Wednesday, October 15, 2008

California politics, proposition 8, gay marriage

***WARNING: the following is probably the longest post I've ever written, and it also happens to be void of cute anecdotes and lighthearted commentary. However, the topic deserves a thorough dissection. And it also happens to be a lot more important that what happened at Ellie's birthday party. For the sake of attention span, though, I threw in a couple pleasant images (which weren't intended to be relevant, but my life just so happens to be centered on a traditional family), just to keep those of you who may not get through it otherwise. =) ***

Politics are simply a subject that have not been privileged to grace our family blog. Obama and McCain's mugs just can't compete with my kids'. However, I've been considerably involved in this presidential campaign (involved in a passive way--I mean, I've been following the news much more carefully than in any previous pres. race) and find myself lulling Kyle to sleep at night with musings over Sarah Palin's capacity to lead, Obama's questionable associations, and who on earth can we actually trust to get something, anything done in Washington?

Coupled with all of this is a vote of significant consequence on the California voter's ballot this year. Everybody knows gay marriage was legalized here this year. The homosexual movement is a sociological phenomenon that has intrigued me more than almost any other for many months. It is an issue to be trod on lightly, and the last effect I would ever wish to have is one of offense or disrespect, although offense will always be taken where none was intended.

I, myself, believe that strong, traditional marriages and families are one of the greatest forces for good in society, if not the greatest. No one can deny that we have digressed from the traditional family structure in ways that have been catastrophic. At the same time, I have a difficult time casting harsh judgments toward those who choose a healthy, stable homosexual relationship. I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a sexual orientation bigot.

So when voting on Proposition 8 (which proposes a change to the state constitution to include the definition of marriage as between a man and woman, which would overrule the California Supreme Court decision that not permitting gay couples to marry is unconstitutional) came up at our dinner table, a sincere debate/discussion ensued.

In California, gay couples enjoy every legal right of heterosexual couples, including visitation, insurance, adopting children, property rights, etc, etc, etc. They could be legally bound in a civil union/domestic partnership. All they could not do (until earlier this year) was be legally married. Marriage. It is simply an issue of semantics, folks. Or is it? A great weight rests on the word marriage, because marriage is and always has been the foundation of the fundamental unit of society: the family.

The fact is that marriage is not an inalienable right. If it were, we would permit it to freely occur among children, incarcerated criminals, relatives, groups of three or more, anyone single who wishes not to be, etc. This may sound extreme today, but so did gay marriage not long ago. No one has the right to marry on merit of being a human and citizen of this country. The state has to determine that this marriage will do more good than harm in order to endorse and permit it, and such an enormous capacity for that good and harm manifests itself in the role of parenthood.

If marriage really was just about two individuals, well, frankly the state wouldn't care one whit about it. Marriage is NOT just about two individuals, though. It is and always has carried the great privilege and responsibility of parenthood with it. The state permits and sanctions marriages because it is in their best interest to ensure children are taken care of in the best way possible. We all know they get to pick up some of the pieces when children are not properly raised.

So, marriage is not a right, nor has the government ever treated it as such. You know what is a right, though? Freedoms outlined in the first amendment, several of which are at risk if proposition 8 does not pass. Society will become more hostile and intolerant (if I dare use that buzz word) of those who preach and encourage the traditional family structure.

Oh yes, and anyone who makes the argument that I don't accept homosexuals unless I accept their lifestyle, I have to presume has never had a child or loved one whose behavior is incongruous with their expectations. Lots of parents don't agree with or condone their children's behavior, but it sure doesn't affect how much they love them, or accept them for that matter.

I recognize that I don't understand the entirety of this issue. What I do understand, though, is that if we want our society to succeed, our families must succeed. This I do not conjecture, this I know. More than health care plans, job opportunities, and public education, what our country (and the world, for that matter) needs desperately and more than anything else is strong families-- families consisting of parents committed to each other and committed to teaching and loving their children.

No (sound) sociological study has ever suggested anything other than that, all other things being equal, children do best when raised by their father and mother. Tons of additional evidence asserts that children learn very different and essential lessons from fathers than from mothers. In other words, gender DOES matter, and children turn out best when both a mother AND father have taken an active role in teaching and raising them. Of course this ideal cannot always be realized, so by all means let us support and defend every instance in which it can.

Parenting by homosexuals is a fairly recent phenomenon. As such, we don't know exactly how kids raised by gay parents will turn out compared to peers from traditional households. Whenever we DON'T KNOW if something will happen, it would be very unwise to assume that therefore nothing will happen. If anything, we should air on the side of caution. We don't know if there will be negative effects on children raised by homosexual parents, but we DO know that traditional marriage has proven effective since the dawning of time. Let us err on the side of caution, prudence, and wisdom, the side that has been time-tested.

I'm not by any means saying that kids should be raised by unfit heterosexual parents or thrust into the foster care system rather than by a stable, loving homosexual couple. However, I think we all know that there are so very few babies being placed for adoption compared to how many families are waiting to adopt. Allowing homosexual couples to compete for these adoptions basically means excluding that number of children from the opportunity to be raised in what, all other things being equal, is the optimal environment: a family led by a mother and a father.

Okay, let's talk about the everyday consequences if proposition 8 does not pass. Homosexual marriage and sexual relations will be taught right along side heterosexual marriage to elementary school students, churches can be sued for discrimination (Catholic Children's Service had to pull out of the adoption business after being convicted of discriminating against prospective gay parents) and denied tax exemption if not willing to perform gay marriages, etc. It seems clear this is an issue that will affect everyone.

Again, the road leading to my convictions has not come quickly or easily. It has been a tough issue for me for years. However, I don't see proposition 8 as a threat to any gay rights (particularly since they already enjoyed all the human rights guaranteed by the constitution). It is, rather, a threat toward traditional marriage and those who believe in it as the fundamental unit and greatest force for good in our world.

For more, you can get some good info on,,,,,0,2093869.story

(I please welcome any comments as this is an issue about which almost all of us still have much to learn.)


Marilyn said...

You know I agree with you about the gay marriage thing. What I want to comment on are the Disneyland pictures. I'll bet Ellie was excited to meet Belle. I wish I could have been there to see the kids experiencing Disneyland. I hope M & B can take their kids there soon , but they probably won't be able to afford it because of their uncertain job future.

Bryce said...

Thanks for the very thoughtful post, Tiff. This is such a delicate and sometimes confusing issue, But I think you've handled it very well and offered some great insights. Unfortunately, there are many, I think, who would "deny that we have digressed from the traditional family structure in ways that have been catastrophic"; digression from the traditional family structure these days is seen as "progressive",
"hip", and "compassionate" by a certain segment of society. Also, well said about the relationship between the stength of families and the strength of society - we tamper with the time-tested values of traditional families at our peril. Lastly, I didn't realize that there are more couples hoping to adopt than there are babies to adopt! Where have you heard that?

Tiffany said...

Hi, thanks for your comments. I guess there probably are a lot of people who think families are stronger than ever... what are they thinking!?

Thanks for your insight and support, B. As for the adoption situation, in the years I've studied adoption in school and personally, I've only heard that there is a shortage of newborn babies up for adoption in the US, which I think explains why more and more people are turning to other countries to adopt.

I got some nice researched statistics for you, though, since I knew you'd like that better. =) I got all these stats from

"Since the end of World War II, interest in adoption primarily has focused on healthy, young infants. By the mid-1950's, the demand for healthy infants grew so significantly that it exceeded the number of children available for adoption, a trend that has accelerated with each passing decade. (Freundlich, 1998)

* The 1995 National Survey of Family Growth found that 500,000 women were currently seeking to adopt a child. (Freundlich, 1998)

* The 1995 National Survey of Family Growth found that 232,000 women were currently taken concrete steps towards adoptions, compared to 204,000 in 1988. (National Center for Health Statistics, 1999)

* According to the 1988 National Survey of Family Growth there are an estimated 3.3 adoption seekers for every actual adoption."

I couldn't find a concrete number on the average waiting period for prospective parents, but on that same site I saw numbers ranging from 9 months-2 years.

Even with the average family size in the US shrinking, there are still so many more couples wanting to adopt than babies available. All I can conclude about why this discrepancy is widening is, 1. more unwed mothers are keeping their babies (perhaps as the single parent stigma lessens, pressure from the grandmother, perhaps a growing stigma against the idea of giving up your child), and 2. ever-increasing rates of abortion. It's definitely not because less people are being promiscuous.

Anyway, hope that clarifies my claims. =)

Unknown said...

There are lots of people who care enough about defeating California¹s Proposition 8 to give $10 or $20 to an organization that is fighting it, but who haven¹t thought to do so or don¹t know where to find such an organization. These people do not have to live in California to help.
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Anonymous said...

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Bryce said...

I don't necessarily think there are lots of people who think families are stronger than ever - I think it is more likely that many people just don't think the traditional family structure is all that important (they see it as constrictive, outdated, stuffy, unsophisticated, etc.). But anyway, thanks for that extra info! Also, don't you love how these "buzzword" posts tend to attract as many spam comments as real ones? :-)