Forget California

There’s another state — Arkansas — that has recently voted to bar those “cohabitating outside a valid marriage” from adopting or fostering. The measure affects gay and straight alike, but its authors, the Arkansas Family Council admit that it is designed to counter the “gay agenda.”

I suspect that most readers of BCC believe that children should, if possible, be brought up in a home with a mother and a father. Let’s not argue that point. Rather, let’s imagine the following situation:

A little girl’s parents die. Her only remaining kin is her gay uncle who cohabits with his gay partner. By all accounts, they have a stable, loving relationship. Should the girl be placed with her uncle, or left in the care of the state fostering system until a suitable married couple are ready to adopt her?

I realise that this may be an overly sentimental hypothetical and that many of those who oppose gay adoption are simply trying to protect the mother/father ideal. But we are surely dealing with real children here, not policy meta-preferences. If one is to support a policy, one must defend its applications in individual circumstances.

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  1. When I was at BYU, I was a member of the Democratic club (yes there is a Democrats Club, and there are more than 2 members). One of the guys from the Republican club invited me to participate with him in a pseudo-debate for a PoliSci 100 class. We prepared beforehand several noteworthy controversies (gun control, abortion, etc). One was gay adoption. When I got up in front of the class, I presented the Democratic point. I said that I believed it was better than a child be raised up by two loving gay parents than by two abusive heterosexual parents. You should have seen the gasps in the class. They were completely shocked that it would even be considered. Apparently the students in this class thought it was better for a child to grow up with abusive parents than loving parents, as long as those parents were heterosexual. As one who had an abusive father, I’ll say right now that I would prefer to have a decent childhood with parents who loved me rather than the father that I had.

    So in this case, let the girl stay with the family. Think of it this way, why would it be okay for a gay child to go hang out with heterosexual parents? After all, that doesn’t make him heterosexual, now does it?

    Furthermore, I am reminded of the Elian Gonzales fiasco from 2000. Those same people who fight against gay rights said in 2000 that Elian Gonzales should not go stay with his natural father because his father was in Cuba. His mother died and so the next closest kin was his father. Why shouldn’t the child go with his father? I find it hard to believe that these same people keep talking about how the family unit is the most important unit on the planet and yet, based on things such as political geography, or sexual preference, they would be so willing to break up a family.

  2. I think your hypothetical may be based on false assumptions.

    As I understand things generally (and I grant Arkansas’ legal scheme may be different), when you die and someone takes your kids they do so as “guardians”, not as “adoptive parents” or “foster caregivers”.

    I don’t believe the Arkansas legislation applied to guardianships.

  3. The girl has bigger problems than gay or straight parents–she’s going to be brought up in Arkansas!

  4. The text of the Arkansas ballot initiative is available at Section 2 explicitly excludes guardianships from the purview of the Act.

    So where a kid’s parents die, he’ll probably still go to next-of-kin (or whomever the parents have specified in their wills).

  5. Rameumptom says:

    I think that #1 is a straw man. I could say that an abusive heterosexual couple is better than an abusive gay couple. Still a straw man.

    The issue for me is what kind of parenting is going to be provided to the child? I’d also like to see some studies on how being raised by gays can affect a child’s emotional growth.

    As it is, Dr Byrd has shown studies that suggest that much of homosexual attraction is caused by a person’s poor relationship with the father or other male adult. A family missing a father or mother affects a child, as studies continue to show us. So, while we can use straw men to suggest there’s nothing wrong with gay adoptions, I’d like to see some better stats on how it affects the kids, prior to praising it.

  6. There’s so much that is messed up with the foster care system in this country, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

  7. Rameumptom,

    I’m not “praising” gay adoption. I just don’t see it as an evil force in a child’s life as some do. That’s all I’m saying.

    The point I was making in that class was that if you take the best scenario out of gay parenting and the worst scenario out of heterosexual parenting and most Mormons would still prefer the heterosexual parenting. And I think that’s sad.

  8. If we can vote away existing marriage rights in California, why not vote to separate children from gay parents in the name of “protecting the children?”

  9. Mark Brown says:


    Quoting anybody associated with NARTH around here is a good way to get yourself held up to public ridicule. Please, no more Dr. Byrd.

    The children in question are in foster care, and therefore subject to the increased incidence of abuse and trauma typical of state custody. If we want to prevent gay people from adopting one of these children because we think they’re better of in state custody than with gay parents, we all better start getting ouselves fitted for millstones right now.

  10. Way to go, Ronan. I voted for and defended Prop 8, and throughout the campaign I firmly held onto the position to follow the prophet. Then I voted for the gay uncle and his partner. Does one decision necessarily negate the other?

  11. If I’ve lived my life by one rule, it’s ALWAYS VOTE FOR THE GAY UNCLE.

  12. It worked for Robert Vaughn!

  13. er… U.N.C.L.E.?

  14. All else being equal you said, meaning the girl has never even met her uncle and doesn’t know who he is. This being the case, the parents probably avoided the uncle for a reason (maybe he was a right wing republican nut job) and it would be in the best interest of the child to be placed elsewhere.

    That was easy enough.

  15. JimD,
    If you prefer, change the hypothetical:

    Social services are struggling to get a troubled child adopted. A gay couple want to take him. Do you keep him in care, or do you give him to the gay couple?


  16. Eric Russell says:

    I vote to put her with a nice big family in Eldorado, TX. She’ll have lots of brothers and sisters to play with.

  17. Done.

  18. Get the kid out of state care and into a stable, loving home ASAP. Anything.

  19. Thank you for this Ronan! “we are surely dealing with real children [and people] here, not policy meta-preferences. If one is to support a policy, one must defend its applications in individual circumstances.” That’s the best argument for pragmatic empathy I’ve read on the topic. Of course the gay uncle!!!

    I worry that so many Mormon’s are crying raca against their brethren on this issue. Ironic and sad since Mormon’s fought so hard to rock Victorian era sexual norms and gender roles with polygamy and suffrage. Oh how the times have changed!

  20. I’d be curious to know more information about foster care in Arkansas. All stereotypes of “Deliverance” and Bill Clinton/Paula Jones aside, is it really that horrible? I’ve actually known some foster parents in Florida, and they were great, loving people who took in a few kids a year for several months at a time because they simply loved children.

    So, if you would ask me, “the gay uncle or the foster parents I have known in Florida,” I would vote for the foster parents in Florida. I have no idea what the system is like in Arkansas.

  21. Also, I would have to know how well the child knows the gay uncle. Is this somebody she barely knows or a good friend of the family who lives nearby and has regular contact. If it’s the latter, perhaps I’d vote for the gay uncle. See, it’s not a simple as it seems…

  22. MikeInWeHo says:

    Personally, I would ban hetersexual parenting in Arkansas too.

  23. This is a choice of the lesser of two evils. I think that state care (bad kids, not even 1 parent, drugs, violence, etc.) is far, far worse than the care of a gay couple.

  24. Geoff, I’m shocked at your #20. I know that many foster parents are great and kind people, but statistically — even in Florida — the odds of long-term stable relationships out of foster homes are not great.

  25. see, e.g., here.

  26. (#13),

    Well, I got it, Steve.

  27. high-five Dave T!

  28. The Arkansas law was modeled after Utah’s adoption law. The Executive Director of the Family Council said “The best legal advice that we had was that Utah was the most constitutionally sound law that was on the books.

    So why talk about Arkansas instead of focusing on Utah? Safer targets?

  29. Geoff’s post is really surprising. You really consider a home that will provide a stable environment for “several months” better than a permanent situation with a relative?

  30. jjohnsen, I think we can all agree that Geoff really has no clue about what happens to a child in state care.

  31. Here’s the real question:
    Are children worse off being raised by committed gay couples as adoptive parents than they are remaining in the foster system?

    A resounding No!

  32. If homosexual attraction is caused by a person’s poor relationship with his father or other male adult (or maybe even the absence of said person), then wouldn’t having TWO fathers make one absolutely safeguarded from SSA?

    But since it’s already decided that the child would go to next of kin, I guess that’s that.

  33. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 32
    “If homosexual attraction is caused by a person’s poor relationship with his father….”

    Please tell me nobody here really believes that.
    Have I stumbled into some time-warp to the 1950s?

  34. Mike,
    I think it’s just a typing error. It should read “homosexual attraction is caused by a person’s poor relationship with his Heavenly Father.”

    See, not nearly as offensive…


  35. My Aunt has been giving a foster home to kids for fifteen years now. She thinks the law is nuts, and can’t think of a single situation that a kid should be sent to foster care over someone that qualifies to adopt. She’s in Wyoming, and I suppose the system in Alabama could be much better than Wyoming, but from what I’ve read it doesn’t sound like it.

    It blows me away that a stable life with a relative would ever be considered worse than being shuffled from foster family to foster family until you’re eighteen?

    Tell me this Geoff. Think of one of your siblings or wife’s siblings and pretend they’re gay. If your kids didn’t have you any more, would you prefer they went to live with this sibling or enter the foster care system.

    If the answer is foster care, which of God’s other laws are more important than a stable adopted family. Would you choose foster care over someone that drinks tea? How about someone that watches R-rated movies? Foster care over someone that doesn’t pay tithing, or maybe foster care over someone that drinks a glass of wine on the weekends?

    According to CNN there are over 4,000 kids in Alabama that could be adopted right now but are in the foster system. Was the right decision to limit those childrens chance to have a permanent family even more? The married heterosexuals that voted for that law should step up and start adopting and taking care of those children.

  36. Ugh, I’ve been talking to a friend in Alabama about this all day, which is why I think I substituted Alabama for Arkansas in the post. Whoops.

  37. Easy there, I think we might be misinterpreting what Geoff said. He said “the gay uncle or the foster parents I have known in Florida.” Maybe he meant as a permanent home? If so I could agree with the notion that there are some foster families out there that would make fantastic homes for kids.

    BTW, I believe it is indeed Church policy to oppose adoption rights for gay couples. Can we presume, though, how the church would officially answer this scenario?

  38. Can we presume, though, how the church would officially answer this scenario?

    I hope not…

  39. I believe it is indeed Church policy to oppose adoption rights for gay couples.

    But not a single gay man or woman? Why?

  40. Does it change your answer if it’s a single gay man who is celibate and an active church member?

    If so, again, why?

  41. re: 33

    I was parodying 5, but I forgot to do the whole “re: 5”, and then I didn’t post my comment until after…20 or so other people commented.

    Personally, I’m just as much at a loss as to how people believe this rhetoric. I’m also at a loss to even try to understand how Arkansas can decide that loving gay couples who are willing to adopt are not qualified. And how they phrase this law! It restricts couples who are “cohabitating outside a valid marriages.” BUT OF COURSE, Arkansas offers no way for gay couples to get valid marriages!

    I didn’t think we could afford to be so ideologically uncompassionate for children who need families by rejecting the committed couples who would take them in just because of their orientation…

  42. Steve, thanks for sticking up for me, although I would admit I don’t know that much about foster care in Arkansas. Many moons ago I did a story about foster care in Florida for the Miami Herald. I interviewed some foster parents, and the environment seemed great. These were truly loving, happy families where the additional kids were brought into a stable, good situation. Many of the foster kids had never had a mother and a father, and many of them came from drug abused homes. Some of them were on a track to be adopted by the foster families. Most of the parents were truly loving, religious people who thought they were doing a good thing by taking in “the least of these.”

    So, if we were to run a continuum where on one side we had a good foster home with a mother and father creating a good positive environment in which the child could move toward adoption, and a gay uncle that the kid barely knew (and a questionable environment with the gay uncle), I vote the foster home. On the other hand, if it is a dreary, hagard foster family, with kids in and out of government offices and constantly being harassed by case workers, and on the other hand there is a gay uncle that the kid knows well and the uncle has a good, loving environment, then I vote gay uncle.

    Is that a clearer answer?

    The reason I add all these caveats is that family law DOES consider the various different environments when deciding where children should go, so it is relevant.

  43. The reason for my questions in 39 and 40 is that I know of gay couples who have adopted in Utah, but they have to do so as singles. So these parents have to engage in the polite fiction that they are single and not in a committed relationship because revealing their loving relationship will destroy any chance they have of adopting children. Does that make any actual sense? Not to me.

  44. This is actually a deeply personal question- I have a gay uncle with a life partner who has been kind and gracious enough to express their love for my children and their willingness to take them should the unlikely need arise.

    Clearly, the survey was an easy choice for me.

  45. #43 highlights the absurdity of the whole situation perfectly. Technically, the adoptive single is not lying in any way.

  46. I have a gay uncle, and he and his partner, who had been stable for quite a while, broke up. He was sick with AIDS. He now cannot work. He lives alone, and is on disability.

    There are way too many factors to consider in situations like this, imo. I don’t think my uncle would have been the best situation even for a family member.

    In short, next of kin doesn’t always mean best scenario for a child. I’m not saying foster care is ideal, either, but I think generalizations are potentially problematic about what is ‘always’ best.

  47. Two things:

    Deliverance took place in Georgia, not Arkansas.

    And, I don’t know why all you folks want this hypothetical kid to grow up in a stable. She’s not a calf, for crying out loud!

  48. Mark B, yeah, I know that about Deliverance, but for many people the South is just one big area of rednecks who voted for McCain because they’re racists. See comment #22 for an example.

  49. Re: #5,

    The issue for me is what kind of parenting is going to be provided to the child? I’d also like to see some studies on how being raised by gays can affect a child’s emotional growth.

    Ask and ye shall receive: Study: Same-Sex Parents Raise Well-Adjusted Kids

  50. Geoff, that is an unfair characterization of Mike. I can’t imagine him making such a sweeping generalization, and he generally is a calm voice of reason in even the most heated discussions. That picture was accompanying what was intended as a humorous comment. Claiming it is representative of the attitude you describe in #48 is doing to Mike exactly what you are criticizing his comment for doing – only without the humor he intended.

  51. re: 48
    You’re right. It was not helpful or appropriate for me to link to that pic. But gst made me do it.

  52. Mike, no biggee. I should have added a smilee after my comment — it was meant to continue the Deliverance joke environment. You’re one of the best commenters out there — always reasonable and nice. Peace, man.

  53. Thought provoking question. I would have to say that I would have to know a lot more about the Uncles and the State System. I think that the law has to be applied to individual cases like this, I just need more details. The Uncle’s gayness however would not be the most relevant factor.

    I served my mission in Arkansas so I can speak authoritatively about this issue in all its aspects. I think the most relevant question is does the child speak the language? Can she even understand her Uncles? Would they force her to eat Black-eyed peas with a Ham Hock in it on New Year’s day? If yes then the child should go there.

    So I voted for the Uncles just because they were from Arkansas. Gay or straight Arkansans rock.

  54. The post made me think of the Jesse Dirkhising case. It hasn’t been that long, it had to have had some impact.

    The Andrew Sullivan article

  55. I am friends with a gay couple who adopted 2 young boys (brothers) several years ago. The boys were coming from a severely abusive (both sexually and physically abusive) home where they had been continually (sexually) abused by both mom and dad.

    I admit I was mildly surprised that the state let my friends adopt 2 boys, but I was so pleased. They’re in a very stable home. My friend even left his very high paying job to be a house-dad, and the kids are doing amazingly well.

    Thank goodness these kids were adopted by loving people like my friends who have literally saved these kids’ lives. Being straight or gay doesn’t have much to do with it — what matters is Love at Home.

  56. You’re one of the best commenters out there — always reasonable and nice. Peace, man.

    i agree with Geoff. perhaps the first and the only time too.

    wow. it truly is the end times. [insert smiley face]

  57. Think of it this way, why would it be okay for a gay child to go hang out with heterosexual parents? After all, that doesn’t make him heterosexual, now does it?

    What if they’re recruiting heterosexual parents? :-o

  58. G.A.Y. U.N.C.L.E.: Global Anti-terrorist Yogurt-eating United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.

    (That letter Y is really hard to fill-in.)

  59. The hypothetical scenario of the post makes me grateful to be part of a large Mormon family. That being the case, my kids will have several options if my wife and I die an untimely death. (Unfortunately, my gay uncle died several years ago, so I guess that particular option is off the table.)

  60. By the way, why hasn’t anyone jumped on Ronan’s hypothetical dead parents for failing to have a will?

    All responsible parents have a will designating a guardian for their children, right?

  61. Well I hate to be such a shallow thinker, but I believe, at least in some cases, homosexual behavior is learned. I would hesitate to put any child in a home where a gay lifestyle is being demonstrated daily. I stand with the Proclamation, every child deserves to be raised with a mother and a father. However I would not place a child with heterosexual adulterers either.