George W. Bush, 2000: “I’m not for gay marriage. I think marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. I appreciated the way the (Clinton) administration signed the Defense of Marriage Act.”
George W. Bush, 2004: “The union of a man and a woman is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith…Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society.”
George W. Bush, 2006: “This national question (of same-sex marriage) requires a national solution. And on an issue of such profound importance, that solution should come not from the courts but from the people of the United States.”
John McCain, 2008: “I think that we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no, I don’t believe in gay adoption.”
There is a horse that races only once every two years. “Gaybait” is a sure-fired crowd pleaser, depending on the crowd with which one runs. She draws millions to the track every time she races.
It’s a presidential election year here in the United States, so that can only mean one thing: time for our bi-annual trip to the “queers are among” racetrack. President Bush has been the jockey of Gaybait for the last few years, looking at poll numbers and deciding when best to yank the old horse out of retirement to run one more successful race.
Here’s how it works: Bush’s advisors notice that more than a couple of people are planning to vote for Democrats in the coming election, so Bush launches a new series of speeches designed to whip little old Christian ladies and dour televangelists into a frenzy with tales of how Bill and Suzy Milktoast might find their portrait on the wedding pages next to Rick and David Pervert. The Perverts will move into your neighborhood, immediately putting an irreparable strain on every heterosexual union for miles and advancing the decline of civilization as we know it. Said old ladies and televangelists spread the message, and hordes of frightened conservatives show up at the polls in droves, assuring a Republican victory.
It has been a strategy that has been largely successful, as Gay Marriage has become a major issue in three of the last four national elections (2002 being the exception, when America was focused solely on post 9/11 security). Given Bush’s insistence that this issue is of prime importance alongside national security, the economy, and healthcare, it would be only natural to assume that the Bush Administration has been completely unfriendly to the LGBT movement. Surprisingly, though, that hasn’t necessarily been the case.
In fact, Bush has appointed numerous openly gay individuals to high-level positions, and has signed into law several pieces of legislation extending health and death benefits to partners of federal and D.C. employees. He has enforced the Clinton ban on discrimination in the federal workplace based on sexual orientation, and issued an executive order that “unmarried partners” of overseas federal workers be given that same status as married partners. Most importantly, he has never thrown the weight of his office behind proposed Constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and woman, allowing several pieces of legislation calling for such an amendment to die in the House or Senate without comment.
This is not to imply that Bush has been the gay community’s best friend, since he has voiced opposition to gay marriage, gay adoption, gays in the Boy Scouts, and gay inclusion in hate crime legislation. Nevertheless, he has never worked fervently on any of these issues, instead arguing that they are states’ issues. So why would he choose to make gay marriage such a central issue come election time?
Most likely because Republican strategists, led by Karl Rove, insured that it became a central issue and worked tirelessly to get anti-gay marriage initiatives on as many state ballots as possible to help motivate conservatives to get to the polls. Further, various local campaigns latched onto the issue, reflecting the arguments coming from the party leaders.
Take, for instance, Republican Representative Mike Sodrel of Indiana, who scored “zero” on the Human Rights Campaign report card in 2006. First-termer Sodrel was up for re-election in that year, running against the man he had unseated. When it became clear that the race would be tight, Sodrel followed the President’s lead, attacking his opponent for voting against a Constitutional marriage amendment (although, in fairness, his opponent, Baron Hill, raised the issue of gay marriage first).
Sodrel even hosted President Bush at a rally where Bush informed Sodrel supporters that “Activist judges try to define America by court order … Just this week in New Jersey, another activist court (the New Jersey Supreme Court) issued a ruling that raises doubt about the institution of marriage. We believe marriage is between a man and a woman.” (“Bush on Late Campaign Blitz” World Politics News.com, 10 March 2006).
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Ed Patru reinforced Bush and Sodrel’s position: “Baron Hill opposes the gay marriage ban that Mike Sodrel co-sponsored, and he’s against protecting marriage from attacks by homosexual activists. It’s just another reason Baron Hill will remain a former Member of Congress.” (“GOP Resorts to Gay Bashing to Save Sodrel” Advance Indianna Blogspot.com, 7 September 2006) Patru was wrong, however, and voters returned Hill to Congress, voicing greater concern over his position on the war in Iraq than his position on gay marriage. (Sodrel is running for his old seat again this year, but his website includes no mention of the gay marriage issue.)
Sodrel is just one of many candidates who have chosen to play up gay-related issues in recent elections, and like most such candidates, his position has not been gay-friendly. Yet American society is becoming somewhat more open to the legal needs of GLBT persons, according to a June Newsweek poll which showed that while just 30 percent of Americans support gay marriage alone, only 29 percent oppose any legal recognition of gay unions, with 57 percent in favor of either gay marriage or civil unions. (Polling Report.com)
More importantly, a June Time poll reported that 72 percent of voters would still consider voting for a presidential candidate who held an opposing viewpoint on gay marriage. (ibid) With record gas prices, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, rising unemployment and housing foreclosures, a weakening infrastructure, and concerns about national security—all issues that have an immediate and potentially profound impact on the lives of Americans— voters have a host of important issues and positions to consider in this election. It seems “Gaybait” won’t be winning any races this year.
Queer, Isn't It?: Dragging the Old Nag to the Racetrack, Again
Image found on Equine Express.eu
Yet the old girl started warming up again, after gay adoption suddenly became an issue following a New York Times interview in which John McCain said he opposed the practice. It’s doubtful that McCain intentionally planned to make gay adoption an issue in the election, as he hasn’t seemed overly willing to discuss gay issues previously and has, at times, come across looking rather ill-informed (a student at a New Hampshire high school had to explain to him what “LGBT” meant). Nonetheless, his statements stirred up some animosity on both sides of the issue. [Nagourney, Adam, and Cooper, Michael, “McCain’s Conservative Model? Roosevelt (Theodore, That is)”, 13 July 2008]
Understandably, LGBT leaders lambasted his position, noting that gay parents are just as successful as their straight counterparts are. Surprisingly, conservatives also attacked McCain, arguing that his clarification of the New York Time remarks, in which he said that abandoned children needed “caring parents” more than “the alternative”, only muddied his stance. (Barack Obama’s website states, “A child will benefit from a healthy, loving home, whether the parents are gay or not”, while third party candidate Ralph Nader’s website implies his support for gay adoption, “The Nader campaign supports full equal rights for gays and lesbians.”)
McCain hasn’t addressed the issue further, but it will most likely come into play at one of the debates this fall. Before then, it would be a good idea to know the truth about gay adoption, so that political pundits and party operatives of either side can’t spin the issue with misleading statements or falsehoods. Can gay adoptive parents raise a healthy, well-adjusted child? There’s no question as to whether adoptive parents can raise a child as well as biological parents, so the question is really about the “gay” part.
Considerable research has been done into the question of whether gay parents can be as effective as straight parents. The overwhelming majority of non-biased data shows that they can. Thus, if adoptive parents are as good as biological parents, and gay parents are as good as straight parents, then gay adoptive parents must be as good as straight adoptive parents. Simple logic.
If only it were that simple. Human behavior doesn’t allow us to speak in absolutes, and the welfare of a child is too important to entrust to something as unstable as…well, humanity. When dealing with adoptive parents, the question of suitability is settled through a stringent screening process, one that many biological parents would quickly fail. Thus, since prospective gay adoptive parents must meet rigid standards to even be considered, there is no doubt that they have the intelligence, background, aptitude, and financial resources necessary to raise a children. So what could possibly be the objection to gay adoption?
The objections come in three forms. First is the argument that a child is better with both a mother and a father, the position that McCain initially took. Undoubtedly, this is true to a certain extent, assuming that the father and mother are both loving and nurturing caregivers. Yet it is hardly realistic. More parents are raising children without the benefit of any partner, and far too many children are finding themselves in foster care due to a lack of would-be adoptive families. While having a male and female parent increases a child’s gender socialization skills, having two same-gender parents will provide a broader range of socialization skills and perspectives than just one parent or no parent.
However, the road to adulthood can be troubling for a child of gay parents. The psychological and social difficulties that these children sometimes experience is not the result of bad parenting or the sexual orientation of the parents, but frequently the result of societal judgment. Condemnation and criticism of gay parents is frequent, vocal, and as in the case of McCain, public.
Religious exclusion, political posturing, judgmental neighbors, rejection from other family members, legal difficulties, and sermons on a certain hell-fire afterlife are things that kids watch their gay parents endure and struggle to overcome. Add that to the school bullying they must endure at the hands of children who are taught homophobia is acceptable and it is small wonder that these kids might have difficulties.
The solution lies not in banning gay and lesbian persons from parenthood, but in getting society to place the needs of the child ahead of personal prejudices. Stop telling kids their parents are freaks and maybe the kids might socialize a little better. Simple logic.
In fact, Christopher J. Alexander concluded in his article, “Developmental Attachment and Gay and Lesbian Adoptions” that homosexual parents are particularly sensitive to the assumption that any developmental problems their children are having will be construed as an indication that the parents’ orientation is the cause. However, Alexander concludes, “Ultimately, we need to trust that two decades of research on gay and lesbian families is correct. That is, that children raised in these households have to contend with unique circumstances, but that social and emotional development proceeds in a normal manner.” (Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, 2001)
The second objection to gay adoption is the hysterical portrait of the leering pedophile who wants to own a human sexual playtoy. This objection is one that is never raised regarding straight adoptions, despite the fact that most pedophiles (93 percent) are straight. It is fear-mongering at its most hateful, a lie that uber-conservatives spread with as much frequency as possible in hopes that repetition will make it true. The truth is that gay adoptive parents want to be parents, not perverts.
The third objection is that being raised by gay parents will make the child gay. If the sexual orientation of one’s parents actually determined a child’s sexual orientation, would there be any gay people at all? After all, the parents of most homosexual individuals were straight, and it didn’t seem to influence their genetic disposition to homosexuality. Why would being raised by a gay parent alter a child’s genetic disposition to heterosexuality?
Given all this, why is McCain’s statement important? It’s doubtful that voters will decide to vote for or against him based on this one interview. Nonetheless, it does present a frame of mind that will determine the types of people he will appoint to judgeships, cabinet positions, and overseas posts.
How much gay adoption (or gay marriage, gays in the workplace, and gay inclusion in hate crime legislation) will actually play in the upcoming elections remains to be seen. Wise candidates won’t make these matters the cornerstone of their campaigns, although, like McCain, they may occasionally find themselves in the media spotlight when asked to address gay-related issues. And wise voters won’t make decisions based solely on gay-related issues, as too much as at stake here and abroad.
Whether one chooses McCain, Obama or another candidate to vote for in the next election is a personal choice. The stakes are high for the LGBT community, but they are high for all Americans. As long as one’s decision is an informed one, based on an understanding of the issues and where this country’s future will be headed under each candidate’s potential term of office, it will be the correct choice. And hopefully, that old tired nag Gaybait can be put out to pasture for good.