Robert Oscar Lopez

Same-sex parenting: child abuse?

Robert Oscar Lopez
By Robert Oscar Lopez
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July 8, 2013 (The Public Discourse) - Emotional abuse can be as bad as physical abuse. Any young person who’s heard the words, “I wish you were never born,” understands that adults can inflict tremendous damage on their dependents without leaving the slightest bruise. One of the worst parts of abuse is society’s refusal to see the injustice. Emotional abuse is particularly difficult because it is invisible and therefore ripe for denial.

It is worse still to feel “abandoned” by a community that views the cruelty inside a child’s home and does nothing. When told by everyone in the vicinity that what’s happening is normal and no cause to be aggrieved (even worse, a reason to be grateful), the natural instinct of the child is to blame herself for revealing the effects of mistreatment, in addition to the primal trauma of the mistreatment itself. The situation is much worse if outsiders who intervene, such as doctors, school officials, cousins, or legal authorities, side with the guardians.

After having spent the last year involved in the debate about same-sex parenting, I can say the following with great confidence: both sides of the same-sex marriage debate are afraid of naming child abuse by same-sex couples. The issue is so raw and painful that even critics of same-sex parenting are scared to go there.

Pro-SSM people say gays have been unfairly stereotyped as child abusers, so any discussion of gay child abusers is adding to their oppression. Anti-SSM commentators generally don’t want the added fuss of showing up on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of homophobes. So a general pattern emerges: even when you critique same-sex parenting, you must never do so in terms that sound accusatory or equate homosexuality with child abuse.

Let’s be clear: I am not saying that same-sex parents are automatically guilty of any kind of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse to the children they raise. Nor am I saying that LGBT people are less likely to take good care of children.

What I mean is this: Even the most heroic mother in the world can’t father. So to intentionally deprive any child of her mother or father, except in cases like divorce for grave reasons or the death of a parent, is itself a form of abuse. (Though my mother raised me with the help of a lesbian partner, I do not feel I was abused, because I always knew that my mother didn’t intend for my father to divorce her.)

This holds true not only for same-sex parenting, but for any choice to parent a child in a less-than-ideal setting for a less-than-grave reason. It’s abuse, for example, for a single parent to adopt a child when many other equally good two-parent homes are available. It’s abuse for parents to divorce simply for reasons related to their own emotional happiness. It’s abuse for LGBT couples to create children through IVF and then deprive them of a mother or father.

Media Tip-Toeing Around Abuse

Two recent pieces in the Washington Post and the New York Times last month are noteworthy, because both broke the silence on the downsides of same-sex parenting but still carefully avoided the word “abuse.”

After months of presenting a whitewashed portrait of same-sex parenting, the Post finally ran a letter from Tommy Valentine of Alexandra, Virginia, warning the proponents of homosexual adoption that “A child is not a commodity to be coveted, like the car or house,” and “Even with an ‘open adoption’ arrangement with his birth mother, Kyler [the adoptee] is being deprived of the unique, irreplaceable impact of a life with a mother and father.”

Three days later the New York Times ran a self-reflective piece by Frank Litgvoet, a gay man who is raising two adopted children with his male partner, titled “The Misnomer of Motherless Parenting.” Litgvoet deserves tremendous praise for being willing to name the integral flaw in same-sex parenting, despite how promising it looks to gay adults:

Being a “motherless” child in an open adoption is not as simple as it looks, because there is a birth mother, who walks in and walks out of the lives of our children. And when she is not physically there, she is—as we know from many accounts of adult adoptees—still present in dreams, fantasies, longings and worries. . . .

When the mother walks into the lives of our kids it is mostly a wonderful experience. It is harder for them when she walks out, not only because of the sad goodbye of a beloved adult, but also because it triggers the difficult and painful question of why she walked out in the first place.

I was impressed with Litvgoet’s honesty. I do not want to criticize him too much when I am sure that some in the LGBT lobby are going to decry him for handing too much “ammunition” to the critics of same-sex parenting. It takes great courage to admit that there is a lack in his daughter’s world, which cannot be filled with political dogma or crusades against homophobia. Every child has a mother and father, and when that figure is missing, there is a narrative that is experienced as pain, loss, and at times shame.

To appreciate the heroism in Litvgoet’s breaking of silence, we must first step back and take stock of how much silence there is and how much harm it does.

Whereas single parenting and divorce have always been understood as a breakdown of the married mom and dad ideal, same-sex parenting is now being elevated as normal. Were changing views of same-sex parenting based on a natural, organic process of cultural adaptation, that would be fine, but instead views are being coercively changed through a same-sex marriage movement—most recently by Supreme Court judicial fiat.

“Normalization” demands a kind of silence from multiple parties in a child’s life. The child’s lost biological parent(s) must keep a distance or disappear to allow two gay adults to play the role of parent. Extended family must avoid asking intrusive questions and shouldn’t show any disapproval through facial expressions or gestures. Schools and community associations have to downplay their celebrations of fatherhood or motherhood (even canceling Father’s Day and Mother’s Day in favor of “Parenting Day”). The media have to engage in a massive propaganda campaign, complete with Disney productions featuring lesbian moms, to stifle any objections or worries. Nobody must challenge the gay parents’ claim that all is being done for love.

Does the silence of so many surrounding parties reverse the sense of loss? No. The child still feels the loss, but learns to remain silent about it because her loss has become a taboo, a site of repression, rather than a site for healing and reconstruction. The abuse comes full circle.

The fact that a gay father in the New York Times is willing to drop the façade and admit that there is something amiss is cause for hope. But Litvgoet’s piece in the Times backtracks by the end and encases his realization within the standard euphemisms that have made same-sex parenting advocates so frustrating over the years:

Gay parents, trained to deal with those forces, should be aware of the effect on their children. What these questions do touches on a vulnerability in the children’s identity, the identity of the motherless child. The outside world says time and again—not in a negative way, but matter-of-factly—you are not like us. We have to give our kids the chance to give voice to that vulnerability, and to acknowledge the sad and complicated feelings of being different. (And show the pride in that as well.)

On the one hand it is good to allow children the chance to “give voice” to such feelings of pain and loss, and I am proud of Litvgoet for not immediately blaming everything on prejudice. But he still cannot process his own responsibility for what is, in essence, child abuse. Like all the saccharine, smiling liberals who have driven me crazy since I was a two-year-old raised by a lesbian mom, he acknowledges the child’s pain just enough to occasion a later disappointment when he and his allies will likely refuse to rectify it. He concedes a few points about “feelings” while still asserting an unquestionable ownership: “our kids,” with a parenthetical about “pride in that.” Kids can read between the lines. They’ll know that what’s in the parenthesis is the part that the guardian is insisting on—in other words, you must be proud of what’s been done to you, even when it hurts.

Problems with Same-Sex Parenting Testimonials

In a recent heart-to-heart talk with Dawn Stefanowicz, a Canadian woman who was raised by her gay father, she and I lamented that many children of same-sex couples will never speak openly about how unfair it was to be denied a mother or father.

Dawn’s experience resembles mine: most kids of gay parents we know are struggling with sexual identity issues, recovering from emotional abuse, fighting drug addictions, or are so wounded by their childhood that they lack the stability to go public and face the onslaught from an increasingly totalitarian gay lobby, which refuses to admit that there’s anything wrong.

Mark Regnerus’s study, published a year ago, brought brief attention to adults who were coping with the aftereffects of vexed childhoods under gay parents. In the months following Regnerus’s study, Dawn and I barely had time to have a public conversation about our struggles, because the LGBT lobby immediately wanted to redirect attention to the debates that mattered to them: their “right” to marry, the fact that they were capable of “loving” children, and their sense that they were being “bullied” by Regnerus. For many kids of same-sex couples, this was a familiar experience: we only count when we make gay people look good.

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Same-sex parenting advocates have the advantage of handpicking their success stories, who are sure to receive fulsome accolades for expressing their joy at having gay parents. Those who interrogate same-sex parenting have a corresponding disadvantage. Same-sex parenting has been efficient at traumatizing the inhabitants of its dark side, rendering them frightened and mute, so nobody will ever know about it.

The existence of a venomous LGBT lobby capable of all-out emotional warfare against anybody who doubts same-sex parenting is of course a great help to the cause.

When I was in France, a pediatric psychiatrist with decades of experience told me that he has been working with a severely traumatized woman who was raised by two homosexuals. He wanted her to go public alongside me at the March 24 rally in Paris, but he dared not test her fortitude: “She is still too weak,” he told me. He could not, as her physician, permit her the risks of being a public figure.

Dawn and I are left with a dilemma: it seems we are the only two children of LGBT parents who are old enough to articulate what is wrong with same-sex parenting, independent enough to view our upbringing critically, and strong enough to deal with the LGBT lobby’s vitriol.

Cut the Charades

Like divorce and single parenting, same-sex parenting isn’t merely controversial or untested; we know that children have poorer life outcomes when they are raised outside a married biological-parent household. The data we have, thanks to the work of scholars like Regnerus, make it all the more clear that it’s abusive to force children to live without a mother or father simply to satisfy adult desires.

Moreover, anyone who supports same-sex parenting in spite of these data is complicit in child abuse. This is true, for example, of pediatricians, sociologists, and psychologists who justify same-sex parenting by pointing to vague metrics like “emotional well-being” or “willingness to communicate.”

That they hide their complicity behind their PhDs makes complicity even less excusable.

Doug Mainwaring and I have been working on ways to distinguish between gay parents and same-sex parenting. A gay parent in a male-female marriage or a single gay parent is better, in our view, than a same-sex couple raising a child, because the elements of abuse are missing in the first two scenarios.

In the first scenario, the child has a mom and a dad even if one of them is gay. In the second scenario, there is no charade of replacement, no pretenses that one or two unrelated homosexual parents are to receive the equivalent love and respect that a child would show to his mom and dad. The coercion involved in “same-sex parenting,” and the silencing of any recognition that a loss has occurred, is elemental in making same-sex parenting homes abusive.

Worst of all is a same-sex parenting home that arose because two homosexuals contrived the situation knowingly, in order to experience parenting. These are cases in which divorce was initiated by a gay spouse, with the explicit goal of setting up a new gay parenting household, and then custody was transferred (often in an ugly family court process). Or where lesbians went to a sperm bank. Or where two homosexuals began a lifelong relationship with the intent of adopting and then sought adoption on-demand. Or worst of all, two gay men engaged in a surrogacy contract with a woman who sold them her baby.

Many gay parenting advocates say these are more noble scenarios since they “wanted” the child, but they are wrong. They imposed their vision ruthlessly on a helpless being and then extorted gratitude. The false equivalency used in order to make the child “love” a second parent of the same sex is coerced and injurious.

In the household irreversibly alienated from constitutive rituals like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, it is abusive to tell the child it was all for her own good and she shouldn’t listen to her own feelings, nor her peers, neighbors, or any moral authorities on TV who praise motherhood or fatherhood.

It is abusive to tell a child, “We are your moms” or “we are your dads,” and then expect the child never to feel the loss of such important icons, in addition to the injury of having been severed from at least one, and possibly both, biological parents—not because it was necessary, but because the two adults insisted on the arrangement. The lessons children learn from this undermine selfhood: might makes right, little people are subject to the whims of self-serving parents, and powerful people can impose “love” on weaker beings with money or political influence over adoption agencies, family courts, sperm banks, and surrogate mothers.

None of these problems would arise if we lived in a world where gay people saw children not as a commodity for purchase but rather as an obligation requiring sacrifices (i.e., you give up your gay partner instead of making your kid give up a parent of the opposite sex, because you’re the adult.)

When the child begins to ask, “why don’t I have a mom?” or “why don’t I have a dad?” the abuse grows, for the gay “parents” will likely respond with an answer that protects them from criticism but disallows the child’s recognition of hurt feelings.

Consider what Rob Watson wrote in the Huffington Post in an open letter to Justice Anthony Kennedy:

If you come, you will meet my 10-year-old sons, who will likely impress you, given how personable, articulate, polite and bright they are. You might ask, as many people we meet do, if they are twins. The answer will be, “They are ‘almost-twins’: Their birthdays are four months apart.” That will bring a “huh, come again?” look, and I will explain how I adopted them as babies from different drug-addicted birth mothers through foster care.

If Watson’s standard routine in explaining his situation to strangers is to highlight the fact that his two ten-year-olds came from “drug-addicted birth mothers,” it is possible that he has been explaining it this way to his own sons for years. He wouldn’t be the first gay dad I’ve heard say to an adoptee, “you don’t have a mom because your moms were drug addicts and I was the only one who wanted you.” That’s emotional abuse at its worst.

Watson’s glib narrative is reflective of the larger genre of same-sex parenting manifestoes. For a movement like the LGBT lobby, which grew out of a desire for openness, the silences imposed on children of same-sex couples are criminally hypocritical. Kids have a clear, specific script to follow when outsiders ask where they come from—don’t mention the sperm bank, don’t mention the woman who sold you, don’t talk about the ugly divorce from five years ago, don’t …. Just don’t talk. Just shut up and smile. Say you like this. Otherwise, bad things will happen. You’ll go back to being an unloved being with nobody willing to put up with you any more.

After a year of being in this game, I have grown wary of strategy. I don’t have a silver bullet tactic for suddenly making low-information Americans aware that all the same-sex parenting propaganda—and more broadly our growing acceptance of non-traditional parenting—is really a cover for systematic abuse. My hunch, however, is that it might be time simply to drop all the masks, put away our strategies, and just state the uncensored truth.

If you think child abuse is wrong, then say so.

Reprinted with permission from The Public Discourse

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Newsbusters Staff

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Disney ABC embraces X-rated anti-Christian bigot Dan Savage in new prime time show

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March 30, 2015 (NewsBusters.org) -- Media Research Center (MRC) and Family Research Council (FRC) are launching a joint national campaign to educate the public about a Disney ABC sitcom pilot based on the life of bigoted activist Dan Savage. MRC and FRC contacted Ben Sherwood, president of Disney/ABC Television Group, more than two weeks ago urging him to put a stop to this atrocity but received no response. [Read the full letter]

A perusal of Dan Savage’s work reveals a career built on advocating violence — even murder — and spewing hatred against people of faith. Savage has spared no one with whom he disagrees from his vitriolic hate speech. Despite his extremism, vulgarity, and unabashed encouragement of dangerous sexual practices, Disney ABC is moving forward with this show, disgustingly titled “Family of the Year.”

Media Research Center President Brent Bozell reacts:

“Disney ABC’s decision to effectively advance Dan Savage’s calls for violence against conservatives and his extremist attacks against people of faith, particularly evangelicals and Catholics, is appalling and outrageous. If hate speech were a crime, this man would be charged with a felony. Disney ABC giving Dan Savage a platform for his anti-religious bigotry is mind-boggling and their silence is deafening.

“By creating a pilot based on the life of this hatemonger and bringing him on as a producer, Disney ABC is sending a signal that they endorse Dan Savage’s wish that a man be murdered. He has stated, ‘Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.’ ABC knows this. We told them explicitly.

“If the production of ‘Family of the Year’ is allowed to continue, not just Christians but all people of goodwill can only surmise that the company Walt Disney created is endorsing violence.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins reacts:

“Does ABC really want to produce a pilot show based on a vile bully like Dan Savage?  Do Dan Savage’s over-the top-obscenity, intimidation of teenagers and even violent rhetoric reflect the values of Disney?  Partnering with Dan Savage and endorsing his x-rated message will be abandoning the wholesome values that have attracted millions of families to Walt Disney.”

Dan Savage has made numerous comments about conservatives, evangelicals, and Catholics that offend basic standards of decency. They include:

  • Proclaiming that he sometimes thinks about “f****ing the shit out of” Senator Rick Santorum

  • Calling for Christians at a high school conference to “ignore the bull**** in the Bible”

  • Saying that “the only thing that stands between my d*** and Brad Pitt’s mouth is a piece of paper” when expressing his feelings on Pope Benedict’s opposition to gay marriage

  • Promoting marital infidelity

  • Saying “Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.”

  • Telling Bill Maher that he wished Republicans “were all f***ing dead”

  • Telling Dr. Ben Carson to “suck my d***. Name the time and place and I’ll bring my d*** and a camera crew and you can s*** me off and win the argument.”

Reprinted with permission from Newsbusters

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Jacqueline Harvey

Ending the end-of-life impasse: Texas is poised to ban doctor-imposed death by starvation

Jacqueline Harvey
By Jacqueline Harvey

AUSTIN, Texas, March 30, 2015 (TexasInsider.org)  After five consecutive sessions of bitter battles over end-of-life bills, the Texas Legislature is finally poised to pass the first reform to the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA) in 12 years. An issue that created uncanny adversaries out of natural allies, and equally odd bedfellows, has finally found common ground in H.B. 3074 by State Rep. Drew Springer.  

H.B. 3074 simply prohibits doctor-imposed euthanasia by starvation and dehydration.

Since H.B. 3074 includes only those provisions and language that all major organizations are on record as having deemed acceptable in previous legislative sessions, there is finally hope of ending the end-of-life impasse in the Texas Capitol.

Many would be surprised to learn that Texas law allows physicians to forcibly remove a feeding tube against the will of the patient and their family. In fact, there is a greater legal penalty for failing to feed or water an animal than for a hospital to deny a human being food and water through a tube.

This is because there is no penalty whatsoever for a healthcare provider who wishes to deny artificially-administered nutrition and hydration (AANH). According to Texas Health and Safety Code, “every living dumb creature” is legally entitled access to suitable food and water.

Denying an animal food and water, like in this January case in San Antonio, is punishable by civil fines up to $10,000 and criminal penalties up to two years in jail per offense. Yet Texas law allows health care providers to forcibly deny food and water from human beings – what they would not be able to legally do to their housecat. And healthcare providers are immune from civil and criminal penalties for denial of food and water to human beings as long as they follow the current statutory process which is sorely lacking in safeguards.

Therefore, while it is surprising that Texas has the only state law that explicitly mentions food and water delivered artificially for the purpose of completely permitting its forced denial (the other six states mention AANH explicitly for the opposite purpose, to limit or prohibit its refusal), it is not at all surprising that the issue of protecting a patient’s right to food and water is perhaps the one point of consensus across all major stakeholders.

H.B. 3074 is the first TADA reform bill to include only this provision that is agreed upon across all major players in previous legislative sessions.

There are irreconcilable ideological differences between two major right-to-life organizations that should supposedly be like-minded: Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Right to Life. Each faction (along with their respective allies) have previously sponsored broad and ambitious bills to either preserve but reform the current law (Texas Alliance for Life’s position) or overturn it altogether as Texas Right to Life aims to do.

Prior to H.B. 3074, bills filed by major advocacy organizations have often included AANH, but also a host of other provisions that were so contentious and unacceptable to other organizations that each bill ultimately died, and this mutually-agreed-upon and vital reform always died along with it.

2011 & 2013 Legislative Sessions present prime example

This 2011 media report shows the clear consensus on need for legislation to simply address the need to protect patients’ rights to food and water:

“Hughes [bill sponsor for Texas Right to Life] has widespread support for one of his bill’s goals: making food and water a necessary part of treatment and not something that can be discontinued, unless providing it would harm the patient.”

Nonetheless, in 2013, both organizations and their allies filed complicated, contentious opposing bills, both of which would have protected a patient’s right to food and water but each bill also included provisions the rival group saw as contrary to their goals. Both bills were ultimately defeated and neither group was able to achieve protections for patients at risk of forced starvation and dehydration – a mutual goal that could have been met through a third, narrow bill like H.B. 3074.

H.B. 3074 finally focuses on what unites the organizations involved rather than what divides them, since these differences have resulted in a 12 year standoff with no progress whatsoever.

H.B. 3074 is progress that is pre-negotiated and pre-approved.

It is not a fertile springboard for negotiations on an area of mutual agreement. Rather it is the culmination of years of previous negotiations on bills that all came too late, either due to the complexnature of rival bills, the controversy involved, or even both.

On the contrary, H.B. 3074 is not just simply an area of agreement; moreover, it is has already been negotiated. It should not be stymied by disagreements on language, since Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Right to Life (along with their allies) were able to agree on language in 2007 with C.S.S.B. 439. C.S.S.B. 439 reads that, unlike the status quo that places no legal conditions on when food and water may be withdrawn, it would be permitted for those in a terminal condition if,

“reasonable medical evidence indicates the provision of artificial nutrition and hydration may hasten the patient’s death or seriously exacerbate other major medical problems and the risk of serious medical pain or discomfort that cannot be alleviated based on reasonable medical judgment outweighs the benefit of continued artificial nutrition and hydration.”

This language is strikingly similar to H.B. 3074 which states, “except that artificially administered nutrition and hydration must be provided unless, based on reasonable medical judgment, providingartificially administered nutrition and hydration would:

  1. Hasten the patient’s death;
  2. Seriously exacerbate other major medical problems not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
  3. Result in substantial irremediable physical pain, suffering, or discomfort not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
  4. Be medically ineffective; or
  5. Be contrary to the patient’s clearly stated desire not to receive artificially administered nutrition or hydration.”

With minimal exceptions (the explicit mention of the word terminal, the issue of medical effectiveness and the patient’s right to refuse), the language is virtually identical, and in 2007 Texas Right to Life affirmed this language as clarifying that “ANH can only be withdrawn if the risk of providing ANH is greater than the benefit of continuing it.”

Texas Right to Life would support the language in H.B. 3074 that already has Texas Alliance for Life’s endorsement. Any reconciliation on the minor differences in language would therefore be minimal and could be made by either side, but ultimately, both sides and their allies would gain a huge victory – the first victory in 12 years on this vital issue.

It seems that the Texas Advance Directive Act, even among its sympathizers, has something for everyone to oppose.

The passage of H.B. 3074 and the legal restoration of rights to feeding tubes for Texas patients will not begin to satisfy critics of the Texas Advance Directives Act who desire much greater changes to the law and will assuredly continue to pursue them. H.B. 3074 in no way marks the end for healthcare reform, but perhaps a shift from the belief that anything short of sweeping changes is an endorsement of the status quo.

Rather, we can look at H.B. 3074 as breaking a barrier and indicating larger changes are possible.

And if nothing else, by passing H.B. 3074 introduced by State Rep. Drew Springer, we afford human beings in Texas the same legal access to food and water that we give to our horses. What is cruel to do to an animal remains legal to do to humans in Texas if organizations continue to insist on the whole of their agenda rather than agreeing to smaller bills like H.B. 3074.

The question is, can twelve years of bad blood and bickering be set aside for even this most noble of causes?

Reprinted from TexasInsider.org with the author's permission. 

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I can’t believe how quickly our annual Spring campaign has flown by. Now,with only 3 days remaining, we still have $96,000 left to raise to meet our absolute minimum goal.

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But though we have made great strides in the past few days, we still need many more donations if we are going to have any hope of making it all the way by April 1st.

In these final, anxious days of our quarterly campaigns, I am always tempted to give in to fear, imagining what will happen if we don’t reach our goal.

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