Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Arkansas' Adoption Ban

One ballot proposal that's received relatively little attention post-election, has been Arkansas' initiative to banning children from being adopted or placed in foster care to unmarried "co-habitating" couples. Although this ban targets unmarried "cohabitating" heterosexuals as well as gay and lesbian couples, the organization responsible for placing the initiative on the ballot- the Family Council Action Committee (FCAC)- has said that the goal of the law was to ban gay and lesbians from adopting. Specifically,

"The Arkansas Adoption Act makes it illegal for adoptive and foster care children to be placed in homes with individuals who cohabit with a sexual partner. Single people, living alone, would be free from the restrictions.

The FCAC lists three primary reasons for the law: For the safety of children, to increase the number of prospective homes, and to 'blunt a homosexual agenda.'"

Despite the fact that the FCAC obviously opposes the "homosexual agenda," whatever that is, it also claims:

"We’re not here to judge single parents, unwed couples with children, or anyone’s sexual orientation."

What is notable about this statement is that it is demonstrative of the new strategy that anti-equality advocates have been successfully using in recent years. In a nutshell, the messaging strategy is this: We're not bigots or anything, we just don't want gay people to have equal rights.

This message lets ordinary people who are basically not all that interested in or concerned about "the homosexual agenda" know that they can in good conscience vote against equal rights and rest assured that they are not bigots or haters.

But take note. Delving a little deeper into the "About the Act" and "FAQ" sections of the site, we see the same old mis-use and misrepresentation of studies to justify inequality. All the FCAC gives us, in fact, are grand, sweeping statements of "fact" with absolutely no citations or analysis:

"Thousands of studies prove that children fare best in stable homes with a married mother and father. There are no studies indicating that children fare best in cohabiting homes.....In contrast to married households, many cohabiting homes suffer from critical deficiencies. They are more likely to break up. Child abuse is more prevalent. Alcohol and drug abuses are more likely. Children are more likely to suffer from behavior problems, and do poorly in school. They are more likely to live in poverty, and they may lack male and female role models that children need."

Okay, well if there are "thousands of studies" proving something, one wonders why the FCAC doesn't actually cite a single one of these studies. This failure to provide actual citations to these claims is extremely problematic because, for one, it doesn't allow us to ascertain whether the "referenced" studies are comparing married heterosexual families to cohabitating heterosexual families or whether they are comparing married heterosexual families to cohabitating gay-headed families.

Most studies cited (when they're actually cited) by "family values" folk usually compare married heterosexual families to unmarried "co-habitating" heterosexual families. That doesn't tell us much about how these families compare to gay-headed families especially considering the fact that many same-sex couples would marry if they were legally capable of marrying. Simply put, a strong argument could be made that heterosexual couples who choose not to marry are qualitatively different than gay and lesbian couples who want to marry and have that firm legal commitment in place but who are unable to do so.

When it comes to parenting by same-sex couples, as Dr. Greg Herek, who has published extensively in this area, writes:

"On the specific questions of (a) whether the children of gay parents are less well adjusted than the children of heterosexuals, and (b) whether their parents are less fit, we actually know quite a lot, especially about families headed by lesbians. The research to date has consistently found no inherent deficits among gay parents, and their kids have proved to be as well adjusted as children with heterosexual parents."

In fact, even though most "family" groups state over and over again that children generally have better outcomes when raised in two-parent homes compared to single-parent homes, this Arkansas' gay adoption ban allows for children to be adopted by single parents. So, in theory, a gay person could adopt a child, as long as that person did not have a partner that she or he lived with. Gays and lesbians in Arkansas who want to adopt children must now make a choice- remain single or adopt a child. How ironic. In order to roll back the "homosexual agenda," an Arkansas "family values" group is, in essence, promoting single parenthood. This law just makes no sense. Being raised by a gay couple is bad, but being raised by a gay individual is just fine?

I wonder if the FCAC is concerned with these important details, specifically with respect to what studies actually show when it comes to parenting by same-sex couples. I'd venture a guess and say that if the FCAC were to become more familiar with the "thousands of studies" that it cites, as well as the thousands of studies it ignores, some major cognitive dissonance would occur. While "family values" groups accuse others of promoting social policy according to ideology rather than fact, it certainly looks like these same groups are pretty into perpetuating patriarchal ideologies based on nothing more than false gender-role stereotypes.

In which case, I'll end by quoting the FCAC:

"The children of Arkansas should never be used to promote the social or political agenda of any special interest group."

Indeed. The FCAC's website cites the number of children in Arkansas' foster care system at about 3,600. Other sources put that number at around 9,000. As of 2005, "There are 7.2 children in foster care for every foster care home statewide." This law, based in misinformation rather than fact, just decreased the chance that some of these children had towards living in a stable home.

The FCAC, not surprisingly, disagrees:

"Any decrease in the number of adoptive homes will be more than offset by new adoptive parents who become aware of the need through awareness generated by the passage of this new law."

Ah. Because of all this super-duper "awareness" brought about by this discriminatory law, hoards and hoards of loving married(!) heterosexual families will magically come out of the woodwork and begin adopting children. I'll check back in a year or so and see how that all worked out. I hope I'm wrong about this, but I just doubt that this law is the cure-all for getting kids out of the foster care system and into married heterosexual homes.

No comments: