A college student in Wisconsin contacted me and asked if she minded using Lisa and my story as a basis for an english research paper. I finally had a chance to read her paper – and agree with her teacher it’s A+ work. Great job Amanda!
The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage on Children
The date was February 17, 2007. Committed life partners of 20 years, Janice Langbehn and Lisa Marie Pond, were in Miami Florida waiting to depart on a family vacation cruise. They were unable to leave for that cruise due to Ms. Pond collapsing on board the ship from a brain aneurism. She was transferred to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital to be treated. Upon arriving at the hospital, Ms. Langbehn and their four children were informed that they would be unable to see Ms. Pond or get any information about her health status. Garnett Frederick, a Jackson social worker, told Ms. Langbehn that they were in an “anti-gay city and state” and because it was a holiday weekend, they would be unable to obtain the necessary legal paperwork from the courts in time to show that Ms. Langbehn was the power of attorney for Ms. Pond. When the hospital did finally receive by fax a copy of Ms. Pond’s executed power of attorney, which would allow Ms. Langbehn to make any medical decisions for her, they still denied her access to Ms. Pond’s treatment records as well as visitation. It wasn’t until Ms. Pond lay in the trauma area of the hospital and was being administered her last rites by the priest that Ms. Langbehn was able to see her for five minutes. Five hours later, Ms. Pond was transferred to the Neurosurgery Intensive Care Unit at the hospital without Ms. Langbehn’s knowledge. It was only when Ms. Pond’s other relatives told Ms. Langbehn about her move to the new unit that she knew about it. At that point Ms. Langbehn and their four children were able to visit her.
Ms. Langbehn sued the hospital as well as the doctors for not allowing her to see Ms. Pond during the first eight hours in which she slipped into a coma and later passed away. The federal court rejected the lawsuit stating that “No relief is available for these failures based on the allegations plead in the amended complaint” (Langbehn v. The Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County, d/b/a Jackson Memorial Hospital, Garnett Frederick, Dr. Alois Zauner, and Dr. Carlos Alberto Cruz). Ms. Pond and Ms. Langbehn shared parental rights to four children. Because the hospital refused to recognize the union of same-sex couples and their rights to patient records, Ms. Pond’s children lost eight hours of precious time with their mother. This is a tragic real life story in which is the reality that same-sex couples face every day. They are refused the right to make decisions on their partner’s behalf, property inheritance, child support, income tax benefits, family medical leave, health coverage and the biggest yet, marriage.
Today our country is being divided over what the meaning of marriage is. For many people, a same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue and for others it is a moral issue. For myself, I believe that it is both; yet it leaves out one of the most important issues yet – a family issue. When I think of same-sex marriages I think about the issues that have been raised about morals and family. The thought that marriage is defined by, “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” (Defense of Marriage Act), is one that I believe to be ethically wrong. A union between couples is more than just legalities and common issues. Has anyone stopped to think about how children who are stuck in the middle of these family issues are being affected? Take the case above. Ms. Pond’s children weren’t allowed to be with her for eight long hours before she passed away. The children had to pay a price because of a law that by my own standards should not have even be recognized. Where does that leave them in all of this? If we sit back and put all differences aside, are we doing more harm to our children? Or are the laws that have been put in place there to protect our children?
Same-sex families come from a variety of different ways. In the social norm, a “standard opposite-sex family” has children with their own traditions, as in conceiving together. But in same-sex couples, they are unable to do such. In many cases, the couple adopts from outside of the home from a different family. Or, if the same-sex is female, one woman may choose to carry the child from her own fertilized egg with a donor father while the other adopts as the other custodial parent. When it comes to same sex gay men, they at times can look into surrogate mothers using their own donated sperm along with the mother’s fertilized eggs. Many same-sex couples are not comfortable with these options as they do not feel as though their family is a whole. Both custodial parents want to feel as though they are biologically related rather than only one being fully biological and the other downsized to adopting.
Before the 1970s, lesbian women did not fight for custody of their children in court. They feared their sexualities being brought forward and being ridiculed for who they were. Instead they agreed more upon relinquishing their custody as long as they had their rights to see their children through visitations and phone calls. There were very limited numbers who would make private arrangements with their husbands to keep themselves private and retain custody of their children. Within 1970 and 1980, more and more cases starting coming out where lesbian mothers and gay fathers would rally with feminist lawyers and friends to fight in court against custody battles. Limited amounts of them actually won. Judges began adopting a range of approaches when dealing in cases like these. Author Robert Beargie (1988) writes, “At one end of the scale is the per se category in which a parent’s homosexuality creates an unrebuttable presumption that the parent is unfit” (Beargie 5). This meaning that no matter what the situation is, if the parent is a gay or lesbian mother/father, they are already deemed to be an unfit parent. They are already being ridiculed without given the chance to stand up and show who they really are. There is also the nexus approach. This is where the courts determine whether or not the sexual-orientation of the parent has any affect on the well-being of the child. Each case this way gets judged on its own, rather than being automatically judged as soon as one enters the courtroom. The well-being of the child includes several different things; relationship between the child and the parent, preferences of the child, living conditions of the parent seeking custody, and the stability of the parent. I truly believe that this is how all custody cases should be treated. A person’s sexual orientation does not mean that they are automatically a bad parent. Why? Is it because the “social norm” says that you have to be “straight” to be good parents? This is about what is good for the children; what makes them happy, healthy and well taken care of.
The American Psychological Association in its July 2004 “Resolution on Sexual Orientation, Parents, and Children,“ concluded that “there is no scientific basis that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation…On the contrary, results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children…Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents” (Paige). This statement tells me that there is no real difference between heterosexual and homosexual couples as parents. Both sets of couples would be able to provide everything that children need to be raised. There has been no evidence that these children of same-sex couples are confused about their own sexual orientation, or gender identity in their childhood or when they grow into adulthood.
The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics have reported that some girls have become more desensitized to the “cruel” world around them while under the care of lesbian mothers. They are more accepting and have better attitudes towards others and are more open to their own individual selves. Children who are raised in same-sex households also show no signs of any differences in behavior, cognitive disorders, emotional developments, or specific areas such as self-esteem, depression or anxiety (US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents).
Positives and negatives arise when speaking about children being raised by gays and lesbians. Angela Bolte, a philosophy instructor at the University of Nevada-Reno, states that, “While traditional arguments claim that same-sex marriages should be banned because the children within those families will be subject to harm both through ridicule and confusion over sexual roles; it is rather the case that children are directly harmed through the banning of same-sex marriages” (Bolte 27). By banning same-sex marriages, children suffer from a variety of ways. When a gay or lesbian have a child by adoption or other means, they are the only ones that are allowed to be named on the said child’s adoption/birth certificate as their parent/legal guardian. The other half in the relationship is not allowed to be named. If something should happen to the said named parent, as in death, there is no legal status to say that the other “parent” is able to legally keep custody of the child. Also, if the couple should happen to separate, the child has no financial support coming in from the other parent. In a legal marriage, the other parent has to pay child support. But because same-sex marriage is banned, there is no way for that child to be supported or have clarification once their “parents” have split up, even if the second-parent has supported and cared for the child for years. These are in fact some of the negative ways that not allowing same-sex marriages affects children today. As far as a child being harmed through “ridicule and confusion over sexual roles”, this does not seem to be a problem. Fredrick Elliston, a visiting professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii, argues that, “same-sex marriage may help to combat this evil [of traditional sex roles]” (Elliston). Elliston also states that in the case of homosexual marriages, the only harm done to the children is social prejudice.
The Catholic Church views things a bit differently. As we all know, the Church has a very high respect for marriage and the human race. Going by the Bible standards, Genesis shows that marriage and sexuality were created by God. The scripture reads, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). This is what the Church lives by; seeing marriage and sexuality as nothing but man and woman. The Catholic Church sees marriage as being holy, and that it must be treated with reverence.
Catholic Answers, a web site that is dedicated to the Catholic Church, did a special report that was specifically titled “Gay Marriage”. In this report, they state: “One of the downsides to redefining marriage to include same-sex couples would be the weakening of the meaning of marriage, which would cause more divorces” (Catholic Answers). They claim that if the meaning of marriage is weakened, it will be philosophically easier for even more people to divorce. They also state that, “If the nature of marriage is further undermined in the minds of couples then when things get rocky, more couples will be tempted not to work through their problems and get happy again but rather to divorce and find someone else” (Catholic Answers). How is it that we can define marriage solely off of what the Bible states? If we were to live by what the Catholic Church believes, then those who have same-sex attractions would have to suffer from not being able to be happy.
There is one other major point that the Catholic Church states, “Even if it were possible for homosexuals to commit themselves to each other in the ways described, their relationships would still lack the orientation to procreation, the openness to life, that marriage is all about. This of itself means that any unions between homosexuals are not marriages, regardless of what people may wish to call them” (Catholic Answers). This raises a major question; what about the families who are unable to have children, including the elderly, women with ovarian cancer or fertility issues, or men with low sperm counts? These couples marry all the time. By the Church standards, this would then mean that their union is not a marriage because they “lack the orientation to procreate … that marriage is all about”.
It is not only the Church who believes that same-sex marriage is not something that should be introduced into our society. There is still a vast majority of the public who remains skeptical that the union is beneficial. Again it comes down to the children. The biggest protest to same-sex marriages is that they do not produce off-spring. People don’t want to change the way they see certain aspects of life and why should they? People have lived for years with the same customs and values with no interference such as this before. Now here we are, trying to change laws and beliefs. Fact of the matter is I don’t think it’s about changing their beliefs. I do agree and understand that everyone has rights to their own opinion. It is in mine that no one is asking anyone to change what their beliefs or moral values are. No one is forcing anyone to like the ideas, or “befriend” homosexuals. All the community could ask for is that people stop telling them who it is they can or cannot love. No one turns much of a head when an African American and a Hispanic marry, or when an Italian marries a Chilean or even when a Caucasian marries an Asian. The colors of skin don’t matter much to anyone, but the gender of the person does. By whose standards are we now living? The law makers? The Church? Or the general public because they like having the power to tell someone “no”.
Everyone knows that same-sex couples are unable to bear children. But in fact, they are rearing them. According to Allene Phy-Olsen, a published author and Professor of English at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville Tennessee, “Approximately one-third of households headed by a gay couple now have children in them, children born from previous heterosexual relationships or adopted (permitted gays in every state except Florida) or acquired through artificial insemination or surrogacy” (Phy-Olsen 83). The children who are born and/or raised in same-sex households are those who are most wanted. Not saying that children born into heterosexual families are not wanted, but the length that a same-sex couple has to go through to get children into their home is a long one. Unlike heterosexual couples, they are not able to just “decide to get pregnant” and start their journey of trying to procreate. Instead they have to decide what means they will go about having children, spend the money for court procedures, adoption, or surrogacy and then wait. It is a very time consuming process for same-sex couples, or even a single individual who wants children. Phy-Olsen continues to argue that, “Unlike so many American children who grow up in single parent homes, these are attended by two loving parents. They are especially cherished because gays do not generally give birth to children lightly and without forethought, as straight couples sometimes do” (Phy-Olsen 84).
In conclusion, I would like to state that children learn and grow from their surroundings. What we as adults teach our children is more valuable than any type of institutional education. We teach our children to laugh, love, respect and listen. If what we show is nothing but hate and ridicule, then that is what our children are going to grow up thinking and understanding. We cannot force anything upon them, but we can instill the values in which we were raised. Is it fair to assume that all children will be affected by not allowing same-sex marriages? In my opinion, the answer is yes. Children from all over deserve to make their own choices in what they believe. They also deserve to have the same family structure in which heterosexual families have. When we put down and scoff at the ideas and dreams that these families all share, we are no longer allowing this nation to unite as one whole. We have fragmented this country into separate parts that takes away from our children. They deserve to have a loving home, parents who take care of them, and a world that is without rejection.
Beargie, Robert. Queer Families, Common Agendas. Birmingham: Harrington Park Press, 1999.
Bolte, Angela. “Do Wedding Dresses Come in Lavender? The Prospects and Implications of Same-Sex Marriage.” Lehmann, Jennifer M. The Gay and Lesbian Marriage and Family Reader. Lincoln: Richard Altschuler & Associates, Inc., 2001. 27.
Catholic Answers. 2004. 30 November 2010 <http://www.catholic.com/library/gay_marriage.asp>.
Elliston, Fredrick. “Gay Marriage.” Elliston, Robert Baker and Fredrick. Philosophy and Sex, 2nd ed. New York: Prometheus Books, 1984. 146-66; 154.
Langbehn v. The Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County, d/b/a Jackson Memorial Hospital, Garnett Frederick, Dr. Alois Zauner, and Dr. Carlos Alberto Cruz. No. 08-21813-CIV-JORDAN. United States District Court Southern District of Florida. 29 September 2009.
Paige, R.U. American Psychological Association. 28 & 30 July 2004. 30 November 2010 <http://www.apa.org/about/governance/council/policy/parenting.aspx>.
Phy-Olsen, Allene. Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: Same-Sex Marriage. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2006.
“US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents.” 07 June 2010. Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 06 December 2010 <http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/peds.2009-3153v1>.