Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Homosexual Adoption

One of my readers sent me an email concerning a dispute in Massachusetts over whether a Catholic adoption agency should be allowed to consider homosexual couples. Governor Romney (R) of Massachusetts is seeking legislation that will allow Catholic adoption agencies to exclude homosexual couples after anti-discrimination legislation made such exclusions a crime. The Catholic Church has said that it would rather end its 103-year adoption services than be forced to place children with homosexual couples.

Of course, I think that refusing to consider homosexuals as potential adopters is bigoted, and bigotry in the name of God is no more justifiable than any act of violence done in the name of God. However, when it comes to granting licenses, I would say that the government should continue to license this agency.

With a slight change, I can make this argument personal. If I allow Catholics to discriminate against homosexuals, then it seems that I should also allow them to discriminate against atheist parents. Against such a standard, such an agency would certainly reject any application that my wife and I may file. Yet, I would still argue that the state should provide a license to such an institution.

Two Arguments

I have routinely offered two arguments in defense of this type of liberty.

The first argument is arrogance. It is one thing to say, "I believe X". It is another to claim, "You must act as if you believe X as well." The second assertion requires a much stronger defense. On these issues, we should start with the presumption that others may act on their own beliefs unless we have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that their actions are harmful to others.

We must recognize that discrimination is not always evil. In fact, adoption agencies have a duty to discriminate. They have an obligation to determine if a couple will provide a child with a safe and secure home, whether the adopting couple can cover any medical emergencies that might arise, and the like. The issue here is not whether discrimination itself is good or bad, but whether discrimination on the basis of certain characteristics are good or bad.

The second argument is the same that I used in defense of (name's) decision to built a Catholic village. Society as a whole benefits by allowing people to try out a large range of model communities. If a model community fails, then the rest of the world learns something from their failure. If the model society succeeds, then that success generates a standard that others can try to follow. The knowledge of their successes and failures will help others make an informed decision.

Both of these points argue in favor of allowing a Catholic adoption agency to use its own standards in placing children for adoption. The freedom implied by both humility and a desire for information (data) on which to make future decisions suggest that this institution be allowed to act in accordance with its own beliefs.

Types of Support

There are a number of ways in which the State of Massachusetts may interact with such an agency. For some of them, I would agree that it would be wrong for the State to provide any support.

First, the State must determine if it will give money to such an agency. I would argue that it is not entitled to any state funds. Those state funds are provided, in part, by homosexuals. It would be unfair to demand that homosexuals pay tax money that, in turn, gets used to promote the idea that homosexuals are contemptible embodiments of evil. The State should not fund that message.

Second, the State often takes custody of children and determines that those children be put up for adoption. When it does so, it should not use an agency that inappropriately discriminates against homosexuals. Those children should be placed only with agencies that agree to use the State's standards regarding who may or may not adopt a child.

However, the Massachusetts law does not concern funding or placement. It concerns licensing -- or permitting -- an activity. Clearly, the set of activities that the government should permit is massively larger than the set of activities that it should fund or that it should participate in. The state may have an obligation to permit a KKK rally in downtown Boston, but it has no obligation to either fund or participate in such a rally.

My analogy here, in saying that the state should treat freedom of religion the same way it treats freedom of speech, is no accident. Indeed, the state should license religions that holds values it does not agree with, just as it should license speech that it does not agree with.

We can well imagine a pregnant Catholic teenager wanting to put her child up for adoption, while still insisting that the child be brought up as Catholic. Whereas it is perfectly acceptable for her to raise the child as a Catholic if she keeps the child, I see no reason to object if she should insist that the child be placed with a practicing Catholic couple if she should put it up for adoption. An agency that specializes in placing children with Catholic parents would suit her interests.

Such a right passes the "do unto others" test, because would it not be fair to give the teenage atheist who wants to give her child up for adoption the liberty to insist that the child be placed in a home of reason and enlightenment, if one can be found?

When it comes to licensing, the State's standards should be limited to asking whether the agency places its children in safe and secure homes. If it can meet this criteria, the state's interest in the welfare of the child has been satisfied.

Conclusion

There are some issues that people should be allowed to fight over without dragging the government into their dispute. These issues should not be brought onto the legislative floor or the judge's chambers, but should be confined to the street where advocates on both sides engage in public debate. The state should become involved only when that public debate becomes violent.

As a participant in this public debate, I would yield condemnation and scorn on those who condemn homosexuals and atheists as inherently unfit parents with as much fight as I could muster. Such individuals are instituting bigotry and hatred and deserve the harshest condemnation. Yet, as with the KKK planning a rally, the government should not use its power to license in order to silence them. The criticism has to come from the public, and it has to come on the streets.

The license should be granted. Then, the battle goes on to shaming those who would actually want to use the services of those who market in hatred and bigotry.

11 comments:

think_4yourself said...

I have to say that, after my knee jerk reaction that Mitt Romney should be run over by a truck (a daily feeling) and that the Catholic agency should be shut down, I have to agree with your logic in the end. Any good "American" worth their salt should value free speech and fight for it with everything in them...I also can use said free speech to stand outside the Catholic agency's buildings with friends holding signs of protest at their bigotry and ignorance...but I wouldn't lobby for their (non-State funded) license to be taken away.

~Elle (who, yes, is gay, by the way)

Alonzo Fyfe said...

think_4yourself

I am sorry about the unfavorable conclusion of this argument.

However, the argument concerning what the state should license in terms of adoption agencies yields a similar conclusion when discussing what the state should license in terms of marriage.

These people are not only bigots, but hypocrites, when they insist that the state uses one set of principles (liberty) when handing out licenses to adoption agencies, while insisting on a different sent of principles (hate-based bigotry) when handing out licences for marriage.

Martin said...

As the reader who asked the question, I have to thank you for your clear thinking. I can see both sides on this issue, but as the Supreme Court recently said about recruiters on law-school campuses, if you take the government's money, you have to take the government's strings.

Since this issue is not about money, but about licensing, I can see the difference, and can say that I agree with your logic and your conclusion. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Allow me to add that I really enjoy reading your pieces.

Dean said...

Hmmm didn't want that to be anomymous.

Anonymous said...

I just have to disagree. Why anyone in their right mind would put children in homes of practising homosexuals has got to be out of their mind.
These people have sexual urges that are not natural because they prefer same sex relationships. God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Frank or Eve and Lisa. Its just not natural and anyone who would put a male child with two gay men or a female child with two lesbians is beyond me. That is what is wrong with this world. God created women for men and he changed everyones skin color and language to set up boundaries. You dont mix what God intended. He wouldnt have created the woman for the man if He wanted men to be intimate with each other or women to be intimate for each other. He also wouldnt have changed everyones skin color and languages if he would have wanted them to mix.
Why would you want anyone who defied these preodained intendencies to be able to be an influence on the children of our futures lives.

Dean said...

...snicker... You really don't think that we can take anyone seriously who posts drivel like that...and signs it anomymously. I am only glad that your type of xenophobic bigotry is slowly being eliminated from the gene pool. Not fast enough for my liking, mind you. It'll probably take several more generations before your kind is naturally de-selected.

Spud said...

I'm afraid that someone needs to take "anonymous" aside and give a nutshell definition of the word 'atheist' ...

P.S. Intendencies? ;-)

Alonzo Fyfe said...

My standard policy when it comes to writing has always been this.

I imagine a field. There are people with me on my side of the field, people on the other side, and people on the fence.

I write for the sake of those who are on or near the fence. My objective is to show those on the fence why they should climb down from the fence on my side. I also aim to explain those who stand on the other side but near the fence why they should climb on.

I do not waste my time talking to those who are so far away from the fence that, even if I were to shout, they are not likely to hear me. I only hope to leave them isolated and alone.

However, allow me to have just a slight bit of fun.

If God created people with different skin color and language because he did not want them to mix, then maybe he created people of different gender because he did not want them to mix either. Those who mix with people of a different gender would then be like those who mix with people of a different skin color and language -- people who simply do not understand God's plan.

RC said...

good analysis...but I don't like your conclusion...

if i were adopted i would not like to be adopted into a homosexual family, I think that it really puts a child in a socially insecure social position among peers and others.

Also, I think that there are certain parenting qualities that fathers bring that a woman can't bring and certain parenting qualities a mother brings that a man can not bring.

I think the lack of good fathers is the result of many of our social ills and to put a child into a 2 mother family I feel would only add to that problem.

I know you disagree, but I hope you don't mind me sharing my comments (even if you consider them bigotted).

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

RC - I would disagree with one of your premises.

I agree that there are qualities only a "father" or a "mother" figure can provide, however, I believe this the result of gender-roles, not biology per se. If a person chooses to (choice in terms of the psychological unconscious choice - I am not saying that being gay is a conscious choice) then I believe that person can provide the necessary parenting skills. Our bodies are not hardwired as male or female. Society most often the rigid one.
Also, the number of single parents are increasing in the US, but there is no similar explosion in crime rates. Statistics show that crime rates are more often determined by social-economic factors, i.e. education, opportunities, acquaintances, etc.
By the way my mother was the dominant parental figure when it comes to discipline when I was growing up.

I agree with you in the fact that being adopted in a homosexual family would put a child in a socially awkward position, however, by definition this is due to society's fault. Discriminating against homosexual couples can only serve to perpetuate the situation. The loop has to be broken somewhere...
On the other hand, if raised properly, a child in these homes would most likely grow up to be more educated, mature and tolerant of others.

By the way, I don't think your opinions are bigoted at all. Bigots are those who hold beliefs without logic or reason.