A few years ago I -- a gay adoptive father -- published an op-ed in the New York Times on gay parenting: it dealt with the fact that a mother is not part of the daily life of the children. It is a pretty obvious problem for our families, but it was not very often publicly discussed as a serious issue that has to be addressed in raising 'motherless' children. Not having a mom in the home has, without doubt, to be regarded as a painful loss for our kids.Here the first paragraphs:
'Sometimes when my daughter, who is 7, is nicely cuddled up in her bed and I snuggle her, she calls me Mommy. I am a stay-at-home dad. My male partner and I adopted both of our children at birth in open domestic adoptions. We could fill our home with nannies, sisters, grandmothers, female friends, but no mothers. My daughter says "Mommy" in a funny way, in a high-pitched voice. Although I refer the honors immediately to her birth mom, I am flattered. But saddened as well, because she expresses herself in a voice that is not her own. It is her stuffed-animal voice. She expresses not only love; she also expresses alienation. She can role-play the mother-daughter relationship, but she cannot use her real voice, nor have the real thing.
The piece attracted a lot of attention and won praise from an unexpected group: the anti-gay marriage and anti-gay adoption crowd: 'honest' and 'courageous' were the words they used. The conservative Ruth Institute ("Cleaning up the mess of the sexual revolution") embraced it, as did The Catholics for the Common Good. I was positively quoted by prominent reactionary activists like National Review pundit Maggie Gallagher and by Right Wing Watch darling and blogger Professor Robert Oscar Lopez. My piece became an argument in the marriage equality debate.
That my op-ed discussed motherless-ness the same way as I would discuss race in transracial adoption in a later piece, as one of those difficult obstacles families face and have to deal with, like single parenthood, illness and death, physical and mental disabilities, was overlooked or willfully suppressed. I am not against gay marriage -- I am actually in favor of it -- as I am not against transracial adoption, not against single parenthood, and I won't support to take away kids from widows and widowers, or re-home kids of parents with serious psychiatric and physical issues.
Until now it felt, honestly speaking, pretty good to be praised by people I fundamentally disagree with. I had to smile every time I found my name in yet another crazy Evangelical, ultra conservative or orthodox Catholic publication. If they only knew!
I don't smile any more, however, since my piece is now used in US Courts. First by Robert Oscar Lopez and two others in February 2014 in an Amicus Brief in the case against same-sex marriage for the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Salt Lake City, Utah. I see my piece in 'Other Authorities' next to an article by Mark Regnerus, the discredited sociologist on same-sex parenting and more futile sources.
And now I find my piece in another Amicus Brief from March this year by Heather Barwick and Katy Faust for the Supreme Court, which will start hearing arguments on April 28. Lopez c.s. rather smartly use my piece and argue against it, Barwick and Faust just abuse it. My quote from above is preceded by: 'This is how one gay father describes his daughter's suffering because of her missing parent:' And that's it; the context and the content of my piece is fully disrespected.
I am certain that the Supreme Court judges will look through the sentimentality of the Barwick/Faust Amicus Brief and will understand the difference between common human family problems and common human values. But I just wanted to make sure that they -- and Lopez and Gallagher and Barwick and Faust -- know that I am on the other side.