By Matt Kaufman
Can't we all just accept gay marriage and come together in a common cause — promoting a society where children will be raised by married parents?
That's the position Kathleen Parker takes in her syndicated column, "Rearing children within marriage is what matters," in the Feb. 4 News-Gazette. She quotes David Blankenhorn, a former opponent of gay marriage who now supports it: "Once we accept gay marriage, might we also agree that marrying before having children is a vital cultural value that all of us should do more to embrace?"
It's an argument that will appeal to a lot of people. But recognizing gay marriage — as the Illinois Senate may vote to do this week — is not part of the solution. If anything, it's part of the problem.
To understand why, we need to understand why unwed and single parenting is such a bad idea in the first place.
There's more than one reason: the sheer amount of work for one person, for example, or the fact that single parenting often goes hand-in-hand with economic distress. But neither of those is the main reason.
The main reason is that children need a mom and a dad. They need the unique, gender-specific contributions that each has to make.
There are things mom can do that dad simply can't — not the way mom does, if he can do them at all. There are things dad can do that mom simply can't — not the way dad does, if she can do them at all.
Neither is an optional accessory. Both are essential in so many ways — above all, in shaping a child's identity.
A boy needs his dad to identify with — to show him who he is and who he is to become. He needs his mom to show him who women (those fantastically different, yet utterly indispensable creatures) are. And he needs both dad and mom to show him who men and women are together.
He can't get that from two men or from two women. Nor can a girl get what she needs. Whatever a gay couple's intentions toward children, there's no getting around the importance of gender. It's the greatest single factor in human relationships.
When a child doesn't have both a mom and a dad, adults around them often try to compensate as best they can. But it doesn't diminish their efforts to face reality: Those children are missing out on something valuable, something precious. We must not pretend otherwise.
Yet that's just what we'll be doing if we ratify gay marriage. In fact, we might even say it's one of the goals of gay marriage.
The purpose of gay marriage is to make a statement — that homosexual relationships are equal in every way to the most honored and central institution in society.
That's especially clear in Illinois. Here, we already have civil unions, conferring virtually all the legal benefits of marriage.
But advocates of "marriage equality" (as they've taken to calling their cause) want to claim the name of "marriage" too. As one testified to the Senate last week, "marriage is the standard in our society."
That logic, if followed through, has unavoidable implications for children.
There was a time when supporters of gay parenting argued using apples-to-oranges comparisons: "Isn't it better for a child to be raised by a loving gay couple than by parents who are alcoholic or abusive or neglectful?"
The question they didn't talk about was: "Isn't it better for a child to be raised by a loving mother and father than by a gay couple?" They knew what most people would say.
When that question comes up now, however, the answer they'll give will be "Absolutely not."
Adoption and foster-care agencies, as well as courts deciding on child custody, soon will be forbidden to give any preference — any at all — to heterosexual couples. That would be "discrimination," the ultimate sin in the modern world, punishable by the ultimate penalty: lawsuit.
In our state, it's already started. Once civil unions were recognized, Illinois officials demanded that adoption and foster-care agencies must place children with same-sex couples. That drove out principled faith-based providers like Catholic Charities and the Evangelical Child and Family Agency, which had been highly effective due to the trusting relationships they had established with churches. Their track record meant nothing to the state. Equality uber alles.
This amounts to a kind of child sacrifice, in effect if not in intent: Some children must be deprived of one parent — either a mom or a dad — in order to satisfy the demands of the ideological gods of our age.
Surely we can do better. If we want to do what's best for children, we'll work to ensure that as many as possible grow up with a father and a mother in lasting wedlock. That is the "vital cultural value that all of us should do more to embrace."
Matt Kaufman is an Urbana-based freelance writer and a contributing editor to Citizen magazine, published by Focus on the Family.