Is it my imagination or is our ability to accept people who are different from ourselves plummeting to dangerous levels? It was bad enough to see the ugly rhetoric at play in the 2004 presidential campaign surrounding gay marriage. If we are to believe the pundits, a big reason Bush and the Republican Party managed to squeak by was because of all the people who were terrified that legally acknowledging the unions between two people of the same sex would spell the end of our civilization as we know it and lead to men having six wives, women marrying five-year-old children, and human beings and kangaroos joining in holy matrimony. With all the misery that's going on in this world, I cannot understand why some people are so fixated on preventing loving people from committing to each other and receiving the legal protections that heterosexual couples enjoy.
Although I am in favor of same-sex marriages for those who feel so inclined, I can see that it's going to take some time for the general public to fully accept it. I understand that it's a huge shift in the way many people have viewed marriage and that it may take a while for enough of a groundswell to develop for any new legislation to pass. In the meantime, I hope that alternative legal protections are provided to gay couples. I'm disheartened that many states are working hard to eliminate even those rights that were firmly in place before the gay marriage hoopla started up and I definitely think this downturn of support is a reflection of the current administration and its unholy relationship with the Religious Right. Nevertheless, I get that the concept of gay marriage is a stretch for some people even if I disagree with that point of view. But what really makes me see RED (pun intended) are the people, especially our elected officials, who are attempting to turn back the clock on the rights of gay men and lesbians through a malicious campaign of lies and distortions.
Have you heard about this Tennessee State Representative named Debra Young Maggart? For an elected official in this day and age to publicly espouse the crap she's been spewing and still get support from her constituents is mind-boggling. Rep. Maggart believes that gay people should be legally prevented from adopting children who need homes. It would be bad enough if she based her views on some selective interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, but Maggart takes it much further. She states that most homosexual couples are unfit to parent because they have "numerous emotional dysfunctions and psychological issues" and then goes on to offer this amazing pearl:
"We also have seen evidence that homosexual couples prey on young males and have in some instances adopted them in order to have unfretted access to subject them to a life of molestation and sexual abuse."
Are you screaming yet? Can you believe such a statement would come out of an elected official's mouth in 2006? Whether this woman believes such slander or is just trying to incite the basest fears of her fundamentalist mob, I don't know why this story isn't on the front page of every paper in the country and why she's not being publicly censured by the governor of Tennessee.
Rep. Maggart's statements add fuel to the growing attempts by right-wing groups to prevent gay people in this country from adopting foster children. Such a bill was narrowly defeated last year in Maggart's state but many more states are taking up the cause and a national battle is on the way. Needless to say, the Bush administration has no interest in rebutting the lies. And of course, the ones that will suffer the most will be the thousands of children who will never get the loving homes they desperately need.
I'm hesitant to adopt a defensive attitude and offer personal anecdotes about all the gay parents I know--that almost seems to give credence to Maggart's lunatic claims. But I wonder if people like Debra Maggart have ever spent five minutes in the home of any of the countless gay and lesbian couples who are lovingly raising children in this country. My wife and I are fortunate to know plenty of same-sex couples who have adopted very lucky children and I cringe at the thought of future children being denied such homes because of the closed-minded, intolerant ravings of legislators like Rep. Maggart. THAT, in my opinion, is a form of child abuse for which I hold Maggart and her cohorts entirely responsible.
Now I will insert the obligatory asterisk that yes, I'm sure that there have been cases of gay couples abusing their foster and adopted children since there are obviously deranged people of every stripe. No one is suggesting that homosexual couples forego the same screening that any heterosexual couple adopting a child would face. Not that this has prevented the many cases of abuse by straight couples. Just last week a couple in Ohio lost permanent custody of their 11 adopted children after it was discovered they made them sleep in cages. During their trial, two of the couple's biological children testified that their father had inappropriately touched them when they were minors. Gee, I guess we need to pass legislation making it illegal for heterosexual Christian couples in Ohio to adopt.
Maggart has also claimed that "some of the evidence we were presented showed that lesbian and gay couples have a higher rate of breaking up than heterosexual couples as well as higher rates of promiscuity outside of their relationships." Phew, I'm glad to know that straight couples in this country are not guilty of infidelity and that their marriages are secure. What a relief! And here I thought divorce rates were at 50%!
Her so-called evidence came from the group Focus on the Family (I can't bring myself to link to this hateful group but you can easily find it) whose anti-gay propaganda has been thoroughly discredited. Never mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Association of Social Workers all support gay adoption, Focus on the Family believes it must be stopped.
Focus on the Family has a whole section on its website about homosexuality (which they classify as a mental disorder). Here's the introductory paragraph:
You've seen Hollywood embrace "gay pride." You've been told that homosexuals make up 10 percent of the population (the actual number is less than 3 percent). Perhaps you've struggled with troubling thoughts, causing you to wonder about your gender identity, or maybe you've even sought to meet your needs for companionship and acceptance through a same-sex relationship. If so, you need to know that you do have a choice in the matter, that you're not simply "wired that way." Indeed, you don't have to be gay -- there is hope for those who want to change.
Then they provide a question-and-answer section in which experts respond to concerns that their readers supposedly have about homosexuality. Nothing too biased about the wording of these questions, right?
• I don't think my husband has a right to continue in the gay lifestyle and stay married to me. Does he?
• Homosexual activists claim their lifestyle, which in some cases includes thousands of sexual partners, should be sanctioned, protected, and granted special rights by society. Would you critique this stance?
These groups roundly reject the idea that there is a genetic component to homosexuality. No, it's all because of what mom and dad did when their kids were young. According to their article called "An Ounce of Prevention," homosexuality is caused by pornography, media and culture, spousal abuse in the home, molestation and pedophilia, parental adultery, moral relativism, and failure of leadership." But fear not: "A Christ-centered, loving family with an understanding of biblical principles can develop a healthy gender identity in children from the day they are born." But what about the Jews? I guess we better dust off our Judy Garland records and order our rainbow tallit--it's going to be a gay old time at the Passover seders this year. How lucky that my wife and I already belong to a GLBT synagogue!
In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws used pseudoscience to justify discrimination against Jews. Among the many rulings, the Nuremberg Laws made it illegal for Jewish couples to adopt Gentile babies. In 2006, some members of our government are trying to pick up where the Nazis left off. In an interview last week, Debra Maggart stood by her recent statements. "I don't wish to discriminate against anyone," she said. "But homosexuals have issues. That's my opinion."