The best interests of the children standard

BY AGOAD@LAW.HARVARD.EDU

Adam White’s specious reasoning (“States, right?” March 4) would be laughable if the issues discussed in his column were not so important for gay, lesbian, and bisexual couples seeking to marry. White argues that because the federal government has a strong interest in protecting children, it should stigmatize certain families and deny them economic benefits. Clearly, the reverse is true. The federal government will best serve children when it makes marriage rights and responsibilities available to parents on an equal basis.

According to the 2000 U.S. census, 34% of households headed by two women and 22% of those headed by two men also include at least one minor child. Millions of children are already growing up in same-sex-parent households, yet White and his ilk refuse to acknowledge that these families are thriving and are here to stay. Dozens of studies have shown that gay parents do at least as well as straight parents at rearing healthy children. (see www.lethimstay.org for indications that lesbians may make better moms than straight women) Nonetheless, much as they do on the subject of global warming, conservative leaders either avert their eyes and insist that there’s not enough data to evaluate same-sex parenting, or fixate on the contrary findings of a few researchers funded by the religious right. Editorial Page Editor White reveals a disturbing yet telling degree of anti-gay animus when he uses quotation marks to mock same-sex parents who might cross state lines as a custody battle tactic. If White is truly worried about protecting children from deadbeat parents, he ought to advocate a civil regime that allows all couples to marry and create enforceable ties between co-parent and child.

Fortunately, the Federal Marriage Amendment White favors appears to lack support even in the current Congress. Like Bush’s earlier effort to spend $1.8 billion of government money on “marriage promotion,” the federal marriage amendment won’t fly, either with libertarian-inclined conservatives who fight for less government intrusion in Americans’ lives *or* with liberals and progressives who advocate a strong social service system benefiting all families and respecting individual autonomy.

–Amanda C. Goad, 2L

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