Monday, October 20, 2008

"...children's needs, rather than adults' rights, should be the fundamental orienting principle of public policy regarding marriage..."

I'm posting here some quotes from a scholarly compilation entitled What's the Harm: Does Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Really Harm Individuals, Family, or Society? by Lynn J. Wardle, published this year by University Press of America, Lahnam MD. These quotes are from chapter 3, written by Jason S. Carroll and David C. Dollahite, Ph.Ds from Brigham Young University.

Before I quote the book, I want to share my conviction that marriage and family (in their traditional, God-given meanings) are the greatest blessing we can give the children we bring into this world. Wishing otherwise will not compensate the children we bring into this world for the loss of this most precious blessing. I think that deep down, everyone knows that this is true. What more mature and selfless thing could someone who was not privileged with this gift in their own childhood do than to determine to give the gift they didn't have to the next generation? My father was raised by an abusive alcoholic father who drank himself to death before I was born. I am so grateful to my Dad for not doing what so many who propose a redefinition of marriage because they were not blessed with an ideal family in their own childhood are trying to do - to make it so that no one else can have what they didn't have. My dad often apologized for not "knowing how to be a good father," due to the lack of any type of example in his own childhood. But he promised to try his best and to never give up, and succeeded dazzlingly. He was faithful to my mom, he was loving and concerned with all of his children, and his influence continues to bless each of our lives today. This is what we need more of at this time in our society.

"...children's needs, rather than adults' rights, should be the fundamental orienting principle of public policy regarding marriage, parenting, and father-child relationships" (52).

"Doherty and colleagues concluded, "the research strongly indicates that substantial barriers exist for men's fathering outside of a caring, commited,
collaborative marriage and that the promotion of these kinds of enduring marital partnerships may be the most important contribution to responsible fathering in our
society" (55).

"After years of research in the area, Daly and Wilson concluded that having a stepparent is the most powerful risk factor for severe child mistreatment. Also a review of studies on child sexual abuse found that two of the leading risk factors for children reporting that they have experienced abuse during their childhood were thatthe child lived without one of his or her biological parents and the child reported having a stepfather" (57).

To make sure that the reader gleans the obvious from this last quote, a same-gender couple raising a child must by nature consist of at least 1 step-parent.

"As a social institution, marriage has traditionally been defined so as to provide a natural mechanism for the widely held cultural ideal that children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony and to be raised by the father and mother who gave them life. This persistent core value of kin altruism is at the center of our society's definition of marriage and parenthood" (58-59).

" adoption permits the possibility of legal paternity between men and children who are not biologically related. However, to date, this mechanism exists legally and socially to address the needs of children who due to unintentional circumstances are separated from their biological parents. Providing for the relatively small number of children who are with us and by no fault of their own are separated from their biological parents is quite different from providing legal and social encouragement for establishing ambiguous parent-child relationships from the start. Providing legal standing to same-sex partnerships will deepen and give legal sanction to the existing cultural trends we have seen with all the attendant harm to children that social science research has demonstrated" (62).

"Altering the legal definition of marriage would further erode the societal recognition that fathers matter to children. As this occurs, two primary mechanisms will increase the ambiguity of fatherhood for children, men and society. First, the rise of a 'self-defined parenting paradigm' that equates single mothers and lesbian couples with two biological parents in meeting the developmental needs of children threatens to further disenfranchise men from family life and weakens social norms discouraging divorce and non-marital childbearing" (63).

"A second way that the legalization of same-sex partnerships would further the rise of ambiguous fatherhood is that it would support a retreat from fatherhood altogether among some American men. One aspect of a self-defined parenting ideology in society is the option of not being a parent at all. If father is not a cultural ideal, the potential exists for an increase in men who live outside marriage and parenting altogether. Given the data on the negative social consequences of communities that have a large number of unmarried men (e.g., higher rates of crime and other anti-social behavior), we should resist movement toward a parenting culture that would suggest that men can be viewed as 'sperm donors' whose only essential 'parenting role' is conception and then women can do it alone, either as single parents or as a lesbian couple" (63).

Table 3.2 - Levels of Ambiguous Fatherhood - pg. 63

Children - "Whose my Daddy?"
-At risk developmental setting
-Ambiguous relations with father & other men
Men - "Am I the Daddy?"
-Less paternal responsibility in ambiguous fatherhood or non-generative lifestyles
-Fewer men receiving the benefits of marriage
Couples - "Who's the Daddy?"
-Within-couple ambiguity about who the child's father is
-Within-couple inequality in the event of dissolution of partnership
Society - "What's a Daddy?"
-Lack of clear social norms for men and fathers
-Increased involvement of the legal system in family life; attempts to legally clarify family boundaries.

"We conclude with a metaphor that we believe captures the dilemma we now face. In several ways generative fathering can be viewed, both individually and collectively, as a protective tent in children's lives. The nurturing presence of a father shelters children from a host of risk factors and social threats. Within the protection of this tent, children find the environment that is most likely to promote healthy outcomes and optimal development ... At a social level, the tent of generative fathering serves as a sort of social institution that assists in socializing the rising generation, regulating men's sexual behaviors, and protecting both men and their children from anti-social and even criminal lifestyles" (64).

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