Like 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.
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.