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What Is Best for the Children?

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State Senator Daniel Soucek, in defense of a proposed North Carolina constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions, recently stated that traditional marriages are "the healthiest way to raise children." Sound familiar? This "for-the-children" argument has been used again and again to deny gay couples the opportunity to marry. Dr. Trayce Hansen, author of such articles as "Love Isn't Enough: 5 Reasons Why Same-Sex Marriage Will Harm Children" (2007) and "Same-Sex Marriage: Not in the Best Interest of Children" (2009), warns that we "must never allow children to be used as guinea pigs in unwise and potentially harmful social experiments." Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, in his defense of DOMA before a 2011 Senate committee, testified that "[o]ne of the more compelling reasons for preserving marriage as one man and one woman is its impact on children." He then went on to provide lists of risks and hazards children would encounter with legalized same-sex marriage.

The most obvious response to this argument is: what if there are no children involved? I am a gay man in a 16-year monogamous relationship. My partner and I have no children. So why should we be denied the right to marry? Whom are we harming, exactly? Our dogs?

Putting that argument aside, let us examine the legitimate question of what is best for children in our society.

In my opinion, children raised by parents who are vehemently opposed to homosexuality are being harmed. The children of these prejudiced parents are surrounded by hate and negativity. They are learning to view the world as "us" vs. "them," friend vs. enemy, black and white with no grey areas. These parents are not preparing their children to live in a complex, real world. They are vainly attempting to create a false "wholesome" environment, a 1950s sit-com. The walls in which they wrap their children create barriers to normal social interaction in the future.

And what if a kid in this harmful environment is gay? The damage these parents impart on that child is enormous. Vitriol spewed by the parents will be swallowed and internalized by the child, stunting him or her from a full, healthy life. The parents' views are not some abstract ideology; the parents' hateful words become personal and detrimental to the growth of that child.

Tom Minnery testified that children raised in same-sex households "face serious set-backs in all the important measures of child development and well-being." He obviously had not seen Zach Wahls' speech to Iowa legislators regarding same-sex marriage. (Luckily, over 18 million YouTube viewers did see it.) This 19-year-old man deserves much credit for his impassioned, intelligent, articulate argument and the poise and respectfulness with which he delivered it. And his two mothers deserve credit for raising such a concerned, thoughtful, and engaged citizen.

Zach is just one person, though. There are thousands upon thousands of other children from gay households. If their maturation has been damaged, as opponents to gay marriage claim, then why have they not rallied against these same-sex unions? Where are the Adult Children of Gays support groups? Why are bookshelves not filled with Gay Mommie Dearest memoirs? Without evidence like this, it stands to reason that most of these children have grown up to be well-adjusted, normal people.

Zach's moms and other gay parents wrap their children in love, not hate, for other people. This, I believe, is what is best for children. If children are reared to respect differences and to love others, they will learn how to be functional, productive, healthy individuals. Dr. Hansen, I am sure, would think that I am oversimplifying this. She states that "[p]roponents of same-sex marriage believe love is all children really need. ... [This] is naively simplistic and denies the complex nature and core needs of human beings."

Am I naïve? I do not think so. The damage facing children of gay parents is not caused by their parents' sexuality but by outsiders who do not respect their families. Ironically, the opponents of same-sex marriage who profess to be thinking only of the children are the very people who are harming children with their intolerance.