McCain's Gay Adoption Cant

Canned and confused comments from candidate do not bode well for judicial appointments and LGBT rights if he is elected.

cant (noun). Hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of moral, religious, or political nature. [...] Language peculiar to a specified group or profession and regarded with disparagement. [The Oxford American College Dictionary]

In an interview with George Stephanapolous this weekend, presumptive-Republican presidential nominee John McCain offered McCant about an important gay rights issue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your position on gay adoption? You told the New York Times you were against it, even in cases where the children couldn't find another home. But then your staff backtracked a bit. What is your position?

MCCAIN: My position is, it's not the reason why I'm running for president of the United States. And I think that two parent families are best for America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what do you mean by that, it's not the reason you're running for President of the United States?

MCCAIN: Because I think -- well, I think that it's -- it is important for us to emphasize family values. But I think it's very important that we understand that we have other challenges, too. I'm running for president of the United States, because I want to help with family values. And I think that family values are important, when we have two parent -- families that are of parents that are the traditional family.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But there are several hundred thousand children in the country who don't have a home. And if a gay couple wants to adopt them, what's wrong with that?

MCCAIN: I am for the values that two parent families, the traditional family represents.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you're against gay adoption.

MCCAIN: I am for the values and principles that two parent families represent. And I also do point out that many of these decisions are made by the states, as we all know. And I will do everything I can to encourage adoption, to encourage all of the things that keeps families together, including educational opportunities, including a better economy, job creation. And I'm running for president, because I want to help families in America. And one of my positions is that I believe that family values and family traditions are preserved.

(Click here for the full text of the interview, click here for the video clip of the interview, which makes McCain's cant sound even worse.)

McCain's talk of "two parent families" and "family values" completely and inartfully avoided Stephanapoulos's question. What would McCain think of Steven Lofton and Roger Croteau, two men in Florida who raised three foster children who tested HIV-positive at birth? One of their foster children sero-reverted (that is, became HIV-negative, something that a few HIV-infected infants seem able to do with extremely good care) and became eligible for adoption. Lofton applied to adopt the child he had been parenting for three years, but because of Florida's ban on gay people adopting, Lofton was not able to adopt. Lofton was among the plaintiff's who unsuccessfully challenged Florida's ban on adoption by gay people, the most restrictive ban on gay adoption in the nation. Lofton and Croteau's selfless and heroic care-giving of their three foster children exhibits the sort of family values worth supporting. McCain's cant on gay adoption makes little clear except that a McCain presidency would be bad news for gay rights and LGBT families.

Besides Florida's complete ban on adoption by "homosexual" individuals, Mississippi prohibits adoption by "couples of the same gender" and Utah prohibits adoption by a person who is "cohabitating [that is, living with and involved in a sexual relationship with another] in a relationship that is not a legally valid and binding marriage." Nebraska policy (not embodied in law) prohibits adoption by known "homosexuals" or people who are "unmarried and living with another adult." States are responsible for their own adoption law and a good bit of family law generally, but such laws must not violate the United States Constitution. At issue in Lofton's legal challenge was whether Florida's anti-gay adoption law was constitutional, specifically, whether it violated the Due Process Clause or the Equal Protection Clause or, more abstractly, the rights to privacy, intimate association, or family integrity.

Anyone who cares about the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people and who is seriously considering voting for McCain should ponder the effects of four more years of Republican appointments to the federal judiciary. This increasingly conservative judiciary upheld Florida's complete ban on gay people adopting, a decision that threatened to take a child out of the loving household that saved his life. Judge William Pryor, one of President Bush's most conservative appointments, and one of his notorious recess appointments, voted against Lofton to uphold Florida's ban on gay people adopting. We can expect more appointments like Pryor if McCain is elected.

Voters who care about gay rights should read between the lines of McCain's canned cant about gay adoption and do whatever they can to make sure that McCain is not elected.