My feelings about marriage equality were well summed up by Feminist Hulk: “HULK SUPPORT QUEER AND FEMINIST CHALLENGES TO MARRIAGE AS INSTITUTION. HULK ALSO CHAMPION SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. HULK VAST, CONTAIN MULTITUDES.”
But nonetheless, these are momentous times, and I certainly spent some time browsing the photos of the crowds outside the Supreme Court. I noticed that one of the most common signs being carried by the anti-marriage-equality crowd was “Every kid deserves a mom and a dad.” Now I’m not going to waste an entire column arguing about how kids in queer families do just fine—the research is unambiguous and robust on that score and either you’re going to believe it because you believe in science or you won’t because your prejudice is too important to you. Also, I am not going to jump on any bashing-single-parents bandwagon. They are not the problem, though how they are treated and supported (or not) is a problem.
However, looking at that supposed statement of principle, it made me think of abortion. Specifically, it made me think of that interesting subset of people who oppose abortion who actually have grasped the fact that there are more effective ways of lowering the numbers of abortions. Ways that are more effective than terrorizing women seeking healthcare and trying to outlaw a medical procedure, such as improved access to birth control, better sex ed, a better safety net, etc. For those who are sincere about wanting to reduce abortions, and not actually just out to control women’s sexuality, there is a lot of common ground we can come together on, even while we disagree on other things.
Perhaps there is a similar opportunity here. While I certainly don’t agree on the central importance of having one parent of each gender presentation (and also I think that queer families are often better at providing a wide variety of adult role models for their kids than many straight nuclear families), there are a lot of things that tend to remove a parent, sometimes specifically a mom or a dad, from a child’s life prematurely, and I’d be more than happy to work alongside the folks carrying those signs to reduce those things.
If every kid having a mom and a dad is really what you are concerned about, then I would expect to also see you showing up in the struggles to:
1. Reduce the heinously high rate of incarceration in this country, especially of black men, largely for nonviolent and drug-related crimes.
2. Reduce maternal mortality rates. That could be, domestically, where we have the worst rate of the industrialized nations, or internationally, where rates are as high as 1 in 16 in sub-Saharan Africa.
3. End violence against women. Gender-based violence claims the lives of mothers on a regular basis—and in different ways often makes kids lose their fathers as well.
4. Reform our draconian and punitive immigration policies that regularly rip families apart, creating thousands of “immigration orphans.”
5. Increase access to birth control, provide good sex ed, and end rape culture—all things that not only will reduce abortions, but will also reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies that are more likely to produce a child who doesn’t have more than one parent actively involved in their lives.
6. Improve family-friendly work policies that will both allow all parents more time with their children and reduce the stress on relationships that’s currently caused by our insanely workaholic, family-unfriendly policies.
7. Stop unnecessary wars of aggression and bombing civilians. This creates children who do not have a mom and dad. Lots of them. Do I have to explain that?
There’s more certainly, but, hey we could start somewhere. Imagine all the resources—finances, time, energy, emotion—that National Organization for Marriage and all the other folks railing against fate have poured into fighting against someone else’s right to get married being redirected to even one of the goals above. What could we achieve?