Thursday, September 23, 2010

Florida to Allow Gay Adoption: a Great Day for Civil Rights, Children and True Family Values

I was very heartened to learn yesterday that the overturning of Florida’s 30-year-old, wrong-headed law prohibiting gay people from adopting in the state has been upheld. This is a victory for our constitution, for civil rights and for the children of Florida.

There are so many kids in the system who desperately need loving homes. Under what was, in my opinion, the unconstitutional ban on gay adoption in the state of Florida, gay people were allowed to foster but not adopt, which makes no sense. If a single person or couple is evaluated by the state and found to meet the requirements for fostering children, why can’t they also adopt? There is absolutely no reason other than ignorance, prejudice and/or bigotry against gay people to deny them the same rights as straight folks, and to deny the kids of Florida a far bigger pool of potential permanent, loving homes.

When I was in 10th grade, I had a great sociology teacher. He was great because he wanted to teach us to THINK. Years later, I got my degree in cultural anthropology and sociology. Coincidence? You be the judge. But I digress. One day, this teacher somehow started our class on a discussion/argument that got extremely heated, and I recall that it was basically yours truly here against the entire rest of the class, especially one girl who was extremely worked up and vehement about her argument/point, which was, in my strong opinion then and now, based entirely on ignorance and prejudice. Don’t ask me exactly how or why this teacher, bless him, got his class of 10th graders arguing about prejudice against gay people back in, gosh, when was this, 1977? 1977!  The thought of gay adoption, let alone gay rights of any kind, back then was completely beyond RADICAL, yet somehow, he had us talking about it. I think maybe it started from a general discussion on prejudice and discrimination in society, but however it started, the argument between me and the class ended up being about, as I recall it, either “Why shouldn’t homosexual people be allowed to have kids just like heterosexual people?”, or it might have even just been (remember, this was 1977) “Can homosexual people be trusted around children?" I can’t remember what exact question got this argument going but I clearly remember that class because that was one time in my life when I stood up for what I believed in and did not back down, even though the entire class was sneering at my point of view and, like I said, this one ferocious girl was just FURIOUSLY up in my grill, attacking me vehemently over it.

Basically, this girl kept equating homosexuality to pedophilia (although I’m sure she didn’t know that word), saying that gay people are dangerous around kids because they might molest them. She kept using the word “perverted” and “perverts” and arguing that these “perverts” couldn’t be trusted around children, OBVIOUSLY. Every time she asserted that, I kept responding that a homosexual person is no more likely to molest a child than is a heterosexual person. There are heterosexuals who would molest children, and there are homosexuals who would molest children, but being one or the other as a sexual orientation doesn’t have anything to do with the likelihood of molesting children!

Well! This girl just got more and more FURIOUS with me, like how could I be so STUPID not to get her brilliant (not—try totally ignorant and bigoted) point that, apparently, all gay people are predisposed to be child molesters. And the more she kept insisting upon that, and literally getting in my face about it and egging on the entire class into attacking me, the more I would not back down and kept saying that homosexuality and pedophilia/being a child molester have NOTHING to do with one another!!!!! God knows there are plenty of heterosexual child molesters!  Sexual orientation, one way or the other, does not equate to pedophilia.

The reason I just harked back to that long ago, incredibly heated-n-lengthy argument in that great teacher’s 10th grade sociology class (and he, by the way, just sat back and did not intervene, as I recall, but the entire time, I felt like he was really proud of me, which helped me continue to take on the entire class and that one worked-up, intimidating-to-beat-the-band loon in particular) is because I think that, even though that was 1977 and this is 2010, unfortunately, those misconceptions and prejudices still remain to a degree in our society. While we have come a very long way in terms of attitudes towards homosexuality and how homosexuals are treated under the law, I think there is still the idea that somehow gay people are not to be trusted around children, which just makes NO sense to me. I’ll say it again: a gay person is no more likely to be a pedophile than a straight person is. So that argument against gay adoption just makes no sense.

There are other so-called “arguments” against gay adoption (and gay marriage and other gay rights), of course, but break them down into their essential components and they are all based on bigotry against gay people. Period.

The real facts on the ground are that children need loving parents. There are many decent, loving gay folks who would love to be parents. Why not add to the pool of potential adopters, when we have such a staggering number of children languishing away in state care, in the foster system? But as compelling as that argument is, it too misses the main point in a way: the main point doesn’t have to do with numbers of kids waiting for homes, it has to do with what is right, morally and legally, and what is right is that ANYONE who is a decent, loving human being and has the necessary means, support system and ability to parent a child should have the opportunity to adopt a waiting child. More importantly, any child who is waiting for a permanent family should never be denied the chance to have one if one is there! I hope that the state will see sense, and not appeal this. Surely they want all the children in their care now and in the future to have every opportunity to be adopted into loving families. That’s what I call true “family values”.

Further Reading:

Miami Herald article of 9/23/2010

New York Times article of 9/22/2010

ACLU press release of 9/23/2010 on commondreams.org