My husband and I are friends with a couple who are raising his two sons by a former marriage. They live an average suburban life. Their house is on a wooded acre with swings and slides for the kids in the back yard. They drive soccer and baseball carpools with their neighbors, and worry about balancing their careers and the…
My husband and I are friends with a couple who are raising his two sons by a former marriage. They live an average suburban life. Their house is on a wooded acre with swings and slides for the kids in the back yard. They drive soccer and baseball carpools with their neighbors, and worry about balancing their careers and the needs of the boys. They take care to maintain a good relationship with their sons’ mother, who sees the children regularly. With one exception, they are no different from thousands of other blended families in Indiana.
The exception? This particular couple is gay.
Since Representatives Burton and Lutz announced their sponsorship of a bill to prohibit gay adoptions in Indiana, there has been a heated public discussion of that proposal. The Star has devoted two days to letters on the subject, and various commentators, with various perspectives, have weighed in on the debate.
Virtually all of the objections to gay adoption boil down to two assertions: all gays are child molesters and/or all gays are immoral. Because these accusations are grounded in animus and fear, those who hurl them are beyond reason. Rational people can point to the several million gays who are successfully raising children (their own biological offspring, children of relatives or life partners, or adopted); perplexed employees of adoption agencies can ask how they are supposed to know that a prospective parent is gay (does one homosexual episode qualify? How long ago?); social service workers can point to long waiting lists of "special needs" children languishing in foster care. These considerations and others are irrelevant to people who experience gays as alien or threatening.
The Nazis began the march to Auschwitz by forbidding Jews to teach, alleging that "Jewish perversion" would corrupt the children. White women in the South were shielded from contact with black men, whose "sexual appetites" were sometimes restrained by lynching them. Throughout recorded history, fearful and limited people have projected their deepest anxieties onto those who are "other," those who differ in some way. The proposal to ban gay adoptions is of a piece with that history.
People who hate instinctively understand a central truth about human nature: most of us will not act to diminish or harm others unless given reasons to do so. If gays (or Jews or blacks or Muslims) are understood to be just another group of folks, then we will not pass laws targeting them for mistreatment. We will insist on treating them like the individuals they are–some good, some bad, some likely to make good parents, some not. If the goal is to inflict harm, however, we will employ rhetoric like "pervert" or "homo," all the while piously claiming concern for the welfare of children.
In Wyoming last week, a young gay man was viciously beaten to death. The bigotry that killed him was nourished by laws discriminating against him and by rhetoric that demonized and dehumanized him. It could happen here.