Being a parent is a huge responsibility and ultimately involves taking the life of a completely vulnerable and innocent human being to mold into functioning member of society. It is a privilege but it is one that should not be taken lightly.
This is why inequality toward same-sex parents could almost be justified.
If it were true that children of same-sex parents were in some way hurt by the way they were raised. If there were proof that it was damaging to their self-esteem, their happiness or their development; then you could at least understand why such inequality might exist.
(Although even then, this would open up some pretty serious floodgates. How long until disabled couples started having their children taken away from them? Or less privileged couples? How do you even define a ‘healthy child’? Who gets to say?)
But none of that is relevant at all. Because not only is there no evidence to suggest that the children of homosexual parents are any worse off; there is considerable concrete evidence demonstrating that this is patently not the case.
In fact, last year, a study was published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics showing that children of gay and straight parents exhibited ‘no differences’ in terms of their physical or mental health.
This further debunked a highly destructive study that claimed the opposite in 2013, that only looked at the children of divorced parents.
There is near absolute consensus among scientists and researchers that the sexual orientation of parents has no bearing on the health of their children.
So with this being the undisputed case, why is it that that gay parents don’t get to enjoy the same basic rights as same-sex parents?
With gay marriage finally being legal and gay adoption being perfectly legal too, why is it that some states will not permit gay parents on birth certificates?
Arkansas’ Archaic Ruling Against Gay Parents
In December, the Arkansas Supreme Court made this very ruling: LGBTQ families must have the names of their children’s biological parents on birth certificates. This means that a non-biological parent might be blocked from appearing on the birth certificate of their own child.
Associate Judge Jo Hart said ‘it does not violate equal protection to acknowledge basic biological truths’. I wonder if the judge would be happy not to have their name on their child’s birth certificate?
And apart from the clear prejudice, this is also a ruling that is simply steeped in hypocrisy. In a heterosexual marriage for instance, a man can have their name on the birth certificate if they are married to the woman when the baby is born, even if you are not the baby’s biological father.
This flies in the face of the defense that Hart gave for the ruling:
“In the situation involving the female spouse of a biological mother, the female spouse does not have the same biological nexus to the child that the biological mother or the biological father has.”
Our answer to that is: … so??
It’s also perfectly possible for a baby born in Arkansas to have only one name on their birth certificate.
Other Challenges and Progress
This is not an isolated incident, sadly. Rather, same-sex parents struggle with their legal standing as parents throughout the country and in many other countries.
For instance, in Canada it is very possible that a surviving widow or widower from a same-sex couple would not get custody of their own child. According to Ontario’s law, a sperm donor’s right over the child is considered greater than that of their non-birth mother or father!
Same sex couples can also miss out on employment insurance options due to their unequal legal status.
It’s not all bad news though. In Florida for instance, which has typically been seen as falling behind in regards to widening parental rights, an amended birth law has recently allowed for same-sex couples to be listed on birth certificates. This also applies to those same sex couples who already have a child prior to marriage.
This amendment came 16 months after Florida legalized gay marriage. It is also 10 months after the Department of Health was sued by three couples and the organization ‘Equality Florida’, who demanded that precise and detailed birth certificates should include the names of both same-sex parents.
There is still opposition to this progress however. A common argument against the expansion of parental rights is that without the role of biology, a friend or a nanny could equally claim parental rights to a child. Opponents suggest that this could lead to a ‘troubled custody battle’ that would harm the child in many ways.
But they ignore the fact that in many cases, even the situation they described would be to the benefit of the child. Imagine a scenario where a friend has taken care of a deceased loved-one’s child since they were too young to remember and just wants to be legally recognized as the legal guardian. This isn’t a hypothetical situation but rather the situation a friend of mine finds themselves in. They are the mother to that child in every sense other than the legal sense – and they are at a considerable disadvantage financially and in many other areas as a result.
This debate is a natural extension of the same debate that runs through many LGBTQ issues: should we allow our biology to define us?
Even at the cost of our happiness or our freedom?
Even where only good can come from living the life we choose? Loving who we love? And sharing that love with a child?
Gay and lesbian parents still face a lot of trials and challenges ahead but keep on fighting the good fight – it will benefit not just your children but the children of the generations to come. Hopefully, they might be born into a world filled with less prejudice and inequality.
And in the meantime, same sex couples in Arkansas can hope that the case will go to the U.S. Supreme Court. If not, look for an attorney to ensure that you secure your parental rights!