After yesterday’s historic defeat of DOMA, my Facebook & Twitter lit up with passionate discussions, stories and debates.  But there was one Facebook comment in particular that caught my attention and which left me a bit restless.   It was a comment made in response to this Huffington Post article “10 Ways The DOMA Repeal Will Affect ‘Traditional Marriage’ ”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/26/10-ways-doma-repeal-affects-marriage_n_3503775.html

 I’ve removed all names but quoted the Facebook comment in its entirety here:

 “Clever ad, but I’ve been reading about something else to think about, and it seems we don’t think far enough down the track: the rights of the two people who want to live together and have sex are not the only rights being changed with such a ruling. Marriage between one man and one woman is the only institution that legally guarantees and protects the RIGHTS of every little boy and girl to know who their Mom and Dad are and to be able to live with them. Say; When lesbians want a child, the little boy that one conceives (for instance) now is legally theirs to do with as they please. He may or may not ever get to know who is father is. Even knowing who he is, he still may or may not ever see him. This is a terrible violation of that boy’s rights. Same with two men; their children will be separated in an unnatural way from their biological moms (or dads). Children now become a commodity that gays have a right to regardless of the effects on the child. Studies are already coming out from these kids who are now adults. Yes, there was love and caring in their households but also terrible confusion and bitter longings for their real parents. And, yes, of course two gay people may be better parents than say a drug addicted natural parent. BUT this is not about the two adults’ parenting skills or as sex partners…it’s about Jimmy never knowing his real Dad. And not getting to be raised by him. Maybe ever. What do you think?

….

I have a lot of gay friends, too …. And I love them dearly. It’s just that I have been challenged to think beyond the surface discussions and take it further and – voila! – these other considerations start to be revealed. Adoption is beautiful. (I adopted a little girl myself; my parents adopted a little boy and added to their other 8 kids!) And yes, men who father children and run/hide/ignore is tragic. Bad parents suck. But it still gets down to this: every child deserves the right to know and if possible be raised by his Mom and Dad. There are many ways that gets messed up…true… but why add one more? And not only that, with marriage redefined it gives legal rights to gay couples but is a supreme legal loss of rights for the child. I think we tend to discuss this with our emotions because we are all so passionate about it; and we should be. Keep talking. keep digging, keep going higher and deeper. It’s worth it I think. Xo”

I agree with one thing:  we should “dig a little deeper” and really understand the issues at hand when it comes to same sex marriage and the various views society has.  So please allow me to address these arguments one at a time because I, too, do not believe in “surface discussions.”  I’ve broken up this Facebook response into 6 statements for dissection.

1. “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only institution that legally guarantees and protects the RIGHTS of every little boy and girl to know who their Mom and Dad are and to be able to live with them.”

Not sure I understand this argument fully.  How does marriage between one man and one woman guarantee and protect the rights of children to know who their mom and dad are?  I know many straight parents who adopt from all over the world.  Those children are not always guaranteed to know their biological parents.  When a married husband and wife adopt a child, the ability for the little boy or girl to know their birth parents is often complicated and depends on  factors such as whether the birth parents want to be found or contacted, whether the birth parents are even known, what country the child came from, etc.  Taking this a step further, if an adopted child with a mother and father does discover their birth parents, they cannot just “live with them” if they so choose.  Circumstances that prevent a child from knowing who their biological birth parents are often have nothing to do with whether the child’s parents are straight or gay.   Outside of adoption, even children who know their biological mother and a father have no “guarantee” nor “protection”  to ensure they can live with them.   Unfortunately, there are many children these days of straight families who have had their birth father or mother walk out on them.   Marriage between one man and one woman does not guarantee there will not be abandonment of children.   So in conclusion, there are many examples of children (with straight parents) who either never knew their birth parents or even if they knew who their birth parents are, are left abandoned and without really KNOWING them.   I just do not see what gay parenting has to do with these sad facts.   And perhaps more disturbingly, I do not see how “marriage between one man and one women legally guarantees and protects the rights of every little boy and girl to know who their mom and dad are.”

2.  “Say; When lesbians want a child, the little boy that one conceives (for instance) now is legally theirs to do with as they please. He may or may not ever get to know who his father is. Even knowing who he is, he still may or may not ever see him. This is a terrible violation of that boy’s rights. Same with two men; their children will be separated in an unnatural way from their biological moms (or dads).”

This statement really perplexed me.   First, lets begin with discussing HOW gays and lesbians can have children.  There are two primary ways  I know of:

  1. IVF (In Vetro) or IUI (Insemminations).  In other words a medical procedure  often done at an IVF clinic where donor sperm or donor eggs or a gestational carrier is used to help conceive a viable pregnancy.  Both gay and straight couples use IVF and IUI.  It’s a common medical practice for anyone with fertility issues.
  2. Adoption.  In other words a legal procedure whereby a family, couple or adult adopts a child in need of love, stability, compassion and protection.  Both gay and straight couples use the adoption process.

Lets examine each option and see if we come up with the same conclusion that the rights of children conceived to gays are violated because they are “separated” from their biological moms or dads.   First up: IVF and IUI.  Having gone through IVF multiple times myself, I am intimately familiar with what this process entails.  And I know from over four years of going to the IVF clinics in La Jolla California that over 90% of the clients are straight families.  We rarely ran into any gay couples in any of our visits over the years.

So in addition to gay couples using IVF or IUI to have children, there are many  more straight families who experience fertility issues and require medical assistance to ensure a viable pregnancy.    IVF has two basic flavors: A) Sperm Assistance or B) Egg Assistance.  Lets look at both.

A)   If the issue is with the man, the couple often relies on sperm donors and may choose to do IVF or IUI.   Similarly, lesbian couples may also rely on sperm donors from sperm banks.   Note that regardless of whether it’s a lesbian couple or a straight couple with an impotent male where a sperm donor is needed, the same national sperm banks can serve both needs.  Sperm donors get to choose whether they want to be discovered by children later, or if they want to remain anonymous.  In most cases, sperm donors want to remain anonymous.  Meaning, children who are conceived using IVF with sperm from a sperm donor that wants to remain anonymous would not know their biological father (aka Sperm Donor).   This is true for gay parents as well as straight parents undergoing IVF/IUI.   It has nothing to do with gay parents “unnaturally separating” children from their biological dads.   The decision of what parents want to tell their child about the sperm donor is really left up to each individual family who undergoes IVF.  Again, this issue is the same whether the family is gay or straight.

B)    If the fertility issue is that the women cannot get pregnant or cannot safely carry a pregnancy to term, a straight couple may engage the services of an egg donor and a gestational carrier, previously known as a surrogate.  Gay men who want children might do the same thing.  In both cases, the straight couple as well as the gay men end up with a child that does not necessarily know its “biological mom” or egg donor in this case.    The decision of what parents want to tell their child about the egg donor is really left up to each individual family who undergoes IVF.  Again, this issue is the same whether the family is gay or straight.

I tried very hard to find statistics on the number of IVF procedures done for straight couples vs. gay couples.  I could not find any reliable data.  But given that for years, many IVF clinics would not (and some still do not) cater to gay couples, I think it is safe to assume that more straight couples have given birth to children via IVF than gay couples.  As such, statistically speaking, there are more children of straight families (with a “mother and a father”) who do not necessarily know who their biological egg donor or sperm donor is.   Does that mean that ALL of these straight families are violating their children’s right to know their biological mom or dads?  Does that mean that ALL of these straight families are separating their children in “an unnatural way”?   Why is this any different when a gay couple goes through the EXACT same medical procedure?   And why is this suddenly a problem now?  Fertility clinics have been around for decades.  And for most of that time, gay couples were never allowed to use them.  IN fact in many countries around the world, gay couples are still fighting for the right to IVF.   So why is not knowing your Sperm Donor or Egg Donor an issue when gay couples use IVF, but it is not a problem when straight couples need to use sperm or egg donors?

3.  “Children now become a commodity that gays have a right to regardless of the effects on the child. Studies are already coming out from these kids who are now adults. Yes, there was love and caring in their households but also terrible confusion and bitter longings for their real parents.”

Referring to the points I made above, if gay couples conceive children in the exact same manner than many straight couples conceive children, namely IVF/IUI or adoption, how is it that only for gay families “children are becoming commodities”?  Perhaps the author’s real point is that they take issue with the social and long term affects of adoption and IVF/IUI.   I am sure there are hundreds of medical and socioeconomic studies around adoption and children of IVF.   I will let those studies address the author’s belief that a child is left with increased confusion and bitterness associated with longing for their biological (I take offense to “real”) parents.    My point here is that regardless of whether the author’s view is correct that IVF and/or adoption potentially can be bad/confusing for kids long term, it has nothing to do with whether the adopting parents or IVF parents are gay or straight.   It’s a tangential argument that should be had with medical doctors, sociologists, psychologists, and others who track said trends.

4.  “And, yes, of course two gay people may be better parents than say a drug addicted natural parent. BUT this is not about the two adults’ parenting skills or as sex partners…it’s about Jimmy never knowing his real Dad.”

I would love to get some statistics on how many straight parents have had to use donor sperm to overcome impotence issues.  And how many of those couples have kids who feel “they don’t know their ‘real’ Dad.”   And how often this author talks to her straight friends who may have fertility issues and tells them that they are not the “real parents” because they had to use medical assistance to ensure a viable pregnancy.

5.  “Adoption is beautiful. (I adopted a little girl myself; my parents adopted a little boy and added to their other 8 kids!) And yes, men who father children and run/hide/ignore is tragic. Bad parents suck. But it still gets down to this: every child deserves the right to know and if possible be raised by his Mom and Dad. There are many ways that gets messed up…true… but why add one more?”

I agree bad parents stuck.  Valiant point, indeed.   I do, however, take issue to gay parents being compared to bad parents who “run/hide/ignore” their children.  Lets say there are 10 families with children in your child’s class.  One those families  has a  very loving mom and dad who are extremely devoted to the child.  One of those families has an absentee father who left/deserted the child and his wife.  One of those families has a mom and dad who are abusive to one another, but not to the child.  One of those families has a mom and a dad who are abusive to the child.  One of those families has a mother who is addicted to pills and a father who tries to compensate.  One of these families has straight parents who focus more on work than on the kids.    One of these families is a loving, single mom with a child out of wedlock.  One of these families is a gay couple with drug problems.  One of these families is a loving gay couple who are extremely devoted to the child.  One of the families is filthy rich and on Bravo’s “Housewives” and the child spends most of the time with the nanny.  Et al.   My point being, family life is rich with complexity.  As is child development.  There are millions of way to mess up a child’s life and millions of ways to enrich and enlighten it.  A blanket statement expressing that allowing gay couples to have children is just “adding one more way to mess up kids” is simply superficial and trite.

6.  “And not only that, with marriage redefined it gives legal rights to gay couples but is a supreme legal loss of rights for the child. I think we tend to discuss this with our emotions because we are all so passionate about it; and we should be. Keep talking. keep digging, keep going higher and deeper.”

I agree that an objective, deeper, data driven discussion is more meaningful than an emotional one.  That said, having gone through all the points above, I struggle to conclude that children of gay parents have any clear and present disadvantage.   Moreover I fail to see how marriage redefined to give legal right to gay couples leads to a “supreme loss of rights for the child.”   I am happy to keep digging.   Perhaps others can chime in and help me understand what I may be missing…