DOMA, Gay Marriage and Fatherhood

gay rights freedom rainbow flagLike just about every other adult in the United States, I’ve been watching the US Supreme Court consider the constitutionality of both the California Marriage Protection Act (also known as Prop 8) and the Defense of Marriage Act, both attempts to codify into law that only a man and a woman can legally be married. Honestly, it’s hard for me to understand why so many people are worried about what someone else is doing, whether it’s in the privacy of their own home or whether it’s something as simple as gaining spousal benefits under law for health, insurance, taxes and everything else.

As a fatherhood advocate, however, my interest is less in the gender of the “bride” and “groom” than it is about the children of these marriages, whether it’s two guys, two women or a man and woman, and the sad reality is that more and more children are growing up in broken homes, in difficult environments where there’s not much love to be found, but there’s lots of media, lots of time with friends and peers (for better or, often, worse), and lots of solo time to wonder how to survive the often alienating experience of adolescence.

In fact, according to the 2012 US Census, only 23.5% of US households have a husband-wife-child configuration, while 7.2% are single moms and 2.1% are single dads. Pew reports that back in 1960 only 11% of children were living apart from their fathers but now that’s exploded to a staggering 27% of children who don’t have their dad in the house. Go into specific communities and you’ll learn that 44% of black fathers and 35% of hispanic fathers live apart from their children. Worse yet: almost 50% of these separated fathers report that they contact their children a few times yearly or less, which just breaks my heart for the kids and dads alike.

The Washington Post also has a good story on the affect of gay partnerships on children, concluding that:

There is a growing consensus among experts that the sexual orientation of parents is not a major determinant in how well children fare in school, on cognitive tests and in terms of their emotional development. What matters more, researchers found, is the quality of parenting and the family’s economic well-being.

What does that have to do with DOMA and CMPA, with the Supreme Court and gay marriage?

Just this: families are falling apart and it’s our children that are bearing the brunt of it.

As a society we seem to have forgotten the secret to creating a strong family that can pull through adversity together, that can have difficult experiences strengthen the family bond, that can have two adults take each other as they are and grow together. It’s a huge crisis and I expect it to just decay further as each of us seems to be oblivious of the fallout on our personal journey for ultimate self-fulfillment, soul mates and true love, all at the expense of everyone around us, child and adult.

In that world, surely it’s just possible that marriages — and families — built around love and tolerance might just stem the tide a bit, might just contribute to a better tomorrow, not one that’s worse than the self-absorbed mess we’re surrounded with today?

And in that case, does it really matter if the parents have identical genitalia?

It’s a damn tough journey being a father in today’s world, and if some men find love with another guy, I really don’t understand why that’s such a problem for others. It’s the outcome we should be focused on, and right now that outcome — healthy, loving environments for children to grow into happy, productive adults — is looking pretty dismal.

I support the Supreme Court striking down as unconstitutional both the Defense of Marriage Act and the California Marriage Protection Act. We have far more important issues to address as a society.

4 comments on “DOMA, Gay Marriage and Fatherhood

  1. I don’t usually get in on political things, but this is a subject close to my heart. I agree with you. It should all be about the children. I am a gay woman and raised a 22 year old daughter with my partner of almost 20 years. She is graduating from college this year and has a 3.8 GPA and many other honors to her name. She does not do drugs, drink to excess or smoke. She volunteers and gives of her time and what little money she has. She holds a job to help pay for her college and is a responsible citizen of the world. Isn’t that what it is all about? She knows she is loved and has grown to be the person she is because of it. We are a close family, so much closer than most of her friends who come from “traditional” families.

    Bravo to you for speaking your mind. And good for your for being a father who really cares!

  2. identical genitalia? Greatest punk band of the ’70s!

    But seriously …

    No matter where you stand on the issue I think that your decision to focus on the children as opposed to simply the matter in play should be something we can all agree upon.

  3. Great post, Dave! And I’d like to add one thing:

    Heterosexual couples, even men and women in stable marriages, can and do have unplanned pregnancies. Many babies come into the world with parents who are suddenly scrambling to arrange their lives around a child they might not have been emotionally or financially ready for.

    The big difference with gay couples’ genitalia? That won’t happen. It CAN’T happen. If two men want to be fathers, or two women want to be mothers, all of the routes by which they can become parents are time-consuming and expensive, so they’re far, far less likely to become parents if they’re not truly ready for children.

    It takes a heckuva lot of commitment to raise a child. I think two loving, well-prepared parents in a stable relationship is infinitely better for children than a broken family with two opposite-gender parents.

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