This week, the National Organization for Marriage’s John Eastman explained that adoption is the “second best” option for children when heterosexual couples can’t biologically have children of their own, including Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who adopted two children with his wife. The comment echoes an argument made in the Defense of Marriage Case that biological parents have a unique stake in the success of their children, and thus same-sex children do not deserve marriage. At CPAC Thursday, the Washington Blade asked Brian Brown if he agrees with Eastman’s statement, and Brown did his best to deflect without dissenting:
BROWN: Well, the reality is that on any indicator we’ve been able to measure since the explosion and the break down of the family from the 60s to the present is that children do best with both their mother and father. Obviously, we need to encourage adoption, we need do everything we can to help single motherhood. [...]
It’s entirely different when you put into the law the notion that either mothers or fathers are completely expendable. And that, at it’s nature, is what same-sex marriage is all about: two moms or two dads are essentially the same as a mother and a father. That is not the case. Children have rights, too. Children have a right to have a chance to have both a mother and a father.
Though Brown omitted the word “biological” from his answer, the word “their” is key for distinguishing biological children from children adopted by (other) parents. It’s not difficult to assert this is Brown’s position because he’s made the point before — notably in his dinner-table debate with Dan Savage:
BROWN: The notion—the simplistic notion that because parenthood is connected with marriage—because marriage is that institution by which society connects children to their biological mothers and fathers—the simplistic idea that somehow that means what we’re saying is that every single person has to have a child—that’s silly. We never claim that. Marriage is the institution that does this… Marriage is the institution that connects that child to both their mother and father, and that’s why the state is interested in marriage. Because marriage is the institution that allows children to know both their mother and father.
Of course, NOM’s Jennifer Roback Morse also repeatedly makes this anti-adoption claim. Whether she’s endorsing child kidnapping from same-sex couples or calling for the imprisonment of lesbians who buy sperm on craigslist, her argument remains that somehow the biological connection between parent and child takes precedence. Of course, there is no evidence to support this notion.
This line of reasoning seems to stem from a post-hoc attempt to rationalize inequality in ways that don’t sound blatantly discriminatory. Rather than admitting that DOMA and Proposition 8 were intended to target gays and lesbians, conservatives invented the idea that marriage should be reserved for straight couples because it “promotes procreation.” When confronted with the counterargument that straight couples who cannot conceive are still allowed to get married, they had to invent yet another new argument: that the biological connection with children is still preferential. They knew that nobody would interpret that to mean that all adoption should be banned, even though that’s the implication. In fact, the argument only works with the assumption that same-sex parenting is still worse than opposite-sex parenting, even though to make that case they’ve now offended every adoptive parent, every foster parent, and every parent who has ever used a surrogate, a sperm donor, or other fertility treatment to have a child.
Hopefully both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, who also adopted, appreciate that same-sex parents are just as capable of loving a child without a direct biological link as they’ve been able to love their own.