The New York Times ran an article this weekend profiling and quoting many children of gay and lesbian parents under the headline “What Could Gay Marriage Mean for the Kids?”
Noticeably absent were any children who, while loving their two moms or two dads, yearned for both a mom and dad.
In my new book, “The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom,” I devote a chapter to highlighting the stories of children of gays and lesbians who have spoken out about how redefining marriage has social costs. Their basic story is the same: Same-sex marriage denies children like them a relationship with either a mother or a father—denies them their mother or their father.
Worse yet, people claiming marriage must be redefined as a matter of justice are telling children that the hurt they feel isn’t a legitimate response to objective reality but the result of their own misguided feelings. This is nothing less than victim shaming.
Although the loss suffered by these child victims is real and traumatic, their existence is never acknowledged by The New York Times. As a corrective, here are two of their stories.
In February 2015, Katy Faust published her moving testimony in the form of a letter to the man known to be the pivotal vote on the Supreme Court: “Dear Justice Kennedy: An Open Letter from the Child of a Loving Gay Parent.” She wrote:
I write because I am one of many children with gay parents who believe we should protect marriage. I believe you were right when, during the Proposition 8 deliberations, you said “the voice of those children [of same-sex parents] is important.” I’d like to explain why I think redefining marriage would actually serve to strip these children of their most fundamental rights.
Faust explains: “While I did love my mother’s partner and friends, I would have traded every one of them to have my mom and my dad loving me under the same roof.”
Faust is clear that “there is no difference between the value and worth of heterosexual and homosexual persons … because we are all humans created in the image of God.” But not all relationships are equal: “when it comes to procreation and child-rearing, same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are wholly unequal and should be treated differently for the sake of the children.”
You can believe both of those things. I certainly do. But our culture—and The New York Times—won’t let us say them. Faust explains:
It’s very difficult to speak about this subject, because I love my mom. Most of us children with gay parents do. We also love their partner(s). You don’t hear much from us because, as far as the media are concerned, it’s impossible that we could both love our gay parent(s) and oppose gay marriage. Many are of the opinion I should not exist. But I do, and I’m not the only one.
Faust takes seriously a basic biological truth and moral reality: “Each child is conceived by a mother and a father to whom that child has a natural right.” So what happens “when two adults who cannot procreate want to raise children together”?
When a child is placed in a same-sex-headed household, she will miss out on at least one critical parental relationship and a vital dual-gender influence. The nature of the adults’ union guarantees this. Whether by adoption, divorce or third-party reproduction, the adults in this scenario satisfy their heart’s desires, while the child bears the most significant cost: missing out on one or more of her biological parents.
Despite her painful personal experience, for most of her life Faust publicly supported same-sex parenting: “I could have been the public service announcement for gay parenting.”
But not anymore: “I cringe when I think of it now, because it was a lie.” Only when she herself became a parent did she begin to realize why she was wrong: “Kids want their mother and father to love them, and to love each other.” She continued:
Now that I am a parent, I see clearly the beautiful differences my husband and I bring to our family. I see the wholeness and health that my children receive because they have both of their parents living with and loving them. I see how important the role of their father is and how irreplaceable I am as their mother. We play complementary roles in their lives, and neither of us is disposable. In fact, we are both critical. It’s almost as if Mother Nature got this whole reproduction thing exactly right.
Faust does not denigrate the lives or loves of gay parents. “I am not saying that being same-sex attracted makes one incapable of parenting. My mother was an exceptional parent … This is about the missing parent.”
Family structure matters, and same-sex marriage institutionalizes missing parents. Of course two lesbians can be great moms, but neither one can be a father.
Children of lesbians love their moms, Faust writes, but “ask about their father, and you are in for either painful silence, a confession of gut-wrenching longing, or the recognition that they have a father that they wish they could see more often.”
This makes sense, doesn’t it? The problem with same-sex parenting is obvious if, as Faust suggests, we consider children in similar situations:
What is your experience with children who have divorced parents, or are the offspring of third-party reproduction, or the victims of abandonment? Do they not care about their missing parent? Do those children claim to have never had a sleepless night wondering why their parents left, what they look like, or if they love their child? Of course not. We are made to know, and be known by, both of our parents. When one is absent, that absence leaves a lifelong gaping wound.
Faust points out that the “undisputed social science” shows “that children suffer greatly when they are abandoned by their biological parents, when their parents divorce, when one parent dies, or when they are donor-conceived.” And so she asks, “how can it be possible that they are miraculously turning out ‘even better!’ when raised in same-sex-headed households?”
The politicized science simply doesn’t make sense—it doesn’t reflect reality. “Every child raised by ‘two moms’ or ‘two dads,’” writes Faust, “came to that household via one of those four traumatic methods. Does being raised under the rainbow miraculously wipe away all the negative effects and pain surrounding the loss and daily deprivation of one or both parents?”
In closing her letter to Justice Kennedy, Faust notes that the Court has a duty to protect the freedoms of adults but also to provide equal protection to the most vulnerable amongst us.
Her solution? Freedom for gays and lesbians and the truth about marriage: “I unequivocally oppose criminalizing gay relationships. But defining marriage correctly criminalizes nothing.”
So she urges Justice Kennedy, “The bonds with one’s natural parents deserve to be protected. Do not fall prey to the false narrative that adult feelings should trump children’s rights. The onus must be on adults to conform to the needs of children, not the other way around.”
>>> For more on this, see Ryan T. Anderson’s new book, “The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom.”
Another child of two lesbians, Heather Barwick, has expressed the same concern in a public letter of her own: “Dear Gay Community: Your Kids Are Hurting.” She begins:
Gay community, I am your daughter. My mom raised me with her same-sex partner back in the ’80s and ’90s. … Do you remember that book, “Heather Has Two Mommies”? That was my life. My mom, her partner, and I lived in a cozy little house in the ’burbs of a very liberal and open-minded area. Her partner treated me as if I was her own daughter. Along with my mom’s partner, I also inherited her tight-knit community of gay and lesbian friends. … I still feel like gay people are my people. I’ve learned so much from you.
Why was Barwick writing? “I’m writing to you because I’m letting myself out of the closet: I don’t support gay marriage.”
Her explanation was simple: “It’s not because you’re gay. … It’s because of the nature of the same-sex relationship itself”—a relationship that would deprive children of a mom or a dad.
Barwick used to support same-sex marriage:
Growing up, and even into my 20s, I supported and advocated for gay marriage. It’s only with some time and distance from my childhood that I’m able to reflect on my experiences and recognize the long-term consequences that same-sex parenting had on me. And it’s only now, as I watch my children loving and being loved by their father each day, that I can see the beauty and wisdom in traditional marriage and parenting.
The problem that Barwick particularly highlights is not only that same-sex parenting deprives a child of a mom or a dad, but that same-sex marriage teaches the child that there’s nothing wrong with being so deprived, that if a child aches and longs for the missing mom or dad, the problem is with the child, not the relationship.
“A lot of us, a lot of your kids, are hurting. My father’s absence created a huge hole in me, and I ached every day for a dad. I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost.” Barwick describes it poignantly:
I grew up surrounded by women who said they didn’t need or want a man. Yet, as a little girl, I so desperately wanted a daddy. It is a strange and confusing thing to walk around with this deep-down unquenchable ache for a father, for a man, in a community that says that men are unnecessary. There were times I felt so angry with my dad for not being there for me, and then times I felt angry with myself for even wanting a father to begin with. There are parts of me that still grieve over that loss today.
Redefining marriage redefines parenting. So a legal system that redefines marriage changes a society’s culture and the values it promotes—as well as the expectations of its citizens. A society that redefines marriage, writes Barwick, “promotes and normalizes a family structure that necessarily denies us something precious and foundational. It denies us something we need and long for, while at the same time tells us that we don’t need what we naturally crave. That we will be okay. But we’re not. We’re hurting.”
Redefining marriage will stigmatize the children of same-sex couples, because they will not be allowed to give voice to their experience of lacking a mom or a dad. Barwick offers a compelling description of the difference between kids of divorce or adoption and kids of same-sex marriage:
Kids of divorced parents are allowed to say, “Hey, mom and dad, I love you, but the divorce crushed me and has been so hard. … ” Kids of adoption are allowed to say, “Hey, adoptive parents, I love you. But this is really hard for me. I suffer because my relationship with my first parents was broken. I’m confused and I miss them even though I’ve never met them.”
But children of same-sex parents haven’t been given the same voice. It’s not just me. There are so many of us. Many of us are too scared to speak up and tell you about our hurt and pain … If we say we are hurting because we were raised by same-sex parents, we are either ignored or labeled a hater.
I wish the voices of Katy Faust and Heather Barwick would have been included in that New York Times piece. For all of the Times’ concern about the benefits of redefining marriage on children of same-sex couples, there’s little concern about the suffering inflicted on children raised in such relationships. A relentless focus on only one side of this debate has left us astonishingly deaf to their cries.