Our new fan, Pete, wrote to us to tell us we really need to consider the concerns he brings up about marriage equality, namely, that allowing gay people to adopt kids is a violation of the kids’ rights. When we consider his concerns, he admonishes us to be “unbiased and completely honest.”
Pete presents a fairly common argument among people who don’t grasp that marriage equality and adoption by gay parents are two separate issues, and his misplaced concern for children does not constitute a valid secular argument against either.
I don’t want to say much more, because Pete’s email really says it all. Here it is, in all its glory, with my replies:
Can I just say I’m a new fan of your Programs; I stumbled upon your videos on YouTube (linked from Richard Dawkins/atheism and the bible is wrong). I completely agree with the logic you speak about, especially Matt Dillahunty, and began following your programs into the early hours of the morning. Great stuff and I continued to agree, even speaking out loud with agreement to my computer (Oh I must get a life)
As you probably can tell, I’m an Atheist and have been since around the age of 6 or 7 when I realised the biblical stories such as Noah’s ark didn’t make sense. Since then I don’t believe with or agree with any religion and become interested in human rights. A few decades on I feel I now have a good moral compass; this is why I’m writing to you.
Although the core of your program obviously addresses the question “is there a god?”, you touch on other topics such as human rights and Gay marriage and I’d like to bring up some issues that really needs further discussion.
Now, I really need to stress this point, so you fully understand my opinions. I fully agree that gay/lesbians should have the same rights as the rest of us, and I agree they should have the right to marry. It’s difficult to write this without labelling “them and us”. I’d even consider that labelling homosexuality is the wrong way to go, it’s almost like segregation. I think Gay/lesbian people should drop all the books/TV channels/ and marches and just say we’re normal.
We are normal. We’re also homosexual, just like you’re heterosexual, some people are bisexual, and some people are even asexual. It’s a label that accurately conveys a person’s sexual orientation. If you think that’s like segregation, you don’t understand segregation or sexual orientation.
Can’t we all just be people with different sexual preferences? No labelling, no differences, no segregation, no Gay bars etc. I hope I got my point across and you understand I have nothing at all against people with different sexual preferences to me. I have Gay friends, yet I’m a Man with an interest in the opposite sex. So when I discuss the topic of gay marriage you should know now I’m being totally unbiased.
We are people with different sexual preferences (orientations), hence the different labels. Gay bars cater to a specific demographic, just like sports bars and wine bars cater to specific demographics. If I don’t care for sports bars and never go to them, it’s no inconvenience to me if you like them and frequent them. It’s not segregation to have different bars for different clientele. Gay bars are an important part of gay culture, as are gay books, videos, parades, etc. Your heterosexual privilege is showing here.
Pro-tip here: when you have to state that you’re being “totally unbiased” about something, you really are biased. And you’re about to demonstrate just how totally biased, not to mention ignorant, you are about homosexuality, marriage, and adoption.
As I have already stated I do agree that Gay people should have the right to marry, I have no problem with that, but when I consider adoption of a child I find the same logic and moral compass that agrees with gay marry, is now at odds with adoption; and here’s why:
Wait for it….but, but, but… what about the chillllldddreeennz!
Regarding same sex parents; you have spoken about their rights to do as they please, loving family values, bringing up children the right why, adult sexual rights, Marriage or Tradition isn’t important, all good points, but you seemed to have missed one obviously glaring point, and that is the rights of the child.
I look forward to your explanation for how a child’s rights are violated by having loving parents…
I completely agree with your show, I believe everyone has the right to do as they please, until it directly affects a third party, in this case I MUST put the rights of the child first, I don’t think a single decent and loving parent would have it any other way, so my question to you is this:
Does the child have the RIGHT to a Male Father and a Female Mother? And if the answer is YES, then do same sex parents violate the rights of said child?
No, and no. Another pro-tip here: if you’re an atheist arguing against marriage equality and adoption by gay parents, try to avoid using the Pope’s arguments.
No matter how I look at it, at every possible angle, I always conclude the same answer, which is Yes, the child DOES have the right to a Male Father and a Female Mother.
Feel free to support this conclusion with reason and evidence. In what way are children harmed by having same sex parents? Be specific, and bear in mind that your own biases on this issue don’t count as “reason and evidence.”
Anyway, I’d love to have a debate on this subject, I consider myself open minded and really enjoy such discussion, but I’m in the UK so calling your show is a little difficult, so I thought I’d go into these points in writing so you can consider them.
If by “open minded” you mean “really attached to my position on an issue I haven’t really researched,” then you are incredibly open minded.
Like I mentioned before “Do children have the Right to a male Farther and a female Mother?” in fact I’d like to simplify the question even further “Do children have ANY rights at all?”
Of course, children have rights, but your fantasy of a perfect family structure isn’t one of them.
I do hope a civilised and enlightened society would say yes to this question. But you could argue that possibly children haven’t the mental ability to make the right decisions regarding their rights and it’s the responsibly of wise parents to make these decisions for them, for example the child doesn’t have the right to stay up past their bedtime, yet an adult has the right to choose their own bedtime. Ok a light hearted statement, but you get the idea?
Parent’s make decisions for their children, I agree. Is this news to you?
So using this argument a child doesn’t actually receive all their rights until they reach a certain age, and let’s say that age is 18, because in the UK anyway this is the legal age you can vote, which is possibly one of the most important rights given to people depending who you talk to. So at the age of 18 do you have the right to a Male farther and a female mother? After all you are still the child of your parents; you still have parents and always shall regardless of your age. In fact if I ask the question to myself, and I’m considerably older than 18, then I would absolutely say YES I do have a right to a male father and a female mother.
How is the age of majority relevant to this discussion? I’ve already told you (as has Russell) that children don’t have the right to a specific, Pete-approved family structure. If you are arguing otherwise, you need to provide evidence to support that assertion. So far, all you’ve presented are unsupported assertions, your own biases, and claims that you’ve thought about this a lot.
But perhaps rights are subjective; maybe my right to have buttered scones with my afternoon tea (I am English after all) is not as important as my right to freedom, so let’s look at the foundation of these rights. If you ask most people they would agree that their right to freedom is very serious, but the right to a buttered scone as a joke, and I can understand why but if you ask the child the same question and offered them a butter scone, which would the child take? My money’s on the scone. So as a society should we protect the rights of the innocent and unaware, until they have the wisdom to make their own choices?
Yes, we protect children’s rights. Parents (gay, straight, or whatever), family courts, and child welfare organizations are all charged with protecting the interests of minor children. Again, is this news to you?
Let’s address the question; what is marriage after all?
It’s a specific legal relationship between two people that establishes a number of important rights and obligations.
In the large scheme of things, Life, the Universe and everything, modern humans are a relatively new idea, we’ve been around for approximately 150,000 years or more, and marriage has been around considerably less than that, arguably just a few thousand years. Marriage also differs depending on which part of the world you live in, your religious belief and ultimately your traditions dictate your marriage ceremony. You want to get married because that’s what your parents did, and their parents did before that. In a nut shell it’s something we humans made up! However nature has dictated that for a child to be born and a family to be created in the simplest terms, then a Male father and a Female mother MUST be and is indeed the ONLY way for life to exist. It’s doesn’t matter which part of the world you live in, nor your religious beliefs, it is the same everywhere and has been this way for not only thousands but millions of years.
And here you demonstrate a misunderstanding of what marriage is. You don’t have to get married to have children, and lots of married couples don’t want children. Gays and lesbians have been raising children for all of human existence. Some of those children are our own biological children, and others are adopted. Were you unaware of this?
So which has a better foundation for debatable argument? The short lived and varyingly different marriage traditions made up by humans or the grander and almost eternal traditions of nature? If humans never made up marriage in the first place then the Gay community wouldn’t even know what they’re missing, but if Nature hadn’t “made up” nature, then we wouldn’t even be around to complain about our rights.
Why, look at that! I believe you just committed the naturalistic fallacy. Tracie and I did an Atheist Experience episode on that. Look up episode #644 in the archives and watch it.
If the term “Traditional Family” is not relevant, then why is the term “Traditional Wedding” so argued within the Gay community regarding their rights? The term “Traditional” in simplistic terms means “having been passed along from generation to generation” and “having existed or continued for a long time”, so I ask if a “Traditional Family” which has been around for much longer than a “Traditional Wedding” isn’t a right, then how can a traditional wedding be a right? I’m really struggling with this one.
I have no idea what you’re going on about here, but what kind of wedding someone chooses to have is of no concern to me. I can’t fathom why you’d think someone’s preferences for the type of wedding they want would have any bearing on a discussion of basic civil rights.
I am on the side of the Gay community to have the right to marry within their diverse cultural, religious and traditions beliefs, and I can understand why they would find it offensive when the heterosexual community say you can’t get married in accordance with your beliefs, but we can make up a new marriage ceremony for you, and you’ll be referred to as “Life partners”, or similar. However I have to ask, what sort of person would fight so hard for their own rights, yet trample on the rights of others, especially children. Surely any fair and understanding parent would put the rights of their child first and theirs second?
Sure, let’s just call it “Schmarriage.”
What you’re advocating is called “separate, but equal.” That was a key component of segregation here in the US, and we agreed nearly 50 years ago that it was a morally bankrupt and inherently unfair idea. Why is it that you have a problem with voluntary association based on shared interests (gay bars/books/TV/parades), but you favor the idea of government-sanctioned discrimination when it comes to marriage?
But let’s look at this argument at yet another angle, many would say that a Gay couple could bring up a child just as well as a Man and Woman couple, and if you asked a child who has been brought up by a gay couple if they feel harmed in anyway, they would probably say no. But of course they would say this, because that’s how they were brought up, not only do they lack the experience of being brought up by a “traditional mother and father” to reference from, but that’s the environment they grew to accept. It’s no different to being brought up in a religious family environment. It’s called indoctrination.
How utterly absurd. Do you have any evidence at all to back up this assertion? No, of course you don’t, because the research simply doesn’t support your fantasy of the perfect family structure. My wife and I are raising our son together. He doesn’t live in a bubble – he sees the family structures of his peers every day, and most of those are so-called “traditional” families with a married father and mother. He’s not indoctrinated, unless by “indoctrinated” you mean subjected to consistent, loving parental care. If that’s what you mean, then this evening’s “indoctrination” consisted of helping him with a diorama that he has to present in class tomorrow and reading with him before bed. Other forms of “indoctrination” we inflict on him are making his lunch for school, taking him to school, caring for him when he’s sick, coaching his soccer team, and teaching him the value of family. This last part is very important, because we place great value on our family. This is why we don’t let small-minded bigots treat our family as disposable, unimportant, or second-class.
I know Gay couples like to say that “modern” families are different now, and say there are single mothers or fathers, or grandparents who bring up grandchildren, but in these cases’ the rights of the child have NOT been violated. If natural parents get divorced, the child’s parents don’t change. If a Parent dies, again the original parents don’t change. It doesn’t matter what happens within the circumstances of a traditional family, your traditional parents will never change.
There is no right to a specific family structure, and if a child’s parents die or divorce, that child’s family structure *will* change.
Rights refer to the LAW, in the eyes of the court. So if a gay couple got married, and then legally adopted a child, then they would be violating the rights of the child. There’s no escaping this conclusion.
You have yet to establish any basis, other than your own fantasy, for this conclusion. Argument by assertion won’t get you very far here. Feel free to defend this assertion with reason and evidence at any time.
Do you not realize that adoption and marriage are two very different issues? Marriage is a right that’s granted to almost any couple. Adoptions, on the other hand, are *always* handled on a case-by-case basis. It’s not like picking out a puppy at an animal shelter. You can’t just fill out some paperwork, pay a small fee, and take the kid home. Even an uncomplicated adoption requires criminal background checks on everyone in the household 14 or older, a home study by a licensed social worker, and appointment of an attorney to represent the child’s interests in the adoption proceedings. And the child’s attorney can’t be the same attorney representing the adoptive parents.
Being married doesn’t automatically grant anyone preference in an adoption proceeding. You still – individually, and as a couple – have to meet all the basic prerequisites for adopting a child AND you have to convince a judge that granting the adoption is in the child’s interests. It isn’t quick, cheap, or easy.
I know there are loopholes within the law that Gay couples can use to avoid this paradox, but I have to ask the question, what type of parent would put their “wants” before the Rights of a child?
What “loopholes” and what “paradox”? What type of asshole would deny a child the right to have two legal parents, not because any harm will come to the child, but solely because he doesn’t like the form their family takes?
And finally ask yourself this, and you need to be honest. Picture your own parents, would you like them to have been the same sex? If you feel you are answering this question honestly, you’ll probably have said no, so why would you think an adopted child should be ok with this?
Why would you think any child raised in a loving home would want to change that? Again, your own biases are on display here.
I know this is a little off topic, but gay rights and marriage is mentioned a lot on your show; you say you also agree on gay marriage but I think you need to go into detail. Please go over my e-mail, take your time and consider these points. You need to be unbiased and completely honest when you do. I think this is a serious issue that needs serious debate. Thank you.
You need to take the time to learn something about this issue before you write ignorant screeds like this. Did you really think we’d never seen these arguments before? If so, then you’re doubly ignorant, because the arguments you’ve presented are spouted regularly by *religious* organizations here in the US and abroad. That’s right – the arguments you’re presenting are based on the religious notion that the only appropriate environment in which to raise kids is in a household with a married father and mother. Don’t believe me? Well, here are some links for you:
This first one is from the Catholic Education Resource Center and quotes an article by George Rekers:
“Lacking is the mother/father relationship and model as related to child rearing. Also absent is the model of a husband/wife relationship “which is significantly healthier, substantially more stable socially and psychologically, and is more widely approved compared to homosexual lifestyles,” the professor writes.
You may recognize this as the same unsupported assertion you’ve offered repeatedly in this email. You may also recognize the name Rekers. He made the news a few years ago when he hired a young man on RentBoy.com to “lift his luggage” for him on a trip to Europe. Rekers is also a proponent of the thoroughly-discredited “conversion therapy,” which is apparently not working very well for him.
The next link is to an article on the Family Research Council’s site by Peter Sprigg, in which he claims,
Only the union of a man and a woman can naturally produce a child, and the marriage of a man and a woman is what is most likely to provide a child with a stable home shared with both the child’s mother and father.
The fact that there’s no evidence to support this claim seems irrelevant to Sprigg, because this claim is really not about evidence. It’s about this: “Family Research Council’s mission is to advance faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview.“
This is from the Focus on the Family position statement on adoption:
children have a right to grow up with the love that only a mother and a father can jointly provide.
The position statement is liberally sprinkled with Bible quotes about orphans, as well as complaints about how their religious liberty (and the rights of children) are being infringed when anti-discrimination laws require adoption agencies to consider qualified gay/lesbian couples on the same basis as heterosexual couples.
Focus on the Family, btw, was started by James Dobson, a child psychologist and Christian Dominionist noted for advocating some rather harsh disciplinary measures for young children, Biblically-based of course.
The last link is from an article by Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association:
Every homosexual adoption places a child in a home with a missing mother or father. No society that loves children and places their welfare ahead of the desires of narcissistic adults would ever do this.
The AFA is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Fischer regularly misrepresents everything from the US Constitution to peer-reviewed research to public policy, all in Jesus’ name, of course.
None of these claims about the ideal family structure is backed up by anything more than the authors’ idea of a “God-ordained family structure,” which looks remarkably like your “Pete-ordained family structure.”
Meanwhile, back in reality….40 years of research on children raised by gay/lesbian parents can be summed up in this statement: the sexual orientation of the parents is not a relevant factor in how well a child does. But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s a list of statements from some professional associations with an interest in child welfare:
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (1999)
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) approved the following statement in support of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals in June 1999:
“There is no evidence to suggest or support that parents with a gay, lesbian, or bisexual orientation are per se different from or deficient in parenting skills, child-centered concerns and parent-child attachments, when compared to parents with a heterosexual orientation. It has long been established that a homosexual orientation is not related to psychopathology, and there is no basis on which to assume that a parental homosexual orientation will increase likelihood of or induce a homosexual orientation in the child.
American Academy of Family Physicians (2002)
On gay and lesbian parenting. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) adopted the following position statement at its October 2002 meeting:
“RESOLVED, That the AAFP establish policy and be supportive of legislation which promotes a safe and nurturing environment, including psychological and legal security, for all children, including those of adoptive parents, regardless of the parents’ sexual orientation. ”
American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (2004)
On same-sex unions. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers adopted the following position statement at its November 2004 meeting:
“BE IT RESOLVED That the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers supports the legalization of marriage between same-sex couples and the extension to same-sex couples who marry and their children of all of the legal rights and obligations of spouses and children of spouses.”
American Academy of Pediatrics (2002)
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued the following statement in support of gay and lesbian parenting and called for equal access to co-parenting and second-parent adoption rights for gay and lesbian parents in February 2002:
“Children deserve to know that their relationships with both of their parents are stable and legally recognized. This applies to all children, whether their parents are of the same or opposite sex. The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that a considerable body of professional literature provides evidence that children with parents who are homosexual can have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment, and development as can children whose parents are heterosexual. When two adults participate in parenting a child, they and the child deserve the serenity that comes with legal recognition.
“Children born or adopted into families headed by partners who are of the same sex usually have only one biologic or adoptive legal parent. The other partner in a parental role is called the “coparent” or “second parent.” Because these families and children need the permanence and security that are provided by having two fully sanctioned and legally defined parents, the Academy supports the legal adoption of children by coparents or second parents. Denying legal parent status through adoption to coparents or second parents prevents these children from enjoying the psychologic and legal security that comes from having two willing, capable, and loving parents.
American Anthropological Association (2004)
On same-sex unions. The American Anthropological Association issued the following statement in February 2004:
“The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.
American Medical Association
On gay and lesbian parenting. The American Medical Association adopted the following position statement at its June 2004 meeting:
“WHEREAS, Having two fully sanctioned and legally defined parents promotes a safe and nurturing environment for children, including psychological and legal security; and
“WHEREAS, Children born or adopted into families headed by partners who are of the same sex usually have only one biologic or adoptive legal parent; and
“WHEREAS, The legislative protection afforded to children of parents in homosexual relationships varies from state to state, with some states enacting or considering legislation sanctioning co-parent or second parent adoption by partners of the same sex, several states declining to consider legislation, and at least one state altogether banning adoption by the second parent; and
“WHEREAS, Co-parent or second parent adoption guarantees that the second parent’s custody rights and responsibilities are protected if the first parent dies or becomes incapacitated; and
“WHEREAS, Co-parent or second parent adoption ensures the child’s eligibility for health benefits from both parents and establishes the requirement for child support from both parents in the event of the parents’ separation; and
“WHEREAS, Co-parent or second parent adoption establishes legal grounds to provide consent for medical care and to make health care decisions on behalf of the child and guarantees visitation rights if the child becomes hospitalized; and
“WHEREAS, The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association have each issued statements supporting initiatives which allow same-sex couples to adopt and co-parent children; therefore be it
“RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association support legislative and other efforts to allow the adoption of a child by the same-sex partner, or opposite sex non-married partner, who functions as a second parent or co-parent to that child. (New HOD Policy)”
American Psychiatric Association (2002, 1997, and 2000)
On gay and lesbian parenting. The American Psychiatric Association adopted the following position statement at its November 2002 meeting:
“The American Psychiatric Association supports initiatives that allow same-sex couples to adopt and co-parent children and supports all the associated legal rights, benefits, and responsibilities which arise from such initiatives. ”
American Psychoanalytic Association (1997 and 2002)
On gay and lesbian parenting. The American Psychoanalytic Association adopted this policy statement in support of gay and lesbian parenting in May 2002:
“The American Psychoanalytic Association supports the position that the salient consideration in decisions about parenting, including conception, child rearing, adoption, visitation and custody is in the best interest of the child. Accumulated evidence suggests the best interest of the child requires attachment to committed, nurturing and competent parents. Evaluation of an individual or couple for these parental qualities should be determined without prejudice regarding sexual orientation. Gay and lesbian individuals and couples are capable of meeting the best interest of the child and should be afforded the same rights and should accept the same responsibilities as heterosexual parents. With the adoption of this position statement, we support research studies that further our understanding of the impact of both traditional and gay/lesbian parenting on a child’s development. ”
American Psychological Association (1976, 1998, and 2004)
For full text of APA policy statements on lesbian, gay, and bisexual concerns, see APA policy lgbc.
On parenting. The American Psychological Association Council of Representatives adopted the following position statement in September 1976:
“The sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation of natural or prospective adoptive or foster parents should not be the sole or primary variable considered in custody or placement cases. ”
Reference: Conger, J. J. (1977). Proceedings of the American Psychological Association, Incorporated, for the year 1976: Minutes of the Annual Meeting of the Council of Representatives. American Psychologist, 32, 408-438.
Child Welfare League of America (1988)
The Child Welfare League of America’s Standards of Excellence for Adoption Services states:
“Applicants should be assessed on the basis of their abilities to successfully parent a child needing family membership and not on their race, ethnicity or culture, income, age, marital status, religion, appearance, differing lifestyles, or sexual orientation.” Further, applicants for adoption should be accepted “on the basis of an individual assessment of their capacity to understand and meet the needs of a particular available child at the point of adoption and in the future. ”
National Association of Social Workers (2002)
The National Association of Social Workers approved the following policy statement at in August 2002 at the NASW Delegate Assembly.
“Legislation legitimizing second-parent adoptions in same-sex households should be supported. Legislation seeking to restrict foster care and adoption by gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people should be vigorously opposed. ”
National Association of Social Workers (1994). Policy statement on lesbian and gay issues. In Social Work Speaks: NASW Policy Statements (pp. 162-165). Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.
North American Council on Adoptable Children (1998)
The North American Council on Adoptable Children issued a policy statement in 1998 (amended April 14, 2002) that states:
“Children should not be denied a permanent family because of the sexual orientation of potential parents. Everyone with the potential to successfully parent a child in foster care or adoption is entitled to fair and equal consideration.
All of the above statements are based on four decades of peer-reviewed research on families headed by gays/lesbians, and I can provide links to the research if you’re unable to find it yourself. Not a single statement is based on anyone’s notion of a “God-ordained family structure,” or a “Pete’s fantasy of an ideal family structure.”
You have some homework to do. You are not unbiased, or open minded, or at all informed on this issue. You’re painfully wrong on all counts and so blinded by your own arrogance that you can’t even recognize the Pope’s argument against same sex parenting when it comes out of your own mouth. You’ve demonstrated once again that there are still no valid secular arguments against marriage equality or adoption by same sex parents.
Keep up the good work. Best regards.
UPDATE: Pete wrote back to tell me that my responses to him were a “direct attack” on him, that I threatened him, and that these weren’t his opinions, no siree, these were just “possible opinions” that he was relaying to me for consideration. He was just asking questions.