, and that you wind up as well matched as you have been with Parker.

  3. Bill Garnett says:

    In issuing a marriage license, the state makes no attempt to determine that the marriage can or will produce children (i.e. elderly or infertile or couples who just don’t want children are equally able to get a marriage license).  Marriage is today more about two people who profess love and commitment to each other, and thoughts of children are frequently secondary if at all. This civil marriage license affords that couple a myriad of benefits and privileges – which are provided to them by society as a whole – by straight and gay.  Yet ONLY straights are the recipients of these benefits and privileges.
    As for raising children, it is the quality of the parenting, not the sexual orientation of the parents that is important.
    Marriage is a special and ceremonious occasion in our society – a milestone that individuals dream about in their own way.  It is more than a legal status – it is also an announcement to one’s family, friends, and community that this relationship and commitment exists – and a wish that one’s family, friends, and community will be there to support and nourish and protect this relationship.
    I fully understand the long tradition of marriage – I also know that homosexuals have existed equally long in history.  And homosexuals have borne countless indignities over this same long history.  So too had slavery existed for most of history, but enlightened societies came to realize the injustice that it was – and in recent history it was abolished.  So too, today enlighten peoples, institutions, and societies realize that homosexuality is not a moral evil but is a part of the fabric of human variation that God gives us. 
    To deny a loving homosexual couple the same opportunity for marriage that a loving heterosexual couple is afforded is to deny them a basic and fundamental right in our society.

  4. mindyc says:

    Hey there! I’m glad to hear that you have started the adoption process again. You guys are wonderful parents to Parker. I can’t wait to meet the new addition. I also can’t wait until people figure out that worrying about sexual orientation is the last thing they should be concerned about.
    So, have you moved into your new home yet?

  5. RainbowDemon says:

    Hi Terrence,

    Although you probably have read it, This article may be of interest:


  6. Paul says:

    Well another Ten Reasons why Gay Marriage shouldnt be allowed.

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