Adoption-SymbolIn a moving piece over at the Esquire politics blog, Tom Junod describes how he has been led to support SSM by a new anti-SSM ideology that puts him, an adoptive parent in an infertile opposite-sex marriage, in the same position as same-sex couples.

That ideology can be found in “77 Non-Religious Reasons to Support Man/Woman Marriage,” a pamphlet produced by a subsidiary of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) called the Ruth Institute. Among the reasons: “Even though it is not always possible, children have the best life chances when they are raised by their  biological married parents.” And: “If the love between the adults were the only important factor, we would expect stepparents to be interchangeable with biological parents. But this is not generally true.”

The argument, presumably, is that SSM should be opposed because it undermines the preferential option the state should give procreative couples. Writes Junod:

The conservative movement that once minimized the difficulties of adoption because it provided an alternative to abortion is now both explicitly and implicitly denigrating adoption precisely because it provides an alternative to the perfect biological families said to have a patent on God’s purpose.

But that’s only one face of the conservative movement. Another face–to be sure, also anti-SSM–is busy preaching a different message about parenting. As described in Kathryn Joyce’s fascinating new book, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption (pub. date: April 23), babies are being plucked from their birth mothers as part of a world-wide effort of Christian evangelization.
In the U.S., the likes of the Family Research Council (FRC) puts out propaganda urging pregnant single women to give up their children for adoption as a way of “proving her character” and expressing “a higher and less selfish form of love.” So much for biology.
One explanation for the divergence is that NOM and the Ruth Institute represent the Catholic wing of the conservative movement; the FRC, the evangelical wing. Thus: Catholic conservatives are preoccupied with nature and biology, and evangelicals with evangelization. But the two wings beat together. Last year, for example, the FRC’s Peter Sprigg testified against Maryland’s proposed SSM’s bill in terms straight out of “77 Non-Religious Reasons”:
 While not every child has the benefit of being raised by his or her married biological mother and father from birth to adulthood, legalization of same-sex “marriage” would mean that, for the first time in history, society would be placing its highest stamp of official government approval on the deliberate creation of permanently motherless or fatherless households for children.
If it’s SSM that they’re arguing against, the non-religious reason is biology. If it’s Christian adoption they’re pushing for, the non-religious reason is selfless surrender for the good of the child. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the non-religious reasons are simply rationalizations for the religious results they want. They’re the situation ethics of social conservatives.

Categories: Ethics

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Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

5 Comments

  1. [scratching my head] The title seems to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I believe the point is: Individual cases vary but on average, the best environment for a child is with their biological mother and father united in marriage. The worst environment is a state orphanage. In between those options, in descending order might be; single bio-parent, adoptive mother+father followed by an adoptive single parent. Is Junod offended by that premise? Such a scale is implicitly denigrating to adoptive parents or single parents? Should all environments be considered equal for children despite studies and intuition to the contrary?

    The studies are hotly debated but if this ranking is accepted, now comes the conundrum: After granting marriage equality between unions of man/woman, man/man and woman/woman, where should a same-sex couple fall on that list? Is it better to send a child to an adoptive single parent than to a same-sex couple? Is it better to send a child to a hetro marriage than SSM? These seem like reasonable questions worthy of study and debate.

    If polled, I suspect most people would agree that adoption under a SSM is better than life in an orphanage. Fewer people (but still the majority) would agree that adoption by dad+mom is better than adoption by dad+dad. If I were arguing in favor of SSM, I would argue the first point. If I were arguing against SSM, I’d argue the second. Banning SSM adoption is certainly a losing position just as banning SSM is a losing position. However, equating SSM adoption to hetro-marriage adoption is probably counter to most intuition and scientific studies although an unbiased study may be impossible at this point.

    • Lynn Johansenn

      You’ve stated the conundrum perfectly….
      and until domestic infant adoption in its current state is abolished and reformed (little/no revocation periods in various states, women allowed to sign away their rights at the most vulnerable time in their life while still in their hospital bed recovering from giving birth, and sealing away of original birth certificates to keep the protected facade of ‘as if born to’ for the adopters) this will only add to the unnecessary separation as Unmarried women apply the permanent solution of adoption to their oh so temporary situations.

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