Friday, August 10, 2012

Gay couples face new pressure to raise children


Here’s an interesting front page story from the New York Times today, Friday, August 10, 2012, by Rachel L. Swarns, “Male couples face pressure to fill cradles”; online the link is called “gay couples face pressure to have children”.  (The “cradle” word reminds me of Phillip Longman’s book, “The Empty Cradle”.) The link is here.

The methods include both adoption and surrogate parenting, both of which are costly.  In Utah and Mississippi, it’s still illegal for gay couples to adopt, and legal battles over adoption by gays have been fought in other states, especially Florida and Arkansas.

One question that comes to mind is, what happens when a gay couple with adopted children moves to one of these states because of job transfer?

Marriage equality certainly relates to the ability to adopt (and to protect the children from discrimination), just as it protects dependent or surviving spouses. 

But the paradigm of debate has come a long way since, say, the 1970s, when gay men, particularly, just wanted to be left alone to lead their own lives. The “privacy” arguments were starting to take hold then, especially in larger cities.  There was a sense of living on another planet (in “urban exile”), and then paying attention to the (interpersonal) situations of your own life, lived within your own culture, which would develop its own separate norms of expected behaviors.

But the “gay world” would start becoming reconnected to the larger world for many reasons.  In the 1980s, the AIDS crisis erupted.  As it became more manageable, real equality questions surfaced in the 90s – both the capacity to serve openly in the military (the battle over “don’t ask don’t tell”) and then marriage, and then parenting. There was a change in perspective, replacing the old ideas about disposable income with a newer one that equal rights ought to imply equal responsibilities and equal willingness to share risk and sacrifice (especially relevant to military and similar service).  And today, notions of “sustainability” have generated the idea that people ought to have personal stakes in the future, a notion called “generativity”.

Marriage equality matters even to people not in "marriages".  There is an expectation, re-emerging in our culture, that extended families should take care of themselves; extended lifespans mean that adult children, including the unmarried and childless, have to take care of their parents (as with the recent attention to filial responsibility laws in some states), and people are often expected to provide role models or even parenting service to siblings' children (especially after tragedies).  No one wants to wind up "family slave" today. 

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