In June 2015, in the matter of Obergefell v. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court has officially redefined marriage for every state in the United States to include not just traditional man/woman relationships, but also same-sex relationships (I have shared some thoughts on the future of marriage here). There is a lot which could be said about the Court’s decision both in terms of the quality of the legal analysis in the decision itself as well as the fundamental issues regarding marriage it implicates. In this post, I would like to focus on the implications this decision has on parenting. There are other implications from the Court’s decision and you can read more about the philosophical problems with redefining marriage as the Court has done described above here.
What is marriage? A good working definition of marriage can be found here. To put it simply, marriage is a place where two people can have complete conjugal union in every respect, including spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Not to get too graphic here, but suffice it to say here that only a man and a woman (and not a man/man or woman/woman) are physically complementary to allow for physical union (I do not think I need to get into details here, I am sure my point is clear). Teleologically speaking, one of the primary purposes of the full and complimentary union of man and woman is to provide a place and context where sexual relations can occur and, again teleogically speaking, one of the primary purposes of sex is to conceive children. Therefore, a marriage forms the structure in which a family – which is to say parents (a mother and father) and their children (i.e.: children related to both the father and the mother) – can form and develop. As homosexuals have no way to reproduce with one another, it is impossible for them to create a family structure in which children can be conceived and, therefore, their relationships are something other than marriage.
Despite the above, and the essentially universal nature of both man/woman marriage (and the rejection of homosexual “marriage”) the world over for all of human history, the United States Supreme Court redefined marriage as including man/man and woman/woman relationships along side that of man/woman relationships (though I see no logical reason why the Court’s decision, by its language, ought not also include polygamy, but that is a topic for another post). By so doing, the Court has formally (which is to say legally) separated the act of sex from marriage and, therefore, the conception of children from both: unlike a marriage, a homosexual relationship cannot engage in full physical conjugal union and, therefore, cannot conceive children and form a family, and, consequently, cannot form a marriage.
Traditionally, a parent of a child is the father or mother who conceived the child and those parents formed the marital family in which the child would be raised. By contrast, a child within the “marital family” formed by a homosexual couple cannot be the child of both parents, therefore a homosexual “marriage” does not just redefine what a marriage is, but it also redefines what a parent is. Now, a parent is not someone who is involved at all with a child’s conception; more than that, a parent is now not even someone who could have been involved in a child’s conception. Instead of a father and mother – as both biology and human culture the world over for time immemorial have dictated – a child can now have a mother and a mother or a father and father.
Based on the above, I think the dawn of legally recognized same-sex “marriage” – and the advent of married fathers (without a mother) or married mothers (without a father) – blows open the doors as to precisely just what a parent is or is not and how many a child can have. Of course, same-sex “marriage” advocates will bloviate about how my concerns are silly, unfounded, or possibly unrealistic, but, in so doing, those same people ignore the obvious philosophical (and I predict actual) implications of redefining marriage in the way they have succeeded in doing.
Firstly, it should be noted that the typical law across the United States is that a child born to a woman in a marriage is presumed to be the child of that woman’s husband in the marriage. This presumption exists because the husband is biologically capable of conceiving a child with his wife. In a same-sex “marriage” such a presumption simply cannot apply as the “husband” to another man cannot conceive a child with that other man and, similarly, a “wife” to another woman cannot conceive a child with that other woman. As a result, there is no logical, let alone biological, reason to presume any child born to a woman in a same-sex “marriage” is the child of the other woman and certainly no child born to a “marriage” of two men can, in any rational way, be presumed to be the child of either man in the “marriage.” Therefore, from the start, the connective tissue that is formed between a child and his parents is immediately corroded by same-sex “marriage” as the traditional presumptions of parenthood simply do not apply and are out-of-place to a “marriage” relationship which separates sex and children from marriage.
Since sex, children, and marriage are now separated – and the fundamental roles (or, indeed, need) of a “mother” and “father” undermined (since a child can now have two mothers and no father or two fathers and no mother) – it raises the question as to why we are locked into a two parent paradigm at all. As indicated above, traditionally (and biologically) a woman and a man come together (physically but also in other ways) to conceive a child and that marital unit of mother and father, and the child they conceive, form the basis of the family. This traditional view of the family reflects the obvious reality of biology that every child has two parents: the woman and the man involved in his conception. The new paradigm of “marriage” involving two women or two men introduces the idea that a child’s parents can be two “mothers” (and no father) or two “fathers” (and no mother) with at best only one of the two being involved in his conception. As a result, I see no compelling reason – and certainly no biological reason – why the number of a child’s parents should now be limited to two. It makes sense to limit a child’s parents to two when a child’s parents are the two involved in conceiving him, but when marriage and parenthood are divorced (pun intended) from who conceives a child, what logic is there to stop at just two parents? Why should a child be limited to just two parents? Why not a third? or fourth? or as many as are willing? Those other people are just as “related” to the child as his second “mother” or second “father” (or, indeed, either father). We all know that people do not have to be married to have children, so the marital status of those other people is irrelevant. So, since actual relationship to the child is now irrelevant I see no logical reason to limit a child’s parents to only two if the opportunity for more presents itself.
This leads to my next point: divorce and/or adoption. Again, not to belabor the point, but one cannot forget that, traditionally speaking, a child’s parents were his mother and father (not his mother and mother or father and father); this can no longer be assumed. Indeed, in a situation where a child is born to two people of the same sex, whose names are put on the birth certificate? Both “mothers”? Both “fathers”? Obviously some sort of contractual arrangement for the provision of a sperm or egg donation would be required to have a child in a same-sex relationship so, as a result, I see no reason to expect the biological provider of the sperm or egg to be on the birth certificate. “Logic” (if there is any as applied to justifying same-sex “marriages”) would seem to dictate that both women or both men would be on the birth certificate as the child’s “parents.” With this in mind, consider the following very possible scenarios. A woman “marries” another woman and has a child and both are the child’s “parents” according to the child’s birth certificate. The women then divorce and one of the women subsequently gets into a relationship (or even marries) a man (indeed, if we take the “B” (“bisexuality”) in LGBT seriously I see no reason to discount this from occurring). Does the man have a right to adopt the child? The role of “father” has not been assumed by either “mother” so why should not he be able to adopt to create a trio of legal parental figures? Similarly, what would stop a child who has, say, two legally “married” fathers, to be also adopted by a woman so she could become his “mother” as, prior to her adoption of the child, the child has no mother? Alternatively, what if a man and woman conceive a child out of wedlock (and both the mother and father are on the child’s birth certificate) and then, subsequently, the man “marries” another man? Why cannot that man who “married” the father adopt the child and become a “second father?” After all, the role of “second father” is not a role played by the mother and, in light of man/man “marriages,” such a role apparently does exist. Once the mother-and-father parental paradigm is abandoned, I see no logical or philosophical reason to stop at just the three parents contemplated above and, therefore, any number of permutations are possible.
As something of a parenthetical, I would like to briefly note that the assault on parenthood that things like same-sex “marriage” pose are built upon an underlying philosophical foundation that rejects the reality, need, significance, and/or distinction of/between the genders (just to be clear, by “genders” I, of course, mean male and female). The proposition that “two fathers” can form a family unit that can claim any sort of parity or equity with the traditional mother-father family unit presumes, by definition, that a mother (which is to say a woman) does not and/or cannot offer anything unique and/or critical and/or significant to parenting a child that a man can (obviously the same applies the other way with “two mothers” implicitly presuming that a father (a man that is) also has nothing unique and/or critical and/or significant to parenting a child). If each gender did offer something unique and/or critical and/or significant to parenting a child, then this absurd masquerade and/or parody of a two parent family featuring “two fathers” or “two mothers” would not even be considered much less formally recognized through the American legal system. It goes without saying that the rejection of gender has opened the flood gates to things like the progress of the “trans” movement, same sex “marriage,” same sex adoption, and the like that has been seen in recent years. These issues are the subject of another post; I just wanted to point out the above as something to note when thinking through these issues.
Now, some readers may note that there are families of all arrangements and that all could have something positive to offer. Not everyone has a “perfect” family structure. Indeed, the adoption of a child by a non-biologically related individual is an ancient and honorable practice. How do these sorts of things fit in light of the above? The first thing, I think, one has to acknowledge is that it is obviously true that not all families have, or even can have, a “perfect” family structure of a biologically related (and married) mother and father and their children. The children in these non-traditional families need as much love, guidance, and support as any other child. The difference that these non-traditional families have – as compared to a same-sex parental family – is that they are known to be clearly not the ideal and it would be preferred for them to come closer to the ideal. No one thinks that a non-traditional mother-and-father family which loses one to, say, death, is the same as one which did not lose one. Instead, we view the loss of the parent as tragic and try and help the single parent. The same goes for the non-traditional family created as a result of divorce or from conceiving a child out-of-wedlock. No one thinks that the family structure that results from divorce and/or the circumstances which led to the divorce and/or conceiving a child out-of-wedlock have some sort of parity or equity with a traditional mother/father relationship. Divorced parents and/or single parents may be excellent parents who truly love their children, but it is near-universally recognized that these are obviously not the ideal that a traditional mother/father home life can provide a child. These examples are all contra-distinct from same-sex “parents” which are consistently presented as having a parity and/or equity with mother/father families (and, of course, thinking otherwise earns one the label of “homophobe”).
In terms of adoption, the context and purpose of adoption are profoundly different from that of same-sex “parents.” An adoption is something that occurs as a way to remedy a tragedy and/or unfortunate circumstance (e.g.: a death of a parent or a divorce). A child who is the subject of an adoption is a child who is lacking a parent (or, indeed, both parents) and someone else steps in to fill the role of parent for that child that his biological parent has been unable to fill. The adopting parent is acting with selfless mercy, love, and sacrifice when he elects to help a child through adoption by doing what he can to help heal the wounds that child has due to lacking a parent. Adoption is a method by which a broken family can try and become whole again for that child. Same-sex “parents” present a situation that is precisely opposite to that of adoption. Same-sex “parents” do not try and remedy a broken family for a child, they are the cause of the broken family by intentionally depriving a child a mother (or father). Furthermore, same-sex “parenting,” far from being the self-sacrificial act of adoption, is the inherently selfish act of intentionally depriving a child his mother (or father) in order to fill his/her own desire and want of having a child (regardless of how depriving the child of his other parent may affect the child).
Indeed, this selfishness was seen first hand with Elton John who took on a child with his “husband” knowing that it will “break [his] son’s heart” when he learns he has not got a mother (see here for more on this). When considering “parents” like Elton John, I cannot help but think of King Solomon in 1 Kings 3:16 – 28. This Biblical passage is the famous story of the two women who each claim to be the mother of the same child. Solomon, in his wisdom, orders the child cut in half so both can have an equal share of the child. When he gives the order, one woman accepts it because she simply and selfishly wants a child, while the other laments it and gives up her share of the child to the other woman to save the child’s life. In response, Solomon adjudges the woman who gave up her share as the true mother as a mother is selfless toward her children and would never harm her own child. As I stated above, same-sex “parents” create a division between children, sex, parents, and marriage. I think Solomon’s wisdom applies to Elton John just as much as it did to that woman in the Bible, and something tells me that Solomon would not adjudge Elton John to be “his son’s” father as, by choosing to intentionally harm the child by “breaking his heart,” he has proven himself not to be the child’s father and simply someone who selfishly just wants a child. This, of course, is an obvious consequence of philosophically separating children from parents and both from sex and marriage.
In wrapping up what has become a rather long post, I think it is worth exploring when any of the above will occur. I do not think it will happen immediately as Western Civilization has just embarked the same-sex “marriage” experiment and needs to adjust to it. The consequences of this experiment will reveal themselves gradually over time and may not be seen for some time. I also think that Western Civilization still functions within, at least superficially, the superstructure created by Christian moral teaching. To this point, Christian philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre in his book After Virtue (see here) presents a compelling case. MacIntyre’s basic thesis is that in the many centuries prior to the Enlightenment, Christian moral teaching was the standard moral paradigm in Western Civilization and that paradigm rested comfortably atop the Christian foundation that formed the basis of the culture of Western Civilization. The Enlightenment attempted to jettison the Christian foundation of Western Civilization and replace it with other more humanistic philosophies, yet, despite the jettisoning of the Christian foundation, the new and more humanistic philosophies which replaced it (in perhaps unintentionally ironic way) recognizes the value of Christian moral teaching and attempted to justify it without reference to Christian teaching. Naturally, Christian moral teaching is incompatible, and indeed incoherent, resting on top of a foundation developed through the Enlightenment and that incompatibility is now becoming apparent, and why things like the legalization of no-fault-divorce, the legal recognition of same-sex “marriage,” and the legalization of abortion and euthanasia, and other similar things, have come to pass. So, all that to say that the paradigm that a child has “two parents” is one which is deeply ingrained into human culture due to obviously the consequences of biology, but also because of the moral superstructure our culture has adopted from its Christian foundational history. As we have seen with the advance of same-sex “marriage” and parenthood (as noted above), the biological reality of parenthood has become irrelevant, therefore, just it has elsewhere, it is only a matter of time when the Christian presumption of “two parents” is seen to be without foundation in a culture without a Christian foundation, and will fall by the wayside like other things already have.
Perhaps a bigger issue, though, is the overall devaluing of children and their commoditization (which, like a couple of other things noted above, is a subject for another post). The over emphasis on children – say on Facebook or with “helicopter parents” – could imply that children are overvalued, but I view those developments as evidences as more consistent with their devaluation through their commoditization. In today’s Western Civilization, children are no longer a gift and a blessing. Instead, they are a cost, cramp in one’s style, and/or an accessory, and if they are too much of a cost and/or interruption in a parent’s life, they are easily killed off through abortion, or, if permitted to be born, neglected through the constant purchase of things to distract them (like the modern obsession with screens), lax parenting, and/or their consignment to camps, babysitters, daycare centers, and/or one too many after-school activities. Indeed, it has been admitted by the pro-abortion movement that the lives of children are simply not worth that of their mother (see here), which justifies their murder through abortion. Children are something a woman has to “get rid of” and fast (see here). For many men – including many who I come into contact through my office – children are nothing more than a child support order to avoid or reduce. The devaluing of children is seen in the fact that the birth rate in Western Civilization is at historic lows and continuing to decline (see here). So, needless to say, there will be some delay in the rise of poly-parenting simply because so many people in Western Civilization simply do not care about children or becoming a parent as our culture succumbs to a culture of death, decadence, and ever increasing egocentrism and narcissism.
When our culture abandoned the inherent, and implicit, connection between sex, parenting, children, and marriage, the door was flung open to all manner of innovations and perversions. The post-Christian culture has been entirely unable to replace the Christian foundation on which our morality was developed with anything that has proven itself to be coherent and/or workable. As a result, I see no logical reason to expect the two-parent paradigm to be something that is untouchable and unchangeable. It is only a matter of time before the malignancy that led to things like same-sex “marriage” will find its way to parents, mothers, fathers, and children.