A New Fan is “Concerned”

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.


  1. Pinkamena Panic says

    “Unbiased and completely honest”? Okay: FUCK YOU, PETE, you JAQoff.

    And, naturally, he’s taking the I’m-being-oppressed-and-threatened position when you respond. Like bigots do.

  2. maudell says

    Oh, schmarriage. That was prime Russellery. The first time I heard the argument on TAE, I couldn’t stop laughing. I know the issue is serious, and it definitely was in a time when the majority was against gay marriage, but Russel’s argument just perfectly made the point. (sure it’s a linguistics issue!)

    But more about the post, I think Pete’s argument is that he’s unbiased and sees everything clearly because he’s not emotionally involved in the issue. Just like old men are the best to decide on women’s rights. White guys are ideal to weight accurately on rights of minorities. Right?

    There’s only one exception to this bias/unbias rule. The same white guys (preferably cis,het, upper-middle class) are also unbiased when it comes to issues that touch them directly.

    Because… magic! uh, logic!

  3. Rabid says

    If Children have the right to a male farther and female mother, shouldn’t he also be campaigning against divorce and the necessity for taking children away from single parents to put them into the family structure they have a right to?

    I suspect he doesn’t give a shit about that, though.

  4. changerofbits says

    I had to stop reading half way through since Pete’s letter resembled a “Thunderf@Rt whine” more than a well thought out argument, FSM bless you Jen.

    I also love the contrast in the original vs the update: “so you fully understand my opinions” vs “these weren’t his opinions”. I don’t get where he thinks he was attacked. Aside from a bit of well deserved snark, you were more kind than you needed to be given the BS present in his screed.

  5. hypatiasdaughter says

    You know, Pete, that for most of human history, children were probably raised as much by the tribal group – grandparents, siblings, aunts and other tribal members – as they were by their biological mothers. The labor of healthy young women was too valuable to be “wasted” on childcare so childcare was shared with the older, younger or less fit tribal members, like grandparents.
    For a chunk of that history, either the connection between sex & pregnancy wasn’t recognized or women had multiple partners and paternity wasn’t recognized. The child was the “property” of the tribe, not just one man & one woman. (I often suspect that the stress that child raising causes for modern parents is because they are isolated in a big old box of a house and expected to handle all the responsibilities alone.)
    Listing all those examples of “failed” hetero arrangements and then passing them off as better than any homo arrangement by saying “It doesn’t matter what happens within the circumstances of a traditional family, your traditional parents will never change.” is such B.S. So, some Platonic abstract ideal that does nothing to actually raise and nurture a child is better because……why? Kids don’t need some abstract “right”, they need a real “right” to a committed, loving and caring family unit.

  6. unfogged says

    The most warped part of the argument is here: “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.”

    That is a claim that a child has a right not only to 1 male and 1 female parent but also to their specific biological parents. Even if, despite the current evidence to the contrary, it could be shown that that family structure was in some measurable way better than any other combination it couldn’t possibly be justifiable to say that no other situation would be allowed. If so we’d have to disallow divorced parents to live apart and decide who to charge when one or both parents die and the child’s rights are violated. The argument is nothing but an attempt to use an emotional smokescreen to cover being uncomfortable with anything different.

    Jen eloquently points out that marriage and parenting are different issues anyway. Marriage confers many rights but having children isn’t one of them so this fails totally as an argument against marriage equality.

    The letter reads to me like it is from somebody still infected with religion trying to get an argument heard by feigning “but I’m an atheist too”. Maybe not. Either way it is vacuous..

  7. Lord Narf says

    I love the bit about no gay bars. So, you’re saying that gay people … a tiny minority of the population … should be denied a place to go where they have better than a 1% or 2% chance of hooking up with any given person?

    What the hell? Does he really think that gay people are outraged at being segregated into their own bars and clubs? That’s not in any way reflective of reality, and anyone who stops and thinks for 10 minutes should be able to sort out which social constructs favor gay people and which discriminate against them. Apparently, this guy hasn’t done that 10 minutes of thought.

  8. Lord Narf says

    Yup. If you feel the need to begin your message with a disclaimer, you should seriously examine your message … because obviously, you recognize, yourself, how bigoted and at odds with your disclaimer your message is. If it wasn’t so, you wouldn’t feel the need to use a disclaimer. This sort of crap is just dishonest.

  9. dangerousbeans says

    I think Gay/lesbian people should drop all the books/TV channels/ and marches and just say we’re normal.
    Can’t we all just be people with different sexual preferences? No labelling, no differences, no segregation, no Gay bars etc.

    so basically, can’t you all just be invisible?
    which is a seriously offensive question. i want people to acknowledge my identity, i don’t want everyone to assume that i am straight or cis.

  10. Lord Narf says

    Sure, let’s just call it “Schmarriage.”

    Personally, I’m more a fan of ma-wege. After all, it’s a dweem within a dweem.

  11. says

    As far as “children have a right to a father and a mother”… on what planet? I made this same point on Twitter a few weeks ago: if my mom had died when I was a kid, were the cops supposed to show up at our house and say “find a mother for these kids NOW, or we’re taking your kids away and giving them to a married couple!” or something? No? If there’s a divorce, does the first one to get married automatically get to keep the children? No?

    Such a stupid, bigoted argument.

  12. Lord Narf says

    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.

    Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.

    Where the hell does he think you threatened him? Have him quote a line that you said to him. What the hell, man?

    That’s a pretty gross example of craven backpedaling, too. Freaking everything he said was in the form of declaring support for that position. I also saw the words “There’s no escaping this conclusion,” immediately following a bat-shit insane conclusion that was not only easily escapable but was so wrong that I’d rather stick around and laugh at it, rather than escaping.

  13. jacobfromlost says

    “so when I discuss the topic of gay marriage you should know now I’m being totally unbiased.”

    We can do that? Just say we are unbiased and expect others to just believe it…on faith?

    In my experience, the people who have to go out of their way to tell you they are fair, or unbiased, or loved by all…are neither fair, nor unbiased, nor loved by all (or any).

  14. Houndentenor says

    Gay people already adopt children. Sometimes only one partner can be the legal guardian which can create legal problems, but it’s something that gay people have been doing so long that some of those kids the gay people adopted now have children of their own. But does he really think that having two moms is worse than having no parent at all? And of course there is no evidence that children with two moms or two dads don’t do just as well (actually in one study the kids with two moms did better). And of course none of that has anything to do with marriage since some couples will not adopt and some couples who have adopted may opt not to marry. It’s two different things. not that this knucklehead can see something that obvious.

  15. Houndentenor says

    Only straight, white, heterosexual, Christian (only the right kind of Christian of course) men can be unbiased. Anyone else is biased. LOL

  16. Houndentenor says

    Wait is it still the 80s? No one hooks up in bars any more. We have phone apps for that. Bars are for socializing with friends. Hasn’t this dude heard of grindr?

  17. Houndentenor says

    Of course the problem with this line of reasoning is that he thinks it disguises his homophobia.

  18. Houndentenor says

    It’s an iron-clad argument because he says it is. how can you argue with his assertion that there’s no arguing with his argument??? Sounds like almost every theist caller to AE.

  19. Lord Narf says

    I dunno, I’ve always opted for game nights at someone’s house. You’d be surprised how well those can work for the occasional hookup, too.

  20. Lord Narf says

    “Because I just feel that it’s true!”

    Well, why didn’t you say so? Let me just drop to my knees and accept Jesus as my lord and savior, right now.

  21. Peter Horsepucky says

    I can’t count the number of times I’ve told my father: “Hey dad, just wanted to say that I’m really glad you’ve got a penis and mom doesn’t.”

  22. Divizna says

    That person is really stubbornly mistaken. But there’s one problem with your response too. It’s your demand to avoid using the Pope’s arguments. Being atheist doesn’t require one to disagree with the Pope on every single issue. The fact that Pope (ar anyone else) has made an argument doesn’t make the argument worse, just like it doesn’t make it better. Argumentation ad hominem is always bad argumentation.
    If Pete and the Pope agreed with one another and were right, that would be good. If they agree and are wrong, the problem is that they’re wrong, not that they agree.
    Just thought I’d point it out for you to realise.

  23. Divizna says

    “…and mom has a uterus”, please. Don’t overlook women as those who lack a penis. It’s subconscious sexism, and really annoying.

  24. says

    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?

    so if a gay couple got married, and then legally adopted a child, then they would be violating the rights of the child.

    They don’t have this “right” until society creates it in law for them. He seems to go on at length like that – where “rights” are anything he personally thinks they should have.

  25. Grantus Maximus says

    Kids end up with single parents, gay parents, hetero parents, mixed race parents, mixed religion parents, non-religious parents.

    What they are doesn’t necessarily reflect whether they are any good as parents or not, which people such as Pete seems to forget when they argue against gay adoption.

    I would actually argue that if you are prepared to go through all the procedures and questioning required to adopt a child, you’re more likely to go the extra mile to try and be the best parent to that child that you can be. Even more so if you’re gay, because you know damned well that there are people like Paul sitting in judgement and waiting for you to slip up just so they can point and say they told you so.

    Presumably Paul thinks that letting a child grow up in a care environment is preferable to being adopted by a gay couple. As he’s in the UK, as I am, he should be well aware that a care environment is the least favourable option, which kind of makes his claim to want to put the rights of the child first look somewhat dishonest.


  26. says

    So…. if a child have a right to have a mother and a father, why is divorce legal? What about single parents due to a death of one of the parent?

    Can a child legally force a parent to remarry, or a government force a new dad/mom? Wasn’t there a movie a bout a kid that could choose their parents?

  27. erinmcc says

    there is one huge glaring obvious problem with this same old argument about children deserving/needing/doing-better-with two parents of opposite sex.

    gay people arent going to turn straight just because you deny them the right to gay marriage.

    so, since a gay man isnt going to run out and marry a woman just because you tell him he cant marry a man, wouldnt having two loving parents of the same gender be better than just one?

  28. Divizna says

    Grantus, I mean it. A woman’s set of organs supplies many more functions vitally important for procreation than a man’s set. And yet, somehow a penis is culturally regarded as a hugely valuable thing while a uterus is considered so valueless it doesn’t deserve noticing. A woman is not a man without a penis. (A man without a penis is a eunuch.)
    If every other time you hear someone talk about men they were implying the self-understood notion that you are some kind of inferior incomplete woman-like beings because you don’t have a uterus, I think you’d soon get tired of it too. And that’s how being a woman and hearing “woman” being overwhelmingly defined as “someone without a penis” feels.
    While I believe Peter didn’t mean to imply this, he actually did.

  29. jamessweet says

    What if a child wants two moms? Would straight adoption then violate that child’s rights? Doesn’t every child have the right to a mother AND a mother?

  30. John Kruger says

    A “direct attack”, eh? Considering that he went on at length to imply that Jen was somehow violating the rights of her child or otherwise doing damage to him, I found Jen’s response to be remarkably calm and measured.

    If your “ideal situation” for parenting functionally requires a particular set of sexual organs, I think the child needs to be removed from that situation, and you need to go to jail. Implying that there are certain elements of care that can be provided by only a particular gender is inescapably sexist, no matter how you want to partition it.

  31. says

    Great post Jen.

    Since apparently one of Pete’s concerns is that children would be harmed I’m curious if it would be helpful to have an ad campaign with adults raised by single sex parents. Although I don’t know the specifics the gist of would be that the adults would affirm that they’re fine.

  32. pyrobryan says

    What a fucking moron. “Would you want your parents to be same-sex?” Seriously? I love my parents. My parents kick ass. I couldn’t ask for better parents. Why would I want to change them? Had I grown up with an abusive alcoholic, or a loveless home with disinterested parents, or some other bad environment, I would probably have a very different outlook and I might be happy to say “Yes, I wish I would have been adopted out of that home and into one with gay parents.” Just because I wouldn’t trade my life for someone else’s, doesn’t make their life wrong.

    I will say one thing in his defense. In the paragraph about “schmarriage”, I don’t think he was advocating for separate but equal. I think he was just saying he understands why it is an offensive thought. Of course, he turns right around says something stupid in conclusion, so who knows what he was actually trying to get at.

  33. Grantus Maximus says

    Ok – genuinely thinking about this.

    My immediate reaction when I realised you were being serious was that you were reading way too much into a throwaway remark that, as far as I could see, wasn’t intended to demean. I also wondered how realistic it would be to expect people to carefully consider any potential offence caused before they post similar throwaway remarks.

    Then I got to thinking that I’m probably going to find it difficult to appreciate how remarks like that come across to a woman, what with me not being one.

    Would you say that’s a common perception amongst women? If it is, I wasn’t aware of it and I doubt I’m the only one. I’ve no problem trying to be a bit more thoughtful about the way I phrase such remarks if they are coming across differently to how I’d intended, or realised.

  34. says

    I’m sorry, I though we were all clear on why the Pope’s argument is a bad one. I didn’t think I needed to go into detail about why his claim that adoption by gay parents “discrimination against children” is wrong, but I can if that’s necessary.

  35. says

    Yeah, I found that question about “would you want your parents to be same sex” to be particularly absurd. I wouldn’t want my parents to be anything other that what they are (or were, in my case). And you summed up exactly what I was thinking – if your parents were loving and kind, why would you want to change that. And if they weren’t, their biological sex would be the least of your issues with them.

    Re: the schmarriage thing – you could be right about his intent. I couldn’t really tell what he was saying either, but by then I wasn’t inclined to be very charitable toward him.

  36. Comment1 says

    Rights refer to the LAW, in the eyes of the court.

    So at least he’s trying to discern it from “wouldn’t it be better if…” but surely it means that people shouldn’t be allowed to divorce and single parents should be legally bound to marry someone?

    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.

    What if a father dies before his child is even born?
    What if a father flees the country without ever hearing about the pregnancy?
    What if the father is a sperm donor? Can the mother marry a woman and together raise the child as a traditional family that has never changed?

  37. brucegee1962 says

    Dear Pete,

    Congratulations. You had an argument in your head that you thought was irrefutable. So you tried out your shiny new argument on the internet, and guess what? It got trashed.

    You know what, Pete? Despite all the vituperation flying your way in the comments section, I’ll bet that not One Single Person here has a 100% track record of being always right every single moment of our entire lives. ALL of us here have been wrong, some of us badly so, some of us for years or decades, before we changed out minds about some key issue. Some of us have even had our minds changed after having our ideas slammed by the Internet.

    You’re feeling hurt right now, I’m guessing. Your emotions are probably clouding your logic. “But they were so mean to me!” is what you’re thinking. “Even if they disagreed, they at least could have done it more civilly!”

    The first lesson of the Internet: Nobody is obliged to be nice to you. That one is the easy one to learn. But the other lesson is harder: Not everybody who disagrees with you is your enemy. Sometimes, the person who takes the time to demolish your argument with the thoroughness of Jen, here, is actually trying to help you be a better thinker.

    You have two choices ahead of you, Pete. If you’re like most people, you will walk away from this blog permanently, after building up a healthy amount of anger and resentment that you’ll be able to channel later into your homophobia, possibly branching out into misogyny and other fun mental habits as you go through life.

    But there’s also another option, Pete. You could be one of the few who puts your emotions to one side (maybe not right away, because you’re hurt right now, but eventually) and actually THINKS. You’ll come back to Jen’s arguments when you’ve calmed down, and you’ll try to find holes in them. You will admit to yourself, somewhat shamefacedly, that maybe it wasn’t a very good idea to try to convince somewhat of the rightness of your positions without presenting any evidence of any description. And if you’re very lucky, you may start thinking about things from a different perspective, and YOU WILL LEARN SOMETHING!

    This is very hard, and most people find it much easier to fall back into the first option. But you’re already an atheist, Pete, so you must have spent at least a little bit of time thinking at some point in the past. So maybe there’s hope for you. At the very least, maybe you won’t send letters in the future without seriously questioning the underpinnings of the ideas you think are self-evident. And just maybe, when you look at those underpinnings, you might even change your mind about something.

    It sounds impossible right now, I’m guessing. But you know what? I’ll bet everybody on this thread has done it at one time or another. So I’ve got my fingers crossed for you, Pete.

  38. AmyC says

    I took it has Peter mirroring the inherently sexist notion that children have a right to a “Male Father” and a “Female Mother” and then taking it to an absurd level.

  39. AmyC says

    “Implying that there are certain elements of care that can be provided by only a particular gender is inescapably sexist, no matter how you want to partition it.”

    Yes, exactly. Anytime somebody tries to use the “children need a mother and a father” argument, I always make a point to ask them what’s so special about men and women. What *exactly* are those differences that children must see in their parents–other than their sexual organs*? Every single time I get one of two answers:
    1) A screed listing every single sexist assumption about men and women
    2) A broad, generalizing “you have to agree men and women are different on some level” without explaining what the differences are or why they’re important in child rearing.

    *the people making these arguments would invariably not recognize a trans person as the gender they identify as, so in their mind a person’s gender is defined by their sexual organs. blech

  40. Drew says

    but Divizna,

    now you’re (either deliberately or unintentionally) saying that trans women are not really women.

    You’re also saying that a woman who has had a hysterectomy, or has a congenital defect in which no uterus was formed, is no longer a woman, because she doesn’t have all of the accoutrement.

    Perhaps the absurdity of his statement, in direct response to an already absurd statement implies simply an absurd statement. But you’ve clearly demonstrated by your response that you’re transphobic, and that you think a woman is only a woman if all of her parts are intact.

  41. says

    What an immense amount of bullshit. Jen, hat off to you for bothering to slog through that mess. Must be that military training 🙂 I’ll stick with a few basic points:

    First, Pete, you never actually make a convincing argument for why we should accept that a child has the right to a father and mother. You say that you think it does and then you move on, as if you’ve made some kind of valid point.

    Second, you even manage to undermine your own argument:

    If natural parents get divorced, the child’s parents don’t change. If a Parent dies, again the original parents don’t change

    In that case, if the child is later adopted by a different, perhaps same-gendered, couple, the original parents don’t change.
    I guess I should give you credit for understanding that you were about to run into a major problem with orphans, divorces and the very notion of adoption itself, but your solution ends up causing you even more trouble. There’s a reason for that; you’re wrong.

    Third, on the subject of family:

    it is the same everywhere and has been this way for not only thousands but millions of years.

    No, it’s not and no, it wasn’t. The idea of the nuclear family; mom, dad and the kids; is a very recent invention. It most certainly has not been that way for thousands of years and it’s downright embarrassing that you would claim that.
    Beyond the semen donation and physical support until birth, neither gender is strictly required. As soon as the child is born, any number of different configurations might do just as well.

    You don’t just get to assume you’re right and then argue from that. If you want people to agree with you, you need to supply solid arguments and evidence for your assertions. You’ve utterly failed to do so.

  42. kestra says

    @Grantus Maximus:

    I often joke about “penis-havers” and the importance of their needs and how much more paramount they are than the concerns of “non-penis-havers”, but I do it in a deeply ironic way to force my interlocutor to think about *why* his (I usually make this joke to a man) needs seem so much more important than those of others in a societal context. e.g: “Oh, I’m sorry. I totally forgot your penis-status means that your opinion is more important. My bad” & etc. I also yell this at the TeeVee Newz when they talk about contraception and abortion access as “women’s issues” rather than “reproductive freedom”.

    Penis-Having-Men tend to invest so much primacy in the fact that they A) Have a penis and B) It works! that I can’t help but poke at that. Think of graffiti: How often have you seen “Cock” scrawled on a wall, vs. “pussy” or “twat” in some form other than an insult to another man (“Shane is a pussy!”) Yes, yes, we’re all very proud of your male genitalia and how superior it is. Please, deface more buildings to be sure everyone gets the message!

    I’ve very seldom met a woman who promoted her genitalia to the degree that men like to promote their phallus, or even referred to her vagina (and it’s needs) *at all* outside of a sexual context. I mean, it’s not like it’s easy to forget about having a vagina. The damn things need *all kinds* of maintenance and care and have a monthly schedule.

    TruFax: the oldest cave art in all of North America yet discovered is a stick-figure with a massive erection, la: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/46488427/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/call-ancient-rock-carving-little-horny-man/

  43. brucegee1962 says

    I think what Pete was trying to do was use empathy (“How would I feel if I was a kid waiting to be adopted, and saw that the couple who came for me was gay?”) and then giving that undue weight. The problem is that kids might well feel the same way about being adopted by someone of a different race; heck, if I was a kid, I would prefer not to be adopted by anyone who wasn’t Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and who wouldn’t give me ice cream whenever I asked for it.

    Perhaps someday in the distant future, there will be no unwanted or abused children, and the only kids up for adoption will be the ones whose parents die and leave no relatives. Perhaps in that far-distant time, the economics of supply and demand will mean that kids get to pick their adoptive parents. But until that day, the ones who get adopted are the lucky ones, and it’s the adults who decide. And adults have decided that it’s best if kids get what they need, rather than what they want. What kids need is a loving household. Since there’s no evidence that kids suffer any kind of harm in gay households, there is absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t go to them.

  44. haitied says

    That was a bit tough to get through, Jen you are one of my favorite hosts of the Atheist Experience. You have an amazing ability to remain calm and disciplined but still argue with such passion. If it weren’t for people like you I would still be wrong about quite a few things myself, especially concerning women’s rights. I wasn’t anywhere near this MRA nonsense but I was quite dismissive about many of the struggles that women face in society. I am so happy to have had my eyes opened and I hope this is a learning experience for Pete in the end.

  45. adam.b says

    I find it funny when people will argue against gay marriage/adoption no the basis that children have a right to a certain combination of gendered parents.

    But they never seem to expand from this point, like what if the child has the right to parents with certain career’s, maybe they really would benefit from a dad who’s a racecar diver and a mother who’s a astronaut.

    Why is this not a concern?

  46. says

    I think I can make Pete’s head explode.

    I know a man and a woman. He is gay, she is too. They are married…to each other. They have children. His sperm, her eggs…yes, a turkey baster was involved.

    They’re the most adorable, well-adjusted kids you know. But, both parents are gay. Both pursue same-gender sexual relations outside of the marriage. Both are very well adjusted and happy as parents in the household. Both are highly respected professionals — one is a name you might know as ‘famous’. They love their kids proudly and fiercely. If you looked at them on the street, you would point to them as an “ideal” couple.

    Gay. Both of them.

    Sexual orientation does not equate with ability to love and raise well-adjusted children.

    Are the children gay? I don’t know — but I sincerely doubt it. The odds would be pretty long.

    In fact, all of the children of gay men that I know (who later came out of the closet and pursued more-normal relationships according to their sexual orientation) are straight. Can’t think of a single kid of a gay parent of my acquaintance who is gay. Of course, there’s nothing to say that there aren’t plenty. Just not of my acquaintance.

    People are different. Each one different from one another. And that is “normal”.

  47. Siddhartha Finch says


    Really appreciate how you addressed the various components of Pete’s email. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but I’m glad people like yourself are entitled to rebut perspectives that lack in depth and detail. This whole argument seems to be a no-brainer yet there is still opposition to equal rights for all people and it appears to be a function of fear and/or prejudice as opposed to be the product of a well thought out and reasonable set of standards.

    When it comes to conflating parenting with equal rights to marriage, one thing that seems to be forgotten is that many hetero-marriages and households with children are dysfunctional. It’s even possible that having parents that have faced humanity from the perspective of a ridiculed class would offer a unique level of empathy and insight to a child and to the child’s friends, and even to the community overall. Imagine people learning from their own mistakes and not approaching a challenging question from the answer back to the details. One lesson I get from this kind of email is that instead of asking questions for the sake of learning, Pete makes claims and seems to be looking for reasons not to doubt his comments as opposed to learning about the issue from the various perspectives.

    Anyways, I am confident that the tide will continue to progress, and that sooner than later all people will be able to share the same status of marriage regardless of sexual orientation. I’m also confident, that once this happens the whole debate will be forgotten or at least recognized as having been opposed for no valid purpose..

    As always I wish you the best, and am exceedingly grateful for the work you and your teammates do at the AE. It’s made a difference in my life and I assume the lives of many other people. I love being an atheist because it has taught me how to be a resource in finding solutions to problems as opposed to being an obstacle to growth.

    Siddhartha Finch.

  48. roggg says

    I’d like to call this a ridiculous and intellectually empty argument, but I have a hard time finding the actual argument. As has already been noted, the important steps are all simply asserted. Not only is there no evidence provided to support those assertions, there isn’t even a half-assed attempt at rationalization. Just assertion.

    I also like the special pleading used to let single parents off from violating children’s supposed rights. I’t amusing but more than a little baffling that anyone could think this was a coherent argument.

    In any case, Jen I think you’ve given them more time and consideration in your response than this “argument” deserves.

  49. proxer says

    Thanks for extending a bit of an olive branch to Pete. He thinks the subject is serious enough to write a letter about, which is a good sign. Here’s hoping that he takes a second read through Russell’s arguments and seriously considers them.

  50. EDG says

    “the child DOES have the right to a Male Father and a Female Mother”

    Just wanted to point out that leads to an argument against single-parent adoptions and, I guess, single-parenthood in general. Good thing it’s just a baseless claim.

  51. brianpansky says

    it’s basically “isn’t our bigotry justified because we are bigoted?” and “presumably you are as bigoted as I am, so let’s team up as bigots.”

  52. Kazim says

    That was not me, Proxer.

    Jen, someone at the con suggested to me that bloggers should identify themselves by name when posting, since RSS feeds don’t always show the author of the post. I haven’t been able to follow this rule consistently, but it’s a good idea to keep it in mind.

  53. says

    Of course, a child has a right to a male father and a female mother.

    In fact, I can’t imagine the process happening any other way.

    The biological imperative for sperm to meet egg means that every child — by definition — has a father and a mother. No way around that. Go ahead — explain how IVF or surrogates or whatever else you might think of changes that. Doesn’t. Still has to be sperm-meets-egg. Male DNA merging with female DNA. Two haploid cells becoming one diploid cell. Daddy and Mommy.

    That has fuck-all to do with how the child is raised, by whom, under loving or less-than loving conditions, and all the rest.

    And it’s been pointed out that having a heterosexual “family” is no guarantee of a loving household. Five children a DAY die from abuse in the US alone. A DAY. If that doesn’t turn your stomach, nothing will.

    “Leave It To Beaver” was not a documentary.

  54. says

    That’s part of where Pete’s “argument” gets a bit muddled. At one point, he’s talking about “parent” as whoever raises and takes care of the child, but at another point, a parent who’s absent or dead still counts because they were the “original parent”.

    If he wants to make a serious argument, he has to get that sorted out: Does “parent” refer to the people who supplied the DNA or the people who have legal parental rights and responsibilities?
    If it’s the former, then adoption by gay couples is irrelevant because any child that’s born necessarily has a father and mother. If it’s the latter, then you have to make it illegal for parents to die, not to mention putting children up for adoption or getting divorced.
    Hell, under those circumstances, it would be illegal for the state to remove a child from an abusive home.

  55. Myoo says

    The biological imperative for sperm to meet egg means that every child — by definition — has a father and a mother. No way around that. Go ahead — explain how IVF or surrogates or whatever else you might think of changes that.

    Some women can produce sperm and some men have uteri and ovaries. Someone’s genital configuration does not determine their gender, so you can have two women or two men having a child without resorting to IVF or surrogates or anything else.

  56. xxxxxx says

    I have little doubt that Pete’s combination of effusive arrogance and mind-numbing shallowness is merely a misunderstanding. Perhaps a result of Pete’s familial history of provincial inbreeding has promulgated a litany of severe and debilitating deformities, for which pig-ignorance is merely a minor component, and that may better explain why Jen’s response might seem a bit harsh. Given the likely psychological infirmity from which Pete now suffers, created through a life-long litany of societal abuse created by an uncaring and cruel world that regards his grotesque elephantine disfigurements as a viable target for dehumanizing ridicule, I suppose Jen’s reply might thus appear as a “direct attack” to Pete. I have little doubt, if we all simply got to know him better, what appears as a prime example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, is merely Pete’s gift for a bit of harmless, if not also charming, boastful exuberance.
    So, for those who just don’t see it, Pete, I apologize for them. I apologize for those who are just too proud or too callous to see your strength, your poignancy, and above all, your ebullient prowess when it comes to dissecting and mulling over the issues of the day. Bless you, my dear, dear man.

    Oh my, I do believe my eye is tearing up….

  57. Matt Gerrans says

    How in gods’ name(s) did he make the claim that single parents don’t violate the child’s “right” to a traditional 1950’s Western definition of a nuclear family, but same-sex couple does? What a completely irrational conclusion. Somehow for a single parent, the other parent somehow remains in the picture for the child, but for a parent who marries another person of the same sex, the other biological parent magically disappears from the universe? Nutty.

    The only thing worse than a really stupid position supported by a really stupid argument is when it is so long-winded.

  58. Nate says

    His argument doesn’t make sense, here he is saying that you don’t actually need both parents around they just needed to have existed. So wouldn’t this still apply for gay parents, since you still need an egg and sperm, there you go the traditional parents.

    His argument overal didn’t make sense, but it’s especially absurd at this point.

  59. Mikeee says

    The inconsistencies in Pete’s arguments are glaring, but the bit that really galls me is that in his mind the gender of a child’s parents is far more important than how that child is treated.
    In some heterosexual families children are physically and/or sexually abused
    In some heterosexual families children undergo psychological abuse that scars them for life
    In some heterosexual families gay children are turned out into the street.
    In some heterosexual families children are just accessories or sources of money from the state

    But compared to all that, it is the mere idea of two parents being of the same sex, is what really creates problems.

    Yeah, right.

  60. Mikeee says

    I wonder if when he refers to a traditional mother and father that he “requires” that mum stays at home cooking and cleaning while dad goes out and does “manly things” all day? So that these “delightful” stereotypes can be passed from generation to generation?.
    There is a lot of privilege buried in Pete’s post.

  61. says

    I noticed this painfully throughout his letter. His grasp of ‘rights’ and what constitutes a ‘right’ is nonexistent. He seems to be confused about the nature of rights, how they arise, how they apply, and ultimately *what* they are. He knows nothing about rights and what they are/aren’t, but seems to feel really confident going on at length about them, regardless. It reminds me of the time I got into a heated debate with the campus president of the student “Amnesty International” chapter at my university during my “Human Rights” class. We were just about shouting at one another across the classroom, and the instructor, I think, was very interested in just observing us. I finally, frustrated, just said “I can effectively strip you of ALL of your rights by simply murdering you!” To which he, stupidly, replied, “You can kill me, but you can never take away my right to life!” After we’d been going on a bit, this was the first time the instructor inserted himself. His only comment? To tell the AI Pres to step off, because dead people don’t have rights. But that shows the level of thoughtlessness that some people put into what should be an extremely important issue. So much rides on rights in our human communities, and so many people are wholly ignorant about the nature of rights, and the result is some of the stupidest commentary you can imagine about what constitutes rights and how they should be applied.

  62. Divizna says

    The argument is bad, that is clear.
    But it’s not “the Pope is inherently wrong, and because he uses this argument, the argument is bad”. It’s “the argument is bad, and because the Pope uses it, he’s wrong”. Can’t you see the difference?
    Pete is wrong because he uses a bad argument. He’d be wrong if he were the only one saying that, if all people said the same, if Stephen Hawking said it, if the Pope opposed it; using a bad argument, Pete would always be wrong. The reason why he is wrong is NOT that he makes the same argument as the Pope.
    The Pope can even be right in some things, you know.

  63. Houndentenor says

    Exactly. I had a mom and a dad. Hurray for me. not everyone has that, sometimes by the choice of the parents but often because one of them died. Many of those families function just fine.

    Our concern should be for children with no parents at all or with abusive or neglectful parents. There are far too many of those an that is a huge problem that we could do something about. How about better funding for social workers so that their case loads are manageable. Imagine the benefit to society as a whole if children were removed from abusive situations earlier? Imagine the benefit to those children.

    But no, this is a smokesceen to disguise the real issue in the gay marriage debate: anti-gay bigotry.

  64. Jason Rebelato says

    I love the cop out excuse of “these are just possible opinions some may have”. “Some people might say you’re a fat, ugly douche bag. Not me though…I’m just saying some people might have that opinion”. It’s a great way to have a donkey opinion without actually needing to take responsibility for it.

  65. jacobfromlost says

    Indeed. If we can say a child has a “right” to a father and a mother, why not pass a law that says a child has a “right” to a FUNCTIONAL

  66. jacobfromlost says

    …mother and father. (Why did my post just post automatically? lol I was just typing and it suddenly posted.)

    Anyway, if we are going to say people have RIGHTS to things we’d prefer they have, why limit it to the genders of the parents? Let’s say everyone has the right to educated parents, reasonable parents, caring parents.

    And apparently if we outlaw uneducated parents, unreasonable parents, uncaring parents, then we will suddenly live in some kind of childhood utopia where everyone is a perfect parent.

    It seems to me that many adults have forgotten what it was like to be a child. All a child cares about is that someone cares about them who is relatively stable (and if no stable person is available, they’ll take unstable people as long as they care). They don’t care what genders they are, how old they are, what their sexuality is.

    Also, does anyone really believe that the children of heterosexual couples spend all of this time thinking about how great it is that their parents have sex? Or not?

  67. mike says

    Gotta be a parody, or else one of the moderators form the A+ forums logged into the wrong place.

  68. says

    Basically this email boils down to “You have to believe me, I’m one of you guys. You just get one thing wrong so let me straighten out your mistakes with my own personal prejudice backed up with the prejudice of hideously pig-ignorant imbeciles.”

  69. Houndentenor says

    There are plenty who would be willing to say so. there was the guy who spoke in front of a state legislature (he’s been doing speaking engagements since then). I also have a friend who was raised by his mom and her partner (had visitation with his dad). He is a lawyer now and wrote a law review article that is cited in the Iowa marriage case. I’m sure there are thousands of them now. The problem would be selecting 2-3 from the very many who would be happy to appear in such an ad.

  70. Houndentenor says

    I’d have wanted my opposite sex parents not to scream at each other at least three times a week, but we don’t get a choice in such things. *shrug*

  71. Houndentenor says

    This is typical social conservative rhetoric. We have to uphold an ideal! What about everyone else? Almost no one gets the ideal family situation. The law has to make for workable families,not ideal ones. Holding up an unattainable (to most) ideal is not useful for society. Holding up models of healthy, functioning families is.

  72. Houndentenor says

    I remember a time when gay people were down on the list and their only options were special needs children. I even remember a case when a gay couple was made foster parents of a baby born to an HIV-positive mother. When it was later discovered that the baby was not HIV positive they tried to take the healthy white baby away and give it to a married straight couple. Anyway, my point is that very often gay people and single people were given the children that were not the most “desirable” by upper middle class parents looking to adopt. Children who were mixed race or had health issues. I guess those children should have grown up in an orphanage instead of a home with two moms or two dads? We mostly don’t get perfect in this world. I know too many white middle class people with horror stories from their childhoods. We should look for good families, not some fictional ideal from a1950s sitcom.

  73. Houndentenor says

    “maybe they really would benefit from a dad who’s a racecar diver and a mother who’s a astronaut”

    Oh, man, that would be awesome. sign me up!

  74. Houndentenor says

    I discussed this with a doctor last year. I have no memory of how it came up, but he confirmed that yes, intergendered babies are not all that uncommon (common enough that any ob/gyn will have seen at least a few in his career). Yes, most of us fit neatly into the male/female binary but not everyone does. Transgendered (and related) rights are going to be the next civil rights frontier. It freaks out the small-minded but they are just people like everyone else.

  75. mooniekate says

    The hypothetical child was already PUT UP FOR ADOPTION! What about the child’s right not to be put up for adoption? Where are these ‘deserved’ parents in the first place? Being straight doesn’t automatically give you the skills to raise children, and I’ve met plenty of straight people who should never have kids, or shouldn’t have the ones they do now, and I’ve met gay couples with adopted kids that are really well adjusted. Gay people are humans, too. I know that may come as a shock to you, Pete, but they are. They can do everything you can do, and many can do it better.

  76. Grantus Maximus says


    Calling someone a dick, dick head, cock etc. is a pretty common way of being rude to someone round my way. Whilst I don’t doubt that male-member reverence manifests itself in all sorts of ways, the common or garden insult isn’t one of them as far as I can see. I could even go so far as to say you’re talking ‘bollocks’ (see what I did there?)

  77. Lord Narf says

    Nah, games like Settlers of Catan, Touch of Evil (No, that’s NOT what the title means), and Pandemic. Gamer chicks are awesome.

  78. Lord Narf says

    The Atheism+ people are just as likely to joke around as anyone else. You just get a handful who will take anything way too seriously and jump on every throwaway joke. You get a few nuts in every group.

    When someone jumps on someone else for using misogyny in a joke mocking the misogynists … well, someone clearly doesn’t understand advanced concepts like parody, and I can generally safely ignore the person.

  79. Lord Narf says

    The Pope’s argument is bad, because it’s based upon religious dogma, rather than consideration for what actually makes things better. I caught that from the context.

    I’d even go so far as to say that the Pope can come to a correct conclusion, for incorrect reasons. He occasionally says something correct for correct reasons, but in my experience, that’s rare. And usually, on social issues, he’s just plain wrong.

    Sure, when he says something sane, we should applaud him for it, even if it isn’t going to have any impact on the odds of him saying sane things, in the future.

  80. Lord Narf says

    Also, does anyone really believe that the children of heterosexual couples spend all of this time thinking about how great it is that their parents have sex? Or not?


    *claws at eyeballs*

  81. Lord Narf says

    Besides, in most gay relationships, you often have one member who is more stereotypically masculine and one who is more stereotypically feminine. Why isn’t that sufficient for a child to learn the different roles he/she can take in a future relationship?

    And if you don’t have a more-masculine/more-feminine pairing in the relationship … who cares? You think kids only learn about relationship-roles from their parents?

    And what would happen if a boy raised by two very feminine lesbians (or two very feminine gay guys) turned out more feminine than he otherwise might, because of the influence of his parents? Who cares? What’s wrong with that?
    Declaring that something is wrong, just because, without a demonstration of harm, is religious thinking. We’re supposed to be better than that.

  82. Lord Narf says

    Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh. Someone’s in trooooouuuuuuuuuble.

    In his defense, Jen, Russel is the most frequent poster of “Look at this idiot we got in e-mail,” blog posts … although Martin has been busy with those lately, too, now that I think about it. I think someone got a little confused, halfway through his comment. ^.^

  83. Lord Narf says

    Beyond the semen donation and physical support until birth, neither gender is strictly required. As soon as the child is born, any number of different configurations might do just as well.

    Actually, even that might not be a requirement, soon. Cheaper, but not required.

  84. Lord Narf says

    Well, plenty of people do look for some fictional ideal from a 1950’s sitcom; we’re just not stupid enough to try to hold out for one. Let me know when you find one, because I haven’t seen one yet.

    And honestly, if I found one, I probably wouldn’t like the people much, because they’d be boring as hell.

  85. Lord Narf says

    Yup. Pretty much just a “Of course we would all prefer this, right?” … followed up with a bunch of crap that doesn’t even follow from his initial assumption. The initial assumption is completely wrong, and the transition from that to children having a right to a pair of heterosexual parents is baseless and vapid.

  86. Lord Narf says

    The biological imperative for sperm to meet egg means that every child — by definition — has a father and a mother. No way around that. Go ahead — explain how IVF or surrogates or whatever else you might think of changes that. Doesn’t. Still has to be sperm-meets-egg. Male DNA merging with female DNA. Two haploid cells becoming one diploid cell. Daddy and Mommy.

    I think we’re getting there on the ability to take the genetic material from one egg and use it to fertilize another egg. Requiring one egg and one sperm won’t necessarily remain true, in the future.

  87. Lord Narf says

    One bit I’ve heard is that gay and lesbian parents are generally much better parents than straight parents, on average. Of course, the comparison is majorly influenced by the fact that there are almost no accidental children, in gay and lesbian relationships. About the only way for it to happen is rape.

    When you have parents who went out of their way to have children, they’re going to be better parents than ones who never wanted kids, on average. You have to watch for skewing effects like that. The bit you said about children of lesbian parents feels right to me, but I wouldn’t assume that my feeling is correct, until I see the numbers.

  88. says

    I was about to comment on the same idea, that insisting that having a male/female couple for parents is sexist, because it’s implying that there’s more to it than simply having two parents.

    My sister got into an abusive marriage with some guy, and had two kids. She finally fled with the children, but they came out of the ordeal traumatized. For quite a number of years, they were then raised by same-sex parents – my sister and my mother (and father helping when he wasn’t working)… but mostly same-sex.

    That was a significant improvement, and the children have recovered quite a bit.

    Now they’re being raised by four parents – my sister, another guy, and my mother and father.

  89. says

    > You have to watch for skewing effects like that.

    Hmmm. I am not sure that is a skew. I think *wanting* kids and being responsible enough to plan for them actually would constitute a part of being a better parent, and even an overall better (insofar as prepared/responsible) human being. You care about t hings more, in general, when you actually work to get them, and have them as a goal, rather than fall into them by accident. If kids come out of those homes with less abuse or better health (mental and/or physical) metrics, I wouldn’t say that’s skewed, simply because an explanation could be offered. If by virtue of the fact they can’t “naturally” conceive a child together, their lesbianism requires planning and thoughtful consideration of bringing a child into the home, and this actually was demonstrated to be a general reality in the future, I would say it’s correct to say “gay people generally are better parents, in part because of factors XYZ…” Obviously, as is the case with any sociological statements about demographics, it would be wrong to apply it on an individual basis to people, because on that level “case by case” matters. But if it were found to be the case, and it was generally demonstrable, I would accept that it would be a reason gay people offer better homes to children.

  90. says

    What’s ironic is that if you actually read his words, he gives out his opinions like beads during Mardi Gras. Not only does he ask questions, but he *answers* them, telling us this is how HE would answer these questions. How is that NOT his opinion? (And that’s rhetorically aimed at Pete, not you.) Meanwhile, they’re not just “I kinda think that maybe…” He’s full on confident he’s correct with these ideas. Seriously, go back and read his comments and just count how many times he expresses his personal view, and how many times he does so with extreme confidence. The reply he sent with “Oh, these were just questions…I wasn’t saying this is what *I* think…” was so much bull shit, you’d need the proverbial shovel to dig us all out.

  91. says

    Oh crap. I never even considered that. I seriously HOPE that’s not his angle. The “gay people can’t raise kids” is bad enough. Adding “who would do their laundry if they didn’t have a mom?” would have pushed me over the edge.

  92. roggg says

    Just wanted to point out that leads to an argument against single-parent adoptions and, I guess, single-parenthood in general. Good thing it’s just a baseless claim.

    Oh yes! An African swallow maybe … but not a European swallow. That’s my point.

  93. Sids says

    Ah, my bad. I wanted to try to find it on youtube to confirm, but it’s blocked in China. Cheers for the correction.

  94. Sids says

    The Pope can even be right in some things, you know.

    Theoretically, that makes sense. But the evidence seems to be lacking.

  95. Sids says

    I don’t think anyone would really arguee that those wanting children wouldn’t make for better parents. The issue is that the comparisson is between Set A, which has the properties of being homosexual and necessarilly wanting kids, and Set B, which has the property of being heterosexual and is uncontrolled in child rearing desire. There are two variables here and no control in place for the second. Essentially, it’s comparing apples to oranges.

    For the study to have anything valid to say of homosexuals as parents (beyond just that if there is a difference either way, it is too small to be obvious), it would need to compare them with heterosexual couples who have gone to the same lengths to have kids. Otherwise you can’t say how much of the ‘superiority’ is form being homosexual, and how much is coming purely from having wanted kids.

    You may be able to get by on a technicality in saying that the average gay cople make better parents than the average straight couple, but that would be rather disingenuous. Is the property of ‘gay’ having that effect or is it correlation rather than causation? The study doesn’t make that clear.

  96. escuerd says

    Well put. That part struck a raw nerve with me as well.

    A close friend of mine once made a similar argument to me. He didn’t like the idea of having television channels or clubs targeted towards people who were gay or black or members of any particular minority group, arguing that such things only served to ghettoize them from the rest of society.

    It’s a sort of victim-blaming faux-liberal attitude that generally comes from people blinded by their own privilege. Oh, all this gay stuff wouldn’t be an issue if only these people didn’t insist on having a distinct identity. If they just blended in, society would accept them more readily.

    Anyone who knows the history of LGBT rights should know better, though. When and where gay people have just blended in, most people have had no problem with criminalizing homosexuality. After all, it was just some repugnant behavior that surely only a small minority of faceless perverts engaged in. The only way gay people have achieved any semblance of rights is by making themselves more visible.

    In a slightly different variation, another straight guy I knew once expressed surprise that a gay male like me would have a large number of gay friends. The conversation went something like (paraphrasing):

    Him: “I didn’t think that they’d tend to have lots of gay friends, except maybe for the really hardcore gays.”
    Me: “Hardcore gays?”
    Him: “You know, the ones for whom their homosexuality is one of the most important parts of who they are.”

    This one grated on me for a few reasons.

    For one, pretty much everyone’s sexuality is a major part of who they are, but if it blends in with the majority, then people tend not to notice. Even the most stereotypical heterosexual male will not be berated for his heterosexuality being such a major component of his identity. But any gay person who openly embraces their sexuality or shows any overt stereotypical behavior must be defining their entire identity by their sexuality.

    Further, it was as if he hadn’t considered that gay people might, for some unfathomable reason, be motivated to want to meet other gay people. And, more generally, of course, that people often like getting to know people they have something in common with, so it shouldn’t be surprising that people with some particular aspect of their lives in common might have a better chance of becoming friends than a randomly selected pair of people.

    Add to these the second-order effects of meeting friends of friends, and it should be obvious that gay people will naturally tend to form a rather dense web of social contacts with one another. How dare they not uniformly draw their social contacts from a representative cross-section of the population.

    For some reason, this same argument never seems to get applied to gender (Why are such a high proportion of this guy’s friends male? Must be one of those hardcore males who makes his masculinity a central aspect of his identity).

  97. Jason Rebelato says

    I totally agree with you, as I read his letter, I had no doubt that they were his opinions. My only point was that even if we are to take him at his word and accept that the garbage his was throwing out was just “opinions people might have” it’s still a really shitty excuse. Basically, he spewed a bunch of uneducated, offensive bullshit and when Jen called him on it point by point, he recoiled a pulled a politician’s trick. I wonder how he would think if he replaced his opinion on gay parents with black parents? Is it also the child’s right to have two white parents?

  98. Sansgerd says

    Right…so…children also have the right to drink coolade and giving them a bottle of gatorade is violating that right?
    What an idiot.

  99. jack7 says

    I started off feeling bad for the guy with the way you were wailing on him. By the end though, I couldn’t blame you.

  100. Jimmy Jones says

    If you believe a child has a right to both a mother and father, then doesn’t that mean if Father dies, mother has to find a new father and marry him post haste? Doesn’t this negate the possibility of divorce, unless the parents immediately find and marry new spouses?

    And if they can’t find someone suitable will they be given a random contestant and married right away?

    It’s just too absurd.


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