In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the third annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
You are not entitled to your own facts.
By Adam Pertman
I hadn't known it until earlier this year, but Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, President Ronald Reagan, singer Marie Osmond, actor Hugh Jackman, journalist Judy Woodruff, basketball great Magic Johnson and I all have something in common: Our families are inferior.
At least that’s what John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, suggested during an interview with the Associated Press in March, when the U.S. Supreme Court was deliberating on two cases regarding marriage rights for non-heterosexuals. Asserting that lesbians and gay men should not be permitted to wed because the primary reason for marriage is procreation, Eastman added, "Certainly adoption in families headed, like Chief Roberts' family is, by a heterosexual couple, is by far the second-best option."
The sound we heard after that remark was the blood of millions of people throughout the United States and beyond – gay and straight, single and married, parents and children – boiling.
The Donaldson Adoption Institute, an independent and nonpartisan think tank that I am proud to lead, conducts research and policy analysis on a broad range of issues relating to adoption, foster care, parental education, professional training and, at the bottom line, best practices for children in need of safe, permanent, loving families. As a result of our work, and that of every other major, mainstream organization that has examined the relevant issues, I know that qualified gay and lesbian parents not only can provide such families, but are successfully doing so in growing numbers every single day.
During a lower-court trial leading up to one of the cases the Supreme Court ultimately decided in June (in favor of gay marriage), a then-star opposition witness – David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values – acknowledged that studies "show that adoptive parents, because of the rigorous screening process that they undertake ... actually on some outcomes outstrip the biological parents in terms of providing protective care for their children." Message to Eastman and others who share your views: You're entitled to your own opinions about gay marriage and parenting, but the research is the research, and you are not entitled to your own facts.
The National Organization for Marriage and other like-minded groups have not only tried to produce their own truths about adoption and gay-led families, but also about marriage itself. They flatly stated, in the amicus briefs they submitted to the Supreme Court, that marriage exists in order to promote "procreation and childbearing," and they argued that since gays and lesbians cannot themselves create children, it is acceptable to prevent them from marrying.
The Adoption Institute's own amicus to the Court offered a decidedly different perspective, based not only on the research on gay and lesbian families, but also on the empirical reality that millions upon millions of children in our country and all others are being successfully parented by single, widowed and divorced men and women, cohabitating couples and other unmarried adults; if the law is to be consistent, should they be prohibited from raising their sons and daughters? Furthermore, untold numbers of heterosexuals throughout time have gotten married, and are doing so today, without any intention of having children or, sometimes, without the ability to do so. Should they, like lesbians and gay men, be prohibited from walking down the aisle?
"Both history and scholarly research demonstrate that loving, nurturing families for children come in many different sorts and sizes," the Adoption Institute's amicus brief stated, in part. "A biological connection between a parent and a child is neither necessary nor sufficient to ensure 'responsible childrearing.'"
One more conclusion from numerous studies: Notwithstanding the reality that girls and boys can do very well in all sorts of families, they do indeed benefit from marriage for an array of legal and social reasons. So, if the best interests of children are truly paramount, and if research and experience show that lesbians and gay men can make good parents – via adoption or the old fashioned way – what is this same-sex marriage debate really about?
Finally, I'd like to take off my research/policy/professional hat for a moment to directly address Eastman's "second best" comment. Is adoption sometimes a second choice? Of course, but that doesn't mean for a second that it is second best, and perpetuating that contention does nothing more or less than stigmatize, undermine and insult the tens of millions of Americans (that's right, tens of millions) who have adoption in their immediate families.
Speaking for my wife and me, as the parents of two first-rate children who came into our family through a process we chose as our best option, I know Eastman is as wrong as wrong can be. If we lived back in the time when views such as his were more prevalent, I'd challenge him to a duel.
Adam Pertman is President of the The Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national nonprofit that is the pre-eminent research, policy and education organization in its field. Pertman – a former Pulitzer-nominated journalist – is also Associate Editor of Adoption Quarterly, the premier research journal dealing with adoption and foster care. He is the author/editor of two newly published books, Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families -- and America (which has been reviewed as "the most important book ever written on the subject") and "Gay and Lesbian Adoption: A New Dimension in Family Diversity", and has written many other chapters and articles on adoption- and family-related issues in books, scholarly journals and mass-market publications.
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