Does Amendment One love all the little children of the world?

One of the arguments the Vote yes for Amendment One group makes is that a child is best raised in a home having a married father and mother, who are the biological parents of the child.

The supporters of Amendment One say that children do not do as well — do not turn out as well — when raised in other environments.  They say that studies show this to be the case. 

Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that all Norman Rockwell marriages are not created equal when it comes to child-rearing.  Some opposite sex parenting families do a superb job.  Others not so well.  Some such families have two parents committed to child-rearing.  Others, not so much.

Let’s also ignore for the moment the fact that there are single parents who do an excellent job of raising their children. 

Let’s also ignore for the moment that adoptive parents do an excellent job raising their adopted children. 

Instead, let’s focus for the moment on the lengths to which the side pushing Amendment One has also gone to prevent children from being raised by unmarried couples, including gay unmarried couples.

One of my law partners, Brad Kutrow, was involved in the NC Supreme Court case of Boseman v. Jarrell that ended with a ruling allowing a gay partner who was not the biological parent of the child to have certain rights with respect to the child after she and her female partner separated.  The reason for the ruling was that it was in the best interest of the child, according to the trial judge and the Supreme Court.

Remember Tami Fitzgerald, the Chairwoman of Vote Yes.  She represented a group of associations in the Boseman case.  She also is one of the lawyers I debated recently on WTVI.  She is a lawyer, and the leader of the campaign to convince North Carolinians to vote for the amendment.  In our debate, as she has done in countless other forums, she talked about the need to protect marriage between one man and one woman, so children can have the right environment in which to be raised. 

In the Boseman case, one courld argue that Ms. Fitzgerald was not about protecting the child, who was raised by both a non-biological parent and a biological parent who were a same-sex couple.  Instead, she was about preventing any type of adoptive or custody arrangement that involved a same-sex couple, even if the lower and appellate courts thought, based on all the facts, that it was in the best interest of the child to do so.

She appeared as lead counsel in the case as attorney for:  The American College of Pediatricians, the Christian Action League of North Carolina, the North Carolina Family Policy Council, NC4Marriage, and the Christian Family Law Association.

My partner, Brad Kutrow, appeared for the North Carolina Pediatric Society, in support of a ruling that would give the child access to two parents, not one.

Before we discuss the Boseman case, and speaking of pediatricians, check out this link, http://www.mountainx.com/article/42375/NC-Pediatric-Society-announces-opposition-to-Amendment-One , where it was reported that “representatives from the North Carolina Pediatric Society joined with colleagues from the North Carolina Psychological Association, the North Carolina Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers, North Carolina Chapter and the Carolinas Chapter of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists in opposing Amendment One….Speaking for the North Carolina Pediatric Society, past president Peter Morris, M.D., said he worries if the amendment were to pass, “families of all types will find themselves with stresses, toxic stresses, that will affect their lives and that will affect their children’s lives.”

So how did Ms. Fitzgerald approach the Boseman case? In her brief, she started out by expressing the “concern” that “the courts should not expand the scope of North Carolina adoption statutes to give adoptive rights to unmarried co-habitating persons, such as in a “second-parent adoption”. 

Her brief also said at the outset: “Further, this Court must end the vague standard of “psychological” or“pseudo” parenting and uphold the well-recognized constitutional right of the biological parent to maintain oversight of her child’s care, custody, and associations, without the interference of unrelated third parties. This Court should reverse the District Court’s order granting joint custody to Boseman, because she is neither an adoptive parent nor a third-party who has any recognizable right to custody”.

The “unrelated” person doing the alleged interfering was only unrelated biologically to the child, but in the sense of raising the child in question, she was not unrelated at all, because she and the biological parent –her partner– had planned the birth, made decisions about raising the child and then raised the child together in a family unit that they created.

Nonetheless, Ms. Fitzgerald’s brief went on to say: “Despite all the modern advances in medical technology, it still ultimately takes a mother and a father to produce natural children. Inherent in the State’s adoption public policy, then, is the common sense notion that it is in the best interests of all children to be brought up, as natural children are, in a home with a married mother and father.”

Her brief also said: “To allow same-sex cohabitating partners to adopt minor children while they cannot marry under our statutes produces an illogical result. The public policy of the State as expressed in both the adoption statutes and the marriage statutes favors adoptive parents who are a married mother and father, and disfavors unmarried cohabitants as adoptive parents”.

And then Ms. Fitzgerald got into the alleged social science justification for her position. 

Her brief has an entire section which begins as follows: “The reasons for upholding such a public policy are well-established. Whenever possible, adopted children should be placed in the optimal childrearing environment with a father and a mother who are married. Childrearing studies have consistently shown that children are more likely to thrive emotionally, mentally, and physically in a home with married parents of differing sexes”. She then argues: “These scientific results rest on the intuitive and well-supported principle that children benefit from close, daily interaction with both a male and a female”.

And then Ms. Fitzgerald tries to attack other studies as follows: “Studies have shown that same-sex parenting has deleterious effects on children. A recent meta-analysis of 21 same-sex parenting studies revealed significant effects of same-sex parenting on children. While each of the 21 studies purported to show that there are no significant differences between children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by opposite-sex couples, same-sex-parenting advocates Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz detected serious methodological flaws in each study”.

In other words, Ms. Fitzgerald appears to be a know-it-all when it comes to child rearing, she hates the idea of a gay couple raising a child, and she has advocates who support her in her quest.

The group my partner represented in the Boseman case is the North Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (also known as the NC Pediatric Society), which represents more than 1700 pediatricians in NC.  Since its founding in 1930, the American Academy of Pediatrics (the “AAP”) has served as the national professional organization for member pediatricians who dedicate their lives to the health, safety, and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. The NC-AAP’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of children, their families and communities, and to provide member support through the collective efforts of its membership.

In the brief by the NC-AAP, it says:” The policy statement, written by the AAP’s Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, reflects the official view of the NC-AAP, as well as the current consensus of scientific research finding that adoption by same-sex second parents promotes the psychological, financial, and emotional security of children and poses no risk of negative consequences to their health, adjustment or development”.

The policy statement by the AAP Committee makes some good points, such as, having second parent adoptions for same-sex couples protects the child’s relationship with both adults who are raising the child.  It secures legal rights to the child, should the adults separate, including child support.  It ensures eligibility for health insurance for the child from both adults.  It provides both adults with the right to provide consent for medical care and to make education, health care and other important decisions for the child.  It also creates an additional basis of financial security for the child, while the adults are living and then if one dies, through social security survivor benefits.  In short, two is better than one for the child, even when it is a same-sex relationship.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, and the NC Pediatric Society, therefore, were in support of ensuring access by the child to two parents, which, over the objections of Tami Fitzgerald, occurred in the Boseman case.

Some worry, however, that Amendment One is a sneak attack on the ruling in this case, because the decision was based on the fact that the same-sex domestic partners in that case had created a “family unit”, which the Court found compelling.  If Amendment One passes, and the voters decide that there can be only one legally recognized family unit, the marriage of one man and one woman, then Tami may get her way.  Children like the child in the Boseman case may not be able to have any legal ties to both same-sex parents, no matter how much a court believes it to be in the child’s best interest.  Now does that sound like a good thing for children?

Amendment One has been a raging argument about what is best for this or best for that, based on those who think they know what is best for “others”.  The best marriage is that between one man and one woman.  The best way to raise a child is to have only one man and one woman do it who are the biological parents.  And the arguments go on.

My partner Brad Kutrow asked me this rhetorical question: “If we’re not going to trust the pediatricians who care for all our children, who are we going to trust?”

I ask you. Should we trust the politicians?  Should we trust Tami Fitzgerald?  Should we trust anyone who speaks from a perch and who hasn’t the least idea how well two same-sex partners are raising their children?  By the way, these are rhetorical questions too.

There is a show on TV called Modern Family, and it is so-named for a good reason. These “modern families” seem to find the same challenges and same rewards in raising children as traditional families, albeit in a way that doesn’t fit the traditional family model.

As we think about Amendment One, let’s be careful not to let our traditions (those which we have experienced or those with which we are most familiar) guide us to think that they are the best and only way to raise a child.  

Children are very lucky if they have two parents who love them, whether their parents are straight or gay. 

Being different is not a sin to a child who is being tucked into bed at night by two loving parents.  Let’s not forget it on May 8th.     

 

 

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