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Do Children Of Same Sex Parents Grow Up In A Confusing Environment?

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By Susmita Abani

In 2012 president Barack Obama in the United States expressed solidarity with marriage equality supporters. In May 2015, Ireland’s vote for marriage equality came as a surprise to many. The deeply Catholic nation shook off the weight of tradition and was praised for its progressive direction. In my own country Australia, the reigning Prime Minister Tony Abbot remains repellent to the idea, while opposition Minister Bill Shorten has introduced a marriage equality Bill that will overwrite the definition of marriage as it stands. With only a handful of votes in question, marriage equality has been at the forefront of the Australian political discourse.



While many around me seem to know for certain what side of the debate they prefer, I’ve often felt conflicted towards the issue. For the most part, I support marriage equality, but the determination of its opposing forces have always intrigued me. In the wake of Ireland’s momentous decision, I caught up with a friend on my commute to work. As a Roman Catholic, he was sure of his stance. Marriage, he said, has a societal function. It’s an institution built as a mechanism for rearing children, protecting women, and the bringing together of families. This is not an uncommon argument presented by the religious conservative – the claim that modern definitions of marriage is now a mere symbolic gesture by two individuals through which they accept commitment for their relationship. The emphasis now is on mutual love, while the traditional utilities of marriage are being disregarded or changed.

While I acknowledge the merits of this argument, when considering his view in light of Christian scriptures it becomes rather hilarious. In most secular constitutions, the concept of marriage has travelled far from true Biblical tradition. Right from start in the Bible, we see examples of polygyny when Esau, the son of a very important Biblical figure named Isaac, takes two wives in Genesis 26:34. Isaac’s second son Jacob winds up in an even more convoluted marital arrangement than his brother in Genesis 29-30. He falls in love with his cousin, Rachel, but is deceived into marrying her elder sister Leah instead, and only manages to marry Rachel after providing seven years of service to her father. Rachel is then unable to conceive a child for Jacob, and so urges Jacob to impregnate their servant Bilhah. In a single lineage, we see how the sacred institution of marriage was “defined” by the Bible – as one that included incest, polygyny, extra-marital intercourse, the treatment of women as a currency for business dealings and the reductive use of women as vessels for child-bearing. In those days, marriage was also used for political expansion, with leaders of one tribe marrying from another to build alliances. If all this is supposedly exemplary of how a marriage should be, then I’m rather disturbed.

Having studied at a Catholic school, I know some may protest that the Old Testament is now obsolete. This, again, is a deflective argument. Because it is only in Leviticus 20:13, a verse in the Old Testament, where homosexuality has been explicitly condemned by the Bible. Is it not double standards, then, to selectively quote the Old Testament to vilify homosexuality while ignoring its other teachings? This is why it’s difficult for me to understand how the harmless act of two people in love uniting under a homosexual marriage degrades tradition, when traditional marriage itself was so fundamentally flawed.

To me, the only poignant argument from the conservative voice relates to children. Studies often show that children raised by homosexual couples are generally content, possessing a more mature outlook on gender neutral domestic roles. Being homosexual doesn’t hinder one’s ability to love and nurture healthy children, and I’m not denying this notion. But if a child could choose their parents, would they pick two men, or two women? Assuming Kinsey was right, about 10% of people are homosexual. So there is no hesitation in saying that an overwhelming majority of people are heterosexual. Children of homosexual couples will undoubtedly be outnumbered by children with heterosexual parents – and due to this fact, research has shown that “children raised in lesbian and gay-parented families worry about being teased, harassed or bullied, particularly by peers in the school environment.

Last year I read an article by a man raised by lesbian parents, who also wrote about the apprehensions he and some other children of homosexual parenting have experienced. “They feel disconnected from the gender cues of people around them,” he wrote, “feel intermittent anger at their parents for having deprived them of one biological parent (or, in some cases, both biological parents), wish they had had a role model of the opposite sex, and feel shame or guilt for resenting their loving parents for forcing them into a lifelong situation lacking a parent of one sex.

I know that it is within every well meaning couple’s right to rear children. I understand that parenthood is complicated, and most heterosexual couples cannot guarantee a perfect environment for their children either. My only concern is that in the midst of defending ones civil liberties, gay rights advocates forget to address the potential emotional consequences of boxing a child into a confusing lifestyle, that is vastly different to most.

Being different, and the path to accepting that you’re different, is an incredible journey. The world’s LBGTQI+ community has faced this challenge throughout history, and those who’ve succeeded at accepting, appreciating and even celebrating their difference has shown commendable courage. I see marriage as an expression of love and loyalty between any two consenting, adult parties – a personal affair that is solely their own to define. Only when one’s lifestyle begins to encroach on another’s does the matter become more complex and unpredictable, such as in the realm of raising a child. Some issues are larger than the equality debate, and gay marriage is often one such can of worms. And one can only hope that through trial and error, people can one day find the right balance between individual freedoms and the future of a society.

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  1. MajorBS

    To answer your question. Yes, it does degrade tradition. The same tradition which convinced people that earth is flat and we will fall off the edge if we wander too far into the sea, the same tradition which taught plants are not living beings and the same tradition which put earth in the middle of the universe. No progress in human history was achieved without breaking tradition. And that is exactly why we should never consider religion as an ultimatum for anything. Religion is a lie we tell ourself to believe that everyone who died is in a better place or their lives continue in a horrible place (which is less horrifying apparently than them just ceasing to exist). It is a belief in an entity called god (which we have no proof exists) as someone who will solve our problems or give us strength to solve them. George Carlin rightly said “In bullshit department, a busineesman can hold a candle to clergy man. When it comes to bullshit; big time major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe, of the all time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims – Religion.”

    1. B

      Typical comment from an atheist who thinks he is better than those who believe in God. The fact is, religion is the only thing that stands in the way of immorality and injustice, and some people have a problem with that.

    2. MajorBS

      I am not that type of an atheist (And yes there are atheists who are like that, may be a majority as well, but atheism is not a religion, we dont have a common book we follow). I am no better than people who believe in god. But I am better than people who judge other people and tell them how to live their life based on some medieval book or belief in some mythical entity. I am better than people who deny others right to love and family because their “god” does not like them doing it. I am against people who ignore 100 other directions and teachings within their holy book which they violate every day, but suddenly when two people of the same sex decides they are in love or get married, gets offended because it apparently marks societal degradation. I know christians who regularly act against the 10 commandments and are actively protesting against gay rights and gay marriage (Nothing about which is mentioned in 10 commandments). You know why some atheists think they are better than those who believe in god. They do not need religion to understand how to be a good person, they dont need some book to tell them it is not right to kill a fellow human being, or enslave them, or that they should not rape or rob. They think critically and act logically. The same thing that has gotten us so far ahead compared to other species of this planet

  2. Raghav

    I think you’re forgetting about children raised by a single parent. If children having to live without one biological parent or children missing the opposite sex parent are reasons to debate against same-sex marriage, I think these are also arguments against the concept of divorce. It’s again double standards if you endorse divorce in heterosexual marriage but do not endorse same-sex marriage.

    1. Susmita Abani

      I agree with this, and I did mention briefly that heterosexual parenthood doesn’t guarantee the best environment always either. And it’s true, divorced parents or adopted children do also fall under a similar category.

      I missed explaining something important in the article that I think (somewhat) resolves this conflict. Children with divorced parents often keep in touch with both of their parents, and know they have a mother and a father who’ve contributed to their making. I think that it’s similarly important for homosexual couples who have had children to be open to the idea that their children might one day want to know/meet with or interact with their other biological parent.

  3. G Lantern

    There is no such thing as same sex parents. Parents consist of a mother and father – a man and a woman. Two people of the same sex can live together but they can never have their own children, because they go against God and the laws of nature set by God. Not to mention that domestic violence is more frequent among gays and lesbians.

    1. MajorBS

      There is nothing we do today that is natural. Living in concrete structures, moving around in fast cars, eating processed food, everything is unnatural, but nobody is bothered about those things. If people love each other they should live together, there are enough orphans and homeless children around the world, if they want to raise them, it is 100% better than them living in the streets exploited for labor and growing up without an education. How can people be so arrogant to decide on someone’s love and life because “god” is against it. We have no proof such an entity exists, but he is the ultimate authority on peoples life. If god is against them, god shall punish them, mean while you and me can leave them alone to live their lives

  4. MajorBS

    It is a very well written piece. I admire the questions raised. A few decades ago same sex relationships were not approved by majority in the west, slowly they started approving it. Now they have come to accept and legalize same sex marriage. Yes these kids may face some societal outrage and shunning, but surely this will also become acceptable. But if we back out now and deny these people rich to parenthood, the taboo will never end.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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