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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Marriage and Gender Question for Gov. Pence

Posted By on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 at 4:00 PM

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Marriage and Gender Question for the Governor of Indiana

What civil right links a male serial rapist, a male pedophile, a male state legislator, a thrice-divorced male perpetrator of domestic violence, a developmentally challenged 18-year-old man, and a male CEO of a Fortune 500 company? Each can marry a lesbian, lovingly raise children together (for as long as their marriage may last), and their marriages will be legally validated by our state. But, that same lesbian cannot marry her gay partner of 30 years with whom she has already raised an Eagle Scout who is now attending Harvard Medical School? Governor Pence, I guess that is because they are gay and, as such, they are unfit to be "natural" parents, right?

But wait, Governor, if that same lesbian woman wants to marry a gay man and have children, then that is legally OK, right? Church and state do agree that two gays can, in fact, marry legally in Indiana - just as long as they are of the opposite sex. Hmmm, I see, now it's making sense ...

So, homosexuality or child-rearing ability are not at issue, but rather the issue is one of gender instead? I get it now - it is just two people of the same gender that are unfit to be married, regardless of whether or not they are straight, gay, or in love.

What a relief for so many gay people that our state doesn't discriminate against them - after all, two straight people of the same gender can't marry either - but, rather, it so graciously affords them a strikingly diverse array of marital partner options!

Governor Pence, I do hope you have a sense of humor and do not find my uncharacteristic sarcasm off-putting. The point that should not be lost amidst the irony and sarcasm is that the under-appreciated and unintended effect of current Indiana marriage law is that the state encourages a lose/lose/lose/lose situation - i.e. closeted gay person marries a straight person, has children, gets divorced eventually, and children suffer collateral damage. Both parents, the children, and the state all lose as the state eventually bears the costs associated with broken families.

Bill Buffie is a south side internist who advocates for LGBTQ rights based upon public health literature. He is the founder of OneVoiceIndiana: The Indiana Coalition for LGBT Health and Nondiscrimination. He takes a more serious view of the points he raises above in the following piece, "Marriage, Gender, and Sexuality."

Clearly stated in Governor Pence's Road Map Indiana is the administration's commitment to "improving the health, safety, and well-being of Hoosier families, especially children." Three components stressed in this document include (1) the need to ensure high quality educational options for families that support foster care children or adopt, (2) promotion of marriage by requiring a family impact statement for state regulations, and (3) continuing progress on child protection by enhancing accountability, coordination and training. At the same time, the governor has advocated that Indiana adopt a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only being between one man and one woman and, thus, the "families" that are to receive protection are those defined in traditional terms, i.e. those led by a man and his wife, united in heterosexual union.

Consider these two indisputable facts: (1) the most successful child-rearing model is one that preserves an intact two-parent home, and (2) gays and gay couples can and do get married legally in Indiana and their marriages receive full validation by both church and state.

Gay men legally marry straight women; lesbians legally marry straight men; gay men marry lesbian women. All of these couples can and do raise children with the full backing of state and federal laws.

Extensive medical literature over the past 30 years attests to the fact that an intact two-parent home is the ideal model for raising children - and that this holds true regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents. This is why the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Women's Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and numerous others have issued strong position statements favoring marriage equality and calling for a new understanding of what "family" means in our society today.

Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute, in a recent commentary article published by the Indianapolis Star newspaper, either having not actually read the study or with intent to misrepresent its findings, cited a 2012 study published in Social Science Research, claiming that it "showed children raised by lesbian or gay parents fared worse than children of straight parents ..." This statement is totally misleading. In reality, the study compared outcomes for children raised by intact, "natural" husband/wife two-parent households with those for children who were products of broken marriages - wherein one of the parents, at some point, experienced a same-sex relationship outside of their marriage. Rarely did any of these children actually experience parenting from same-sex parents. In fact, only 23% whose mothers were lesbian and only 2% whose fathers were gay actually spent even three years under the same roof as the gay parent and their partner; the vast majority having spent much less than three years in any association with a same-sex, non-married couple. Poor outcomes experienced by these children were no different than that expected from traditional marriages torn apart by infidelity; marriages lacking trust and commitment to the basic tenets of marriage and parenting.

It is worth noting that he author of the study, Mark Regnerus, in his concluding statements, acknowledged "This study cannot answer political questions about same-sex relationships and their legal legitimacy." He goes on to state that the "the young-adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships [in his study] look less like the children of today's stereotypic gay and lesbian couples ... " and "The tenor of the last ten years of academic discourse about gay and lesbian parents suggest that there is little to nothing about them that might be negatively associated with child development -- and a variety of things that might be uniquely positive."

At issue in our state is not whether or not a gay couple can marry - gay men and women can marry one another - but, instead, the issue is whether individuals of the same gender can marry. This question pertains to straight or gay same-sex partners. Left unaddressed by the question is the status of those who are transgender, transitioning, or those whose actual gender is ambiguous (biologically and in the eyes of the law).

The under-appreciated effect of current Indiana marriage law is that the state encourages a lose/lose/lose/lose situation - i.e. closeted gay person marries a straight person, has children, gets divorced eventually, and children suffer collateral damage. Both parents, the children, and the state all lose as the state eventually bears the costs associated with broken families.

Article 1, section 23, of our state constitution states: "The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens." The "privilege" of being able to publicly and legally make a lifelong commitment to the love of one's life is one that should be available to all Hoosiers. Somehow, we must move beyond "us" and "them" and find "we."

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