Do children have a right to have both a mother and a father?
Considering all the rights that have been discovered or created—human, civil, natural and so forth—an inquiry into whether children have this right is proper, if not required.
The United Nation’s Declaration of The Rights of the Child proclaims ten children’s rights, among them “special protections.” Those enable a child to “develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner…. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.”
Who can argue with that? But does it apply to a child’s right to a mother and a father? The resounding answer from comes gay advocates and their allies in the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services: No.
How so? DCFS is snuffing out adoption and foster care services provided by Catholic Charities because it doesn’t send needy children to live with families that don’t have both a mommy and daddy. Catholic Charities believes that this is in the best interest of the child—a belief not without reason or empirical evidence.
DCFS says no adoption agency in the state can have such a policy, in effect, denying that children have any right to both a mommy and a daddy. It’s an unusual position to see this as an issue of the rights of children. But Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops raised it a few weeks ago in a letter to President Barack Obama.
Dolan complimented Obama for his belief that neither the mother nor father is expendable in child raising, citing his mother’s and father’s day proclamations. “I believe therefore that you would agree that every child has the right to be loved by both a mother and a father.” [My emphasis.]
The letter was prompted by a Justice Department decision not to defend a law of the land—the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines for certain purposes marriages as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife. Dolan noted that the administration’s animus does stop there: “Now the Justice Department has shifted from not defending DOMA—which is problem enough, given the duty of the executive branch to enforce even laws it disfavors—to actively attacking DOMA’s constitutionality.”
Dolan noted the administration’s other attacks on Catholic beliefs, mentioning the administration’s support of the intent of the ironically named Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 1681). It would punish adoption and foster care agencies that refuse to participate in same-sex adoptions or foster care by denying access to federal funding and create a federal cause of action for damages.
DCFS goes even further. Under its interpretation of the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (also ironically named) it did more than deny funding for Catholic Charities; it effectively put the agency out of the adoption business. (The Thomas More Society is challenging the decision in court.)
For 40 years, Catholic Charities has been handling about 20 percent of the state’s adoptions and foster care placements. DCFS’ summary judgment isn’t just poor public policy, but also arguably violates constitutional and legal protections against state interference in the practice of religion. In effect, the state is discriminating against the agency’s religious beliefs about marriage and parenting.
So, what exactly is the state’s compelling interest in shutting down Catholic Charities’ services? The agency’s policies do not deny gay couples or singles access to adoption services. They still can arrange adoptions through other agencies, to which they are referred by Catholic Charities.
This is a matter of weighing a child’s right to have a mother and a father against a gay couple’s right to adopt children. Is it more important that gays have access to every adoption service in the state, or is it more important that at least in one corner of the state, some children have a recognized right to a father and a mother? What greater good is achieved by booting Catholic Charities out of the adoption business?
Allowing a mix of adoption approaches would be the moderate, reasonable and, for the children, a fair solution. Too bad that rigid ideology does not allow the question to be coined as a balance of rights.