Sunday, August 30, 2009

Parenting Rights

Recently I read this article about lesbians in the UK being given the right to put both of their names on the birth certificate of their child as parents instead of only having the biological mother being allowed to. This new law allows both women to officially be considered the legal guardians of the child, and allows them the same legal benefits as heterosexual couples in terms of parenting.

When reading the article, I was reminded of the issues that remain in the United States relating to this issue. In the US, despite the fact that many same-sex couples exist in the form of domestic partnership (I'm not referring to those within states allowing gay marriage) and have children, they are still not allowed this very fundamental piece of legal benefit.

For example, although we allow a same-sex couple to bring up children in many states, the fact that many of these couples only have the amount of rights afforded to them that domestic partnerships offer, which is a fraction to that of actual marriage, it seems our laws care more about avoiding recognizing the legitimacy of a relationship than they do about the children in these relationships. For example, if something happens to the partner in a same-sex relationship that is registered as the adoptive parent of a child, that entire family can end up being split apart because the remaining parent is not legally bound to the adopted child. That means that a child that still has one gay parent left could potentially be sent back to foster care, or to a distant family member of the child. Furthermore, this disaster is even more likely to happen when the legal parent of a child in a domestic partnership is not covered by their partner's health insurance (which is another consequence of the lesser rights of domestic partnership).

If these partnerships are allowed to exist in the first place, what is the purpose of not allowing them some small benefits that would provide a world of difference for the family, especially the child? If a child grows up with two loving parents, regardless of their gender, is there any sensible reason why our current laws would rather a foster child go back to the foster care system than live with a remaining parent merely because that parent isn't technically registered as a parent, but is considered one by the child? Shouldn't the children raised by same sex couples out of foster care be the ones to judge what parents are more "natural", or more importantly, suitable as parents?


  1. Wow. Couldn't agree with you more. Gay couples in the USA are shafted (no pun intended) out of almost all of the benefits afforded married couples. I don't think it would be a problem if they'd just allow domestic partnerships to have the same benefits of marriage without calling it marriage.

  2. Actually, domestic partnerships aren’t quite for that purpose. I should have clarified this above, but you’re thinking of civil unions for gays, which largely don’t exist in America except for a few states.

    A domestic partnership typically refers to basically any couple that lives together in a house that wants legal binding for benefits under law. These could be sisters, for example.

    However, even if civil unions, assuming that they were widely allowed for gays around the country, had the same legal benefits of marriage, they still would not be equal. It would be a step in the right direction, but it still implies gay marriage is somehow fundamentally different from straight marriage in something spiritual. Or at least that’s just my take on it.

  3. I agree with your ideas of getting kids out of foster care. I think if you were to tell people that oyu have a plan that will exponentially reduce the number of children in foster care, not just expensive for the government, but also harmful to the cildren in the system, you would be hard pressed to find some one that disagrees with.
    The problem is that there is a social myth that two parents, a man and women are the best environment to raise a child. Statistically, this is easy for a pundit to prove. Statistics show that kids who grow up with a mother and father are less likely to end up with addictions, depression and in the penal system. The study that most pundits refer to, however, compares married parents to divorced and deceased parents. The religious community latches onto this because it is much easier than facing a possible anomaly in their holy book. This seems a mute argument as strong christians would probably frown on upon many things, ie monogomy, stoning a person who finds another religion, or burying an unfaithful wife alive (all in the bible).
    As for marriage I think that civil union seems very practical. Mariage is by definition spiritual while modern society has built tax benefits and child rearing benefits into it. I think that forcing religious figures to change their definitions of the word is unconstitutioinal, almost as unconstitutional as not allowing a loving family to form.

  4. I think you’re mistaken when you say that marriage is spiritual first and political second. What of dowry? Or the (old but very) common practice of royal, political marriage? Marriage is a constant from society to society that varies in different ways, and it is usually not about love or spirituality at all. At least not in its origins. It’s based in politics, position, and wealth. And if that’s true—that a variation of marriage is a rite in multitudes of cultures—how can we attribute the word to religious figures? Do religious figures own marriage if it’s essentially a word, meaning it’s subject to evolution? More specifically, do Christians own the concept of marriage if it’s their ideals that don’t allow gays to marry? Why can scientologists and atheists marry? Are gays not spiritual?

    Who defines what marriage is, ultimately?
    Society does. Today, in America, marriage is a legal contract. There is a ceremony that goes with it, but it is also a physical certificate given by the state. In addition, modern American society’s idea of marriage is based all about our ideals of love. What’s missing from the equation here that would include gays?