Discriminatory legislation should be rejected

gay-family-xsmall2.jpgYesterday, Rep. John Deberry (D-Memphis) and Senator Paul Stanley (R-Memphis) filed companion bills that would prohibit “any individual who is cohabitating in a sexual relationship outside of a marriage that is valid under the constitution and laws of this state from adopting a minor.”

The companion bills are SB3910 and HB3713. It is more than a little disturbing to realize that people believe–even in today’s world– that gay and lesbian people can not be (or already are) great parents. I think it goes deeper than that. Gay and lesbian people have consistently been the great whipping boys (and girls) of conservative neocons who appeal to a deep hatred for the gay community to help boost their popularity. This kind of contempt goes far beyond mere religious views.

Clarksville’s own representative, Rep. Joe Pitts, stands in stark contrast to Deberry and Stanley. Pitts has sponsored or co-sponsored several bills that directly affect child sexual offenders, which I applaud. These predators should be identified, deterred, and imprisoned at all cost. These vile predators are the real threats to our children, not loving, committed gay and lesbian people who want to provide safe homes for children.More...

Gays and lesbians aren’t the only people affected by this proposed bill. It states:

The prohibition of this section applies equally to cohabiting opposite-sex and same-sex individuals.

That’s right. Unless a couple is actually married, they would be prohibited from adopting. The bill does not affect singles who adopt.

This isn’t the first time such a bill has been proposed. Three years ago, a similar bill was introduced and died in legislation. One important fact we need to remember is that every single major medical and psychological organization in the country recognizes that homosexuality is neither a disease to be cured nor a disorder to be treated. The American Psychological Association has a policy statement on gay parenting which opposes any discrimination based on sexual orientation in matters of adoption, child custody and visitation, foster care, and reproductive health services.

In an article dated Februrary 13, 2005, I wrote:

The American Psychiatric Association along with over a dozen other health and mental health organizations, has a clear understanding that homosexuality is neither a disorder to be treated nor a disease to be cured. These organizations include the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association and the National Association of Social Workers.

Another of these professional groups, the American Psychological Association, has gone on record regarding gay and lesbian parents: “Studies comparing groups of children raised by homosexual and by heterosexual parents find no developmental differences between the two groups of children in their intelligence, psychological adjustment, social adjustment, popularity with friends, development of social sex role identity or development of sexual orientation…” This statement and others are readily available on their website.

The reality is that our current system works. Children aren’t arbitrarily tossed into homes. In fact, judges currently have complete oversight as to who gets to adopt whom. Our judges are given the opportunity to weigh every single family situation, and they are given stacks of report from the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) on the viability of the adoptive parents’ homes.

Homes are studied and the would-be-parents are carefully screened and given psychological evaluation as to whether or not they’re fit to be parents. All of this has one thing at heart: the best interest of our children. Quite simply, a person’s sexual orientation is not a major consideration. DCS workers have far more important questions: Is the home safe? Is the couple (or individual) sound? Is there a history in their past that might jeopardize the safety of the children? And finally, what’s best for the child?

Apparently, there are those who believe that these highly qualified and skilled people should be denied the opportunity to consider thousands of committed, loving couples based solely on the nature of their relationship. It is simply not right, just, or even fair, that a vocal group of people who know little about the adoption process should think they’re better qualified to decide who gets to adopt. Their only consideration is that, as the Arkansas Supreme Court said in a ruling against a ban on gay adoption, they are biased against homosexuals.

In many cases, gay and lesbian couples are the ONLY people who’ll adopt older children, or children who have disabilities. Should these kids who’ve been rejected at every opportunity be denied their best, sometimes last, hope at finding a loving and stable home? Rep. Deberry and Senator Stanley seem to think so.

They are wrong.

My partner and I will seek to adopt in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future. The reason we haven’t already is that we both know we’re not in a financial place where we can support a family. That will change in the future.

Several friends of mine, including my own spiritual mentor, are in same-sex relationships and have either adopted successfully or are in the process of adopting. These are teachers, deputies, florists, and shop owners who all have one thing in common: they absolutely love children, and have devoted their lives to their kids. They’re great parents, and this fact is supported by the judges and DCS social workers who have closely evaluated their homes and lives.

I urge anyone to call their state representative and state senator to add their voices to those who oppose this hateful bill. It is unfair, it is discriminatory, and as I said before, it is just flat-out wrong. It has no place in our laws, nor in our great state.

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