Thursday, September 21, 2006

What You Get for Marriage Equality, 2 of 3

II. Family

1--Protect the extended family. Regardless of how you feel about gays getting married or raising children, you have to remember you’re talking about the lives of many real people, not simply the more easily dehumanized gays. A group that often gets overlooked in this debate are the in-laws and extended family. They all have a stake in a marriage, even for gay couples not raising children.

It does great harm to grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles when a loved one, or child is unilaterally removed from their family upon a split. For gay couples, one set of family is in the same boat as one of the parents, just out of luck, unless there’s a legal adoption (and that hinges on marriage, in Utah). I’d have a hard time believing even the most conservative, LDS, anti-gay rights grandparent would be okay with law making it so simple to lose their grandchildren in such a way.

2--Encourage more extended familial bonds. Traditionally, most gay men have not had nor were encouraged to have long term open relationships, and therefore they were basically an end on the branch of their family tree, the odd uncle. They did not often form familial bonds through their couplings with people not their blood, and their family did not benefit by those bonds. But these connections are very important, and encouraged by marriage.

Too many times to count R and I have helped out the other's family, and done it gladly, and we know they'd be and have been there for us. From his parents to my nieces, we work for one family or another weekly; they have both, after all, become our family. We are both needed, and we join two great families together.

Society should encourage and simplify these bonds for gay couples with equal rights in marriage. Certainly they save the public money, by helping and encouraging people to take care of each other instead of relying on the state, but they also make families on both sides stronger.

3--Get more children out of daycare. I know many don’t agree, but if it’s possible I think it best for children, particularly infants, to be taken care of by the people who love them most and are intimately responsible for them. The present marriage law actively discourages gay couples from doing this. As most law stands now, with gays unable to get on their breadwinner’s health insurance or have claim to their income if something goes wrong, they are extraordinarily encouraged to use day care for their children and both work . Odd how those “pro-family” politics play out.

4--Lessen the frequency of cheating. First, the punishments of divorce and promises of marriage certainly would play into encouraging gay couples to keep from betraying each other, and mitigate all the associated costs.

Second, this is speculative but check out, for example, this study (blogged on here) on the populating having gay sex. In New York, 9% of all self-identified straight men in the study say they’ve had sex with at least one man in the last year. 70% of those men are married. I also dare say most gay men know more than enough sad anecdotes regarding such men (not to mention those in the media). They are certainly putting their families, wives and children, at risk, on top of the betrayal, and no one would want their loved ones to experience such a scenario.

Now, certainly some gay men are making it work with women (I’ve linked to a number of the blogs of these good men), but, when it seems we have so many who can’t do it and are cheating on their wives, that's a problem. Taking away the legal incentive to favor heterosexual relationships for gay men and giving them the legal option of a marriage according to their nature should remove one more coercive force that can lead gay men into making promises to heterosexual women for the wrong reasons, promises they’d not keep. If they want to commit to a straight marriage, they should choose it with as little outside coercion as possible, so it is undoubtedly their marriage (and, again, some do). Otherwise, this can often be very dangerous and tragic for all.

5--Get more children out of state and foster care. From the government’s statistics, here, in 2004, 518,000 children were in foster care, 118,000 of them ended the year in need of adoption. That year, 304,000 entered foster care and 283,000 exited. Of those exiting, 51,000 children were adopted; the rest either became emancipated (many with a history of being passed around foster homes), or went back to their original family (or died). This situation is including the children now adopted into gay and lesbian homes.

There are simply not enough homes for the children needing them; that’s over 100,000 children waiting for a home and family of their own each year and only 50,000 adopted. Stop, try to clear your head of politics, and counter arguments for a moment, and think what that means.

In Utah, gay people can’t be stopped from adopting or becoming foster parents as if they were single. But infertile couples are the most likely to adopt, and gay couples, as opposed to a single gay person, have more time to devote. Like it or not, the qualified gay couple who adopts, particularly older, disabled, or HIV infected children (particularly multiple siblings) is doing the public a service, saving you money, giving the invaluable to a child, and it’s good policy to try to keep that home intact with legal marriage.

It’s also good policy to make sure both people raising the child are legally responsible, currently impossible for most children in families headed by unmarried couples in Utah. Such law isn’t stopping gays from raising children, but it is stopping children from getting health insurance, and many other benefits, and it is keeping parents legally able to abandon their children without consequence. If things go wrong and the remaining legal parent can’t manage, the taxpayer picks up the slack. Thank goodness that’s rare in my experience.

Simply, “pro family” should mean pro family. Encourage strong family bonds, give parentless children loving homes, promote responsibility, and give families the tools to take care of each other. When all that is held back from citizens by our government for the shape of one person’s anatomy, I think it’s clear the government’s priorities are not what they should be, and the PC words of politicians touting “family values” are, sadly, empty.

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