Friday, June 30, 2006

Gay Foster Care, Arkansas, and the "Institution of Marriage"

In a unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court of Arkansas upheld a lower court's decision to overturn an Arkansas ban on placing foster children, not only in the custody of gay or lesbian couples, but in any household where there is a reasonable expectation that the child may come in contact with a gay man or lesbian. But what is interesting is not only the decision, but the basis for the decision. It was science that the court cited as the primary reason to throw out the Child Welfare Agency Review Board's conclusion. Associate Justice Donald Corbin wrote in the opinion,

"These facts demonstrate that there is no correlation between the health, welfare, and safety of foster children and the blanket exclusion of any individual who is a homosexual or who resides in a household with a homosexual."
Let's say that again, the facts in this case demonstrate that there is no harmful influence on children, including academic or gender identity issues. Again, from the opinion,
"the driving force between adoption of the regulations was not to promote the health, safety, and welfare of foster children but rather based upon the board's views of morality and its bias against homosexuals."
In defending this bias, Arkansas officials made a fascinating move,
Kathy L. Hall, an attorney for the state agency, told justices that the state already bans unmarried couples who live together from becoming foster parents. Because Arkansas banned gay marriage, a homosexual couple is ineligible to have foster children, she said. The health, safety and welfare of foster children is of the utmost concern to the state, Hall said, "and that can't happen in a home where unmarried sex occurs."
It isn't the gay part, it's the unmarried sex part (the part that is in no way related to the actual parenting, of course, but which happens after the children are snug in bed and sound asleep). We need to shield children from the effects of unmarried people in love expressing their care and passion for one another in private and it just happens that, oops, what do you know?... gay couples can't marry.

Why not? That would weaken the "institution of marriage."

I must admit, I have no idea what that phrase really means. My guess is that after being asked how some random lesbians being happily married could in any way negatively affect their own marriage and not being able to answer, the anti-equal rights folks changed tactics and picked a phrase that would avoid mentioning any real marriages. Instead, they would turn to the abstract notion of marriage. If anyone tries this line, the first thing you should do is ask, "What do you mean by the institution of marriage?" and demand a meaningful answer.

Most likely, they are just parroting a phrase they heard that they think sounds smart. But if there is a real meaning, the next question is, "If marriage is a wonderful thing, why would it not be made a stronger institution by having additional mature, caring adults included within the institution?"

Beware, this second question will probably be met with (a) theological dances about how they may seem like good, caring people, but really they can't be, (b) outright bigotry and hate towards people whose sex lives your interlocutor finds yucky, or (c) bogus social scientific evidence that gay and lesbian families are menaces to the community around them. Just as in the foster care case considered by the Arkansas Supreme Court, the real evidence runs to the contrary.

But, again, that evidence is only valid for those families in the reality-based community.