British Adoption Agency Seeking Gay Parents, Dispels Myths

A Welsh children’s charity, Barnardo’s,  is actively seeking gay and lesbian prospective parents, in yet another demonstration that those in the know, the professional experts working in the field, recognize that parenting ability has nothing at all to do with gender or sexual orientation.   What matters far more, is the quality of love and the emotional stability of the home. Abundant scientific research has amassed reams of evidence, frequently disseminated by the professionals, and other agencies before this one have likewise made the same plea for more queer applicants – but the myths, freely promoted by ignorant Catholic spokesmen, still survive.

The resulting prejudice is one of the factors that discourages some potential prospective parents from applying. This is in direct conflict with the interests of the children, which the Church falsely claims to be promoting. The best interests of the children, the professionals know, lies in admitting the largest possible pool of applicants, irrespective of orientation, so that each child may be matched with the best possible parents. At present, there are an estimated 64,000 children in the care system in England: one quarter of whom will never find a family.  Excluding same-sex couples even from consideration as adoptive parents, as the Catholic bishops would like to do, cannot possibly improve the chances of that 25%, and could lead to some of the others being placed with parents who are possibly not necessarily the most suitable just the best suited heterosexuals.

 

Queer Families at Gay Pride, Rome

Fortunately, British law recognizes the facts, and does not allow agencies to practice discrimination. Now, we need to ensure that public opinion catches up with the facts, to eliminate the continued self-exclusion by some gay couples, who might otherwise to offer their help to children in real need. The tragedy here is that some Catholic agencies, rather than filling their obligation to do the best for the children, have simply stopped finding homes for children at all.

Read the rest of this entry »

Expert View on Gay Adoption: Beneficiaries are the Children.

Opponents of LGBT adoption regularly argue (correctly) that this is not a matter of gay/lesbian rights, but of the best interests of the children. Where they go wrong, is in making the false assumption that the best interests of the children involve excluding from consideration otherwise excellent potential parents who happen to have a homosexual orientation. At San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, Bryan Moore has a great interview with the adoption professional Adam Pertman, who sets corrects some common misrepresentations.

 

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Gay Adoption, Gay Marriage as Moral Obligations: Two Jewish Views

Here’s a refreshing change: instead of the spurious, religious arguments against gay adoption and gay marriage, two more voices (this time, from Jewish perspectives)  speaking out on the positive faith-based reasons in favour of each.

In the first of these, at the Jerusalem Post, the orthodox Rabbi, television host and author of religious books on relationships Shmuley Boteach argues strongly in favour of gay adoption. Last month, he participated with Rosie O’Donnell in a New Jersey public discussion on the subject. In an article published before this event, he reflected on these issues, and especially on an aspect that I see as the most important of all. When a friend he spoke to expressed regret that Rosie’s four adopted children would never have a father (the standard, theoretical argument against gay adoption), Rabbi Shmuley replied with the obvious and important, reality-based response:

that without Rosie they wouldn’t have a mother either.

Gay Couple with child

Image via Wikipedia

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Equality and inclusion advancing, worldwide.

In the US, the recent mid-term elections have brought some setbacks and disappointments, with extensive gains for Republicans and victories for some high profile social conservatives, and corresponding losses by some notable congressional allies. At the same time, the flipping of some state assemblies has dimmed the prospects for marriage equality in those states, and may have increased the prospects of new constitutional bans in others. Set against this, several observers have noted that there were also some counter-balancing gains. Prospects for full marriage have distinctly improved in Rhode Island and possibly Maryland, and for civil unions in Hawaii and possibly in Illinois. The election of a record number of openly LGBT people to state and local offices will also have an important beneficial effect on the legal environment at local level.

Elsewhere in the world, queer progress often goes relatively unnoticed in the blogosphere. This is unfortunate, as there is a great deal of progress in many countries, on many fronts: in parliaments, in the courts, in the arts and culture, and in society. To counter the American gloom, here is a run-down of some current news stories that have caught my eye:

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...

Image via Wikipedia

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Gay Adoption Advances in Florida, Victoria – Worldwide.

Gay adoption has achieved three notable gains recently in Argentina and New South Wales (advancing in both by legislative action, both in the face of strong opposition by the Catholic Church), and in Mexico City, where the Constitutional Court ruled that the city’s law on gay marriage also permitted adoption by same sex couples. Less high profile cases which you may have missed also illustrate how queer families are gaining legal acceptance in many parts of the world – even in states like Florida, which has a constitutional ban on gay adoption.

Florida

Whereas a few years ago, opposition to gay equality as demonstrated in the ban was exploited by some conservatives as a vote catcher, it is becoming obvious that this has now become something of an electoral liability.  Read the rest of this entry »

What Constitutes a “Family”? Empirical Study Finds A Wider View

Religious conservatives are regularly referring to the “traditional family” as a foundation for their beliefs, but there is no such thing. The conservative interpretation of the so-called traditional family is  a relatively modern invention, created to fit the conditions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Western Europe and North America. In earlier times, and other parts of the world. family structures varied enormously from  this particular model.

Family history, like all other history, is constantly changing to fit new circumstances, so it should be no surprise that conceptions of family in the twenty first century are continuing to evolve, to fit a world that is no longer what it was in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some of these changes are obvious, but like so much that is familiar, can easily be “hidden in plain sight.” A new study by sociologist  Brian Powell brings this into plain view. (His study is specifically of American views, but with the emergence of a shared world culture, many of his findings will also have relevance across a much wider geographic region.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Catholics Support Gay Adoption.

In the US, the struggle over adoption by lesbian or gay families concerns those states which prohibit it, either by state law, or (in Florida) by a complete constitutional ban. In the UK, where discrimination against gay or lesbian prospective parents is prohibited by law, the battle is entirely different. Here, the Catholic Church is seeking an exemption from the terms of the law for one of its agencies.

My friend Celia Gardiner, who as a lawyer and as chair of the Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, is heavily involved in correspondence with the Charities Commission on the Church’s application. I fear I have become totally lost in trying to follow the legal niceties – so don’t ask. However, I have undertaken to assist with passing on links to empirical evidence to contradict the claims on which the bishops base their case, so that I can happily share with you.

I have previously pointed out that in claiming that “Catholics” or “the Catholic Church” oppose gay marriage, the bishops (American or British) are being somewhat economical with the truth. It may be what the bishops oppose, it may be what they want the rest of us to oppose – but we do not simply mould our beliefs to episcopal diktat. Contrary to the Vatican line, most American Catholics do not believe that same sex relationships are morally unacceptable, and overall, are in favour or recognizing same sex marriage (that’s full civil marriage, not just civil unions).

I have now tracked down similar information specifically on adoption, and guess what? the bishops may oppose it, but Catholics as a whole are in favour. Now note, please, that the data are two years old, from 2008 (prior to the US election). All the evidence is that attitudes have moved on since then. For the case of the UK, which prompted my investigation, public attitudes are generally more supportive. Any claim by the bishops that “the Catholic Church” opposes same sex adoption is almost certainly not factually correct. ?

Source: Pew Research, 2008

Another Lesbian Parent: Authentic Catholicism

Yesterday, I referred to a lengthy piece at dot Commonweal, in which a lesbian mother describes her positive experience of having her sons accepted in a Catholic school.  The full piece however is about far more than just the school: rather, it goes to the very heart of what it is to be gay and Catholic, and to the issue of gay adoption, which is so strenuously opposed by both the institutional Catholic Church, and by other religious conservatives. Their arguments that adoption by gay or lesbian parents is somehow contrary to the interests of the child have been widely discredited by professionals with expertise in child psychology or child welfare, while many adoption agencies actively seek gay or lesbian adoptive parents, on the grounds that for some children, they may even be more suitable than straight applicants – or because they may be willing to take on difficult children that other parents shy away from.

But this story tackles church opposition from a different angle:  she describes how she was led to the decision to adopt children not in spite of her Catholicism, but very much because of it. She tells of how her upbringing as a Catholic, with an education steeped in religious teaching :

The fact of the matter is, I am you. More than many of you seem to realize. I went to Catholic grade school with you, was perhaps even more pious than you, unless you also rode your bike to daily Mass in the summertime and got a ride with the neighbor lady to Friday evening Stations of the Cross during Lent. Unlike you, who never had uncles who worked for Jesse Helms, I had the opportunity to kiss Senator Helms on the cheek when I was eight. (People intent on finding an explanation for my orientation may wish to ponder that fact.) Each week I brought the Baltimore Catechism to my mother to demonstrate my mastery of another chapter.

In Catholic high school I aced all my classes, as had my brothers and sisters before me. At home, I scanned the reading material at hand—the National Review, the Moral Majority newsletter, and the Hillsdale College newsletter—and watched Firing Line with my father. I attended a Reagan campaign rally on the picturesque green of my New England hometown. In our home, Reagan, Buckley, and Falwell enjoyed a kind of trinitarian status. Wanting to attend a Catholic college or university, as had three of my four older siblings, I set my sights on the University of Notre Dame, applying there and only there.

At Notre Dame I majored in theology and held an office in the campus prolife group. As a student there I had my world expanded exponentially, albeit still within the Catholic bubble.

This, and later formal theology, gave her a firm belief in the importance of reaching out to the underprivileged, and particularly to children.  If the insists on the right to life and opposes abortion, it then has a corresponding obligation to take care of the children coming into the world whose biological parents are unable or unwilling to care for them. As a member of the church, she believes strongly that she shares in that obligation. And so arose her desire to adopt. In total contrast to Mike Huckabee’s assertion that gay parents’ desire to adopt arises from some form of selfishness, she asserts the opposite. Her motivation came from a very Catholic selflessness, putting the clear needs of others (in this case, the children) ahead of her own comfort.

Those of you who attended Catholic grade school in the 1970s may have enjoyed, as I did, repeated viewings of a documentary film about the DeBolt family: a husband and wife and their nineteen kids, fourteen of them adopted. Their home life was a smorgasbord of races, personalities, abilities, disabilities, newspaper routes, doctors’ appointments, chores, spills, laundry, laughter…you get the picture. I was enthralled. Adoption, I thought, was definitely something I wanted to do. “Each one take one” was, it seemed to me at the time, a great plan for meeting the needs of orphaned children the world over. I wondered why it wasn’t more common. I was sure I would adopt, knowing that the only obstacle would be an unwilling spouse. In my teens and twenties my conviction never wavered, and I wondered why every self-respecting couple who identified as prolife didn’t at the very least strongly consider adopting. When at last I came to terms with being gay, I never for a moment felt that I should stop saying what I’d been saying inside for decades: “I’ll take one!” Being gay seemed to me quite beside the point.

This will sound hopelessly lefty, but the truth of the matter is that at the age of thirty-three I sat one Sunday morning reading the New York Times in a coffee shop a block away from the Newman Center where I had just been to Mass. The Magazine cover piece was “What Will Become of Africa’s AIDS Orphans?” Alone at my table, I murmured, “I could take one.” I read the piece through until the end and had the feeling that I was living the first day of the rest of my life. My partner and I had dated and maintained separate households for four years, but were set to begin our committed life together in a few months, and we had talked enough about adoption for me to know that she was open to it. We fished out the Times article from my files nearly two years later, contacted the agency mentioned in the piece, and—after much soul-searching and research and home studies and whatnot—we eventually welcomed two small boys to our family.

I may be as selfish as the next person in many unlovely areas of my personality and life, but I can say without crossing my fingers that adopting my sons was the most unselfish thing I have ever done and likely will ever do.

 

And yet, as she points out, she and other aspirant gay parents are criticized by the Church for doing precisely what other aspirants are praised for – wishing to reach out in love to offer a home to young orphans.

In earlier posts on “What is a gay Catholic to do?”, my main emphasis has been on how does a gay or lesbian Catholic resolve the tensions between Catholic teaching on sexuality and one’s own internal knowledge.  This thoughtful post shows how the issues to be resolved go much deeper:  how do we as gay and lesbian Catholics interpret wider Church teaching, applicable to all Catholics, in our particular circumstances?

 

 

 

(Read the full story from Dot Commonweal)

Lessons From Latin America

Coming as I do from South Africa where I was born and lived for over half a century, I am acutely aware of the White South African tendency to think, speak and write from within a White mental framework, even as they live and work in an overwhelmingly Black country. South Africa though is in some key respects a remarkable microcosm of the world as a whole, and this is one of them: when we in the blogosphere write, many of us do so with a clear mental bias to the USA and Europe, paying scant attention to the remarkable advances elsewhere, notably in Latin America.

Pride Parade, Brazil

How do we explain this paradox of rapid political gains in a region where open intolerance and clear homophobia remain entrenched? What can we learn? Writing in Americas Quarterly (and reprinted at Huffpost, where I came acr0ss it) Javier Corrales has some thoughts on the political processes, which I will get to. First, I want to reflect on the significance to us in the Churches, that he is referring here to Latin America, the home of liberation theology. Read the rest of this entry »

Gay Parents: Recommended

My regular readers will now that gay adoption rights are a personal, touchy area for me. As a father and grandfather myself, I am acutely conscious that what matters to a child is not the status or orientation of the parent, but the depth of love and the quality of the care. My daughter Robynn has gone on record in stating , on the first occasion, that her experience when living with my partner and myself gave her a more stable emotional environment, and better examples in moral standards, than she saw given to her classmates from more “conventional” backgrounds. Later, she made it clear in a post here at QTC, that we should listen to the voices and experiences of children themselves who have grown up in gay – headed households, before making judgements. Giving her own verdict, she concluded: “Gay parents? I recommend them”.

The issue of gay adoption tends to get less press than same sex marriage, but in many ways has greater importance for long term progress to gay equality and inclusion. Here in the UK , gay adoption is fully accepted in law, but a Catholic adoption agency has just won an important court appeal, granting it exemption from the statutory requirement of equal treatment for all candidate parents. This is a topic I am not yet ready to discuss properly, but will do at some stage. In the US, the situation varies by state, but in only one state, Florida, is there an outright legal ban. There is no sign of this ban being lifted by legislative process any time soon, but meanwhile there have been a string of favourable court decisions, with an important court ruling due any day now. In the meantime, here is another personal story of one child who would clearly agree with Robynn, and recommend gay parents. In his case, he voted with his feet, and actively left his one-mother-one-father version family for a gay single father – and in the process made a huge improvement in his life:

From Palm Beach Post:

Grade-A gay ‘parent’ saved a child from two-parent straight home

James was a bright boy with a dark future looming when he made a decision to change his destiny. Read the rest of this entry »