On being fruitful


(“Bart” continues his series of reflections on sexual ethics, from the perspective of a gay priest):

parents

Image by nerdcoregirl via Flickr

In their instructive work The Sexual Person, authors Todd A Salzman and Michael G Lawler offer their readers the following definition:

We define a natural, reasonable, and moral sexual act as a just and loving act in accord with a person’s innate sexual orientation that facilitates a deeper appreciation, integration, and sharing of a person’s embodied self with another embodied self. Biological-genital complementarity is always a dimension of the natural, reasonable, and moral sexual act, and reproductive complementarity may be a dimension of it in the case of fertile, heterosexual couples who choose to reproduce. Reproductive complementarity will not be a possibility in the case of homosexual couples, but genital complementarity—understood in an orientation, personal, and integrated sense, and not just in a biological, physical sense—will be. (page 67)

The above quote serves me as an introduction to the knotty topic of procreation (the authors use the word “reproductive”) and same-sex marriage. Knotty because procreation is probably the single issue of any relevance that distinguishes between hetero and homosexual couples. We need to realise that there are two parts to the “procreation” argument against extending marriage to same-sex couples. The first part of the argument links procreation to marriage: if the couple cannot as a couple procreate, then they are not entitled to call their relationship marriage. Is this argument reasonable and correct? Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Marriage. What’s in a word?

Here’s the video I inserted at the end of my last post, for those of you who may have entered the discussion at this stage. Though the clip talks about civil unions, the intent clearly is to provoke a debate about marriage. Extending marriage legislation (including use of the term “marriage”) to same-sex couples is probably a government’s litmus test, the sign of its commitment to recognise the equal status of its LGBT citizens. I have already expressed myself as favouring the use of the word marriage rather than the terms civil unions or partnerships. Today, I thought it necessary to give a few reasons (there will probably others I have failed to mention), reasons that reflect both what I have gleaned from other sources as well as my own take on the matter. Naturally, I would like my words to be seen as an encouragement to same-sex couples  who already are in a civil union or partnership to continue to insist on getting civil authorities (as well as religious institutions as the case may be) to fully incorporate these civil unions/partnerships into the wider institution of marriage. So the caveat is: if couples so wish. I would be the last to wish to force a hetero-normative institution (that is how marriage is viewed in some quarters) on gay and lesbian couples, as not every couple may see itself as being prepared to take on the baggage that comes with the institution of marriage.

"Victory!" - This couple has been wa...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Marriage. “What’s in a word?” You may ask. Why should one choose to use the word “marriage” to cover same-sex unions too? For a start, if the state, through its laws, wants to give all the rights that a heterosexual couple has through marriage to gay and lesbian couples, then it (the state) will need to explain why it insists on using two different terms to cover the same ground. We’re talking of same-sex couples having the same rights and duties, as well as privileges as straight couples, in other words, deserving of equal status and recognition. If, on the other hand, the state does not wish to accord the same status to the unions of same-sex couples, as it does to heterosexual couples, then it should be challenged to give its reasons for making this distinction, or in other words, why it is discriminating between its citizens.

Read the rest of this entry »

Same-Sex Parents, Furred and Feathered.

There have been an increasing number of research studies which show that as parents,  same sex couples are at least as good as opposite sex- couples. As a gay father and grandfather myself, I don’t really need to be told this by modern research: I first learnt of the evidence decades ago, from a family friend who was then a child welfare social worker, and is today a top authority on the subject. I also have the best of all possible authority, the experience of my own family. My daughter is very clear on the subject: she is on record as saying “Gay Parents? I recommend them”. She has told me that when she says a young child with two dads, her immediate response is – “Lucky child”. Still, it’s good to see the evidence getting a more public hearing. and reaching the mainstream.

I was interested though, to find that in this, as in so many other areas, of human sexuality, the same pattern is found in many species of animals and birds.

Two Dads, with Kids

Homosexuality in animals has been known since ancient times, but still fails to penetrate the public consciousness. Read the rest of this entry »

Natural Law, Evidence, and Laysan’s Albatross

A key part of the argument against homoerotic relationships, fundamental to the Catholic Magisterium, to the religious opposition more generally, and to the supporters of so-called “traditional” marriage, is that same sex relationships are somehow “unnatural”, “against natural law”. This claim is entirely without foundation. What these groups have in common, apart from their conclusion, is a total disregard for the evidence.  Some research into the Laysan albatross neatly illustrates this.  The disregard of the need for evidence does not only apply to claims for natural law: exactly the same charge can be made against Vatican claims that “homosexuals” are motivated solely by  -indulgence, and that homosexual “acts” lead one away from God – claims that likewise do not stand up to scrutiny. For now, though, I am concerned only about the problem as it applies to the argument from natural law

All albatrosses are large birds nesting in isolated colonies free from natural predators, which makes them easy to study (the birds are trusting and allow researchers to get up real close and personal). Much of their behaviour is well-known. For instance, in one colony at Kaena Point, Hawaii, there are about 120 breeding pairs, who gather for mating every November. They form long-term partnerships, and after copulation, lay a single egg, which they incubate in shifts, taking turns to leave the nests for weeks at a time to feed at sea. They form long-lasting, often life- long pairs, and were praised by former US first lady Laura Bush for their commitment to each other, and the example they offered as icons of monogamy. The obvious assumption that these monogamous pairs represent one male and one female in a neat nuclear family, though, turns out to be false. One third of the pairs are female couples, some of whom had nested together every year since right back to the start of data collection – 19 years.

Ornithologist Lindsay C Young  has been studying this albatross colony since 2003, as part of her doctoral dissertation.  She says that the discovery of so many female pairs forced her to question assumptions she didn’t even know she was making.  This in itself was something of a breakthrough: observations of same sex behaviour or relationships in the animal world are not new, but too often in the past, biologists have simply ignored them, or attempted to explain these observations as aberrations.

Joan Roughgarden quotes one notable scholar who claimed in 2000, at the end of a long and distinguished career,  that  “When animals have access to members of the the opposite sex, homosexuality is virtually unknown in nature, with some rare exceptions in primates”.

But just the previous year, Bruce Bagemihl had published a book reviewing published academic research into over three hundred vertebrate species which engage in same-sex courtship and genital contact. In some of these, homosexual activity is even more frequent than heterosexual intercourse.[ad#In post banner] Read the rest of this entry »

The Social Value of Gay Marriage

The standard pseudo-religious argument against same-sex marriage is that “conventional” marriage between a man and a woman offers value to society that same sex marriage does not. Quite the most impressive counter to that argument, written by a straight woman, is “Why Gay Marriage is Good For Everyone” which I found at “Casaubon’s Book “on Science Blogs.

In Wisconsin last week, a court ruled that a lesbian mother who had been a stay-at-home mom to raise two adopted children with her partner, had no status as parent because only the other mother could be recognised in law as an adoptive parent. (“In Wisconsin, Not All Parents Are Equal“). It is to find ways around complicated legal difficulties such as these that so many queer families are forced into complex, sometimes imaginative, legal solutions of their own.

Introducing her piece, Casaubon writes about two Washington men who fell in love during WWII, and finally wed after a “62 -year engagement”. (“Wow, What A Long Engagement That Was“)But this is not just a cosy, feel-good romantic tale – although it is that, too. Along the way, as these two men aged after decades sharing their lives, they realized that in the absence of  the legal protections offered by marriage, they would need a plan of their own – so they settled on adoption!

When Henry was 69, he legally adopted Bob, who was 70. It gave them legal protections, offered an advantageous inheritance tax rate and made the pair into a family. Read the rest of this entry »

Bisexual Snails

There is a widespread myth out there that homoeroticism is somehow “against nature” because “animals don’t do it”.  The argument is deeply flawed on numerous counts:  Are we to model our behaviour on the animal kingdom? If so, why was the church for so long opposed to the male -behind heterosexual sexual position as (“animal like”), insisting instead on the completely unnatural missionary position? Why argue  that animals “Don’t” do it”, and simultaneously that it should be avoided because animals (the hare, the weasel, the hyena) DO “do it”?

The whole idea of “against nature” is a key part of the Christian church’s development of opposition to same sex relationships, but is full of weaknesses in logic as well as empirically verifiable evidence. Read the rest of this entry »