So states, in oddly plain and blunt legislative language, the law of the State of Florida. Last month, a Miami-Dade judge declared the law “unconstitutional on its face” and unrelated to the best interests of the child. She appointed custody of an infant (removed from home almost immediately) to a family member who is a lesbian in a committed relationship. Florida’s Department of Child and Family Services filed its appeal last week. The state’s argument and the spirit of the 1977 law boil down to the idea that adoptive parenting by homosexuals is so obviously harmful to children that prohibiting it is “rationally related” to a legitimate state aim. The idea is that heterosexuals are, by definition, better parents. This claim, wherever it asserts itself, is more than baseless and bigoted toward homosexuals. It is tragically shortsighted and remarkably cruel to the roughly 100,000 American children (about 7% of them in Florida) waiting to be adopted out of the foster care system.
Several gay friends of mine refer to straight people as “breeders.” And indeed, breed we do. Heterosexuals, generally by definition, produce millions of children each year. And a disturbing percentage of us rip our own children apart like dogs with a chew toy. In two very different cities where I served as an ADA, I encountered fathers who sexually abused their children over years, beginning before the children were in first grade. I saw mothers who literally starved their children to death, or pimped them out for drugs, rent or just extra cash. I saw toddlers pressed against heating grates by one or both parents as if in a waffle iron. I saw fathers who shook infants to blindness and epilepsy, their ribs snapping like dry twigs in the process. In one particularly brutal shaken baby case I prosecuted in the Bronx in 2006, the mother sided with the offending father (a drug dealer) and refused to cooperate with me even while her son languished in a NICU on the edge of death. The people who did these things came from a broad diversity of racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds and circumstances. In fact, there were only two things common to every one of the most brutal physical and sexual abuse cases I worked on:
1. The children involved, if they survived, needed new homes and new parents.
2. The biological parents, whether perpetrators or accomplices, were all heterosexual.
I’m not claiming that homosexual parents, adoptive or biological, can’t or don’t abuse their children. I’m just saying I’ve never seen it. Not in nearly 15 years. The point is not that homosexuals are perfect. The point is that they’re human, and when they are successful, compassionate, loving and stable adults who want to improve the life of a child without a home, they should be considered as adoptive parents.
Opponents of homosexual adoption often try to point to non-religious, “objective factors” to support their arguments. They never get far. No reputable scientific evidence supports a single claim that homosexual parents will be less successful or even that they will somehow foster a homosexual lifestyle on the part of their children. One of the last legislative pushes to prove that homosexuals are naturally disordered and dangerous as parents came from a particularly despicable Virginia legislator in 2004 (to my eternal shame, he represented my hometown of Sterling Park for seven years). The bill he finally got passed in the House of Delegates would have required social workers to investigate whether perspective adoptive parents were homosexual. The rationale, that homosexuality was related to increased levels of child molestation among other things, was based largely on junk science spewed by a single discredited and religiously biased sociologist. The bill, and the sociologist, were eventually routed in the Virginia senate, thanks in good measure to courageous Republicans who called this effort out for the rank bigotry that it was.
Although Biblical views of homosexuality (and similar non-Judeo-Christian religious tenets) are the primary force behind laws like Florida’s and efforts like Virginia’s, I won’t engage in a wholesale bashing of these religious views. There’s enough of that going on, and bigotry against religious people is as bad as bigotry toward anyone. To hold strict religious views is a private and sometimes difficult choice, and I know many decent Christians (among other religious) who struggle to reconcile the doctrines of their faith with their common experience as compassionate people. I draw the line, though, when positions based solely on religious doctrine become law in a pluralistic society. And I draw it in red when children- discarded, debased or destroyed by the supposedly “sexually healthy” people who created them, are languishing in a far too often chaotic, uncertain and flawed foster care system.