The cover article in the New York Times magazine this weekend was about a family in New York in which the two parents are gay women who have raised to now young adulthood two daughters (each conceived through male sperm donors and borne by the mothers, one each). I was particularly interested in the article because I worked for one of the mothers, Sandy Russo, when I was at Legal Services one summer. The thrust of the article was as follows: there is political cachet on each side of the debate over gay marriage and gay couples raising children as to the sexual orientation of those children as youths/adults. The body of social science research performed on families like this is small, as the possible sample size is still very small. However, there have been studies, as one might expect given the cultural issues at stake, coming down on both sides of the debate over the welfare of children raised in gay unions. Some evidence exists that the children of these unions are as or better socially well-adjusted as children of other unions on all the typical indicators for these things. Let’s take it as a given that gay unions turn out happy, productive members of society. What I am interested is the question, as articulated by the subjects of the article and exemplified by these two daughers: do openly gay parents who raise their children affect their children’s sexual development in such a way that those children are more likely to question their sexual orientation, act on homosexual impulses and/or identify as homosexual? In the Russo-Young family, one daughter is gay; the other is straight.
After reading the article, my conclusion was that these kids are influenced in their sexual development by their parents’ homosexuality. First of all, kids are influenced by everything their parents do; whether we adopt our parents’ attitudes, activities, or politics is something every one of us struggles with in the process of defining self and growing to adulthood. It is only sensible to me that sexual orientation is just like any of these other things. I also believe that our sexuality has both innate and cultural aspects, and, controversial as this is, I think women’s sexuality is probably more malleable than men’s. Given these assumptions together, gay parents’ sexual orientation will surely affect their children’s orientation, most likely insofar as those children struggle more consciously with sexuality as a choice between homosexuality as the norm and heterosexuality as the alternative. This was certainly expressed by the children profiled in the article.
So, my question is, what does it matter? As members of this church, we are taught that our sexuality should only be expressed in heterosexual marriage. But this standard doesn’t jibe with the reality of many people’s experience, particularly for those who don’t identify as heterosexual. I’ve heard more progressive members of the church say that given the assumption that our sexuality has both innate and acquired attributes, we should be accepting of homosexuality but not encourage it. Would that then mean that we love and support our homosexual friends but don’t encourage them to raise children.? I don’t think this is a tenable approach. At bottom it still marginalizes gays, lesbians and transgendered people because it still assumes that these modes of sexuality are wrong (and denies them basic human freedoms).
What is the church’s stance? Is it correct?