We who are left behind

Originally published in The Advocate, April 24, 2006.

There’s something mean-spirited and wholly sinful about a church that would shut its adoption agency doors rather than comply with state laws that ban discrimination against gays, as the Boston-based Catholic Charities has vowed to do.

Homosexuality may be antithetical to the tenets of Catholicism, but that does not excuse church leaders’ power-playing with the future of parentless children in order to promote “values” that devalue the helpless. This society that promises “no child left behind” each day abandons any child who is denied access to loving parents because of a dogmatic agenda. How do I know this? I grew up as a ward of New York State.

I was shuffled back and forth from foster home to foster home in Brooklyn at a time when it was not only politically incorrect for white couples to adopt black children but also illegal. Child experts of the day argued that black children in white homes would lose their cultural identity and might even appropriate racist attitudes toward other blacks, like comedian Dave Chappelle portrays in his skits as a blind black man ranting and raving why he hates “niggers.”

Arguments against gay parenting are eerily reminiscent of that time, and they’re equally superfluous, bigoted, and wrongheaded.

Many argue that our adopted children would be bullied and ostracized by their peers, that they’d experience difficulties in intimate relationships, that they’d show atypical gender development, thus being more likely to adopt a gay or a lesbian sexual orientation.

None of this is supported by the evidence, which overwhelmingly indicates that children of gay parents turn out just as emotionally and mentally healthy—and just as likely to be straight—as kids with heterosexual parents. Next to that, consider also the evidence of what happens to young wards of the state—a fate often no different than the abuses surrounding the human trafficking of women and children in Third World countries.

We who come through the foster care system are the children left behind. We are bounced from home to home. Many foster parents take us to get the money the state pays for our care, then spend the money on themselves. Foster children have a high dropout rate from school and are at high risk for poor health, incarceration, and unemployment. When we age out of foster care, we are homeless and parentless again.

Clerics who rail against gays adopting have no idea what it is like to grow up as a ward of the state, to be the child society left behind. The 2003 Vatican document that called gay-parent adoptions “gravely immoral” shows no compassion for the physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being of parentless children. This kind of moral grandstanding violates the three commandments of children’s civil rights:

  • No child should grow up without the love and security provided by committed parents.
  • No child should be bereft of the joys of living in a loving and nurturing household that focuses on spiritual content and not on its members’ individual characteristics.
  • No child should be left behind because of politicians’ and clerics’ promotion of their own self-serving agendas.

A violation of any of these commandments is gravely immoral.

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