Opponents of marriage equality regularly claim that marriage should be reserved for heterosexuals for the sake of children, but they then have nothing to say when asked about the many children already being raised by same-sex couples. This week, the National Organization for Marriage and others demonstrated their intention to bypass this reality by smearing all same-sex parents as child abusers.
Conservatives have championed the writing of activist Robert Oscar Lopez, who is essentially an “ex-gay” bisexual who blames his adult social dysfunction on having been raised by a lesbian mom. This week, he wrote that same-sex parenting inherently constitutes “child abuse,” as do single-parent adoption and divorce. These attacks were endorsed by the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer and NOM, which proceeded to feature Lopez’s ex-gay-sounding biography in its weekly email on Friday. Here are a few examples of how Lopez explains that same-sex parenting is “abusive”:
“Normalization” demands a kind of silence from multiple parties in a child’s life. The child’s lost biological parent(s) must keep a distance or disappear to allow two gay adults to play the role of parent. Extended family must avoid asking intrusive questions and shouldn’t show any disapproval through facial expressions or gestures. Schools and community associations have to downplay their celebrations of fatherhood or motherhood (even canceling Father’s Day and Mother’s Day in favor of “Parenting Day”). The media have to engage in a massive propaganda campaign, complete with Disney productions featuring lesbian moms, to stifle any objections or worries. Nobody must challenge the gay parents’ claim that all is being done for love.
Does the silence of so many surrounding parties reverse the sense of loss? No. The child still feels the loss, but learns to remain silent about it because her loss has become a taboo, a site of repression, rather than a site for healing and reconstruction. The abuse comes full circle.
The complicated flaws in Lopez’s positions are many, but here is a brief dissection.
First of all, Lopez’s story attempts a new level of conflation between “fatherless” children (those raised by single mothers because their fathers were no longer in the picture) and same-sex couples. Conservatives typically cite “fatherless” studies and attempt to claim that children of committed lesbian couples will face the same consequences, even though none of those studies even included same-sex families for comparison. Lopez’s parents similarly separated before his mother connected with her partner, and by his own account, he experienced childhood “without my father being around.” Thus, he had a known father who actually did not support him while he was growing up — an experience that has nothing to do with lesbian parents, despite his attempt to conflate the two.
Further, it seems clear from Lopez’s writing that he was more affected by the anti-gay stigma his family experienced than by whatever loving parenting he may or may not have received from his mother and her partner, conceding: “I just grew up in a house so unusual that I was destined to exist as a social outcast.” This is an important admission, and one that Fischer also made on his radio program. The so-called “abuse” stems from the idea that a kid should feel loss at having same-sex parents because such families are abnormal and inferior, at least according to the fraudulent Regnerus study both Lopez and Fischer rely upon. The consensus of all other social science research shows that same-sex parents are perfectly effective at parenting, so the only source of the “taboo” is the condemning lies that conservatives spread. Thus, the argument here is tautological: children of same-sex couples will suffer if conservatives continue to stigmatize them, so Lopez is contributing to the very cycle he admits damaged him.
Lastly, in the context of other pieces Lopez has written condemning adoption, his argument that same-sex parenting constitutes child abuse would actually apply to all adoptive couples or couples that use sperm or egg donors, including straight married couples. In a previous attempt to attack same-sex parenting, Lopez claimed that marriage equality is “turning children into ‘chattel’ to serve the selfish demands of adults,” because they are “essentially buying other human beings as property.” He went on to suggest that any adopted children could be “haunted and scarred” by being deprived of their “biological origins.” He stayed away from addressing adoption in his latest piece, but it’s clear from what he does say that he sees any process that separates children from their birth parents as a form of “abuse.” As someone who has apparently never overcome the stigma his family experienced and that he himself experienced when he identified as gay, he has chosen to focus his anti-adoption stigma against the gay community, making quite a career out of his anti-gay advocacy.
Lopez’s story is unique and his anti-gay bias is readily apparent. Having disowned his same-sex attractions, he in no way represents the gay community, nor same-sex parents, nor the many children they are raising who are flourishing. It’s unfortunate that NOM, Fischer, and others feel that his story adds to their cause, because in fact, it only proves that they are concerned more with promoting stigma than actually supporting children.