The Family Values Canard

One of the top reasons the religious right gives for denying gay and lesbian people equal rights in both church and society is: “Think about the children!”

I submit evidence that this is simply a canard. Case in point: Focus on the Family’s Citizen Link published a story today complaining about a New York Supreme Court ruling that gave a non-biological lesbian parent the right to visit the child her partner gave birth to during their relationship. The two women had a civil union in Vermont in 2003, just a month before the child was born.

Tim Tracey, legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, said the cases show that even though same-sex marriage is legal only in a handful of states, the issue is affecting all 50.

“These relationships are bleeding over into other states,” he said. “There’s a real danger there when these things get into the bloodstream.”

What Tracey doesn’t seem to worry about is the real danger to this child, who was brought into the world by two people—one who, though they are not related by blood—obviously loves this child enough to go to court to have her rights to visit her child affirmed.

If Focus on the Family were actually focused on “family” they would be applauding this decision, because it will mean that this child will still have two loving parents involved in its life. No matter the difficulties faced by the couple—both mothers, biological and non, are committed to this child. That is something that should be lauded instead of vilified.

The ruling, however, did not go as far as gay rights advocates had hoped, as Bay Windows reports:

Legal activists applauded the decision for finding that the civil union created a parental relationship between the non-biological parent and the child that was recognized in New York. But they were disappointed the court said it would not recognize the non-biological parent’s relationship with the child had the women not been able to obtain a civil union or marriage license.

The high court explicitly reaffirmed its 1991 Alison D. v. Virginia M. decision that allows only biological or adoptive parents to seek custody and visitation.

Again, if the religious right were truly concerned about families, this ruling would concern them as well.  While it’s heartening that the court gave the non-biological parent standing because of their Vermont civil union, it seems this ruling can hurt straight couples as well. I’m sure there there are husbands and wives with children from other relationships who have not been legally adopted by the non-biological parent, or even non-married couples who, after a breakup, would  like some legal recourse to at least visit and remain in the life of the child they may have nurtured and loved for years. The court is saying they have no standing because they’re not in a legal relationship of some sort — though they may have dedicated years to a child.

It seems that this ruling is about as anti-family as it comes—shutting out non-biological parents of all sexual orientations from maintaining a relationship with a child they love and helped to raise—if not conceive.

One justice, Robert S. Smith, seems to be the only one with a true sense of family values. In a separate opinion on the case he makes an argument to strike down the 1991 ruling in Alison D. v. Virginia M., writing: “Each of these couples made a commitment to bring a child into a two-parent family, and it is unfair to the children to let the commitment go unenforced.”

It’s sad when an organization dedicated to focusing on families cannot find the courage to cheer that sentiment.