There is an argument prevailing among equal marriage opponents that equal marriage will somehow violate a child’s natural right to a mother and a father. For instance, this below image created by the Ruth Institute has been circulated by the usual anti-equal marriage groups.
The Iona Institute, a very vocal group who oppose equal marriage in Ireland, has reiterated this point on numerous occasions. They claim that by extending marriage to homosexual couples it will undermine the right’s of children born into same-sex couples.
Aside from the fact that this argument is a complete non-sequitur as marriage equality and same-sex parenting are two different issues, something I address here, but it is also strange as I have never heard any children of same-sex couples complain about their rights being violated. Throughout history it was those whose rights that were being denied who advocated against the inequality they suffered. So, either marriage equality opponents have unearthed the first ever example of where people aren’t willing to speak up against the inequality they face, or children of same-sex couples simply don’t feel as though their rights have been violated. Unlike equal marriage opponents I decided to ask children of same-sex couples how they felt about their upbringing and about the marriage equality debate. The response was amazing and I received many heart-warming emails, but in the interests of readability I will simply detail four responses.
Conor Pendergrast, 27, raised by two women.
Ailbhe Egan, 22, raised by two women.
Courtney Arthur, 25, raised by two men.
Linzi Harvey, 31, raised by two women.
Do you think being raised by a same-sex couple has had any negative impact on your life?
No, I loved my upbringing and would not like any aspect of it changed. The only negative was how differently society treated my family, socially and in law. If the government treats people differently this will inevitably filter into our values as a society. Discriminatory laws codify discrimination into our society, which is very damaging. Nobody learns about mother-mother or father-father in school, this makes children of same couples feels ostracised. Discriminatory laws also deny children the protection they deserve. If, for instance, something happened to my biological mother while I was young my other mother would not been recognised as my mother in any laws. This would have been very damaging as this is the woman who has raised me since birth whom I love very much.
I have never felt that my family was lacking in any way, I was brought up in a very loving and open household with two fantastic parents. There was never any doubt in my mind that my mothers loved, supported and valued me completely. Having two parents of the same gender, and not having contact with my biological father never made a difference to me. I always knew my family was slightly different to many of my friends’ families, but I was brought up to believe all families are different in their own way, and none are more or less equal and valid than others. I was taught that it doesn’t matter if your parents are gay, straight, married, adoptive, or step parents, as long as they are loving, respectful and caring.
I don’t think it has had any negative impact on me at all. My parents provided me with a childhood I wouldn’t swap for anything else. I was loved and kept safe in a stable environment – and on the most part I didn’t realise my home-life was different to anyone else’s, certainly not as a young child.
There was definitely not any negative impact on my life or my brother’s. We were raised in a very healthy home, my ‘stepfather’ was definitely the mother figure in our house, he did all of the domestic duties, the cooking, cleaning, laundry, getting my brother and I cleaned up and ready for school, teaching me how to be a woman when I hit puberty, how to do my hair and makeup, basically everything that a mother would do in a heterosexual home. We grew up in a way not many are able to do so, and due to the things we went through as far as people bullying us early on in school when they found out about our fathers, churches and youth groups basically exiling us for supporting our fathers’ , and being judged based on how our home was run differently than many others, we came out stronger and more open minded than we probably would have been had we grown up in a heterosexual parents’ household.
Would you like your parents to be able to get married?
Yes, I would love if they were able to get married. I am currently engaged and I find it ridiculous that I can get married yet my mothers who have been together for 30 years cannot.
When I was 19 my mothers split up after nearly 30 years together, but they are both still very much my parents and have a lot of involvement in my life. They are both now in relationships with other women and I don’t think the fact that their first relationship didn’t work out lessens their right to equal marriage. I would still love to see my parents have the option to marry the person they love, and for the state to properly recognise their families as such.
They had a civil ceremony a few years ago, on their 25th anniversary. It was wonderful, a culmination of a lifetime of love and living together and finally being supported ‘officially’. For people that care about marriage particularly, the option to do so would probably mean a similar thing, but I think my parents are happy with their civil ceremony (which they refer to as ‘being married’ anyway!).
My brother and I wanted nothing more than for our parents to be able to marry legally. They had a civil union about 6 months after their first date in a state that granted civil unions among same-sex couples, but of course it was not recognized once they came back home. They truly shared the most amazing love I have ever witnessed in my life, and I feel lucky enough to have that with my own husband today. My stepfather died from metastatic cancer a few years ago, and it was a terrible tragedy that affected my brother and I for a long time, losing such a great parent that we were so close to. My dads always wanted to get married, they would spend some evenings playing outside with us and I vividly remember both of them saying they have everything they could ever want, if only they could get married and it be recognized just like every other couple. I remember how much hope they both had that it would happen soon enough, but my stepfather died before they ever got the chance. Due to my parents not being able to marry, many of the healthcare costs that we endured during my stepfather’s cancer treatment was out of pocket and bankrupted my father shortly after his death. On top of that, we ended up having issues with the funeral and burial because my stepfather’s parents decided to come into the picture last minute and claim they got to decide how everything ended because we were technically ‘not his family.’ We even had my stepfather’s last wishes notarized, but because they were not legally married, it did not matter, my stepfather’s elusive family chose how to end things the way they wanted to, which left even more emotional damage on all of us in the end on top of his death because he never got his last wishes.
How do you feel about the fact that one of your parents is a non-biological parent?
Over emphasis on biology does a disservice to adoptive and step parents. The fact me and one of my mothers do not share DNA does not lessen our relationship at all. People don’t need to be genetically connected to form a loving relationship. I love my parents. These are the people who raised me, through the terrible twos, teenage years, university; that is parenting, not DNA.
When I was growing up, I was very conscious of the fact that my family was not legally recognised as such, and that, in the eyes of the law, one of my parents was technically a stranger. It never seemed fair that one of my moms, who had been there for me since birth, couldn’t sign consent forms for me in school or at the doctor’s, and should something happen to her, I might not be allowed visiting rights to see her in the hospital. This was not an abstract fear as there are many families all over Ireland dealing with this reality every day. Couples of 20 or 30 years are not recognised as spouses, or their child might not be seen as theirs. I never ever wished my parents were straight, but I longed for the protection my friends of married parents had, instead of being told my family wasn’t equal, or that my parents were unfit to raise me, purely because of who they loved.
Families have all sorts of configurations, they always have done and I imagine they always will. You have ‘aunties’ who are just family friends, and good friends you think of as sisters, what’s biology really got to do with how you feel about someone? I honestly don’t consider Eve to be anything other than a parent, the genetics never get in the way of me feeling like her daughter.
It never bothered me, even during all the bullying, whispers, and being told I was going to hell for loving and supporting my fathers, I never looked at my step-dad and thought, “I wish he was my actual mother, a woman, who birthed me.” I was very lucky to have him as a father, and his influence on me has lasted a lifetime and will continue to do so.
Do you think your rights have been violated as you do not have a mother and a father?
No, however, my rights are being violated as the government only recognises heteronormative relationships. The lack of legal protections can be damaging to same-couples but can be particularly damaging to children. Equal rights under the law is the only way to protect children.
I think every child has the right to a loving family and a safe home, and this means something different for every child and every situation, but I certainly don’t feel my parents violated my rights by not having a father in my life. But I do feel the state violated my rights as a child by not recognising both of my mothers as such, and not giving my family the security and protection of other families.
Children have a right to be taken care of, loved and valued. That’s the important thing. If you get that in a mother/father family, that’s great. If you get that in a mother/mother or father/father family, that’s great too. I would argue very vehemently with anyone who would argue that somehow my happy childhood was a violation of my rights. I know very well that it wasn’t.
Not at all, I had the best of both worlds. I had a mother in one of my father’s, and he was the best mother on this planet!
What do you say to those who purport to oppose equal marriage in the name of your supposed right to a mother and a father?
Nevermind your ideals, reality exists. Homosexual couples have children and will continue to do so. Opposing same-sex marriage is harming those children as they are being denied the protections they need. This is a reality for us, not a hypothetical. If someone is interested in marriage equality then please listen to us, we exist, hear our voices. If you would like to speak for me, please to me, we have our own voice and you need to listen.
People always talk about “what if gay people had children”, and “what if a child was raised by two women/two men”, but it’s not a question of what if or when. This is happening right now, and has been happening for decades. Gay people have families and are raising children, and the law needs to recognise this. This country claims to prioritise the rights of the child, therefore children of same sex families must be given the same rights and protection as other children across the country.
I think people who oppose equal marriage on these grounds may have lost sight of what really matters for children as they are growing up. It’s not the genital configuration or the sexuality of their parents, it’s how they are treated by them. Children can be hugely accepting of all sorts of situations – which is perhaps something that opponents of equal marriage might want to try out.
Yes, simply to not be so judgmental on those who live, love, and marry those of the same sex. Do not be so quick to express hate for those who want to adopt or already have children from a previous marriage, instead let them live and love, let them adopt all the sweet children whose own parents have passed or did not want to have children of their own in their lives.
Although this is only the voice of four such individuals, their voice is consistent and almost unified. Indeed there are many others out there telling their story and trying to have their voices heard. Children of same-sex parents have been ignored during the equal marriage debate. This only serves equal marriage opponents as they like to ignore the fact that homosexual families exist, that children are being born to same-sex couples constantly, and those children are happy about it.
This article had two objectives: to try and get the voices of children of same-sex parents out there and to show that although opponents of equal marriage claim to speak for children, they don’t. Their argument is simply a charade, and quite a disgusting one at that. To use children of same-sex couples, people who support equal marriage wholeheartedly, as an argument against equal marriage is despicable. They claim to care for these children yet the reality is they are harming them by feeding into the narrative that homosexual couples aren’t equal to heterosexual couples and also by denying them equal protection under the law. If they spoke to children of homosexual couples and truly cared about them they would not oppose equal marriage, they would realise the damage that their position can cause these children. But they have never talked to them, and they never will.
The equal marriage debate is going to continue for quite some time. We need to ensure that the voices of children of same-sex couples can be heard. People need to realise these families exist and are not some hypothetical that will only occur once marriage equality is attained. They are a reality, and they deserve equality.