Category Archives: Strengthening Families

2010: Catholics and Latter-day Saints: Partners in the Defense of Religious Freedom / BYU Speech, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago

See the original of this remarkable speech in PDF Format at this link.
Love and thanks,Steve St.Clair
Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I. Archbishop of Chicago

President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Catholics and Latter-day Saints: Partners in the Defense of Religious Freedom
Brigham Young University: February 23, 2010

Thank you for your warm welcome and thank you, President Samuelson, for your very kind introduction. As you point out, I am the Catholic Archbishop of Chicago and also the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This dual role allows me to bring greetings from both the Catholic community of Chicago and from the Catholic bishops of this country to all of you: students, faculty, staff and administration of this distinguished university, now marking its 135th year of service in higher education—and also to our guests from the surrounding community, many of whom I’m told are watching on satellite TV.


As a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, I have a special bond with the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI, whose specific service is one of preserving unity among Catholic believers everywhere, and also of fostering peace and respect for human life and dignity among all people of good will. As a cardinal priest, that is, as a member of the clergy of Rome itself, quite apart from my being Archbishop of Chicago, I have the privilege and obligation to vote in a papal election. The Cardinals assemble at the death of one Pope in order to elect his successor because they are the clergy of Rome; but the choice of the Bishop of Rome, the one who sits in the chair of St. Peter, is, for us Catholics, we pray and hope and believe, in the hands of God, our heavenly Father. Most important of all, I am a bishop of the Catholic Church, and therefore a pastor to the people that Christ Jesus has given me to love and to care for, first of all in two civil counties of Illinois, Cook and Lake counties, that count 2.3 million baptized Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago, but also with a shared concern for all the Churches. Catholic bishops collectively oversee the Catholic Church with and under the Successor of Saint Peter, the head of the Apostolic College, the Bishop of Rome.


So I come before you today as a religious leader who shares with you a love for our own country but also, like many, with a growing concern about its moral health as a good society. In recent years, Catholics and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have stood more frequently side-by-side in the public square to defend human life and dignity. In addition to working together to alleviate poverty here and abroad, we have been together in combating the degradations associated with the pornography industry; in promoting respect for the right to life of those still waiting to be born in their mother’s womb; and in defending marriage as the union of one man and one woman for the sake of family against various efforts to redefine in civil law that foundational element of God’s natural plan for creation. I am personally grateful that, after 180 years of living mostly apart from one another, Catholics and Latter-day Saints have begun to see one another as trustworthy partners in the defense of shared moral principles and in the promotion of the common good of our beloved country.


Of course, partnerships in causes of great moral import build on friendships and gestures of respect for one another’s identity, and these too have multiplied in recent years. The late and universally esteemed LDS President, Gordon B. Hinckley, opened his door on many occasions to the past and present bishops of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, which encompasses all of Utah: Bishop George Niederauer, now Archbishop of San Francisco, and Bishop John C. Wester, who is with us today. Bishop Wester spearheads with great dedication the Catholic bishops’ national immigration reform efforts. One of the high points of the centennial celebrations of the Catholic Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City was the presence of LDS President Thomas S. Monson at a multi-faith service honoring the cathedral’s civic engagements on August 10, 2009. At the service, President Monson spoke eloquently about the enduring friendships that Catholics and Latter-day Saints have forged by serving together the needs of the poor and the most troubled of society. Through such shared dedication, he noted, we will “eliminate the weakness of one standing alone and substitute, instead, the strength of many working together.” The service was marked by the presence of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I sometimes suspect, and maybe some of you do too, that Brigham Young and the first Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City, Lawrence Scanlan, would have been rather astonished at seeing the First Presidency of the LDS and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir helping local Catholics celebrate the anniversary of their cathedral. But, good for them and good for us! I thank God for the harmony that has grown between us, and for the possibilities of deepening our friendships through common witness and dialogue.

Let me mention one personal experience that stays with me, an experience with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which I first heard when I was thirteen years old. I visited Salt Lake City then with my mother, who was a good musician and who wanted to hear that great organ and the choir. The memory of that sound has stayed with me; it was overwhelming. I had the great opportunity, through the kindness of the choir itself, to lead it once, on June 27, 2007. They were at the Ravinia Music Center in Highland Park, outside of Chicago. A few days prior to the concert I received a call from the choir’s music director, Dr. Craig Jessop, who had asked whether I would consider assuming the conductor’s podium at the end of the performance and lead the choir in an encore number. Never had I been asked to do something like that! I seized the occasion and, after a brief lesson from Craig at the dress rehearsal, I got up, and faced the assembled choir with a tremendous feeling of awe and power and great satisfaction. There was silence as this marvelous choir was looking at and waiting for me. If that doesn’t give you something of an ego trip, I don’t know what would! I paused for a moment, and then I gave the downbeat, according to Craig’s instruction. All of a sudden, that vacuum of expectant silence was filled with this magnificent, overpowering sound, all in unison, all in harmony. I thought to myself, “I’m doing better with the Mormons than I am with the Catholics!” I have a lot harder time getting them to sing together! What the choir sang was:


This land is your land, this land is my land
From Wrigley’s diamond, to the great Sears Tower,
From the Hancock Building, to Lake Michigan’s waters,
This land was made for you and me.



What I’d like to do now, in the short time available to us, is to make three points. First of all, to share with you the Catholic understanding of religious freedom, which I think we share together: religious freedom cannot be reduced to freedom of worship or even freedom of private conscience. Religious freedom means that religious groups as well as religious individuals have a right to exercise their influence in the public square, and that any attempt to reduce that fuller sense of religious freedom, which has been part of our history in this country for more than two centuries, to a private reality of worship and individual conscience as long as you don’t make anybody else unhappy, is not in our tradition. It was the tradition of the Soviet Union, where Lenin permitted freedom of worship (it was in the constitution of the Soviet Union) but not freedom of religion. Lenin was drawing on several historical antecedents, one of whom was Napoleon Bonaparte, who made civil peace after the terror of the French Revolution by limiting the Church to the sacristy but not permitting it to have a public role. This is not the American tradition, even though it is now argued by some Americans that it should be. The second point I want to examine is the mounting threats to religious freedom in America. Thirdly and lastly, I want to show why it is that Catholics and Mormons do stand together and shall continue to do so with other defenders of conscience and the public exercise of religion.


Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under LDS Conservative Christian Dialog, Strengthening Families

2009: The Case for Early Marriage / Mark Regnerus, Christianity Today

See the original of this article from the August 2009 issue of Christianity Today on their website at this link.

Thanks much,
Steve St.Clair

The Case for Early Marriage
Amid our purity pledges and attempts to make chastity hip, we forgot to teach young Christians how to tie the knot
Mark Regnerus
Christianity Today, August 2009

posted 7/31/2009

Virginity pledges. Chastity balls. Courtship. Side hugs. Guarding your heart. Evangelical discourse on sex is more conservative than I’ve ever seen it. Parents and pastors and youth group leaders told us not to do it before we got married. Why? Because the Bible says so. Yet that simple message didn’t go very far in shaping our sexual decision-making.

So they kicked it up a notch and staked a battle over virginity, with pledges of abstinence and accountability structures to maintain the power of the imperative to not do what many of us felt like doing. Some of us failed, but we could become “born again virgins.” Virginity mattered. But sex can be had in other ways, and many of us got creative.

Then they told us that oral sex was still sex. It could spread disease, and it would make you feel bad. “Sex will be so much better if you wait until your wedding night,” they urged. If we could hold out, they said, it would be worth it. The sheer glory of consummation would knock our socks off.

Such is the prevailing discourse of abstinence culture in contemporary American evangelicalism. It might sound like I devalue abstinence. I don’t. The problem is that not all abstainers end up happy or go on to the great sex lives they were promised. Nor do all indulgers become miserable or marital train wrecks. More simply, however, I have found that few evangelicals accomplish what their pastors and parents wanted them to.

Indeed, over 90 percent of American adults experience sexual intercourse before marrying. The percentage of evangelicals who do so is not much lower. In a nationally representative study of young adults, just under 80 percent of unmarried, church- going, conservative Protestants who are currently dating someone are having sex of some sort. I’m certainly not suggesting that they cannot abstain. I’m suggesting that in the domain of sex, most of them don’t and won’t.

What to do? Intensify the abstinence message even more? No. It won’t work. The message must change, because our preoccupation with sex has unwittingly turned our attention away from the damage that Americans—including evangelicals—are doing to the institution of marriage by discouraging it and delaying it.

Late Have I Loved You
If you think it’s difficult to be pro-life in a pro-choice world, or to be a disciple of Jesus in a sea of skeptics, try advocating for young marriage. Almost no one empathizes, even among the faithful.

The nearly universal hostile reaction to my April 23, 2009, op-ed on early marriage in The Washington Post suggests that to esteem marriage in the public sphere today is to speak a foreign language: you invoke annoyance, confusion, or both.

But after years of studying the sexual behavior and family decision-making of young Americans, I’ve come to the conclusion that Christians have made much ado about sex but are becoming slow and lax about marriage—that more significant, enduring witness to Christ’s sacrificial love for his bride. Americans are taking flight from marriage. We are marrying later, if at all, and having fewer children.

Demographers call it the second demographic transition. In societies like ours that exhibit lengthy economic prosperity, men and women alike begin to lose motivation to marry and have children, and thus avoid one or both. Pragmatically, however, the institution of marriage remains a foundational good for individuals and communities. It is by far the optimal context for child-rearing. Married people accumulate more wealth than people who are single or cohabiting. Marriage consolidates expenses—like food, child care, electricity, and gas—and over the life course drastically reduces the odds of becoming indigent or dependent on the state.

It is, however, an institution under extreme duress in America. In the past 35 years, the number of independent female households in the U.S. has grown by 65 percent, while the share of independent male households has skyrocketed, leaping 120 percent. As a result, fewer than half of all American households today are made up of married couples.

Another indicator of our shifting sentiment about the institution is the median age at first marriage, which has risen from 21 for women and 23 for men in 1970 to where it stands today: 26 for women and 28 for men, the highest figures since the Census Bureau started collecting data about it. That’s five additional, long years of peak sexual interest and fertility. (And remember, those numbers are medians: for every man marrying at 22, there’s one marrying for the first time at 34.)

Evangelicals tend to marry slightly earlier than other Americans, but not by much. Many of them plan to marry in their mid-20s.Yet waiting for sex until then feels far too long to most of them. And I am suggesting that when people wait until their mid-to-late 20s to marry, it is unreasonable to expect them to refrain from sex. It’s battling our Creator’s reproductive designs. The data don’t lie. Our sexual behavior patterns—the kind I documented in 2007 in Forbidden Fruit—give us away. Very few wait long for sex. Meanwhile, women’s fertility is more or less fixed, yet Americans are increasingly ignoring it during their 20s, only to beg and pray to reclaim it in their 30s and 40s.

Where Are All the Christian Men?
Unfortunately, American evangelicals have another demographic concern: The ratio of devoutly Christian young women to men is far from even. Among evangelical churchgoers, there are about three single women for every two single men. This is the elephant in the corner of almost every congregation—a shortage of young Christian men.

Try counting singles in your congregation next Sunday. Evangelicals make much of avoiding being unequally yoked, but the fact that there are far more spiritually mature young women out there than men makes this bit of advice difficult to follow. No congregational program or men’s retreat in the Rocky Mountains will solve this. If she decides to marry, one in three women has no choice but to marry down in terms of Christian maturity. Many of the hopeful ones wait, watching their late 20s and early 30s arrive with no husband. When the persistent longing turns to deep disappointment, some decide that they didn’t really want to marry after all.

Given this unfavorable ratio, and the plain fact that men are, on average, ready for sex earlier in relationships than women are, many young Christian women are being left with a dilemma: either commence a sexual relationship with a decent, marriage-minded man before she would prefer to—almost certainly before marriage—or risk the real possibility that, in holding out for a godly, chaste, uncommon man, she will wait a lot longer than she would like. Plenty will wait so long as to put their fertility in jeopardy. By that time, the pool of available men is hardly the cream of the crop—and rarely chaste. I know, I know: God has someone in mind for them, and it’s just a matter of time before they meet. God does work miracles. But the fact remains that there just aren’t as many serious Christian young men as there are women, and the men know it.

Men get the idea that they can indeed find the ideal woman if they are patient enough. Life expectancies nearing 80 years prompt many to dabble with relationships in their 20s rather than commit to a life of “the same thing” for such a long time. Men have few compelling reasons to mature quickly. Marriage seems an unnecessary risk to many of them, even Christians. Sex seldom requires such a steep commitment.

As a result, many men postpone growing up. Even their workplace performance is suffering: earnings for 25- to 34-year-old men have fallen by 20 percent since 1971, even after accounting for inflation. No wonder young women marry men who are on average at least two years older than they. Unfortunately, a key developmental institution for men—marriage—is the very thing being postponed, thus perpetuating their adolescence.

Changing Ideals
Still, the data from nearly every survey suggest that young Americans want to get married. Eventually. That makes sense. Our Creator clearly intended for male and female to be knit together in covenantal relationship. An increasing number of men and women, however, aren’t marrying. They want to. But it’s not happening. And yet in surveying this scene, many Christians continue to perceive a sexual crisis, not a marital one. We buy, read, and pass along books about battling our sexual urges, when in fact we are battling them far longer than we were meant to. How did we misdiagnose this?

The answer is pretty straightforward: While our sexual ideals have remained biblical and thus rooted in marriage, our ideas about marriage have changed significantly. For all the heated talk and contested referendums about defending marriage against attempts to legally redefine it, the church has already ceded plenty of intellectual ground in its marriage-mindedness. Christian practical ethics about marriage—not the ones expounded on in books, but the ones we actually exhibit—have become a nebulous hodgepodge of pragmatic norms and romantic imperatives, few of which resemble anything biblical.

Unfortunately, many Christians cannot tell the difference. Much about evangelical marital ethics is at bottom therapeutic: since we are pro-family, we are sure that a happy marriage is a central source of human contentment, and that romantic love is the key gauge of its health. While our marriage covenants are strengthened by romance, the latter has no particular loyalty to the former.

Our personal feelings may lead us out of a marriage as quickly as they lead us into one. As a result, many of us think about marriage much like those outside the church—as a capstone that completes the life of the autonomous self. We claim to be better promise keepers, but our vision of what marriage means is not all that unique. When did this all change?

The shift has gone largely unnoticed over the past half-century. As we finally climb toward multigenerational economic success, we advise our children to finish their education, to launch their careers, and to become financially independent, since dependence is weakness. “Don’t rush into a relationship,” we caution them. “Hold out for a spouse who displays real godliness.” “First loves aren’t likely the best fit.” “You have plenty of time!” we now remind them. “Don’t bank on a mate.” Even those who successfully married young now find themselves dispensing such parental wisdom with little forethought.

As a result, many young adults sense that putting oneself in the trust of another person so soon may be foolish and risky. Many choose to wait out the risk—sometimes for years—to see how a relationship will fare before committing. (We seem to have lost our ability to shame men for such incessant delays.) Consequently, the focus of 20-somethings has become less about building mature relationships and fulfilling responsibilities, and more about enjoying oneself, traveling, and trying on identities and relationships. After all the fun, it will be time to settle down and get serious.

Most young Americans no longer think of marriage as a formative institution, but rather as the institution they enter once they think they are fully formed. Increasing numbers of young evangelicals think likewise, and, by integrating these ideas with the timeless imperative to abstain from sex before marriage, we’ve created a new optimal life formula for our children: Marriage is glorious, and a big deal. But it must wait. And with it, sex. Which is seldom as patient.

Objections to Young Marriage
Now let’s have a dose of that pragmatic reasoning, because there are some good reasons to avoid marrying young. Indeed, studies continue to show that early marriage is the number one predictor of divorce. So why on earth would I want to consider such a disastrous idea that flies in the face of the evidence? Two reasons:

First, what is deemed “early marriage” by researchers is commonly misunderstood. The most competent evaluations of early marriage and divorce note that the association between early age-at-marriage and divorce occurs largely among those who marry as teenagers (before age 20). Although probably all of us know successful examples of such marriages, I still don’t think teen marriage is wise. But the data suggest that marriages that commence in the early 20s are not as risky—especially for women—as conventional wisdom claims.

Second, the age at which a person marries never causes divorce. Rather, a young age-at-marriage is an indicator of an underlying proclivity for marital problems, the kind most Christian couples learn to avoid or solve without parting. Family scholars agree that there are several roots to the link between age-at-marriage and divorce. I consider five of them here, together with some practical ways that parents, friends, and the church can work to turn such weaknesses into strengths.

(1) Economic insecurity: Marrying young can spell poverty, at least temporarily. Yet the mentality that we need to shield young adults from the usual struggles of life by encouraging them to delay marriage until they are financially secure usually rests on an unrealistic standard of living. Good marriages grow through struggles, including economic ones. My wife and I are still fiscal conservatives because of our early days of austerity.

Nevertheless, the economic domain remains an area in which many parents are often able, but frequently unwilling, to assist their children. Many well-meaning parents use their resources as a threat, implying that if their children marry before the age at which their parents socially approve, they are on their own. No more car insurance. No help with tuition. No more rent.

This doesn’t sound very compassionate toward marriage—or toward family members. This is, however, a two-way street: many young adults consider it immature or humiliating to rely on others for financial or even social support. They would rather deal with sexual guilt—if they sense any at all—than consider marrying before they think they are ready. This cultural predilection toward punishing rather than blessing marriage must go, and congregations and churchgoers can help by dropping their own punitive positions toward family members, as well as by identifying deserving young couples who could use a little extra help once in a while. Christians are great about supporting their missionaries, but in this matter, we can be missionaries to the marriages in our midst.

(2) Immaturity: Even if economic security is not a concern, immaturity and naïveté often characterize young marriages. While unlearning self-centeredness and acquiring a sacrificial side aren’t easy at any age, naïveté may actually benefit youth, since preferences and habits ingrained over years of single life often are not set aside easily. Let’s face it: Young adults are inexperienced, but they are not intrinsically incompetent at marriage. So they need, of course, the frank guidance of parents, mentors, and Christian couples.

Women, however, do tend to exhibit greater maturity earlier than men. As a result, it shouldn’t surprise us when a young woman falls in love with someone three, five, even ten years her senior. Indeed, two of the finest marriages I’ve recently witnessed exhibit nearly a dozen years’ difference between husband and wife. While there are unwise ages to marry, there is no right age for which we must make our children wait. Indeed, age integration is one of the unique hallmarks of the institutional church, tacitly contesting the strict age-separation patterns that have long characterized American schools and universities.

One common way that immaturity reveals itself is when parents or children make marriage into another form of social competition or sibling rivalry. Modern adolescence and young adulthood read like one contest after another: the race to win in sports, to get good grades, to attend a prestigious college, to attract the best-looking person, to secure that coveted job. Where does it end? Not with marriage. Even college students who wish to marry are painfully (or proudly) aware of the “ring by spring” competition. Marriage becomes equated with beautiful, successful people.

Weddings become expensive displays of personal and family status. Clergy often get caught in the middle of this, and feel powerless to contest it. My father, a minister, told me that he’d rather “bury people than marry people.”

Such is the pressure cooker of modern weddings. None of this is good. Marriage is too important and too serious to be treated as yet another game to play, with winners and losers. It’s a covenant of mutual submission and sacrificial love, not a contest of prestige, social norms, and saving face. A trend toward more modest weddings would be a great start.

(3) A Poor Match: Marrying early can mean a short search process, which elevates the odds of a poorer match. In the age of online dating personality algorithms and matches (see “Restless, Reformed, and Single,” page 28), Americans have become well acquainted with the cultural notion that getting the right fit in a marital partner is extremely important. Chemistry is the new watchword as we meld marriage with science. Should opposites attract? Or should we look for common interests?

There is no right answer to such questions, because successful marriages are less about the right personalities than about the right practices, like persistent communication and conflict resolution, along with the ability to handle the cyclical nature of so much about marriage, and a bedrock commitment to its sacred unity. Indeed, marriage research confirms that couples who view their marriages as sacred covenants are far better off than those who don’t.

Toward this end, pastors, premarital counselors, and Christian friends must be free to speak frankly into the lives of those seeking their counsel about marriage. While it may be nice to find an optimal match in marriage, it cannot hold a candle to sharing a mental and spiritual commitment to the enduring covenant between God, man, and woman. It just can’t. People change. Chemistry wanes. Covenants don’t.

(4) Marrying for Sex: One byproduct of the abstinence culture is that some marry early simply for the promise of long-awaited, guilt-free sex. After all, Paul told us that it’s better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Cor. 7). And modern America certainly bears a striking resemblance to Corinth, whose church was confused about what to do with marriage. Its people were delaying marriage, just like we are. Yet in our culture of shallow marriages and easy divorce, marrying simply for the lure of sex is not what Paul had in mind. He reminded the Corinthians—and us—of the only two callings for believers in this matter: a season or lifetime of singleness, or marriage. In other words, our freedom to serve as singles or our submission as married people is never intended to be about us. It’s about God. While I certainly understand the biological urge to mate, we need to remind young adults that values like generosity, courage, dependability, compassion, and godliness live on far longer than do high testosterone and estrogen levels. Simply put, family and friends ought to do their best to help young couples discern whether there is more to their love than sexual desire.

(5) Unrealistic expectations: Today’s young adults show tremendous optimism about their own personal futures, leading many to sense they are entitled to a great marriage that will commence according to plan, on their timetable. Unfortunately, marital life often ends up looking different from what they had anticipated. Marriage is a remarkable institution in many ways, but it cannot bear all of the unrealistic expectations that we moderns have heaped upon it.

So enough of the honeymoon banter: insiders know that a good marriage is hard work, and that its challenges often begin immediately. The abstinence industry perpetuates a blissful myth; too much is made of the explosively rewarding marital sex life awaiting abstainers. The fact is that God makes no promises of great sex to those who wait. Some experience difficult marriages. Spouses wander. Others cannot conceive children.

In reality, spouses learn marriage, just like they learn communication, child-rearing, or making love. Unfortunately, education about marriage is now sadly perceived as self-obvious, juvenile, or feminine, the domain of disparaged home economics courses. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In sum, Christians need to get real about marriage: it’s a covenant helpmate thing that suffers from too much idealism and too little realism.Weddings may be beautiful, but marriages become beautiful. Personal storytelling and testimonies can work wonders here, since so much about life is learned behavior. Young adults want to know that it’s possible for two fellow believers to stay happy together for a lifetime, and they need to hear how the generations preceding them did it.

Enduring Gospel Witness
Abstinence is not to blame for our marital crisis. But promoting it has come at a cost in a permissive world in which we are increasingly postponing marriage. While I am no fan of the demographic realities I outlined earlier, one thing I will remember is that while sex matters, marriage matters more. The importance of Christian marriage as a symbol of God’s covenantal faithfulness to his people—and a witness to the future union of Christ and his bride—will only grow in significance as the wider Western culture diminishes both the meaning and actual practice of marriage. Marriage itself will become a witness to the gospel.

Romantic relationship formation is what I study. I’ve spoken with hundreds of young adults about not only what they think or hope for, but also what they actually do. Time and again, I’ve listened to Christian undergraduates recount to me how their relationships turned sexual. One thing I never ask them is why. I know why. Because sex feels great, it feels connectional, it feels deeply human. I never blame them for wanting that. Sex is intended to deepen personal relationships, and desire for it is intended to promote marriage. Such are the impulses of many young Christians in love. In an environment where parents and peers are encouraging them to delay thoughts of marriage, I’m not surprised that their sexuality remains difficult to suppress and the source of considerable angst.

We would do well to recognize some of these relationships for what they are: marriages in the making. If a young couple displays maturity, faith, fidelity, a commitment to understanding marriage as a covenant, and a sense of realism about marriage, then it’s our duty—indeed, our pleasure—to help them expedite the part of marriage that involves public recognition and celebration of what God is already knitting together. We ought to “rejoice and delight” in them, and praise their love (Song of Sol. 1:4).

Mark Regnerus, Ph.D., is the author of Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford, 2007). He’s an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin, where he lives with his wife, Deeann, and their three children.

Leave a comment

Filed under Strengthening Families, Western Civilization

2009: Is the Gay Marriage Debate Over? What the battle for traditional marriage means for Americans and Evangelicals / Mark Galli, Christianity Today

I cannot yet find this article on the online site, sou you will have to read the original in the July2009 print issue of “Christianity Today”.

Thanks very much,
Steve St.Clair

Is the Gay Marriage Debate Over?
What the battle for traditional marriage means for Americans – and Evangelicals
Mark Galli
Christianity Today
July 2009

ONE COULD BECOME wistful about the time in history when marriage was a settled affair, when everyone agreed on what it was, when no nation on the planet would have entertained the idea of legalizing same-sex marriage. But wistfulness is usually reserved for times long ago and places far away—not for a state of affairs that existed less than a decade ago.

In December 2000, the Dutch parliament became the first to pass legislation that gave same-sex couples the right to marry, divorce, and adopt children. On April 1 of the follow­ing year, the mayor of Amsterdam officiated, for the first time in human history, at the ceremonies of the first four gay couples. In the ensuing eight years, Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), and Norway (2008) followed the Netherlands’ lead, and Sweden may now not be far behind.

While we shake our heads at those liber­tine Dutch, traditional marriage was chal­lenged in the U.S. even earlier, in 1993, when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the state’s prohibition of same-sex marriages amounted to discrimination on the basis of sex. For the first time in U.S. history, a state supreme-court ruling suggested that gay couples may have the right to marry.

Social conservatives were galvanized into action and enacted a series of protective measures. Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. Three states soon adopted constitutional same-sex marriage bans: Alaska (1998), Nebraska (2000), and Nevada (2000). And in a few years, 42 states enacted statutes similar to DOMA (although three of those bans have since been overturned).

Gay marriage advocacy was given new life with Massachusetts’s historic 2003 high court ruling, which said that it was uncon­stitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. It became clear that statutory bans were not enough; judges could throw out the laws if they felt the bans violated state constitutional rights. Over the next three years, voters in 23 states immediately amended their constitutions to limit mar­riage to heterosexuals.

Since then, the issue has ebbed and flowed, like trench warfare, with each side gaining only yards of territory with each new legislative or judicial assault. When the battle of Election 2008 had ended, it appeared that social conservatives had the momentum when constitutional amendments banning gay marriages passed in three more states.

But seemingly out of nowhere, gay marriage advocates have won stunning judicial, legislative, and social victories. Connecticut began granting marriage cer­tificates to spouses of the same gender in November 2008. In April 2009, Iowa’s high court ruled that banning gay marriages was unconstitutional, and gay couples began lining up at Iowa courthouses. The Vermont legislature legalized gay marriage that same month, while Maine and New Hampshire legalized gay marriage in May.

All the while, Rick Warren and Miss USA contestant Carrie Prejean were hit hard for their public statements against gay marriage. To be against gay mar­riage now carries a social stigma.

A recent poll of Massachusetts residents revealed that 36 percent of voters who oppose gay marriage agreed with the state­ment, “If you speak out against gay marriage in Massachusetts you really have to watch your back because some people may try to hurt you.”

In short, traditional Christians feel like the armored tank of history is rolling over them, crushing traditional marriage under its iron treads, impervious to argument, the ballot box, or judicial logic. Even more disheartening has been to witness how, in each mainline denomination, and even in some evangelical seminaries, fellow Chris­tians lobby hard for gay marriage.

The depressing feeling of inevitability is precisely what advocates of gay marriage want to instill in their opponents. But rely­ing as many do on historical determinism—”Side with us because we’re going to win” — suggests that gay marriage advocates have run out of arguments. It also demonstrates historical amnesia. Arguments from histori­cal inevitability have often been assumed by millions—to take two examples, the inevita­bility of Communism and the death of reli­gion—and yet have proven to be wrong.

Still, we are at our wits’ ends about what to say next, impervious as the gay mar­riage juggernaut is. We know biblically and instinctively that “male and female he created them,” and that these complementary sexual beings are designed to become one flesh. We know that this spiritual instinct and biblical argument will not make much headway in the public square. So what do we say?

We can make secular arguments, of course, but the more we look at the stron­gest secular arguments we can muster, the more those arguments cut two ways. And one of the edges of those arguments will make evangelicals bleed, I’m afraid.

One way to get at the heart of an argument is to listen to allies who take the opposite view on this issue. There are some social conservatives, for example, who argue for gay marriage on conservative grounds.

Take The Atlantic’s foremost blogger, Andrew Sullivan, a Roman Catholic. He also happens to be gay, but his argument does not rest on his sexual preference. His case, as he asserted in a 2003 Time essay, is “an eminently conservative one—in fact, almost an emblem of ‘compas­sionate conservatism.'” He says the institu­tion of marriage fosters responsibility, com­mitment, and the domestication of unruly men. Thus, “bringing gay men and women into this institution will surely change the gay subculture in subtle but profoundly conser­vative ways.” Growing up gay, he realized he would never have a family, and that it’s “the weddings and relationships and holidays that give families structure and meaning.” And thus, “when I looked forward, I saw nothing but emptiness and loneliness. No wonder it was hard to connect sex with love and com­mitment,” Sullivan wrote.

Or take the argument from the street, so to speak, from a common blogger in Algonquin, Illinois. He is a heterosexual who lives with a woman, and a political conservative who supports legalizing gay marriage. He says we must accept the fact that American society has moved on and “embraced different ways people choose to live and love.” And “when you take away all the legalisms, the moral quotient, the religious implications, and the needs of society,” he writes, “what we are left with is nothing more than how people choose to define their relationships where they feel love for another human being.”

These two writers—one from the center of American culture and the other from the heartland—summarize a privatized view of marriage. Marriage is about the fulfillment of the two people involved. It will help them to mature as human beings and to express more deeply their love for one another.

This, of course, strikes at the heart of how Christians have traditionally under­stood marriage. David Blankenhorn, presi­dent of the New York-based Institute for American Values and author of The Future of Marriage, argued this in a nonreligious way in a September 2008 Los Angeles Times op-ed. There is one constant in the constantly evolving understanding of marriage, he says: “In all societies, marriage shapes the rights and obligations of parenthood. Among us humans, the scholars report, marriage is not primarily a license to have sex. Nor is it primarily a license to receive benefits or social recognition. It is primarily a license to have children.”

Further, he says, “Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. Marriage says to society as a whole: For every child born, there is a recognized mother and a father, accountable to the child and to each other.”

The argument is nuanced, and goes on to take into account heterosexual couples who will not or cannot have children. But he grounds marriage not in two people, but in two communities: the family and the state.

McGill University law professor Marga­ret Somerville, in a 2003 brief before Can­ada’s Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, argued in much the same way. She says that to form a society, we must create “a societal-cultural paradigm.” This is a constellation of “values, principles, attitudes, beliefs, and myths” by which a society finds value and meaning, both individually and collectively.

“Reproduction is the fundamental occur­rence on which, ultimately, the future of human life depends,” she says. “That is the primary reason why marriage is important to society.” Thus, it is crucial that societies protect marriage as a fact and as a symbol, as that institution that fosters human life, doing so in the context of family and society. “Even if a particular man and woman cannot or do not want to have a child, their getting married does not damage this general symbolism.”

Again, the argument is involved and nuanced. Both Blankenhorn and Somerville ground marriage in something larger than two selves who wish to find fulfillment Mar­riage is inescapably connected to children and thus family, and family is inescapably connected to society.

In a highly individualistic culture, this argument swims upstream, but conserva­tive Christians recognize that it corresponds to their basic theological instincts. The narcissism of mutual self-fulfillment will never be a solid foundation for a particular marriage, let alone for the most fundamental institution in society. This is an argument we can press publicly as the opportunity arises.

We’ll have to press it humbly, however, because as it turns out, we are very much complicit in the unrighteousness we decry.

The thrust of the pro-gay-marriage argu­ment rests on the assumption that the hap­piness of the individual is paramount, and that the state’s responsibility is to protect the rights of individuals to pursue whatever they think will make them happy, as long as no one gets hurt.

The irony of radical individualism is that it will eventually hurt somebody. In practice, the happiness of one individual always runs into the happiness of another, and then only the strong survive. The weaker individual is no longer treated as fully human, and thus his or her right to happiness is compro­mised. In our nation, we see this in the way we treat individuals at both ends of life, in how expendable they are if they interrupt the happiness of the fully functioning—take the increasing acceptance of euthanasia, and the on-the-ground fact of abortions in the thousands every day.

Evangelicals are sensitive to this reality, but are less aware of how much we proac­tively participate in the culture of individu­alism. While stopping short of abortion, we have not given much thought to our easy acceptance of artificial contraception. I’m not arguing for or against contraception here, only pointing to the reality that contracep­tion has separated sex from procreation. That, in turn, has prompted most couples, evangelicals included, to think that sex is first and foremost a fulfilling psychological and physical experience, that a couple has a right to enjoy themselves for a few years before they settle down to family life.

In essence, we have already redefined marriage as an institution designed for per­sonal happiness. We see ancillary evidence of this at the other end of marriage: Though it is a difficult thing to measure, the rate at which evangelicals divorce is hard to distin­guish from the larger culture’s, and the list of reasons for divorce seems no different: ‘We grew apart.” ‘We no longer met each other’s needs.” “Irreconcilable differences.” The language of divorce is usually about the lack of self-fulfillment. our penchant for changing churches, usually because “I just wasn’t being fed,” as well as our need to test every church and pastor against our personal reading of the Bible—well, you can see why Protestants have managed in 500 years to create out of two traditions (Orthodox and Catholic) some 30,000 denominations. While the Baptists are known for their doctrine of “soul com­petency,” a version of the doctrine is woven into the fabric of broader evangelicalism, though it has morphed into sole competency. Thus, the death of mutual accountability and church discipline in our movement. Thus, the exaltation of worship in which the per­sonal experience of the worshiper so often becomes more important than the object of worship. Thus, the continual proliferation of churches, parachurches, and movements because the group we belong to just doesn’t do it the way we think “the Lord is leading me” to do it.

We are, of all Christian traditions, the most individualistic. This individual emphasis has flourished in different ways and in different settings, and often for the good. It has challenged moribund religion (Reformation), prompted revival (Great Awakenings), ministered to the urban poor (Salvation Army), abolished slavery (William Wilberforce), and led to explosive world­wide church growth (Pentecostalism). But it is individualism nonetheless, and it cuts right to the heart of one of our best argu­ments against gay marriage.

We cannot very well argue for the sanc­tity of marriage as a crucial social institu­tion while we blithely go about divorcing and approving of remarriage at a rate that destabilizes marriage. We cannot say that an institution, like the state, has a perfect right to insist on certain values and behavior from its citizens while we refuse to submit to denominational or local church author­ity. We cannot tell gay couples that mar­riage is about something much larger than self-fulfillment when we, like the rest of heterosexual culture, delay marriage until we can experience life, and delay having children until we can enjoy each other for a few years.

In short, we have been perfect hypocrites on this issue. Until we admit that and take steps to amend our ways, our cries of alarm about gay marriage will echo off into oblivion.

This does not mean we should stop fighting initiatives that would legalize gay marriage. Gay marriage is simply a bad idea, whether one is religious or not. But it’s bad not only because of what it will do to the social fabric, but because of what it signals has already hap­pened to our social fabric. We are a culture of radical individualists, and gay marriage does nothing but put an exclamation point on that fact. We should fight it, because it will only make a bad situation worse.

That being said, we are as compromised as the next gay couple when it comes to radi­cal individualism. This means that alongside our call to maintain traditional marriage, we should “bewail our manifold sins and wickedness,” as the Book of Common Prayer puts it. We should acknowledge how much Protestant culture has shaped American culture, how much we’ve collaborated in the flowering of individualism, and how we continue to do so even when the flower has become a weed that is choking off life.

We well may lose the marriage war. But we are called into the battle not because we are promised victory, but because we’re called to be witnesses of a greater battle. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has famously said that “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.” In our time and place, it is a battle with the original temptation: to imagine we are gods, captains of our own souls and masters of our fate—a habitual unwillingness to submit to anything bigger than the self.

As we contend with gay marriage propo­nents, then, we contend as both prophets and penitents. Like Isaiah, we can announce to our culture the poisonous fruit of immorality, while saying, ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5, ESV). Like Paul, we can forthrightly warn others of the horrific consequences of sin, but in the next breath acknowledge that we must admit we are “the chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).

What we bring to the public table, then, is not our righteousness or even our humility. We come in the name of the One who came into the world to save sinners of all political and social persuasions. We raise our voices on behalf of righteousness not in a way cal­culated to win the culture—for sometimes we will, sometimes we won’t—but as wit­nesses to the only Righteous One. We live in a culture that by all accounts is descending into darkness, and our job is to reflect the light of Christ We speak for what he says is right, using the lingua franca of the culture to argue that as best we can, using the political and social instruments at our disposal to the best of our ability, acknowledging our own complicity in the sins we decry, and pointing to the One who must save us all.

Mark Galli is senior managing editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY. He is author of A Great and Terrible Love: A Spiritual Journey into the Attributes of God (Baker).

Leave a comment

Filed under Same Sex Marriage, Strengthening Families

2005: Revolution de la filiation: Conflit entre droits des adultes et besoins des enfants / Elizabeth Marquardt

Merci Beaucoup,
Steve St.Clair

Revolution de la filiation:
Conflit émergent entre les droits des adultes et
les besoins des enfants

Appel international de la Commission d’enquête sur l’avenir de la fonction parentale
Par Elizabeth Marquardt

LES NOMBREUX changements des dernières années concernant le mariage, la procréation et la structure familiale ont tous eu pour effet de remettre en question la définition du parent d’un enfant. Au fil du temps, des tribunaux et la culture ont désigné différentes personnes comme figures parentales dans la vie d’un enfant, y compris beaux-parents, partenaires des parents en dehors du mariage, donneurs de sperme, mères-porteuses et même des membres de la famille élargie ou des amis de la famille.

Cet élargissement du terme “parent” a eu lieu d’abord suite à l’accroissement considerable du nombre de personnes seules ayant des enfants, et suite à la banalisation du divorce. Mais plus récemment—car grand nombre d’événements importants ont eu lieu ces derniers mois—la redéfinition du statut parental prend de nouvelles formes correspondant à la modification des attitudes culturelles; les techniques de reproduction évoluent, l’accès qu’on y a se généralise et la science n’a de cesse d’inventer des moyens de procréation. Un nombre croissant de couples de même sexe élève des enfants, et beaucoup d’entre eux réclament le droit au mariage. De nouveaux acteurs se joignent au débat sur le mariage, y compris les adeptes du mariage en groupe, et la loi s’efforce de rester à jour, créant souvent autant d’incertitudes qu’elle n’élimine.

Plutôt que de s’efforcer à unir l’homme et la femme qui conçoivent, portent et élèvent un enfant, et que ce soit cette unité qu’on appelle “parents”, la tendance actuelle vers la redéfinition sépare les parents génétiques, congénitaux et sociaux, en leur attribuant des rôles de plus en plus fragmentés et des termes légaux distincts.1

Dans les pays occidentaux et ailleurs, des commissions d’experts, des tribunaux, des experts juridiques et des groupes médicaux prônent la redéfinition du statut parental, presque sans connaître et sans tenir compte des influences venant d’autres disciplines et du public en général.

Aujourd’hui, les besoins et les identités des enfants—ceux qui sont nés et ceux qui naîtront—sont menacés par les politiques et les pratiques qui transforment et fragmentent le rôle parental.

Redéfinir le parent—La situation actuelle à travers le monde
Les événements qui transforment de manière radicale la définition du parent se déroulent à une vitesse ahurissante à travers le monde.

Au Canada, la loi récente qui a légalisé le mariage homosexuel à travers le pays effacait en même temps le terme “parent naturel” de toute législation fédérale, pour le remplacer par le terme “parent légal.”2 Cette stipulation eut pour effet de changer la définition du parent pour tous les enfants canadiens, afin de permettre la legalization tant controversée du mariage homosexuel.

C’est également au Canada que deux jugements étonnement contradictoires sont en vigueur: dans certaines provinces, un enfant adopté a maintenant le droit de connaître l’identité de ses parents biologiques, alors que révéler l’identité des parents biologiques à un enfant conçu à l’aide de sperme ou d’ovule de donneurs constitue un délit fédéral passible d’amende, d’emprisonnement ou des deux.

En Espagne, suite à la légalisation du mariage entre partenaires du même sexe, le Bureau de l’état civil a enlevé les mots “mère” et “père” du premier document le pays émet à chaque citoyen: l’acte de naissance. Ces mots sont désormais remplacés par “progéniteur A” et “progéniteur B”3

En même temps, étrange coïncidence, des commissions législatives dans trois autres pays ont publié des rapports le printemps dernier sur les techniques de reproduction assistée. Chacun de ces rapports apporte des changements radicaux à la definition du parent.

Dans un rapport intitulé “Nouvelles Questions portant sur le Statut de Parent Légal,” la Commission juridique de la Nouvelle-Zélande a soumis la proposition inedited d’autoriser les enfants conçus à l’aide de sperme ou d’ovules de donneurs à avoir trois parents légaux ou plus, afin d’accorder aux donneurs de sperme ou d’ovules l’option de devenir parents légaux.4

En Australie, la Commission des réformes juridiques de Victoria a proposé que l’on ouvre l’accès à des services d’insémination artificielle aux couples de même sexe et aux célibataires, comme on le fait dans nombreux pays dont les États-Unis (bien que cela soit encore illégal dans certains pays européens et autre pays). Le raisonnement de la Commission était saisissant. Elle affirmait qu’élargir l’accès à l’insémination par donneur pour en faire bénéficier les couples de même sexe et les personnes seules est une mesure essentielle car cela aura pour effet de réduire la discrimination sociale visant les enfants élevés dans ce type de famille.5 Dans un rapport subséquent, cette Commission proposait que les donneurs de sperme et d’ovules bénéficient de l’option de devenir le troisième parent légal d’un enfant.

En même temps, en Irlande, la Commission de la Procréation Humaine Assistée a étonné un grand nombre de gens en proposant qu’un couple qui élabore un projet parental par l’intermédiaire d’une mère porteuse soit automatiquement déclaré parents légaux de l’enfant, enlevant à la femme qui donne naissance à l’enfant toute protection ou statut légal si elle devait changer d’avis.6 Un membre de la Commission, en désaccord avec la majorité, déclarait, en guise d’avertissement, “Si la mère porteuse offrait de la résistance [à renoncer au bébé], on pourrait utiliser contre elle une contrainte raisonnable.”7

Pendant ce temps, en Inde, les nouvelles directives relatives aux techniques de reproduction assistée, émises en juin 2005 par le Conseil Indien de la Recherche Médicale, déclarent que “l’enfant né suite à l’utilisation de gamètes de donneurs [sperme ou ovules] n’aura aucun droit quelqu’il soit de connaître l’identité de ses parents génétiques.” Le titre du journal local affirmait que les nouveaux réglements “contribuent considérablement à mettre fin à l’exploitation”—se situant dans l’optique des adultes qui donnent ou qui reçoivent du sperme ou des ovules, mais ne tenant pas compte du point de vue des enfants qui ne pourront jamais connaître leurs origines.8

D’autres mesures prises par des gouvernements indiquent un niveau croissant d’intervention de l’État, et un contrôle accru exercé sur la reproduction et la vie de famille.

En Grande Bretagne, une loi récente interdisant l’anonymat du donneur a provoqué une diminution abrupte du nombre de personnes voulant faire don de sperme ou d’ovules.9 Peu de temps après, les services gouvernementaux de santé ont mis sur pied une campagne dynamique de recrutement de donneurs de sperme et d’ovules, ne se limitant pas à autoriser la procréation planifiée d’enfants séparés d’un ou de leurs deux parents biologiques, mais encourageant cette procréation de manière explicite.10

Le Danemark fournit un autre exemple d’appui étatique actif. Dans ce pays, où les impôts sont élevés, l’État subventionne le don de sperme en stipulant que les revenus des donneurs de sperme seront exonérés d’impôts. L’entreprise danoise Cryos, une des plus grandes banques de sperme au monde, expédie presque trios quarts de son sperme à des individus et des couples outre-mer, avec l’appui implicite des contribuables danois.11 De plus, prenant une mesure encore plus étonnante, le parlement danois a ratifié récemment, par une marge étroite, une loi donnant accès aux couples de lesbiennes et aux femmes seules à l’insémination artificielle dans des hôpitaux publics.12

Au Vietnam, l’hôpital d’État manque de donneurs bénévoles de sperme. Il a donc conçu le projet d’établir une banque de sperme communautaire en demandant à ceux qui désirent obtenir du sperme de référer un membre de la famille ou un ami qui donnera du sperme à la banque, en vue d’utilisation par un autre couple. La demande accrue de sperme provient de “familles où le mari et la femme sont des cadres, et de femmes qui désirent avoir un enfant sans se marier.”13

En Australie, une loi ratifiée en 1984 autorisant les donneurs de sperme à prendre contact avec leurs enfants de plus de 18 ans a mené à la proposition émise cette année selon laquelle les enfants conçus à l’aide de sperme de donneurs pourraient recevoir une lettre du gouvernement les avertissant du désir du donneur de sperme de prendre contact avec eux. En Australie comme ailleurs, la plupart des parents d’enfants conçus à l’aide de sperme de donneur n’ont jamais révélé la vérité à ces enfants.14 Afin de parer au choque éventuel, le gouvernement à Victoria a proposé de monter une campagne publique avertissant les jeunes adultes qu’ils pourraient être contactés par un père donneur de sperme dont ils ne connaissent pas l’existence.15

Entre temps, aux États-Unis le domaine des techniques de procréation se développe toujours presque sans réglementation. Des décisions très difficiles sont souvent confiées à des juges de juridictions locales (dont les cas arrivent parfois devant des cours suprêmes). Ces tribunaux doivent trop souvent décider qui sont les parents d’un enfant en choisissant parmi les nombreux adultes impliqués dans le projet parental, dans la conception, la naissance et l’éducation de l’enfant.

Récemment, la Cour Suprême de la Californie a entendu trois cas concernant des couples de lesbiennes qui avaient eu des enfants en utilisant du sperme de donneurs, et qui se sont séparés par la suite. Dans ces cas, la figure maternelle (qui, dans aucun des cas n’avait adopté l’enfant) a perdu l’accès à l’enfant ou ne souhaitait plus avoir une obligation financière envers l’enfant. Le tribunal a décidé, dans les trois cas, que la mère non biologique est comparable au père de l’enfant et doit détenir un statut parental à part entière, avec les droits et les responsabilités que ce statut implique.16 Le résultat risque d’avoir des conséquences de grande portée non seulement pour les couples de même sexe, mais pour les nombreux couples hétérosexuels dans des familles recomposées,17 ainsi que pour ceux qui pourraient se servir de techniques de reproduction ou élever ensemble des enfants pendant un certain temps en dehors du mariage, sans adoption et sans autre structure légale.

En Pennsylvanie, dans la contrée d’Erie, un juge devait décider récemment à qui accorder le statut de parent dans un cas où une mère porteuse avait porté des triplets pour un couple dont l’homme avait 62 ans et la femme 60 ans. Lorsque le couple n’est pas venu chercher les bébés, l’hôpital a entamé la démarche pour les placer en maison d’accueil. En apprenant cela, la mère porteuse, avec approbation du juge obtenue par la suite, les a pris chez elle et s’est mise à les élever comme ses propres enfants. Mais le couple ayant eu recours à la mère porteuse continue à réclamer l’accès légal aux enfants (et l’homme de 62 ans est obligé de pourvoir à leurs besoins), tandis que l’étudiante qui a fourni ses ovules réclame ses droits parentaux également.18

Dans un autre cas entendu actuellement dans la Cour Suprême de Pennsylvanie, un donneur de sperme a été sommé par une juridiction inférieure à prendre en charge des jumaux conçus par fertilisation in vitro. Selon la juridiction inférieure, la mere et le donneur de sperme avait commis un tort envers les jumaux et leur avait fait perdre leurs droits en établissant l’entente qui déchargeait le donneur de toute responsabilité à leur égard. On demande maintenant à la Cour Suprême de renverser cette décision.19

Suite à ces deux cas, les législateurs en Pennsylvanie ont réuni une sous-commission chargée des techniques de reproduction. Un avocat siégeant à la commission a déclaré, “Dans la société actuelle, il devient fréquent pour un donneur de sperme ou d’ovules, et pour une mère de substitution de participer à la création d’une famille, et il est dans l’intérêt de tous les citoyens de l’État que l’on établisse la définition légale du parent, ainsi que ses droits et responsabilités.”20 L’article rapportant ces développements présentait la question uniquement du point de vue de la protection des droits des adultes, y compris donneurs d’ovules et de sperme, mères porteuses et parents légaux. La question de l’effet de ces décisions sur les enfants n’était pas évoquée.

En Ohio, un projet de loi récent portait sur la pratique de plus en plus répandue de “l’adoption d’embryon,” situation où un couple ayant un embryon non utilisé, créé dans le cadre d’un projet de procréation assistée, donne l’embryon à un autre couple, qui l’implante dans l’uterus de la femme et qui élève l’enfant comme le sien propre. Le projet de loi définit la mère qui donne naissance à l’enfant, et non pas la mère biologique, comme étant la mère légale, et précise que le mari de la mère dont l’enfant est né, et qui a consenti à l’adoption de l’enfant, en est le père légal.21

Bien que de tels jugements et propositions puissent clarifier certaines situations, ils créent en même temps d’étonnantes incertitudes insolites, et posent à la jurisprudence de nouveaux problèmes à résoudre, compte tenu de la très large gamme d’adultes—du donneur de sperme au mari d’une femme à qui on a implanté l’embryon de quelqu’un d’autre, en passant par la mère porteuse ou le donneurd’ovules, jusqu’à l’ancienne amie ou ancien ami d’un parent—à qui l’on peut designer le statut de parent d’un enfant.

En même temps, l’intensité du débat public concernant le mariage homosexuel, et la visibilité croissante des couples de même sexe qui élèvent des enfants contribuent à créer de nouvelles incertitudes quant à la signification du rôle parental. Cesnouvelles incertitudes pourraient un grand nombre d’enfants, pas seulement ceux, relativement peu nombreux, qui sont élevés par des homosexuels et des lesbiennes.

Au Massachusetts, une décision 4 contre 3 de l’autorité judiciaire de l’État a légalisé le mariage homosexuel il y a presque trois ans. (Il est intéressant de noter que de toutes les lois, décisions et propositions dont il est question dans ce rapport, le mariage homosexuel au Massachusetts est une des premières.) Suivant cette decision du tribunal, le Ministère de la Santé Publique a modifié le certificat standard de mariage, remplaçant les mots “mari” et “femme” par les termes “partie A” et “partie B”. De plus, il a proposé que l’on change les actes de naissance de tous les enfants nés au Massachusetts en remplaçant les mots “mère” et “père” par les termes “Parent A” et “Parent B.”22

Comme au Canada et en Espagne, une fois qu’on légalise le mariage homosexuel, certains adeptes avancent immédiatement l’argument que le concept légal de parent, peu importe les enfants impliqués, doit changer, quitte à éliminer les mots “père” et “mère” des premiers documents qu’un État émet à tous les enfants.23

Le fait est que les couples de même sexe, les parents adoptifs, les célibataires et les couples infertiles utilisant des donneurs demandent, en règle générale, que le nom d’un ou des deux parents biologiques ne paraisse pas à l’acte de naissance—et que celui d’un parent non biologique y paraisse sans qu’il y ait adoption légale. Au Québec, lorsqu’une femme vivant dans une union civile homosexuelle donne naissance à un enfant, la loi accorde le statut parental à sa partenaire, qui peut figurer comme père de l’enfant dans l’acte de naissance.24 Une décision semblable a été prise récemment par un tribunal en Ontario; le juge a souligné que le témoignage des mères dont les noms n’ont pas été inscrits automatiquement aux actes de naissance ‘révèle une grande souffrance’ et que certaines de ces femmes trouvent l’exigence d’adopter l’enfant “immorale”25. En Californie, on autorise également une “deuxième mère” à s’inscrire à l’acte de naissance en tant que père. L’année dernière, un juge au New Jersey a décidé pour la première fois dans cet État que la partenaire d’une femme qui a conçu un enfant à l’aide de sperme de donneur, a automatiquement le droit d’être inscrite à l’acte de naissance de l’enfant en tant que parent de naissance, sans l’obligation d’adopter l’enfant, comme c’est le cas des maris de femmes se servant de sperme de donneurs.26 Plus tôt cette année, l’État de Virginie a émis à un couple de lesbiennes qui adoptait un enfant un acte de naissance portant les termes “Parent 1” et “Parent 2,” car le couple avait refusé d’inscrire un de leurs noms à la rubrique “père” de l’acte de naissance.27 Un procès semblable vient d’être intenté en Oregon.28 D’autres suivront sans doute.

Partout au monde, l’État joue un rôle de plus en plus actif dans la redéfinition du parent. La nouvelle définition met de plus en plus l’accent sur les droits des adultes à avoir des enfants, plutôt que les besoins des enfants de connaître et d’être élevés par leurs mères et pères, dans les limites du possible. L’État est maintenant systématiquement impliqué dans la réglementation, la ventilation et la résolution de litiges autour de la procréation et le statut parental. Peu d’endroits offrent une résistance active à cette tendance mondiale.

C’est peut-être la position adoptée par la France qui offre l’exemple le plus étonnant d’opposition. Dans ce pays, le rapport de la Commission parlementaire “Famille et droits des enfants,” rendu public en janvier 2006, a exprimé un point de vue tout à fait contraire à la tendance. Les auteurs du rapport remarquent sur un ton critique que “le désir d’avoir un enfant semble s’être transformé en droit à un enfant.” Ils affirment que “lorsqu’il s’agit des vies des enfants, les législateurs se doivent d’agir avec prudence et de rechercher calmement un consensus social…” Les auteurs du rapport recommandent que l’on décide contre la légalisation du mariage homosexuel, invoquant des inquiétudes liées à l’identité et le développement des enfants quand la loi crée de “fausses filiations,” ou dans une situation où il y a “deux pères ou deux mères —ce qui, sur le plan biologique, n’est ni réel ni plausible.” Recommandant “leprincipe de précaution,” les auteurs du rapport concluent que la procréation assistée doit continuer à être fondée sur des justifications médicales, qu’elle doit s’appliquer à la configuration “une mère—un père—un enfant,” et que le recours aux mères porteuses doit rester interdit.29

Un autre développement notable s’est produit en Italie l’été passé, lorsque les électeurs ont rejeté un référendum qui aurait rendu moins restrictive la loi relative à la procréation. La loi qui est restée en effet interdit le recours au sperme et aux ovules de donneurs, et autorise les techniques de procréation assistée pour les couples mariés seulement. Un exemple un peu moins restrictif est celui du Taiwan, où l’année dernière le Conseil des ministres a approuvé une loi sur les techniques de procréation assistée, qui limite l’utilisation de ces techniques aux couples stériles, interdit de recevoir du sperme et des ovules de parents proches, et n’autorise pas que le sperme ou les ovules d’un même donneur soit utilisés par plus de deux couples. Mais des exemples de ce type sont rares.30

Pourquoi la redéfinition mondiale du parent menace l’identité de l’enfant
Pourquoi devons-nous nous soucier des nombreuses décisions, lois et propositions partout dans le monde qui visent à redéfinir le mariage?

Une bonne société protège les intérêts des citoyens les plus vulnérables, particulièrement ceux des enfants. En ce moment, l’institution la plus essentielle pour lasurvie des enfants—celle de l’union parentale—est soumise à une redéfinition fondamentale, avec l’appui tacite de l’État, quand ce n’est pas l’État qui prend les rênes en main. De plus en plus, la loi et la culture considèrent le rôle parental une institution axée principalement sur le droit des adultes à avoir des enfants, plutôt que sur le besoin qu’ont les enfants de leur mère et de leur père. Ces changements sans précédent sont introduits le plus souvent sans conscientisation et sans débat public.

Le fil conducteur reliant grand nombre de ces décisions est le droit des adultes aux enfants. La revendication de ces droits est légitime. Le désir d’avoir un enfant est une force puissante ressentie profondément dans l’âme. L’incapacité de porter ses propres enfants est perçue comme une perte énorme, qui provoque parfois un deuil jamais éteint. Nous devons réagir à ce désir avec respect et compassion. Il est légitime de demander que la médecine et la société viennent en aide à ceux qui nepeuvent pas avoir des enfants.

Mais les droits et les besoins des adultes qui veulent concevoir des enfants ne sont pas le seul facteur à prendre en compte. Les enfants ont, eux aussi, des droits et des besoins. Par exemple, la Convention de l’ONU sur les Droits des Enfants, ratifié en 1989, affirme que “l’enfant aura…le droit dès sa naissance à un nom, le droit d’acquérir une nationalité et, dans les limites du possible, le droit de connaître ses propres parents et d’être élevé par eux.”31

Les auteurs de la Convention tiennent compte de plusieurs éléments essentiels à l’identité, la sécurité et l’épanouissement humains: avoir un nom, être citoyen d’un pays dont les lois vous protègent et, lorsque c’est possible, être élevé par les deux personnes dont l’union physique vous a créé. Les adultes qui sont en faveur des nouvelles techniques de procréation disent souvent que la biologie n’a pas d’importance pour les enfants, que ces-derniers n’ont pas besoin d’autre chose que d’une famille aimante. Pourtant, la biologie semble importer beaucoup aux adultes, qui se donnent parfois beaucoup de mal—se soumettant à des procédés médicaux très risqués; se procurant des ovules, du sperme et même l’uterus de personnes inconnues; et payant des sommes élevés— pour créer un enfant ayant des liens génétiques avec au moins un d’entre eux. Il est donc très contradictoire de voir ces mêmes adultes insister que la relation biologique de l’enfant avec un donneur absent (mère ou père) ne devrait pas importer à l’enfant.

Bien entendu, l’État a un rôle réel et urgent à jouer dans la définition de l’autorité parentale. Il est vrai que certains parents biologiques représentent un danger pour leurs enfants. Il est vrai aussi que l’adoption est une institution sociale favorable aux enfants qui en ont grandement besoin. L’adoption est une expression admirable d’altruisme, d’un type d’amour qui va au-delà de nos tendances bien ancrées de protéger d’abord ceux avec qui nous avons des liens de sang. Mais l’adoption légale n’a jamais eu pour but d’appuyer l’argument qu’un enfant ne se soucit pas de savoir qui est sa mère et son père, ni de justifier la séparation plannifiée d’un enfant de sa mère ou de son père biologique avant même que cet enfant soit conçu.

Personne ne nie que la biologie n’est pas tout. Elle ne doit pas déterminer, et ne determine pas, toute la portée des relations humaines. Certains parents biologiques peuvent nuire à leurs enfants et certains enfants se portent mieux lorsqu’on les éloigne de ces parents (bien qu’en général, comme on va le voir, il est plus probable que les enfants soient en sécurité avec leurs parents biologiques qu’avec des adultes n’ayant pas de liens de parenté avec eux.) Quoi qu’il en soit, les actions et témoignages des enfants et des adultes confirment souvent, de manière puissante, que la biologie importe.

Avant d’être emporté par le mouvement précipité vers une nouvelle définition du parent, il faut s’arrêter et poser certaines questions dérangeantes, du point de vue des enfants. Les enfants ont-ils une attitude aussi flexible que l’imaginent ceux qui voient ces changements sous l’angle des droits des adultes? Que pensent les enfants du “meilleur des mondes” envisagé pour le nouveau parent? Les sentiments des enfants méritent-ils d’être pris en considération?

Le Point de vue des enfants
Les voix émergentes des enfants

Les enfants élevés sans leurs propres mères et pères mariés l’un à l’autre perçoivent leurs vies dans une lumière très différente de la perspective que les experts légaux, les tribunaux et les futurs parents leur attribuent. Par exemple, des études sur la vie intérieure d’enfants de parents divorcés révèlent des effets nuisibles qu’on n’avait pas imaginé au début de l’enthousiasmante révolution du divorce sans faute.32

Pour être clair, la question n’est pas de savoir si les enfants aiment leurs parents.

C’est un fait presque universel que les enfants aiment leurs parents sans qualification, que leurs parents soient mariés, divorcés, célibataires ou homosexuels. La veritable question est de savoir quels sont les sentiments des enfants, et comment ils perçoivent leur identité, lorsque leur mère ou leur père, ou bien les deux, sont absents de leur quotidien.

La première génération d’enfants conçus à l’aide de donneurs, qui atteint maintenant l’âge adulte, constitue une étude de cas remarquable pour examiner cette question.

La plupart de ces jeunes adultes ont été conçus par des couples mariés qui ont eu recours au sperme de donneur. Beaucoup tiennent maintenant à faire connaître l’impact considérable sur l’identité des enfants de la situation où des adultes conçoivent un enfant en ayant à l’avance l’intention de le séparer d’un parent biologique.33

Souvent, ces jeunes gens disent qu’on leur a volé le droit fondamental d’être élevés par, ou du moins de connaître, leurs pères biologiques. Ils disent que ce refus conscient est un facteur déterminant de leur recherche d’identité. Les adolescents et adultes conçus à l’aide de sperme de donneurs créent des associations,34 s’expriment souvent dans les journaux35 ou utilisent l’Internet pour essayer de prendre contact avec les donneurs de sperme et pour trouver des demi-frères et demi-soeurs conçus avec le même sperme.36 Ces jeunes gens habitent les États-Unis, le Canada, l’Australie, l’Angleterre, le Japon et d’autres pays. Il est difficile de connaître les chiffres exacts, mais on calcule que le nombre d’enfants nés aux États-Unis chaque année grâce à l’insémination artificielle se situe entre 3 000 et 75 000, et qu’environ 3 000 enfants chaque année sont conçus à l’aide d’ovules de donneurs.37

Bien que ces nombres ne soient pas très élevés, ils augmentent, et les histories racontées par ces jeunes gens soulèvent non seulement des questions concernant leurs propres expériences, mais aussi la perspective pour la génération suivante d’enfants nés par l’intermédiaire de techniques encore plus complexes.

Les jeunes gens conçus par l’intermédiaire de donneurs soulignent que le consentement éclairé de la personne la plus concernée—l’enfant—n’est pas obtenu dans les procédés de procréation assistée qui séparent sciemment les enfants d’un ou des deux de leurs parents biologiques. Ces enfants demandent comment l’État peut aider et défendre une pratique qui les prive de leur droit de naissance de connaître et d’être élevés par leurs propres parents, et qui cache sans leur consentement la moitié de leur patrimoine génétique. Certains se disent “bancals” ou “à moitié adoptés.”38 Un d’entre eux se définit comme “esclave par parenté.”39 Certains de ceux qui ont des parents génétiques homosexuels (hommes ou femmes) se qualifient euxmêmes de “progéniture de pédé,” bien que d’autres dans la même situation trouvent ce terme offansant.40 Il n’existe pas d’études sur l’expérience affective à long terme de ces jeunes gens.41 Il est évident qu’il nous faut entreprendre des études de cette nature, rigoureuses et à long terme. Pour l’instant, il est essentiel d’entendre ce qu’ils ont à nous dire.

Narelle Grech, une femme australienne conçue à l’aide d’un donneur, et qui a maintenant un peu plus de vingt ans, pose la question: “Comment peut-on créer un enfant en sachant pertinemment qu’elle ou lui ne pourra pas connaître ses antecedents et, par conséquent, ne pourra pas se connaître?” Elle se demande quel message social est transmis aux jeunes hommes par la conception qui utilise des donneurs:

“Vont-ils penser que causer la grossesse d’une femme ou d’une jeune fille est inoffensif, et qu’ils peuvent ensuite la quitter, puisque, après tout, la biologie n’a pas d’importance?”

Une autre femme australienne, Joanna Rose, demande pourquoi tout le monde “trouve choquant” qu’une femme parte de l’hôpital avec le bébé de quelqu’un d’autre, alors qu’ils trouvent tout à fait normal que des enfants soient conçus par des donneurs. Elle affirme: “Notre besoin de connaître et d’être connus de notre parenté génétique est aussi fort et aussi justifié que celui de n’importe qui d’autre.” Elle écrit de manière touchante: “Je pense que la douleur de la stérilité ne doit pas être apaisée au dépens de la génération suivante.”42

Lorsqu’ils sont interviewés, les jeunes adultes conçus à l’aide de donneurs experiment souvent le sentiment que le donneur de sperme “est la moitié de qui je suis.” Une jeune femme nommée Claire est vraisemblablement le premier enfant de donneur bénéficiant du don de sperme avec donneur identifié, et de la possibilité de contacter son père quand elle aura 18 ans. Elle dit qu’elle veut rencontrer le donneur parce qu’elle veut savoir “ce qu’est la moitié de moi, la moitié de mes origines.”43

Zannah Merricks de Londres dit, “Je veux rencontrer le donneur parce que je veux connaître l’autre partie de mes origines.”44 Lindsay Greenawalt, une jeune femme de Canton, Ohio, qui cherche des renseignements concernant son donneur de sperme, dit: “J’ai le sentiment qu’on m’a enlevé le droit de savoir qui je suis et d’où je viens.”45

Eve Andrews, une jeune fille de 17 ans au Texas a l’intention de demander à labanque de sperme de la Californie, qui a participé au projet parental par lequel elle a été conçue, de transmettre une lettre à son donneur quand elle aura 18 ans. “Il y a dans ma vie beaucoup de questions qui sont restées sans réponses, et je voudrais obtenir ces réponses,” dit-elle. Par contre, sa mère, qui a 51 ans et qui a été interrogée au cours de la même étude, a précisé, “En tant que femme devant faire face à la possibilité de la stérilité, votre seul désir est d’avoir un bébé… Ça ne m’a meme pas traversé l’esprit que cet enfant pourrait un jour vouloir trouver son père biologique.”46

Un jeune homme de 31 ans, médecin au Japon, a appris qu’il avait été conçu à l’aide de sperme de donneur lorsqu’il examinait les globules blancs de ses parents (et leurs groupes sanguins). “Ce qui m’a fait le plus mal, c’est que mes parents ne m’ont rien dit pendant 29 ans,” a-t-il dit. “Et si mes parents ne me mettaient pas au courant, je n’avais aucun moyen d’exercer mon droit de connaître mes origins biologiques.”47

Une jeune fille de 14 ans en Pennsylvanie a écrit à la chronique “Dear Abby” lorsqu’elle a appris qu’elle avait été conçue à l’aide de sperme de donneur. Dans quelques phrases, elle a identifié les problèmes auxquels se trouvent confrontés les jeunes gens conçus de cette manière, problèmes qui représentent maintenant un défi pour notre société. Elle a écrit: “Ça me fait peur de penser que je pourrais avoir des frères ou des soeurs quelque part48 et que ça peut ne pas leur importer que j’existe.” Cette adolescente, qui lutte seule pour surmonter un sentiment d’abandon, de douleur et de confusion, remet en question, de façon bouleversante, la position sociale et légale qu’on adopte actuellement dans ce contexte : “Je ne comprends pas pourquoi il est légal d’être donneur, alors qu’un enfant pourrait en résulter.”49

Certains réagissent aux propos des adultes conçus à l’aide de donneurs en disant que ces jeunes adultes sont en contradiction avec eux-mêmes. Ils disent qu’en remettant en question la pratique de la conception à l’aide de donneurs, ces personnes refusent leur propre existence, car sans sperme ou ovules de donneurs ils ne seraient pas nés. Je trouve cette réaction extrêmement dépourvue de sensibilité.50

Chacun de nous, peu importe la façon dont il est arrivé ici, devrait pouvoir raconteur son histoire et ses difficultés et s’attendre à ce qu’on lui accorde respect et dignité, et non pas qu’on lui reproche d’ignorer de manière irrationnelle les circonstances de sa naissance, ou de manquer d’appréciation pour sa propre existence.

L’Importance des parents biologiques: preuves apportées par les sciences sociales
Du point de vue des sciences sociales, que savons-nous des expériences des enfants qui ne grandissent pas avec leurs propres mères et pères? Dans certains domaines, nous avons des connaissances abondantes. Dans d’autres, il nous faut apprendre plus.

Aux cours des décennies récentes, les experts en sciences sociales sont arrivés à un consensus largement appuyé quant aux avantages du mariage pour les enfants. Un article récent du New York Times rapporté que: “Du point de vue de l’enfant, selon un nombre croissant de chercheurs en sciences sociales, la famille la plus propice à l’épanouissement est celle où il vit avec ses deux parents biologiques, dont le mariage est peu conflictuel.”51

Les enfants élevés par des parents divorcés ou qui ne se sont jamais mariés, ont plus de risque de vivre dans la pauvreté, de mal réussir à l’école, d’avoir des problèmes psychologiques et des maladies mentales, et d’être impliqués dans des activités criminelles.

Les enfants élevés en dehors d’une famille constituée par un couple marié ont moins de probabilité de finir des études universitaires et d’obtenir des postes de niveau élevé. En tant qu’adultes, ils ont plus de risque de divorce et plus de risqué d’avoir des enfants en dehors du mariage.

En termes du bien-être physique des enfants, et de leur santé, le mariage est associé à un risque très diminué de mortalité infantile. Les enfants vivant avec leurs propres parents mariés sont en meilleure santé physique, en général, que les enfants dans d’autres types de familles. De manière tragique, pour les enfants ne vivant pas avec leurs deux parents mariés l’un à l’autre, le risque d’abus et de suicide est considérablement plus élevés.52

De plus en plus de gens se rendent compte que le mariage offre des avantages importants aux enfants. Ce que beaucoup de gens ignorent, c’est que c’est le mariage du propre père et de la propre mère de l’enfant (par opposition à un remariage) qui produit ces avantages. Par exemple, quand on regarde les principaux indices du bien-être des enfants, tels que la grossesse des adolescentes, échec scolaire, délinquance et abus, les enfants élevés dans des familles avec beaux-parents ressemblent plus aux enfants de parents célibataires qu’aux enfants élevés par leurs propres parents mariés.53

Certains adeptes de la légalisation du mariage homosexuel disent que ce sera une bonne chose pour les enfants, parce qu’ils auront deux parents mariés. Mais les données sur les belles-familles suggèrent que ce n’est pas aussi simple. Nous ne savons pas en quelle mesure les résultats moins bons liés à ces familles peuvent être attribués aux antécédents de rupture et à d’autres problèmes spécifiques aux bellesfamilles, et en quelle mesure ces résultats reflètent le fait que l’enfant est élevé dans une famille où un parent est sans lien biologique avec lui.54

La plupart des beaux-parents sont des gens responsables qui s’occupent de leur mieux des enfants qu’ils élèvent. Cependant, il est essentiel que les décideurs de politiques concernant la famille connaissent les multiples résultats de recherches montrant que les enfants élevés par des adultes sans liens biologiques avec eux sont exposés à un risque d’abus considérablement augmenté. En général, les concubins des mères et les beaux-pères abusent des enfants plus souvent que les pères; le risque est particulièrement élevé quand c’est le concubin de la mère qui s’occupe des enfants quand la mère est absente. Plus de soixante-dix études réputées rapportent le fait qu’un nombre étonnant—entre le tiers et la moitié—de filles dont les parents sont divorcés disent avoir été molestées ou abusées sexuellement pendant leur enfance, le plus souvent par le concubin de leurs mères ou par leurs beauxpères.55

L’examen de quarante-deux études a révélé que “la majorité des enfants ayant subi de l’abus sexuel…semblent faire partie de familles monoparentales ou de familles reconstituées.”56 Deux chercheurs experts dans ce domaine résument la situation ainsi: “Vivre avec un beau-parent se révèle être le principal facteur permettant de prévoir l’abus grave d’un enfant.”57

Les domaines de l’évolution biologique et de la psychologie nous fournissent des explications du fait que les enfants sont, en général, plus en sécurité chez leurs parents biologiques. David Popenoe, sociologue à l’université Rutgers, résume la recherche en ces mots : “Du point de vue de la psychologie de l’évolution, l’organisation de la famille nucléaire humaine est basée [en partie sur] …une predisposition à protéger les intérêts des relations génétiques avant ceux des individus avec qui on n’a pas de liens de parenté : le principe de l’entraide intra-familiale, la priorité de la parenté ou le népotisme.58 En ce qui concerne les enfants, cela veut dire que les hommes et les femmes ont évolué de façon à investir plus dans des enfants avec qui ils ont des liens biologiques que dans ceux avec qui ils n’en ont pas.59 Ce favoritisme biologique se manifeste partout dans le monde.60

Bien entendu, reconnaître que les adultes ont tendance à favoriser leurs propres enfants ne veut pas dire que cette prédisposition soit toujours une bonne chose. Mais c’est reconnaître que cette tendance est très commune et probablement fortement inscrite chez l’humain. Idéalement, nous pourrions tous nous soucier autant des enfants des autres que de nos enfants, mais en pratique la race humaine n’a pas atteint un tel degré de développement.

Cela dit, l’adoption constitue une situation exemplaire. Lorsque l’Etat choisit avec soin des parents adoptifs, que ces derniers reçoivent un appui social dans leur role parental, et que les enfants adoptés sont élevés dès la naissance par des parents ayant un engagement solide et durable l’un envers l’autre, les vies de ces enfants sont très semblables à celles des autres enfants, et sont nettement meilleures que celles des enfants non désirés vivant dans des milieux abusifs ou négligents. Là encore, le fait que, même si la biologie n’est pas tout—les parents biologiques peuvent être inadéquats et les parents adoptifs sont en général très responsables—les sciences et les voix des enfants eux-mêmes nous disent que la biologie compte.

Quelle est la pertinence de la recherche sur les belles-familles ou autres familles alternatives pour les enfants élevés par des parents de même sexe? Nous ne le savons pas encore. La recherche actuelle sur les parents de même sexe est limitée par le petit nombre de couples homosexuels qui élèvent des enfants, par rapport à la population globale, et par le fait que ces couples commencent à peine d’être visibles.

La littérature traitant du rôle parental assumé par des couples homosexuels a fait l’objet de plusieurs études académiques.61 Une des plus détaillée a été menée par Steven Nock, sociologue à l’Université de Virginia, à qui on a demandé de soumettre un mémorandum destiné à éclairer un cas majeur dans un tribunal canadien.

Après avoir examiné quelques centaines d’études, il a conclu que tous les articles “contenaient au moins une erreur vitale de structure ou d’exécution de la recherche” et que “pas une seule de ces études n’a été menée en respectant les protocoles scientifiques de recherche.”62

Les limites et les erreurs de structure notées par Nock et par d’autres experts comprennent: les échantillons ne sont pas représentatifs au niveau national; les résultats portent sur des facteurs restreints (qui intéressent surtout les psychologues du développement et non pas les sociologues étudiant la famille); souvent, les etudes sont fondées sur le point de vue de la mère concernant ses propres aptitudes en tant que parent, plutôt que sur des indices objectifs du bien-être de l’enfant; de plus, il n’existe presque pas d’études à long terme qui suivent les enfants des parents de même sexe jusqu’à l’âge adulte. Mais le problème le plus important est que la grande majorité de ces études comparent des mères lesbiennes célibataires avec des mères hétérosexuelles célibataires—en d’autres termes, des enfants dans un type de famille sans père avec des enfants dans un autre type de famille sans père.63

En quoi l’expérience à long terme des enfants élevés par des mères lesbiennes et par des pères homosexuels diffère-t-elle de celle des enfants élevés par leurs propres parents? Nous ne le savons pas encore. Mais nous savons que par rapport aux enfants dans beaucoup d’autres types de familles alternatives—parents divorcés, parents hétérosexuels jamais mariés, belles-familles et mères célibataires—les enfants élevés par leurs propres mères et pères mariés, dans une famille avec peu de conflit, sont en général dans une situation avantageuse. 64

Semblablement, en ce qui concerne les enfants conçus à l’aide de sperme de donneur, ovule de donneur ou mère-porteuse, on n’a pas encore des données sur leur bien-être psychique à long terme. Les chercheurs devraient écouter les histoires qui commencent à se faire entendre, et étudier l’expérience de ces enfants avec soin.

Il nous reste beaucoup à apprendre. Mais les faits et l’observation attentive des vies des enfants suggèrent fortement qu’il est important pour eux qu’on reconnaisse leur besoin d’être élevé, dans les limites du possible, par leurs propres mères et pères.

Nouvelles définitions du parent—Quel avenir?

Confusion croissante concernant la signification de la paternité et de la maternité
La redéfinition du parent est en train de modifier notre culture et notre système juridique d’une manière qui ne fait qu’accroître les incertitudes quant à la signification de la paternité et de la maternité.

Ces nouvelles incertitudes sont évidentes dans des décisions, propositions et situations rapportées du monde entier. En Australie, les donneurs de sperme ont maintenant le droit de contacter leur progéniture ayant 18 ans ou plus. Mais qui sont ces hommes? Sont-ils des donneurs de sperme, ou sont-ils des pères qui ont le droit de connaître leurs enfants?

En Nouvelle-Zélande, La Commission du droit a proposé que les donneurs de sperme et d’ovules aient l’option de devenir parents légaux s’ils le désirent. Qui sont ces gens? Sont-ils des donneurs? Sont-ils des parents légaux? Si ces parents biologiques ont l’option de prendre ou de laisser des responsabilités envers des enfants, comme bon leur semble, pour quelle raison empêcherait-on d’autres parents biologiques de le faire?

La revue Washington Post Magazine a publié récemment l’histoire d’une femme qui a donné naissance à deux enfants en utilisant le sperme d’un même homme. Elle a retrouvé le donneur et a traversé le pays avec ses deux enfants, âgés de 7 et 3 ans, pour qu’ils rencontrent leur père.65 Il les a reçus chez lui pendant une semaine.

Depuis, la mère a changé à titre légal les noms des enfants (en leurs donnant comme second prénom le patronyme du donneur); elle a également nommé le donneur tuteur des enfants dans l’éventualité de son décès à elle. Elle encourage les enfants à l’appeler “papa,” sans élaborer d’autres projets d’avenir. Un nombre inconnu d’autres femmes ont conçu, elles aussi, avec le sperme de ce donneur. Pour ces deux enfants de 7 et 3 ans, cet homme est-il un père? Un donneur de sperme? Autre chose? Qui doit en décider?

L’été dernier en Angleterre, un nouveau site Web a été créé: Le site s’adresse à des femmes lesbiennes et célibataires qui désirent donner naissance à un enfant conçu à l’aide d’un donneur, et qui veulent que les “deux parents” jouent un rôle dans la vie de l’enfant. Les donneurs de sperme potentiels désirant avoir une relation avec l’enfant conçu de cette manière sont priés de s’inscrire sur le site. Si les désires d’une femme lesbienne ou célibataire et ceux d’un donneur de sperme correspondent et qu’ils s’entendent sur la manière de participer tous les deux à la vie et l’éducation de l’enfant, le tour est joué! Ils peuvent fonder une famille désunie pour leur enfant avant même qu’il soit conçu.66 Un site semblable pour lesbiennes et homosexuels existe au Canada. Intitulé “LGBT Parent Matchmaker,” il assiste ceux qui habitent la région de Toronto et qui désirent trouver un ou plusieurs partenaires du sexe opposé avec qui ils peuvent concevoir un enfant dont ils seront les co-parents.67 Dans le même ordre d’idées, l’été dernier aux États-Unis l’annonce suivante paraissait sur un site Web d’informations de Hollywood ouest: ‘Je suis une mere célibataire qui souhaite avoir un autre enfant, mais ne désire pas utiliser du sperme de donneur anonyme. Si vous voulez être père avec des droits de visite, envoyez une photo et une letter de presentation à Kelly W…’68

Le sens même du terme “donneur de sperme” est en train de changer. Certaines perspectives créent une équivalence entre père et donneur de sperme. Dans d’autres contextes, le terme “donneur de sperme” devient une insulte que certaines femmes jettent à la tête de leurs anciens partenaires, pères de leurs enfants. Dans un article paru en Floride, une adolescente dit de son ancien petit ami dont elle porte l’enfant qu’il est “le donneur de sperme, pas un père.”69 Dans un autre article, les amies d’une femme enceinte appellent son ancien ami, père de son enfant, “un simple donneur de sperme.”70 Ce terme semble signifier que l’homme leur est indifferent (et qu’elles espèrent qu’il le sera à leurs enfants). C’est une injure percutante quirabaisse un homme, pour qui elles ont sans doute de l’affection, au niveau d’un produit biologique primaire.

Mais en termes de signification équivoque de la maternité et la paternité, le développement de loin le plus frappant, dont la portée pourrait être la plus grande—développement que l’on observe déjà dans nombreux tribunaux—est la reconnaissance croissante du statut de parent “psychologique” ou parent “de facto.” Aux États-Unis, dans au moins dix États y compris Washington, la Californie, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey et Wisconsin, il est possible qu’une personne sans lien biologique ou adoptif avec un enfant (ni lien marital avec le parent de l’enfant) obtienne des droits parentaux en tant que parent psychologique ou parent de facto. Afin d’établir rétrospectivement si un adulte a joué le rôle de “parent” dans la vie de l’enfant, le tribunal prend en compte le fait que l’adulte a vécu dans la famille de l’enfant, a été encouragé par les parents de ce dernier de jouer un rôle parental, a agit comme parent sans compensation financière et a passé assez de temps avec l’enfant pour qu’un lien affectif puisse s’établir entre eux.71 Beaucoup de ces procès sont intentés par un ancien partenaire qui accuse le parent actuel de l’enfant de le priver de son droit d’accès à l’enfant. Dans d’autres cas, le parent actuel de l’enfant impute à l’ancien partenaire de se dérober à ses obligations parentales et demande qu’il en soit tenu responsable.

Ces cas concernent en général des partenaires de même sexe, mais ils peuvent avoir des conséquences graves et encore inconnues pour nombreux hétérosexuels qui sont ou qui ont été les beaux-parents d’un enfant72 ou qui ont vécu avec un partenaire.

En Grand Bretagne, suite à une décision récente et très inquiétante, la garde de deux soeurs de 4 et 7 ans a été enlevée à leur mère biologique. Le tribunal a décidé que les enfants vivront avec l’ancienne partenaire de la mère, à qui on accorda la tutelle, bien qu’elle n’ait pas de lien biologique ou légal avec les enfants. La décision se fondait sur le fait que la mère avait violé un droit de visite en s’installant avec les enfants dans une autre région du pays. Un des juges impliqués dans la décision a tout de même exprimé des réservations: “Cela m’inquiète beaucoup d’enlever ces enfants de la tutelle de leur seul parent biologique connu, qui les a élevées pendant
presque toute la durée de leurs jeunes vies, et chez qui ils semblent heureux et épanouis.”73

Ceux qui sont en faveur d’accorder des droits et des responsabilités légales à des parents “psychologiques” soutiennent que ces derniers ont à coeur les intérêts de l’enfant. Ces adeptes disent que la loi ne devrait pas permettre à des parents biologiques ou adoptifs d’empêcher leur enfant d’avoir une relation avec une personne qu’il considère comme une mère ou comme un père; et qu’elle ne devrait pas non plus permettre à quelqu’un qui a joué le rôle de parent de se dérober à ces responsabilités une fois la relation des adultes terminée.

Cela exprime des intentions louables, mais l’option est malavisée, car il existe déjà une situation de loin préférable pour les enfants. Même lorsque le mariage homosexual n’est pas sanctionné par la loi, la plupart des États aux États-Unis autorisent les partenaires de même sexe d’adopter en tant que deuxièmes parents. Dans la plupart des cas qui sont entendus devant un tribunal, le deuxième “parent,” pour une raison ou pour une autre, n’a pas exercé l’option d’adopter. Le couple n’est peutêtre pas arrivé à un accord concernant l’adoption. Ou bien, le deuxième “parent” était incertain quant au degré de responsabilité qu’il voulait accepter. (Il se peut aussi que le couple habite un État qui ne permet pas ou ne facilite pas l’adoption par un deuxième parent chez les couples de même sexe; mais cela révèle la nécessité d’élargir l’accès à l’adoption par un deuxième parent, plutôt que de créer une nouvelle catégorie appelée “parent psychologique.”)

Contrairement à la manière progressive, parfois ambiguë, dont les parents font entrer de nouveaux partenaires dans la vie de leurs enfants, en allant jusqu’à leur demander d’appeler cette nouvelle personne “maman” ou “papa,” ces mêmes parents peuvent changer d’avis de manière soudaine si la relation se dégrade. C’est pourquoi un processus d’adoption clairement défini (et, dans l’intérêt de l’enfant, assez difficile) est la meilleure façon pour la loi de protéger les intérêts des enfants et leurs relations avec les deux parents dans l’éventualité qu’ils se séparent. En tant que procedure légale, l’adoption est proactive, rigoureuse et claire. L’enfant, l’autre parent de l’enfant, la communauté et l’Etat savent exactement quand l’adulte en question est ou n’est pas le parent de l’enfant. Une fois qu’un adulte devient parent adoptif, toute une gamme de lois et de normes définissent clairement son rôle dans la vie de l’enfant. Un parent adoptif ne peut pas simplement entrer et sortir de la vie de l’enfant. Son statut est permanent et vouloir s’en défaire entraîne des consequences légales et sociales qui sont claires. En général, adopter est une bien meilleure façon de protéger les enfants que de demander à un juge de décider si un adulte qui a fait partie de la vie de l’enfant remplit les conditions nécessaires pour devenir son parent légal; cela est vrai surtout quand le juge doit passer outre les objections du parent biologique ou adoptif de l’enfant.74

Dans “le meilleur des mondes” du parent redéfini, les donneurs de sperme sont, ou peut-être ne sont pas, des pères.75 Les partenaires féminines des mères, même les anciennes partenaires, peuvent être mères (ou pères!). Malgré leur lien biologique et congénital avec l’enfant, les donneuses d’ovules et les mères-porteuses ne sont pas, en général, considérées des mères, mais elles peuvent l’être.76 Les pères absents, lorsqu’ils contrarient leurs anciennes amies, peuvent se voir réduits verbalement à de simples donneurs de sperme. Mais dans la plupart des cas, contrairement aux donneurs de sperme, l’État les oblige à pourvoir aux besoins de l’enfant pour des années à venir.

Que veut dire le mot “père”? Que veut dire le mot “mère”? Qui en décide? Quelles sont les réactions des enfants à ces décisions?

Le Clonage et la procréation homosexuelle
Il n’y a pas longtemps, l’idée de clonage de reproduction suscitait l’horreur chez la plupart des gens. Mais cela n’est plus de cas.

Bien que le chercheur sud coréen en clonage Hwang Woo-suk soit maintenant discrédité, la recherche sur le clonage avance, avec un appui public croissant, dans nombreux États et pays partout dans le monde.77 Le même mois où Hwang Woosuk a fait l’annonce, maintenant suspecte, qu’il avait créé 11 nouvelles lignes de cellules souches dérivées d’embryons humains, une équipe de scientifiques de l’Université de Newcastle en Grande Bretagne a annoncé qu’elle avait créé des embryons humains clonés, dont un s’était développé dans le laboratoire pendant cinq jours. Alors que l’exploit sud-coréen a fait les grands titres des journaux du monde entier, une semaine plus tard la nouvelle britannique n’a presque pas fait de remous. Cloner des embryons était déjà une nouvelle périmée.

Ces chercheurs effectuent ce qui s’appelle du clonage “thérapeutique,” ce qui signifie que les cellules sont prélevées d’embryons clonés encore viables. Bon nombre de pays ont interdit le clonage pour des fins de procréation, mais autorisent divers degrés de clonage thérapeutique. Pourtant, la seule différence entre le clonage thérapeutique et reproductif est que dans le cas de ce-dernier, l’embryon cloné est implanté dans l’utérus d’une femme.78 La technique d’implantation—fertilisation in vitro—est de plus en plus utilisée depuis 1978.

Quelqu’un a-t-il déjà implanté un embryon cloné dans l’utérus d’une femme? Un groupe de marginaux portant le nom de Raéliens prétend l’avoir fait, mais les rapports n’ont pas été confirmés. À ce jour, aucun scientifique réputé n’a annoncé un tel exploit. Mais pour combien de temps encore?

Un article étonnant publié dans le journal britannique Guardian portait le titre “Technique offre de l’espoir aux couples sans enfants.” La technique en question est le clonage reproductif. Les experts cités, qui ont participé à une conférence qui mettait de l’avant cette possibilité, sont des scientifiques des plus estimables. Le professeur Robert Edwards, qui fut le premier à concevoir la fécondation in vitro, et qui créa le premier bébé “éprouvette,” Louise Brown, en 1978, déclara que “le clonage reproductif devrait être proposé aux patients qui n’ont pas obtenu des résultats avec les autres formes de traitement.” Par exemple, le clonage “serait utile aux gens qui ne peuvent pas produire leurs propres ovules ou sperme.”79

À la même conférence, James Watson—oui, le James Watson qui a découvert, avec Francis Crick, la structure de l’ADN—soutenait que “le clonage n’est pas une mauvaise chose en soi.” Il ajoutait, “Je suis pour tout ce qui peut améliorer la qualité de vie d’une famille.”

Les critiques soulignent que le clonage chez les animaux a donné lieu à nombreux cas d’animaux mort-nés, nés avec des anomalies, ou qui sont morts peu de temps après la naissance, avant qu’on produise un animal vivant et paraissant en bonne santé (bien que même parmi ces derniers, certains ont développé de graves problèmes de santé par la suite). Le professeur Edwards rassure ces critiques en disant que le dépistage génétique des embryons éliminera ces problèmes. Plaçant une énorme confiance en l’aptitude de la science médicale à détecter tout problème de l’embryon—et acceptant avec désinvolture que les embryons défectueux seront éliminés— il a affirmé que “très bientôt” “on n’implantera que des embryons sains au cours de la procréation assistée.” La “naissance d’un enfant ayant des anomalies congénitales après une thérapie visant à stimuler la fécondité” sera “une chose du passé.”

Il terminait son discours en affirmant, “Si nous baissons les bras et déclarons que c’est impossible, nous abandonnons nos patients.”80

L’utilisation potentielle des techniques de clonage dans le cadre de la procreation assistée n’est qu’un exemple de la manière dont la recherche sur les cellules souches se rapproche de l’industrie de la fécondation. Un autre exemple est lié au problème que représente pour les chercheurs de ce domaine le manque constant d’ovules humaines nécessaires à leur travail. Les ovules ne peuvent être prélevées qu’en soumettant les femmes à des régimes risqués de médicaments et de chirurgie.81 Les scientifiques britanniques qui ont cloné récemment un embryon humain, annonçaient une semaine plus tard la mise sur pied d’un projet dans le cadre duquel on demanderait aux femmes recevant une thérapie de procréation assistée de donner leurs ovules surnuméraires à la recherche sur les cellules souches. La proposition a été approuvée par le comité d’éthique de l’université, et elle a été soumise à l’autorité britannique de réglementation de la fécondation. Cela pourrait mener à la situation où le médecin d’une femme, celui même en qui elle place sa confiance au cours de ses longs efforts (des années dans certains cas) à devenir enceinte, lui demande de contribuer ses ovules surnuméraires à des expériences sur le clonage.82

Et ce n’est pas le pire.

Des scientifiques à la fine pointe de la technologie portent maintenant un grand intérêt à la création de sperme et d’ovules artificiels qu’ils comptent unir par des moyens insolites afin de créer des embryons humains destinés à être implantés dans l’uterus.

L’été dernier, des chercheurs de l’Université Sheffield en Grande Bretagne ont annoncé qu’il leur est possible de produire des cellules immatures pouvant se transformer en ovules et spermatozoïdes. La réussite de leur projet voudrait dire, par exemple, qu’un homme célibataire pourrait fournir et les ovules et le sperme à utiliser dans une thérapie de procréation assistée; ou que des couples de même sexe n’auront plus besoin de recourir aux donneurs de sperme et d’ovules—car ils seront tous deux les parents génétiques de leurs enfants.83

Les gros titres des journaux du monde entier commentères les implications de cette annonce: “Les conséquences de ce travail pourraient mener à la possibilité pour les couples homosexuels ou pour des hommes célibataires d’avoir leurs propres enfants,” écrivait le Guardian.84 “La technique rendrait possible aux couples homosexuels d’avoir des enfants biologiques,” disait le New Zealand Herald.85 Un article concernant la recherche à l’Université Sheffield et des recherches semblables menées à l’Université Monash en Australie portait le titre: “Éliminer les donneurs.”86

Un article provenant de Copenhagen et diffusé sur un site américain de soutien aux parents homosexuels (hommes et femmes) annoncait: “Recherche sur les cellules souches offre de l’espoir aux couples homosexuels.” L’article déclarait que cette recherche est “une nouvelle gigantesque pour la communauté homosexuelle et lesbienne.”87

En même temps, l’automne dernier une équipe à Edinburgh a annoncé qu’elle avait provoqué la division d’un oeuf de sorte à créer le premier embryon humain sans père génétique.88 La même semaine, les scientifiques britanniques de l’Université Newcastle ont obtenu l’autorisation de créer un embryon humain ayant trois parents génétiques.89

Encore et encore, les annonces répétées de progrès importants mettent l’accent sur l’importance, urgente et fondamentale, d’assister les adultes qui désirent avoir des enfants. Rarement, on cite quelques experts chargés de questions d’éthique, qui expriment des inquiétudes liées aux risques de santé. Mais presque personne ne pose les questions les plus essentielles: celles qui concernent les effets physiques et affectifs à long terme que subiraient des enfants créés de cette manière; et les effets pour une société qui perçoit la vie humaine comme juste bonne à faire l’objet d’expériences de laboratoire qui profiteront à d’autres. Pour ne rien dire des consequences plus globales pour les enfants et la société du fait de voir le rôle de parent, de plus en plus, comme un moyen de satisfaire les désirs des adultes—en demandant à l’État d’intercéder pour définir et gérer ce rôle.90

Mariage en groupe: Polyamorie et polygamie
Quelque soit l’opinion qu’on a concernant la légalisation du mariage homosexuel, et malgré le fait que la plupart de ses adeptes expriment haut et fort leur disapprobation du mariage en groupe, des événements récents ont montré clairement que les réussites du mouvement pour le mariage homosexuel ont encourage d’autres groupes de se servir du langage des droits civils pour modifier le sens actuel du mariage et du rôle parental, selon lequel il s’agit d’union entre deux personnes.91

Deux de ces groupes sont particulièrement étonnants.92

Les adeptes de la polyamorie sont peut-être les acteurs les plus récents dans ce type de mouvement. La polyamorie (plusieurs amants) est différente de la polygamie (plusieurs mariages). La polyamorie concerne la relation de trois personnes ou plus, dont deux pourraient être mariés l’un à l’autre. Ceux qui pratiquent ce style de vie se considèrent hétérosexuels, homosexuels, bisexuels ou tout simplement “multi,” alors que les polygames sont en général hétérosexuels. Ceux qui adoptent la polyamorie se disent différents des “swingers” des années 1970, précisant que leurs relations mettent l’accent sur la communication ouverte, de sorte qu’ils pratiquent une “polyfidélité éthique.”

Ce type de relation existe dupuis longtemps, mais leurs adepts cherchent maintenant une visibilité accrue et de l’acceptation. Les journaux en parlent souvent. Un article récent dans le Chicago Sun-Times annonçait que la “Heartland Polyamory Conference” aura lieu cet été en Indiana (une conférence semblable du “Midwest” a eu lieu il y a deux ans près de Wisconsin Dells).93 Le mois passé, un article du Chicago Tribune racontait l’histoire de John et Sue, couple marié, et de Fred, Peggy et Bill qui partagent leur lit. Le journaliste les appelait “un groupe très dynamique.”94

Les journaux alternatifs publient des articles sur ce style de vie régulièrement; on peut en lire dans le Village Voice et le Southern Voice et, de plus en plus, dans les journaux des campus universitaires.

Mais la polyamorie n’est pas appuyée uniquement par des milieux marginaux. Le sujet fait son apparition parmi les questions d’actualité dans le domaine du droit de la famille et du plaidoyer pour la famille. Dans un rapport récent sur le droit de la famille, le professeur Dan Cere de l’Université McGill cite des exemples, dont celui d’un professeur de la Faculté de Droit de Chicago, Elizabeth Emens, qui a publié l’année dernière, dans une revue juridique de l’Université de New York, un argument légal en faveur de la polyamorie; un rapport majeur, “Beyond Conjugality”, publié par l’influante Commission du droit du Canada soulève la question: Les relations légalement reconnues devraient-elles “se limiter à deux personnes?” Dans l’ouvrage “An Introduction to Family Law,” publié par les presses de l’Université Oxford, un professeur de droit britannique commente sur un ton désapprobateur: “L’horreur qu’inspire la bigamie semble prendre ses racines dans l’image traditionnelle du mariage comme lieu exclusif d’une relation sexuelle, et dans le refus d’envisager une telle relation entre partenaires multiples.”95, 96

En même temps, le Projet Alternatives au Mariage, dont les principaux porte-parole s’expriment souvent dans des émissions d’information diffusées par de grandes chaînes de radio et télévision, fait connaître la cohabitation et le mariage homosexuel, y compris la polyamorie, sujet “choque” dans la gamme des alternatives qu’il défend.97 Parmi les organisations affiliées à des institutions religieuses, les Universalistes unitariens pour la conscientisation à la polyamorie espèrent être les premiers à reconnaître et donner leur bénédiction à ces relations.98

Les adeptes de la polyamorie imitent sciemment le langage de ceux qui appuient les lesbiennes, les homosexuels et les bisexuels. Ils se plaignent de devoir garder leurs amours multiples “dans le placard.” Ils disent qu’ils doivent cacher leur style de vie de crainte qu’ils puissent perdre leurs emplois ou la garde légale de leurs enfants, et que révéler leur vraie nature polygame serait “sortir du placard.” Que cette nature, ils n’y peuvent rien.

Les enfants peuvent compliquer les choses. Les sites Internet pour les praticiens de la polyamorie consacrent beaucoup d’espace aux défis auxquels sont confrontés les parents polyamoureux.

Sur le site, une mère explique: “La polyamorie, c’est ce que mes enfants connaissent. Ils savent que certains enfants on deux parents, d’autres trios ou plus. Il se trouve qu’eux, ils en ont quatre. À vrai dire, la polyamorie n’affecte presque pas les enfants, à moins que vous soyez si préoccupés par vos nouvelles amours que cela vous fasse négliger vos enfants.’99

Sur le même site, une mère ayant plus d’expérience donne des conseilles à une jeune femme enceinte qui ne sait pas comment elle va gérer le bébé et son style de vie polyamoureux: “tre mère… et vivre en polyamorie n’est pas de la torte, mais ça peut se faire. Cela veut dire que parfois vous emenez le bébé avec vous quand vous rendez visite à votre “autre parentaire,” ou que celui-ci passe plus de temps chez vous, avez votre mari et le bébé. Parfois, il y aura des imprévus et vous allez devoir annuler vos projets à la toute dernière minute parce que le bébé est malade… Tous les adultes dans la situation doivent se montrer très patients, mais ça peut se faire. Les premiers six mois sont difficiles.” (italiques de la personne citée)100

Une autre femme est offusquée par le fait que sa meilleure amie n’appuie pas la relation polyamoureuse qu’elle entretient avec un couple dont la fille a six ans. Elle écrit, “Peu importe que cette enfant soit heureuse et contente, selon mon amie, ses parents et moi sommes en train de lui infliger un traumatisme grave parce que nous ne lui cachons pas tout à fait notre relation.” Elle continue en soupirant, “Parfois, des gens intelligents, gentils et raisonnables qui vous connaissent bien peuvent quand même avoir des attitude irrationnelles et des préjugés.”101

Un autre site pour les adeptes de la polyamorie diffuse la plainte suivante: “Un des défis auxquels sont confrontées les familles pratiquant la polyamorie est le manque d’exemples de ce type de relation dans la litérature et les médias.”102 Un site offre une revue pour enfants, “PolyKidsZine.” La revue “appuie les principes et la mission de la Société de polyamorie.” Elle contient “des jeux, des divertissements, des histoires exaltantes à propos de l’éthique des familles vivant en polyamorie.” La collection de livres comprend des titres comme “Le Pouvoir magique des nombreux parents de Marc” et “Les Deux mamans et trois papas de Heather.”103

Personne ne peut prévoir l’avenir de la polyamorie. Mais ce que l’on sait, c’est qu’il y a un autre phénomène qui constitue une attaque culturelle du mariage en tant qu’union de deux personnes: la résurgence de la polygamie.

Ce printemps, une nouvelle série télévisée, Big Love, sur la chaîne HBO, présente une famille imaginaire plutôt sympathique et polygame, vivant dans l’État de Utah. Cette émission a propulsé la polygamie à la une des journaux, et a ravivé le débat sur la légalisation de la polygamie dans les médias, et pas n’importe lesquels! Un article dans le numéro de mars de Newsweek, intitulé “Polygames, unissons-nous!” cite un adepte qui affirme: “La polygamie est la prochaine lutte pour des droits civils.” Il poursuit son argument en disant: “Si un enfant peut avoir deux mères, pourquoi pas deux mères et un père?”104 À la fin de la même semaine, les hôtes de l’émission Today, Lester Holt et Campbell Brown, reçurent une famille polygame et menèrent avec elle un entretien chaleureux.

Au cours du même mois, le New York Times porta une attention particulière à la polygamie. Un article rapportait les réactions de quelques femmes polygames au premier épisode de Big Love. Selon elles, “[La polygamie] peut être un style de vie alternatif viable entre adultes consentants.”105 Dans un autre article de journal, un économiste plaisantait en disant que la polygamie est illégale surtout parce que les législateurs ont peur que dans un tel système ils n’arrivent pas à se trouver des épouses.106 Ailleurs, le journaliste John Tierney présente l’argument que “la polygamie n’est pas pire que l’actuelle alternative américaine, la monogamie en série.” Il ajoute: “…si le meilleur argument qu’on peut trouver contre le mariage homosexual est qu’il pourrait entraîner la légalisation de la polygamie, que la noce commence!”107 Et pour que rien ne manque, la couverture du numéro du 19 juin, 2006 de la revue New Yorker arborait l’image de trois mariées souriantes et un marié sur le point de départ dans une décapotable portant l’inscription “just married”.

L’émission Big Love n’est pas le seul lieu où on met en valeur la polygamie. L’hiver dernier beaucoup de Canadiens ont été outrés lorsque deux études gouvernementales émises par le Ministère de la Justice ont recommandé que la polygamie soit légalisée; un des rapports affirmait que cette mesure est justifiée par le besoin d’attirer plus d’immigrants musulmans qualifiés.

Stanley Kurtz—dont la rubrique a souvent analysé ces développements—disait dans une enquête récente que nombreux juristes aux États-Unis veulent décriminaliser la polygamie. L’article de Jonathon Turley, professeur de droit à l’Université George Washington, en faveur de la polygamie, publié dans USA Today, a été très remarqué; Il n’est qu’un seul parmi beaucoup d’autres. Selon Kurtz, aujourd’hui un grand nombre de juristes experts avances l’argument que “les abus de la polygamie abondent dans l’isolation, la honte et le secret dus à la criminalisation.”108 Ce n’est pas la polygamie qui est le problème, mais seulement la “mauvaise” polygamie. Mais pourquoi une société voudrait-elle accorder la reconnaissance légale aux unions polyamoureuses ou polygames? Une justification possible pourrait être liée à la possibilité de reconnaître comme troisièmes parents les donneurs de sperme et d’ovules pour la conception d’un bébé, comme l’ont proposé l’année dernière la Commission de droit de la Nouvelle Zélande et la Commission de réforme légale de Victoria. Au Canada, on a déjà soumis aux tribunaux la demande de reconnaître trois parents légaux. Dans un cas concernant un couple de lesbiennes qui voulait que le père biologique soit reconnu comme troisième parent, le juge a écrit qu’il aurait voulu accepter la requête si la loi en vigueur ne l’en avait pas empêché.

Lorsqu’on reconnaîtra trois parents légaux ou plus à certains enfants—si jamais cela se fait, l’argument pour reconnaître certaines formes de mariage en groupe est prévisible: “Pourquoi devrait-on nier aux enfants avec trois parents les mêmes protections sociales et légales qu’on accorde aux enfants ayant deux parents?”

Si jamais cela devenait réalité, les enfants seront à plaindre. Nous voyons déjà les repercussions sur la vie des enfants lorsque deux parents se séparent et sont en disaccord quant aux intérêts des enfants. Qu’est-ce que ça serait si trois adultes ou plus ayant des droits par rapport à l’enfant mettaient fin à leur relation? À l’avenir, entre combien de résidences demandera-t-on à un enfant de voyager et de diviser son temps afin de satisfaire les besoins parentaux de ces nombreux adultes? Trois, quatre, plus?

Mais jusqu’au jour où la procréation unisexuelle ou la procréation à trois deviant réalité, les enfants seront le fruit de l’union entre un homme et une femme. Comme dit Sylvianne Agacinski, philosophe française féministe, tous les enfants auront toujours une “origine double”109 : celle de la mère et celle du père, origine que nous ne pouvons pas nier et que les enfants ne peuvent certainement pas ignorer, car ils la voient chaque fois qu’ils se regardent dans le miroir. Lorsque nous changeons l’aspect mère-père du mariage, ou la définition se rapportant à deux personnes, nous changeons également la signification du rôle parental d’une manière qui produira des changements significatifs dans la vie et l’avenir des enfants.

EN CE MOMENT, presque sans débat public, la relation la plus fondamentale pour la survie même des enfants—celle avec leurs parents—est en train d’être transformée de manière radicale par de nouvelles lois, projets de loi et pratiques influençant le mariage, la reproduction et la vie de famille, tandis que l’Etat joue un rôle de plus en plus actif dans la définition de la fonction parentale s’appliquant à de plus en plus de catégories d’enfants.

Etant donné que certaines décisions soient déjà prises, les mesures que devraient prendre l’Etat et les dirigeants sociaux dans un proche avenir ne sont pas claires.

Par exemple, certains pays ont décidé d’interdire le don anonyme de sperme et d’ovules. Cela semble être une mesure positive du point de vue des enfants— puisqu’on peut affirmer, preuves à l’appui, que les enfants ont besoin et ont le droit de connaître leurs origines. Mais accepter l’idée que les enfants conçus à l’aide de donneurs ont le droit de connaître leurs origines, c’est accepter qu’ils puissent avoir une relation avec le donneur (et non seulement un dossier contenant des informations), et même que le donneur puisse obtenir un statut parental légal, comme en Nouvelle-Zélande et en Australie, où des commissions ont proposé d’offrir aux donneurs l’option de devenir le troisième parent légal de l’enfant.

Quel sera l’avenir des enfants ayant trois parents légaux ou plus? Nous n’en savons rien.

En Grande Bretagne, où une nouvelle loi a interdit le don anonyme, le nombre d’hommes prêts à donner du sperme a chuté de manière significative. Par conséquent, les services de santé de l’Etat ont mené une campagne énergique pour recruter des donneurs de sperme et d’ovules, mesure qui non seulement permettait la conception voulue d’enfants qui ne connaîtront pas, et ne seront pas élevés par leurs parents biologiques, mais qui encourageait cet état de choses de manière active.

En même temps, les couples britanniques qui désirent concevoir ont une raison de plus d’aller à l’étranger, dans des pays ou des régions avec moins de règlements— comme l’Espagne, l’Inde, l’Europe de l’Est ou ailleurs—pour se procurer du sperme et des ovules, ou des mères-porteuses, rendant encore plus improbable la possibilité que l’enfant puisse retracer ses origines ou bâtir une relation avec un donneur lointain (et parfois très pauvre) quelque part à l’étranger.

Encore une fois, quelles seront les conséquences pour les enfants? En ce moment, nous ne pouvons pas le savoir. Mais nous avons déjà des raisons sérieuses de nous en inquiéter.

C’est pour toutes ces raisons que ce rapport n’offre pas, en conclusion, la liste habituelle de recommandations spécifiques. Au lieu de quoi, le rapport lance un appel.

Une chose est claire: Quand une société change le mariage, elle change la signification du rôle parental. La transformation révolutionnaire du divorce et la croissance du nombre de femmes élevant seules des enfants ont affaibli les relations des pères avec leurs enfants et ont introduit une multiplicité d’acteurs parfois appelés “parents.”

L’emploi de techniques de procréation assistée par des couples mariés hétérosexuels— et plus tard par des célibataires et des couples de même sexe—a engendré des incertitudes supplémentaires quant à la signification de la maternité et la paternité, et a laissé les enfants face à des pertes insoupçonnées par les adultes.

La légalisation du mariage homosexuel, vue par certains comme un changement mineur n’affectant qu’un petit nombre de gens, introduit la possibilité alarmante de séparer l’institution légale de mariage de tous liens biologiques entre parents et enfants. Entre temps, les réussites obtenues par les adeptes du mariage homosexual ont encouragé d’autres groupes qui désirent abolir la configuration deux-personnes du mariage et de l’unité parentale.

Nous en sommes là. Dans le domaine juridique et dans la culture, le modèle constitué par deux parents naturels perd du terrain et se voit remplacé par l’idée que les enfants vont bien lorsqu’ils sont confiés à un ou plusieurs des adultes nommés parents, du moment que ces parents sont gentils avec eux. Ce changement, qui prend de plus en plus d’ampleur, est encouragé par des adeptes qui se dissent experts dans quelques domaines spécifiques. Mais on peut arrêter cette tendance.

Ceux d’entre nous qui se sentent concernés peuvent et doivent entamer et mener une discussion à propos des vies des enfants et de l’avenir du rôle parental.

Un principe fondateur de cette discussion pourrait être le suivant: Lorsqu’il y a conflit entre les droits des adultes et les besoins des enfants, il faut donner precedence aux intérêts de la partie la plus vulnérable—dans ce cas, les enfants.110 De nombreuses preuves existent pour appuyer l’idée qu’en général un enfant se porte le mieux lorsqu’il est élevé par sa propre mère et son propre père, qui sont maries ensemble. L’adoption reste, bien entendu, une alternative utile en faveur de l’enfant. Quant aux nouveaux types de familles qui deviennent visibles, comme celles où les parents sont des homosexuels ou des lesbiennes, ou celles où les enfants ont été conçus à l’aide de sperme ou d’ovules de donneurs, ou par l’intermédiaire de mèresporteuses, il nous reste à apprendre qu’elles seront les expériences subjectives à long terme de ces enfants.

Afin de donner le temps à cette discussion et à des recherches supplémentaires, ce rapport demande un moratoire, une pause. Avant qu’on comprenne mieux et qu’on puisse déterminer les priorités concernant les besoins des enfants, les législateurs, tribunaux et commissions ne doivent pas ratifier des recommandations ou changements qui subvertissent l’importance normative des mères et des pères dans la vie des enfants, et ne doivent pas appuyer la pratique de refuser sciemment aux enfants à naître la possibilité de connaître et d’avoir une relation avec leur propre mère ou père.

Ils doivent plutôt concentrer leurs efforts sur un questionnement et un débat actifs concernant les besoins des enfants et le rôle des pères et des mères dans leurs vies. Le bien-être des enfants partout dans le monde nous oblige à agir—non pas plus tard, mais maintenant. Au nom de ces enfants, ceux qui sont nés et ceux qui naîtront, nous devons ouvrir un débat parfois dérangeant concernant le bien-être des enfants nés à une époque où on est en train de redéfinir très vite le rôle du père et de la mère. Mais rien n’est inévitable si on agit maintenant.

1. Les concepts clés sur la fragmentation du rôle parental sont tirés du rapport de Dan Cere, Principal Investigator, The Future of Family Law: Law and the Marriage Crisis in North America, (New York: Institute for American Values, 2005), section sur la filiation.
2. Le projet de loi C-38 a légalisé le mariage homosexuel au Canada. Le mariage homosexual était déjà légal dans sept provinces et un territoire, y compris l’Ontario, la Colombie Britannique et le Québec.
3. Rapporté sous le titre “Actes de naissance espagnols tiennent compte des couples homosexuels,” sur le site, le 8 mars 2006. On y cite un article du journal The Daily Telegraph de Londres. Pour une plus ample discussion, voir George Weigel, “Europe’s Two Culture Wars,” Commentary, mai 2006. Weigel écrit, “… Cette année [en Espagne]…le gouvernement de Zapatero, qui a déjà légalisé le mariage des couples homosexuels et l’adoption par des partenaires de même sexe, et qui a essayé de limiter l’éducation religieuse dans les écoles espagnoles, a annoncé que les mots ‘mère’ et ‘père’ ne figureront plus sur les actes de naissance en Espagne. Selon le bulletin officiel du gouvernement, ‘le terme ‘père’ sera remplacé par ‘progéniteur A’ et ‘mère’ par ‘progéniteur B.” Le directeur du Bureau de l’état civil a expliqué au journal ABC de Madrid que grâce à ce changement le certificat de naissance reflétera la législation espagnole portant sur le mariage et l’adoption. De manière plus percutante, le commentateur irlandais David Quinn perçoit les nouvelles réglementations comme ‘le retrait de la reconnaissance par l’État du rôle des mères et des pères, et l’extinction de la biologie et de la nature.’”
4. Commission de droit de la Nouvelle-Zélande, rapport 88, “New Issues in Legal Parenthood” (avril 2005, Wellington, Nouvelle-Zélande).
5. Commission de réforme juridique de Victoria (Australie), rapport sur les techniques de procreation assistée (avril 2005, Melbourne, Australie), Section 2.35. L’argument soutient que la conception planifiée d’enfants sans relation avec leurs propres mères ou pères contribuerait à ce que les enfants qui ne vivent pas avec leurs mères ou pères se sentent moins stigmatisés.
6. “Rapport de la commission sur la procréation assistée (Irlande),” avril 2005.
7. Christine O’Rourke, citée dans “Reproduction report ‘too radical for legalisation,’” dans The Sunday Times—Ireland, 15 mai 2005, édition en ligne.
8. “ICMR guidelines go a long way in curbing exploitation,” 21 juin 2005; c’est nous qui soulignons.
9. Maintes articles ont rapporté que l’interdiction du don anonyme a causé une diminution dramatique du nombre d’hommes prêts à devenir des donneurs en Grande Bretagne. Mais tout récemment l’agence de réglementation des cliniques de fertilité en Grande Bretagne—la Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority—a nié ces déclarations, disant qu’il s’agissait d’un “myth,” et affirmant que le problème consiste en une “disponibilité inégale” de sperme “à travers le pays.” Voir “Sperm donor law not a deterent,” BBC News, 8 juin 2006, édition en ligne. N’empêche que l’impression, vraie ou fausse, qui persiste est qu’il est très difficile d’obtenir du sperme de donneur en Grande Bretagne, et extrêmement difficile d’obtenir des ovules.
10. Voir “Sperm donor campaign launched,” DeHavilland, National News, 26 janvier 2005; “Every sperm donor recruited costs public £6,250, say critics,” [“Chaque donneur de sperme recruté coûte les contribuables £6,250, selon les critiques”] News Telegraph, Charlotte McDonald-Gibson, 3 juillet 2005, édition en ligne. Aux États-Unis, la cryobanque de la Californie pratique l’identité ouverte des donneurs de sperme depuis 2 décennies. Quelques unes des plus grandes banques de sperme aux États- Unis commencent à proposer cette option. Voir “Sperm donation process moving toward more openness in identifying fathers,” Pittsburgh Post Gazette, par Virginia Linn, 24 août 2005, édition en ligne.
11. Des pressions s’exercent maintenant sur l’État pour que des impôts soient prélevés sur ce commerce lucratif. “Taxman has eye on sperm,” The Copenhagen Post, 3 juin 2005; article n’est pas disponible en ligne. Voir aussi, “Danish tax may drain world’s top sperm bank,” China View, 27 mai 2005. La couverture par les médias de nouvelles se rapportant aux cryobanques a produit une quantité d’histoires concernant des “bébés Viking” blonds, aux yeux bleus, nés partout dans le monde.
12. “Insemination rights for lesbians,” via Reuters, 2 juin 2006.
13. Than Nien News, “Doctors call for community sperm donation in Vietnam,” 15 août 2005; article par Thanh Tung, traduit par Minh Phat.
14. Les praticiens médicaux avaient l’habitude de conseiller aux patients recevant des therapies de fécondité (presque toujours des couples hétérosexuels) de garder secret leur recours au sperme de donneurs, pour leur protection ainsi que pour celle de l’enfant. En ce moment, la tendance encourage les parents à être honnêtes avec leurs enfants, mais beaucoup de parents hésitent à le faire, surtout lorsqu’il y a un père légitime dans la famille.
15. “Pressure on Sperm Donor Laws,” The Age, par Carol Nader, 1 juin 2005, édition en ligne; “Ad campaign planned for sperm donor kids,” Tanya Giles, 2 juin 2005, Herald Sun, édition en ligne; voir aussi “Revisiting a law that was ahead of its time,” The Age, 6 juin 2005, éditorial affirmant que “en 1995 il y avait environ 10 000 enfants à Victoria nés à l’aide de sperme ou d’ovules de donneurs.” L’auteur ajoute que les droits des enfants à connaître leurs origines génétiques prévalent sur les droits des parents de ne pas leur révéler cette information. Une discussion plus détaillée de la campagne de publicité visant $100 000 est présentée par Carol Nader dans “Bid to ease trauma as donors seek children,” The Age, 27 janvier 2006, édition en ligne.
16. Bob Egelko, “State Supreme Court upholds rights, responsibilities of same-sex parents,” San Francisco Chronicle, 22 août 2005, édition en ligne; Adam Liptak, “California Ruling Expands Same- Sex Parental Rights,” New York Times, 23 août 2005, édition en ligne; David Kravets, “California Court Protects Kids of Gay Couples,” Associated Press, 23 août 2005.
17. La revue Time a fait le commentaire suivant quand la Cour Suprême a refusé d’entendre un cas de l’État de Washington où le statut parental de facto avait été accordé à l’ancienne partenaire de la mère: “Alors que nous surveillons de près comment les droits des homosexuels sont accordés ou refusés, nous faisons très peu attention au fait que les beaux-parents se trouvent dans le meme marasme légal. Bien que les relations avec des partenaires de la mère ou du père soient omniprésentes, la loi les reconnaît rarement. Dans la plupart des États, les beaux-parents sont considérés des “étrangers légaux,” même s’ils se sont occupés d’un enfant et pourvu à ses besoins pendant des années. Ces personnes n’ont aucune responsabilité officielle et presque pas de droits.” Les décisions des tribunaux relatives aux parents hétérosexuels de facto se dérouleront sans doute de manière imprévue. Po Bronson, “Are Stepparents Real Parents?” Time Magazine, 17 mai 2006, édition en ligne.
18. Une décision subséquente refusait à la donneuse d’ovules toute relation avec l’enfant. La mèreporteuse obtint plus tard la charge des triplets; une décision récente exigeait qu’elle rembourse le père biologique les honoraires qu’il lui avait versés pour ses services, ainsi que la pension alimentaire. La mère-porteuse avait pris les bébés chez elle contre le désir du père biologique qui, selon elle, n’était pas venu visiter les enfants à l’hôpital, avec sa partenaire, pendant six jours après leur naissance. “Surrogate Mom Must Repay Biological Father,” AP, 16 mars 2006.
19. Un procès semblable, où une mere demande que le père, donneur de sperme connu d’elle, pourvoit aux besoins de jumeaux de deux ans, a été intenté dans la region de Chicago. Comme dans le cas de Pennsylvanie, la mère et le père biologique avait fait une entente entre eux concernant le don de sperme. À ma connaissance, aux États-Unis, les hommes qui font don de sperme dans les cliniques n’ont pas été passibles de payer des pensions alimentaires.
20. Lawrence Kalikow, cité dans “PA Legislators Ponder Laws for Egg, Sperm Donors,” dans Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 5 juin 2005, édition en ligne.
21. Loi HB102 en Ohio. En Nouvelle Zélande, un article du New Zealand Herald intitulé “New hope for childless couples,” rapporte que “un changement significatif de perspective sociale permet que les embryons qui restent lorsque la fertilisation in vitro a réussi pour un couple soient utilisés par d’autres couples qui essayent de procréer.” New Zealand Herald, par Stuart Dye, 8 septembre 2005, édition en ligne.
22. Le gouverneur Mitt Romney s’est opposé à cette mesure et a demandé aux hôpitaux, lorsque cette situation se présente, de rayer le mot “mère” ou “père” et de le remplacer par “deuxième parent.” Il a précisé: “De toute manière, chaque enfant a une mère et un père. Ils ont le droit de savoir qui ils sont…” Voir “Massachusetts debates birth certificates for babies of same sex couples,” Fox, 27 juillet 2005.
23. Une version atténuée de la même attitude est illustrée par une ville en Australie qui, à l’aide de fonds régionaux et fédéraux, a diffuse une brochure intitulée “We’re Here” [“Nous sommes ici”] à plus de 2000 garderies, afin d’encourager le personnel à surmonter la homophobie. La brochure recommandait l’utilisation des termes “Partenaire A” et “Partenaire B” sur les formulaires, au lieu de “mère” et “père.” Herald Sun, 5 août 2005, par Susie O’Brien.
24. Un article récent concernant cette politique a paru en première page du journal Montreal Gazette le 1 juin 2005.
25. Le juge Paul Rivard de la Cour Suprême, cité dans l’article “Court rules lesbians can be comothers; Ontario gives 12 months to change law,” par Tracey Tyler, Toronto Star, 7 juin 2006.
26. En ce qui concerne l’adoption, la décision de révéler ou non l’identité de la mère de naissance est sujette à contreverse, en partie par crainte que la perte d’anonymité influencera les femmes à interrompre la grossesse.
27. Larry Fischer-Hertz, “Ulster gay couple wins legal battle; son’s birth certificate is changed,” Poughkeepsie Journal, 19 janvier 2006. L’enfant a été adopté en Virginie.
28. Voir “Emmett has two mommies: the next gay rights battle heads to court,” Portland Mercury News, 9 avril 2006, édition en ligne.
29. Assemblée Nationale de France, “Rapport parlementaire sur la famille et les droits des enfants,” 26 janvier 2006.
30. La Finlande offre également une certaine résistance à la redéfinition du parent. Un article paru dans ce pays rapporte qu’il y a “débat intense” autour d’un projet de loi qui soumettrait les therapies de fécondité à une réglementation. À la tête de ceux qui sont contre le projet de loi se trouvent les Chrétiens Démocrates, qui forment l’opposition, et surtout Paivi Rasanen, présidente du parti. Elle soumet, comme son principal argument, que d’être sans père pour un enfant est pire que d’être sans enfants pour un adulte; par conséquent, le droit de l’enfant à un père doit avoir priorité sur tous autres droits dans ce domaine. Tiré de “Opinions deeply polarized in parliamentary debate on fertility treatment bill,” Helsingin Sanomat, 24 février 2006, édition en ligne. La Chine interdit, elle aussi, la vente de sperme et d’ovules, et a déclaré récemment que ceux qui tirent profit des services de mèresporteuses seront punis. Bien entendu, la réglmentation de la procréation en Chine, et surtout l’application coercitive de la politique de l’enfant unique, donnent lieu à d’autres objections.
31. Voir http://www.unicef.ort/crc/. Les débats au moment de la ratification montrent clairement que pour les signataires du traité le mot “parents” signifie la propre mère et propre père de l’enfant.
32. Elizabeth Marquardt, Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce (New York: Crown Publishers, sept. 2005); Judith Wallerstein, Julia Lewis et Sandra Blakeslee, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25-Year Landmar.k Study (New York: Hyperion, 2000).
33. Les personnes conçues à l’aide de donneurs disent que ce type de conception est très différente de l’adoption. Les enfants adoptés savent que leurs parents biologiques, pour une raison ou pour une autre, n’ont pas pu les élever. Savoir cela peut être douloureux. En même temps, ils savant que les parents qui les élèvent sont aussi ceux qui, avant la conception, ont décidé, intentionellement, de les priver d’une relation avec au moins un de leurs parents biologiques. La douleur qu’ils pourraient ressentir n’est pas causée par un parent biologique inconnu qui les a abandonnés, mais par le parent qui les élève et s’occupe d’eux tous les jours. Savoir cela crée un conflit entre la loyauté et l’amour qu’ils ont pour les parents qui les élèvent et la quête d’identité qui survient à l’adolescence. Lorsque les jeunes gens conçus à l’aide de donneurs demandent: “Qui suis-je? Quelles sont mes origines? Pourquoi suis-je ici?” ils confrontent souvent une multitude d’incertitudes que notre culture ne comprend qu’à peine. Par exemple, Joanna Rose, étudiante de doctorat conçue à l’aide de donneur, écrit: “Nos liens de parenté ont été brisés dans le cadre d’un ‘service’ rendu aux parents qui nous ont élevés. Contrairement au principe étayant l’adoption, il ne s’agit pas d’un dernier recours, et les liens de parenté brisés ne peuvent pas être dans notre intérêt…” Voir
34. Tangled Webs est une organisation dont le siège est à Victoria, en Australie; elle relie de jeunes adultes partout dans le monde qui ont été conçus à l’aide de donneurs. Une autre organization pour adultes conçus à l’aide de donneurs a été créée au Japon: “Japanese children of anonymous sperm donors seek support, right to truth,” [“Enfants japonais de donneurs anonymes demandent soutien, droit de savoir,”] tiré de Yomiuri Shimbun, reproduit dans le Fort Wayne News Sentinel, 5 juillet 2005, édition en ligne.
35. “I want to know where I come from,” [“Je veux savoir d’où je viens”] BBC News, 26 avril 2005, édition en ligne; “Sperm and the quest for identity,” [“Sperme et quête d’identité”] BBC News, 1 juin 2005, édition en ligne; Nancy J. White, “Are you my father?” [“Es-tu mon père?”] Toronto Star, 16 avril 2005, édition en ligne; Carol Nader, “My dad is my dad, but who gave the sperm?” [“Mon père et mon père, mais qui a donné le sperme?”] The Age (Australie), 3 juin 2005, édition en ligne; Judith Graham, “Sperm donors’ offspring reach out into past,” [“Les enfants des donneurs de sperme se tournent vers le passé”] Chicago Tribune, 19 juin 2005, édition en ligne; et la liste continue.
36. Aux États-Unis, voir, site créé par une mère afin d’aider son fils, conçu à l’aide de donneur, à retrouver des demi-frères et demi-soeurs. Le site a été présenté dans le cadre d’émissions tels que Good Morning America, The Today Show, Oprah et beaucoup d’autres. En Grande Bretagne, voir, centre bénévole d’échange d’information et de contact unique en son genre, fondé par le Ministère de la Santé. Son mandat est “d’encourager plus de donneurs, enfants de donneurs et leurs demi-frères et demi-soeurs de s’inscrire sur les listes du centre afin de se donner la possibilité de se contacter.” Voir “UK Donor Link Confirms Matches for Half-Siblings,” Medical News Today, 1 juin 2005, édition en ligne. Il est tout de même ironique que le Ministère de la Santé en Grande Bretagne finance d’une part le recrutement de donneurs de sperme et d’ovules, et d’autre part les efforts des adultes conçus à l’aide de donneurs de contacter leurs donneurs et leurs demi-frères et soeurs. En Nouvelle Zélande, le gouvernement vient de créer un Registre semblable de donneurs en août 2005: “Le Registre des techniques de procréation humaine assistée enregistrera tous les dons futurs faits dans les cliniques de procréation assistée, et qui mènent à des naissances, ainsi que des données concernant les donneurs et les naissances préalables. Cela permettra aux donneurs futurs et à leurs enfants de connaître leurs identités réciproques, et fournira la même possibilité à ceux qui ont participé à des thérapies de fécondité préalables, si les uns et les autres y consentent.” http//,2106,3385637a7144,00html “New register for donors and donor offspring launched,” 22 août 2005.
37. L’absence évidente du père biologique dans les familles constituées par des mères volontairement célibataires et par des couples de lesbiennes et leurs enfants explique le fait que souvent ces mères parlent ouvertement à leurs enfants du fait qu’ils ont été conçus à l’aide de sperme de donneur; par contre, les études montrent que la plupart des femmes mariées, hétérosexuelles, ne disent pas à leurs enfants qu’ils ont été conçus à l’aide d’ovules de donneur. Voir Nancy Hass pour une analyse de cette situation: “Whose Life Is It Anyway?” Elle Magazine, septembre 2005. Un des nombreux commentaires perspicaces de Nancy Hass attire l’attention sur le fait que des femmes célèbres plus âgées peuvent devenir enceintes avec des ovules de donneur afin de donner l’impression qu’elles sont en bonne santé et encore jeunes. (Parmi les hommes mariés hétérosexuels, on observe une diminution du recours au sperme de donneur, grâce au traitement efficace de la stérilité masculine.)
38. Ce langage est celui employé par des adolescents à Amy Harmon conçu à l’aide de sperme de donneur: “Hello, I’m Your Sister. Our Father is Donor 150,” [“Bonjour, je suis ta soeur. Notre père est le donneur 150”] New York Times, 20 novembre 2005, première page.
39. Joanne Rose, blogue Family Scholars
40. Voir Abigail Gardner, Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is (New York: Harper Paperbacks, 2005).
41. Une des études peu nombreuses portant sur leurs attitudes est celle de J.E. Scheib, M. Riordan et S. Rubin, “Adolescents with open-identity sperm donors: reports from 12-17 year olds,”
[“Adolescents avec donneurs identifiés: témoignages d’enfants entre 12 et 17 ans”] Human Reproduction, vol. 20, no.1, European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology 2004, ps. 239- 252. La plupart des adolescents qui ont rempli le questionnaire ont répondu qu’ils allaient prendre contact avec le donneur parce que cela les aiderait à apprendre d’avantage sur eux-mêmes. Ils dissent se sentir “assez jusqu’à très à l’aise” concernant leurs origines. Très peu d’entre eux disent qu’ils désirent une relation “père-enfant” avec le donneur de sperme, et aucun d’entre eux ne désire lui demander de l’argent. (Un des principaux soucis de cette étude était l’effet du don identifié sur les adultes, ainsi que sur les enfants, et la plupart des rapports sur l’étude dans les médias soulignaient “les bonnes nouvelles” pour les adultes, telles que: “Children ‘respect privacy’ of their sperm donor fathers,” [“Les enfants respectent la vie privée de leurs pères donneurs de sperme”] News Telegraph, par Nic Fleming, 12/11/2004, édition en ligne.) Bien que les résultats de l’étude méritent d’être pris en compte, une enquête avec choix de réponse à cocher n’est pas la méthode idéale de juger des expériences subjectives des adolescents. Il est plutôt difficile, également, d’enquêter sur des adolescents et des enfants vivant encore chez leurs parents et dépendants d’eux. Il est probable qu’on obtiendrait un portrait différent au moyen d’entretiens approfondis et plus longs avec de jeunes adultes indépendants qui sont plus ouverts et qui ont réfléchi à leur enfance, surtout si on se fie à ce
qui commence à être rapporté par de jeunes adultes conçus à l’aide de donneurs.
42. Narelle Grech et Joanna Rose ont affiché leurs commentaries sur Family Scholars Blog au:
43. Cité dans Tom Sylvester, “Sperm Bank Baby to Meet Test Tube Dad,” National Fatherhood Initiative, Fatherhood Today, page 4, vol. 7, no. 2, printemps 2003. Parmi les sources pour cet article: Brian Bergstein, “Woman to meet her father—a sperm donor,” Associated Press, 30 janvier 2002; Yomi S. Wronge, “PA teen to contact dad who was sperm donor,” Mercury News, 20 janvier 2002; Trisha Carlson, “Sperm bank baby to learn donor’s name,” KPIX Canal 5, 1 février 2002; et Tamar Abrams, “Test Tube Dad,” sur, 1 avril 2002.
44. “I want to know where I come from,” BBC News, 26 avril 2005, édition en ligne.
45. Judith Graham, “Sperm donors’ offspring reach into past,” Chicago Tribune, 19 juin 2005, edition en ligne.
46. Idem.
47. “Japanese children of anonymous sperm donors seek support, right to truth,” [“Enfants japonais de donneurs anonymes de sperme demandent soutien, droit de savoir”] tiré de Yomiuri Shimbun, reproduit dans Fort Wayne News Sentinel, 5 juillet 2005, édition en ligne. Au Japon également, une femme de 39 ans conçue à l’aide de donneur a dit à un journaliste: “J’ai le sentiment d’être venue au monde pour satisfaire le désir de ma mère. Après sa mort, je me suis demandée s’il me restait une raison de vivre.” Elle a ajouté: “… Je n’arrive pas à me débarrasser de l’impression que je ne suis pas née tant que fabriquée.” (italiques dans l’article) Voir Tomoko Otake, “Lives in Limbo,” The Japan Times, 23 août 2005, édition en ligne.
48. Beaucoup d’adultes conçus à l’aide de donneurs se pose la question des demi-frères et soeurs: en ont-ils et combien? Cela, pour deux raisons: parce qu’ils veulent connaître leur parenté pour mieux comprendre qui ils sont, et parce qu’ils ont peur d’entamer des relations amoureuses, à leur insu, avec un de ces frères ou soeurs (ou que leurs enfants en fassent autant avec les enfants de ces demi-frères ou soeurs). Étant donné que bon nombre d’enfants à peu près du même âge ont pu être conçu à l’aide du même donneur de sperme, qu’il soit possible qu’ils habitent dans la région de la banque de sperme, et que, de surcroît, le fait de partager avec quelqu’un la moitié de son patrimoine génétique donne un sentiment de “familiarité” qui rend la personne attrayante (surtout si on ne sait pas qu’il y a un lien de parenté), la peur d’une rencontre amoureuse avec un demi-frère ou une demi-soeur n’est pas déraisonnable. Narelle Grech, adulte conçue à l’aide de donneur, pose la question suivante sur Family Scholars Blog: “Est-il possible qu’à l’avenir nous allons tous devoir nous soumettre à des tests ADN avant de sortir avec quelqu’un, “au cas où?” Dans un article de journal, une mère qui a eu recours à l’insémination avec donneur affirme sur un ton optimiste que son fils devra demander à ses partenaires de se soumettre à des tests ADN une fois qu’il aura “une vraie vie amoureuse.” Voir Kay Miller, “Le patrimoine du donneur 1047,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 21 août 2005, édition en ligne.
49. Dear Abby, San Jose Mercury News, 2 janvier 2005, édition sur site. Abby a répondu à la jeune fille, sur un ton expéditif, que le donneur “accomplit une action noble” et que “son identité est impossible cz`fazdà retracer.”
50. Cette réaction equivaut à dire à un enfant de parents divorcés qu’il devrait être reconnaissant pour le divorce, puisque sans lui il n’aurait pas eu le demi-frère ou demi-soeur né(e) d’un marriage subséquent. Il n’y a pas de fondement rationnel ou compatissant pour suggérer à quelqu’un qui essaie de parler de son histoire que faire cela équivaut à un désir d’effacer une vie humaine, la sienne ou celle d’un autre.
51. Blaine Hardin, “2-Parent Families Rise After Change in Welfare Laws, New York Times, 12 août 2001. Environ deux-tiers des divorces mettent fin à des marriages peu conflictuels; environ un tiers des divorces mettent fin à des mariages caractérisés par beaucoup de conflit. Voir Paul R. Amato et Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval (Cambridge: Presses de l’Université Harvard, 1997), p. 220.
52. Voir citations complètes dans Why Marriage Matters: Conclusions from the Social Sciences, deuxième édition, (New York: Institute for American Values, 2005); voir aussi “Evaluating Marriage: Does Marriage Matter to the Nurturing of Children,” par Robin Fretwell Wilson, 42 San Diego Law Review (2005): 847-881.
53. Les filles dans des familles recomposées ont un risque légèrement plus élevé d’être enceintes pendant l’adolescence, par rapport aux filles dans des familles monoparentales; elles ont un risqué beaucoup plus élevé d’être enceintes pendant l’adolescence que les filles avec des parents qui n’ont pas divorcé. Les enfants élevés dans des familles recomposées sont également plus aptes à se marier pendant l’adolescence, par rapport aux enfants dans des familles monoparentales ou des familles où les parents n’ont pas divorcé. (Voir Why Marriage Matters, notes de bas de page 36 et 37.) En ce qui concerne les résultats scolaires, les enfants dont les parents se remarient n’obtiennent pas, en général, de meilleurs résultats que les enfants élevés par leurs mères qui sont seules. (Why Marriage Matters citation 84.) Une étude récente a trouvé que les garçons élevés dans des familles monoparentales ont un risque deux fois plus élevé, et les garçons dans des familles recomposées ont un risque deux fois et demi plus élevé de commettre un crime entraînant l’emprisonnement avant l’âge de trente ans. (Why Marriage Matters, note de bas de page 130.) Les adolescents dans des familles monoparentales et recomposées sont impliqués dans des actes délinquants plus souvent que les adolescents dont les parents sont restés mariés. (Why Marriage Matters, note de bas de page 131.) Les enfants vivant avec des mères célibataires, avec les partenaires masculins de leurs mères ou avec des beaux-pères ont un risque plus élevé d’être abusés. (Notes de bas de page sur les beaux-pères, voir Why Marriage Matters notes de bas de page 153-155.)
54. Des enfants d’unions précédentes font parfois partie de familles homosexuelles qui ressemblent, sur ce plan, aux belles-familles. D’autres couples homosexuels mariés qui existent avant la naissance ou l’adoption des enfants ressemblent sous certains aspects des familles hétérosexuelles intactes, bien que dans ces couples au moins un des parents n’est pas le parent biologique de l’enfant, comme dans les belles-familles (ou les familles hétérosexuelles adoptives).
55. Robin Fretwell Wilson écrit, “Ces études sur les familles désunies fournissent des résultats différents relatifs au pourcentage de filles molestées pendant l’enfance. Cependant, que le chiffre précis soit 50% ou même 25%, le taux est phénoménal et indique que le risque pour les filles après un divorce est beaucoup plus élevé que nous l’avions imaginé.” Elle ajoute, “Malgré ces études, il est très étonnant qu’un si grand nombre de filles dans des familles désunies disent avoir subi des abus sexuels pendant l’enfance. Toutefois, puisque plus de soixante-dix études du domaine des sciences sociales conferment la relation entre le divorce et la molestation, on ne peut pas douter que le risque soit réel. Bien que ce soit difficile à accepter, la vulnérabilité sexuelle d’une fille suite à un divorce augmente considérablement, et rien n’indique que ce risque va diminuer.” Dans “Children at Risk: The Sexual Exploitation of Female Children after Divorce,” 86 Cornell Law Review 251: janvier 2001, p. 256.
56. Joseph H. Beitchman et al., “A Review of the Short-Term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse,” 15 Child Abuse and Neglect 537, 550 (1991), cité dans Robin Fretwell Wilson, note de bas de page 9.
57. Martin Daly et Margot Wilson, 1996. “Evolutionary Psychology and Marital Conflict: The Relevance of Stepchildren,” dans Sex, Power, Conflict: Evolutionary and Feminist Perspectives, sous la direction de David M. Buss et Neil M. Malamuth (Oxford: Presses de l’Université Oxford): 9-28, cite dans Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-One Conclusions from the Social Sciences, publié par le “Center of the American Experiment,” la “Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education,” et le “Institute for American Values” (2002).
58. Tiré de W.D.Hamilton, “Significance of paternal investment by primates to the evolution of malefemale associations”, dans Primate Paternalism, sous la direction de D.M. Taub (New York: Van Nostrand, 1964), ps. 309-335.
59. Tiré de M.S. Smith, “Research in developmental sociobiology: Parenting and family behavior,” dans Sociobiological perspectives on human development, sous la direction de K.B. MacDonald (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1988), ps. 271-292.
60. David Popenoe, “The Evolution of Marriage and the Problem of Stepfamilies: A Biosocial Perspective,” dans Stepfamilies: Who Benefits? Who Does Not?” sous la direction de Alan Booth et Judy Dunn (Hilldale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994), ps. 3-27.
61. Voir citations complètes dans “Do Mothers and Fathers Matter? The Social Science Evidence on Marriage and Child Well-Being,” iMapp Policy Brief, 27 février 2004 (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Marriage and Public Policy).
62. Attestation de Stephen Lowell Nock, Halpern c. Ministre de la Justice du Canada, No. 648/00 (Cour Suprême Ontario).
63. Voir “Do Mothers and Fathers Matter? The Social Science Evidence on Marriage and Child Well-Being,” iMapp Policy Brief, 27 février 2004 (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.
64. Environ deux tiers des divorces mettent fin à des mariages peu conflictuels; environ un tier met fin à des mariages très conflictuels. Voir Paul R. Amato et Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), p. 220.
65. “Family Vacation,” par Michael Leahy, Washington Post Magazine, 19 juin 2005, édition en ligne. D’autres versions dans les médias conprennent, “Anonymous Sperm Donor Meets Kids,” CBS News, New York, 23 août 2005, en ligne:
66. Voir
67. Rappelons que le terme “coparent” est aparu dans le contexte des couples divorcés où les mères et les pères étaient encouragés à être des “coparents” efficaces après leur séparation. Maintenant, le terme est employé couramment pour décrire également les situations où des hommes et des femmes (homosexuels ou hétérosexuels), bien avant la naissance d’un enfant, formulent sciemment le projet d’élever l’enfant ensemble, sans qu’ils soient liés par une relation sentimentale et, en général, sans qu’ils habitent ensemble.
68. L’annonce donnait une adresse de boîte postale et précisait: “Doit être blanc, en bonne santé, sans antécédents familiaux d’SDA ou SDAH.” Site visité le 12 juillet 2005.
69. “Baby Mamas,” par Rodney Thrash, St. Petersburg Times, 6 mai 2005, édition en ligne.
70. “All About Eves,” par Anne A. Jambara, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 mai 2005, édition sur site.
71. Voir Sara Butler Nardo, “De Facto Parenthood: The reformers’ latest unwholesome innovation in family law,” The Weekly Standard, 6 mars 2006. L’auteur soutient que les tribunaux se basent sur une “définition circulaire” selon laquelle “un parent est celui qui accomplit la fonction de parent…” En novembre 2005, l’État de Washington a accordé, lui aussi, le statut de parent psychologique à l’ancien partenaire d’un parent (en l’occurrence, l’ancienne amie de la mère); la décision du tribunal est citée sur le site Pour une réfutation de l’argument de Nardo, voir Dahlia Lithwick, “Why courts are adopting gay parenting,”
[“Pourquoi les tribunaux appuient les parents homosexuels”] rubrique Opinion, Washington Post,12 mars 2006, B02.
72. Voir Po Bronson, “Are Stepparents Real Parents?” Time Magazine, 17 mai 2006, édition en ligne, pour un exposé du cas “parent de facto” de l’État de Washington, et ces implications pour environ le tiers des américains qui vivent dans des belles-familles.
73. Frances Gibb, “Mother loses her children to former lesbian partner,” The Times Online, 7 avril 2006.
74. Bien sûr que c’est désolant de voir un parent briser la relation d’un enfant avec une personne qui lui est proche. Malheureusement, cela peut se produire dans toutes sortes de situations: une mere qui éloigne l’enfant des parents de son ex-mari, des parents qui éloignent les enfants d’oncles et tantes qui les aiment, des parents qui renvoient soudain une nourrice à qui les enfants sont attachés, et ainsi de suite. La loi n’a pas le pouvoir de guérir ces blessures, et les tentatives dans ce sens—avec intervention de l’État dans des décision privées prises par des mères et des pères et qui ne se traduisent pas par abus ou abandon des enfants—sont aptes à causer plus de mal que de bien aux enfants en question. De plus, si dans certains États les couples de même sexe font l’objet de discrimination quand ils demandent le statut de deuxième parent adoptif (c’est-à-dire, s’ils trouvent le processus plus exigeant qu’il ne l’est pour les couples hétérosexuels faisant la même demande), ou si cette option n’est pas disponible dans certains États, la bonne solution serait de régler les problèmes liés à l’adoption par le deuxième parent, et non pas d’avoir recours a posteriori à une toute autre catégorie générale appelée “parent psychologique.”
75. La firme “Family Evolutions” de New Jersey, qui appartient à un couple de lesbiennes ayant des enfants, a créé une camisole et une bavette pour enfants, portant l’inscription “Mon papa s’appelle Donneur.” (Sur leur site Web on peut voir leur jeune fils habillé de la camisole en question.) Voir Elizabeth Marquardt “Kids Need a Real Past: Children with Donor Parents Suffer when Those Raising Them Downplay Their Origins,” dans Chicago Tribune, 15 mai 2005. Disponible sur le site http://www.americanvalues. org/html/donor.html.
76. “Egg donor has parenthal rights, courts say,” [“Tribunal décide que donneur de sperme a des droits parentaux”] article dans Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10 septembre 2005, édition en ligne.
77. Aux États-Unis, l’Université Harvard a annoncé récemment son intention de commencer à mener de la recherche sur des cellules souches, grâce à un financement privé. Harvard se joint à l’Université de Californie à San Francisco et à quelques entreprises privées dans ce projet; ces equips de recherche ont pour but de cloner des embryons humains génétiquement compatibles avec des patients.
78. De plus en plus, la distinction entre le clonage “thérapeutique” et “procréatif” semble disparaître dans les médias—et, selon certains, ce ne sont que les ultra-conservateurs qui s’opposent au clonage. Par exemple, au NPR, l’académicien Alan Wolfe a déclaré que le pape Benoit est d’extrême droite parce qu’il s’oppose, entre autres, au “clonage.” Semblablement, dans une rubrique, Maureen Dowd écrivait qu’une des nombreuses inquiétudes graves concernant le nouveau pape est qu’une fois il a déclaré que le clonage est “plus dangeureux que les armes de destruction massive.”
79. Alok Jha, “Process Holds Out Hope for Childless Couples,” Guardian, 20 mai 2005, edition en ligne.
80. Idem.
81. Une jeune femme en Grande Bretagne est morte récemment du syndrome d’hyperstimulation ovarienne (SHSO), l’effet secondaire à haut risque le plus commun du don d’ovules. Une autre femme atteinte de SHSO, qui a subi un accident cérébro-vasculaire avec atteinte cérébrale, vient de gagner une poursuite judiciaire majeur en Grande Bretagne.
82. Mark Henderson, “Cloning team calls for IVF egg donations,” Times Online, 31 mai 2005; “Cloning research egg donor plan: women could be allowed to donate their eggs for therapeutic cloning research under new rules to be considered by fertility watchdog,” [“Projet de don d’ovules pour recherche sur le clonage: femmes pourraient obtenir le droit de donner leurs ovules à la recherche sur le clonage thérapeutique selon nouvelles règles examinées par autorités régissant procréation”] Informations BBC en ligne, 14 février 2006.
83. Au Japon en 2004, des scientifiques ont créé une souris à partir de la matière génétique de deux femelles—c’est-à-dire, une souris avec deux mères génétiques et sans père génétique. Pour ce faire, ils ont créé plus de 450 embryons, dont 370 ont été implantés et 10 sont nés vivants. Un seul vécut jusqu’à l’âge adulte. Les autres sont morts de toute une gamme de malformations congénitales. Voir Bijal P. Trivedi, “The End of Males? Mouse Made to Reproduce without Sperm,” National Geographic News, 21 avril 2004, édition en ligne. Comment pourrait-on envisager des expériences de ce genre avec des enfants?
84. James Meikle, “Sperm and egg could be created from stem cells, says new study,” Guardian, 2 juin 2005, édition en ligne.
85. Maxine Firth, “Stem cell babies could have single parent,” New Zealand Herald, 21 juin 2005, édition en ligne.
86. Milanda Route, “Doing Away with Donors,” Herald Sun (Australie), 21 juin 2005, édition en ligne.
87. “Stem cell research may provide hope to gay couples,” [“Recherche sur cellules souches pourrait donner de l’espoir aux couples homosexuels”] en anglais sur le site, 30 juin 2005. D’autres articles dans les médias plus tard la même année comprennent celui de Hannah Seligson, “Science’s hope of two genetic dads; stem cell research could soon enable both partners in gay, lesbian couples to pitch in,” Gay City News, 8-14 septembre 2005, édition en ligne. L’article cite un médecin (qui n’est pas impliqué dans la recherche) qui affirme que “les couples homosexuels doivent souvent confronter le problème pénible de ne pas être des parents génétiques.” Le journalist écrit, “On espère que cette nouvelle découverte pourra atténuer le stress lié à ce problème chez les couples homosexuels qui créent des familles.” L’article passe sous silence le risque de graves problèmes de santé (et autres risques) pour les embryons ou les enfants en question.
88. Roger Highfiel et Nic Fleming, “Scientists create human embryo without a father; source of stem cells: ‘virgin’ territory for British researchers,” The Daily Telegraph, 10 septembre 2005, édition en ligne.
89. Mark Henderson, “Scientists win right to create human embryo with three genetic parents,” Times Online, 9 septembre 2005.
90. Dans son article, “Where Babies Come From: Supply and Demand in an Infant Marketplace,” Harvard Business Review, février 2006, ps. 133-142, Debora L. Spar suggère que la réglementation du marché de l’industrie de la procréation aux États-Unis pourraient, entre autres choses, assurer l’égalité des adultes. Elle écrit, “Les législateurs… pourraient décider qu’avoir des enfants est un droit fundamental et que, par conséquent, la société doit trouver un moyen de fournir au moins un enfant à tous ceux qui veulent être parents” (p.140). Spar n’affirme pas qu’elle appuie cette idée, mais elle ne l’oppose pas non plus. Cette suggestion est la formulation la plus claire à date du droit des adultes poussé jusqu’à sa conclusion logique—et effrayante.
91. Confrontés à la possibilité du mariage en groupe, au recours accru au sperme et aux ovules de donneurs et aux mères-porteuses, ainsi qu’aux progrès des techniques de procréation, certains adeptes du mariage homosexuel affirment que les hétérosexuels sont presque entièrement responsables de ces changements révolutionnaires en termes de mariage et de filiation, étant donné leurs taux élevés de divorce, les naissances hors du mariage, et le recours initial au sperme et aux ovules, ainsi qu’aux mères-porteuses. Comme l’a écrit Stephanie Coontz dans le New York Times (“The Heterosexual Revolution,” 5 juillet 2005), “Les homosexuels et les lesbiennes ont regardé la révolution suscitée par les hétérosexuels et se sont aperçus que selon ses normes le mariage pouvait s’appliquer à eux aussi.” Ces critiques ont raison dans une certaine mesure. Les hétérosexuels ont bel et bien semé la confusion dans la signification du mariage et de la filiation. (Je passe le plus clair de mon temps à étudier les effets du divorce sur les enfants.) Mais là où les critiques se trompent, c’est qu’ils ne tiennent pas compte du fait qu’aucun des changements légaux et sociaux précédents n’a exigé la redéfinition légale du mariage. Le mariage homosexuel exige que l’on redéfinisse cette institution en utilisant des termes neutres, sans identification du sexe des personnes, qui rendent impossible à la loi et à la culture d’affirmer le besoin réel des enfants d’une mère et d’un père (au lieu de quoi, la loi et la culture ne peuvent
qu’affirmer que l’enfant a besoin de “deux parents.” Parce que la grande majorité des enfants dans la population ont des parents hétérosexuels, et non pas homosexuels, mettre fin au dialogue concernant l’importance des mères et des pères aura une influence néfaste surtout et principalement sur ce groupe très majoritaire d’enfants. Attirer l’attention sur les conséquences troublantes, et peut-être non voulues, de la légalisation du mariage homosexuel n’a pas pour but de stigmatiser les couples homosexuels qui élèvent des enfants. Ces couples ont vécu et continueront à vivre en famille avec des enfants. Je suis convaincue qu’ils ont besoin de protections légales et sociales pour eux et pour leurs enfants, et je crois qu’on ne doit pas les priver des enfants dont ils sont les parents naturels. Mais il pourrait y avoir des conséquences significatives non voulues pour la grande majorité d’enfants de parents hétérosexuels lorsque nous éliminons les mères et les pères du mariage et du droit de la famille, et que nous créons un code légal neutre, dont le sexe des personnes est absent.
92. La plus grande partie de ce segment sera publiée dans un article (“The Future of Polygamy: Two Mommies and a Daddy”) par Elizabeth Marquardt, dans Christian Century, à paraître.
93. Reid J. Epstein, “Whole lotta love; Polyamorists go beyond monogamy,” Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel, 12 septembre 2004, édition en ligne.
94. Trevor Stokes, Columbia News Service, “A polylife: monogamy with more partners,” Chicago Tribune, consulté 24 février 2006, édition en ligne.
95. Voir Dan Cere, The Future of Family Law.
96. Pour attirer l’attention sur leur argument voulant que des droits matrimoniaux doivent être accordés non seulements aux couples homosexuels, mais aussi à tout groupe d’adultes aimants (lié ou non par une relation conjugale), 250 académiciens de marque et leaders sociaux ont publié une déclaration à la fin de juillet 2006 intitulée “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families and Relationships”. Pour consulter le sommaire exécutif, la déclaration complète et la liste des signataires, voir
97. Consultez le site Web: http// À gauche, liste des “hot topics.”
98. Voir
99. Ce que je trouve de très troublant dans ce contexte est l’acceptation commune que lorsque des adultes commencent une nouvelle relation et/ou habitent avec un nouvel partenaire, ils deviennent les “parents” des enfants qu’ils ont déjà chacun. Les enfants avec des parents hétérosexuels célibataires ou divorcés vous diront que le fait que leur parent ait une relation sexuelle avec quelqu’un ne fait pas en sorte que cette personne soit vue automatiquement comme un parent par l’enfant. Même le mariage (comme dans les bellesfamilles) ne crée pas automatiquement (légalement ou psychiquement) une relation parent-enfant. En général, des liens filiaux basés sur la confiance un beau-parent et un enfant se construisent lentement, et parfois pas du tout. Qui plus est, un beau-parent doit adopter l’enfant afin de devenir son parent légal (et avant que l’adoption puisse avoir lieu, il faut annuler les droits parentaux de l’autre parent biologique de l’enfant — processus juridique exténuant.
101. Idem. Sur le même site, une autre mère écrit qu’elle applique une “règle simple” pour son fils de 12 ans quand il lui rend visite: “Ce qui se passe chez maman ne sort pas de chez elle, si tu veux continuer à venir la voir.”
104. Elise Soukup, “Polygamists, Unite! They used to live quietly, but now they’re making noise,” Newsweek, 15 mars 2006, édition en ligne.
105. Felicia R. Lee, “Real Polygamists Look at HBO Polygamists; In Utah, Hollywood Seems Oversexed,” New York Times, 16 mars 2006, section Affaires, édition en ligne.
106. Robert H. Frank, “Polygamy and the Marriage Market: Who Would Have the Upper Hand?” New York Times, 28 mars 2006, pages Arts, édition en ligne.
107. John Tierney, “Who’s Afraid of Polygamy?” New York Times, 11 mars 2006.
108. Stanley Kurtz, “Polygamy versus democracy; you can’t have both,” The Weekly Standard, 05 juin 2006, vol. 011, numéro 36, édition en ligne. Les rubriques de S. Kurtz au “National Review Online” intéresseront tous ceux qui veulent se tenir au courant des arguments émergeants concernant la polygamie et la polyamorie. Par exemple, voir la rubrique, “Big Love, from the Set: I’m taking the people behind the new series at their word,” 13 mars 2006.
109. Voir Sylviane Agacinski, Politique des Sexes, Seuil, 1998, surtout chapitre “La Double Origine.”
110. Pour une discussion plus détaillée de ce principe et des problèmes liés à la redéfinition de la function parentale, découlant de la désinstitutionalisation du mariage, voir le livre de David Blankenhorn sur le mariage, à paraître chez Encounter Books, surtout chapitre 7: “Goods in Conflict.”

Leave a comment

Filed under En Francais (in French), Same Sex Marriage, Strengthening Families, Western Civilization

2008: Pope restates gay marriage ban after California Supreme Court Decision / Reuters

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI is, in my opinion, exactly right on the issue of gay marriage and the evil of homosexual relationships. I would be in favor of them having less rights than full civil unions, and not able to adopt children in any case. The three taboo’s or bans on incest / poedophilia, adultery, and homosexuality that societies have always had and which in my opinion should have, have their best defense in an article by a Hoover Institution scholar , found on my blog at this link. 2003: The Libertarian Question: Incest, Homosexuality, and Adultery / Stanley Kurtz
Taboo’s are not on things that no one does; they are on things that too many people do, and that societies need to strongly discourage or the family breakdown destroys their successful operation as a society and their future.

See the original article on the Reuters News website at this link.

Thanks much,
Steve St.Clair

Pope restates gay marriage ban after California Supreme Court Decision
Fri May 16, 2008 10:22pm BST
By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict, speaking a day after a California court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage, firmly restated on Friday the Roman Catholic Church’s position that only unions between a man and a woman are moral.

Benedict made no mention of the California decision in his speech to family groups from throughout Europe, but stressed the Church’s position several times.

“The union of love, based on matrimony between a man and a woman, which makes up the family, represents a good for all society that can not be substituted by, confused with, or compared to other types of unions,” he said.

The pope also spoke of the inalienable rights of the traditional family, “founded on matrimony between a man and a woman, to be the natural cradle of human life”.

On Thursday, the California Supreme Court overturned a ban on same-sex marriages in a major victory for gay rights advocates that will allow homosexual couples to marry in the most populous U.S. state.

Last year, Italy’s powerful Catholic Church successfully campaigned against a law proposed by the previous centre-left government that would have given more rights to gay and unmarried couples.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is not sinful but homosexual acts are, and is opposed to gays being allowed to adopt children.

The California court found laws limiting marriage to heterosexual couples are at odds with rights guaranteed by the state’s constitution.

U.S. President George W. Bush, who is opposed to gay marriage, prayed “for the family” with the pope at the White House last month during the pontiff’s visit there.

Last year, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, made headlines with comments that critics said equated homosexuality with incest and paedophilia.

After he made the comments — which Bagnasco said were misunderstood — graffiti reading “Shame” and “Watch Out Bagnasco” appeared on the door of the cathedral in northern Genoa, where Bagnasco is archbishop.

The pope, who backed Bagnasco, will visit Genoa his weekend.

Opponents of gay marriage in the United States vowed to contest the ruling with a state-wide ballot measure for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages.

1 Comment

Filed under Same Sex Marriage, Strengthening Families

2008: Pro-family group ends McDonald’s boycott / Christian News

This is certainly the most productive, and the most effective, way to protect our civilization and our families: by hitting the companies involved where it hurts — their bottom line. I proudly participated in this action against McDonalds, and I’m certain I’m healthier for the change.
Tens of millions of conservative Christian and orthodox Jews eat a lot more hamburgers, watch a lot more movies, go to a lot more concerts, buy a lot more i-phones, do a lot more google searches, than almost any other group.

Doing this act, in concert with others, and TELLING THE STORES, RESTAURANTS, WHY YOU ARE DOING IT, will work wonders.

I can’t help but think that many family-values people will carefully note companies that have become hyper-active in the gay marriage movement and other attacks on families and children, and will act accordingly. For example, I will move my blog to WordPress when the election season is over.
See the original of this article on the website of the Christian Post at this link.

Thanks much,

Steve St.Clair

Pro-family group ends McDonald’s boycott
by Eric Young, Christian Post
Posted: Sunday, October 12, 2008, 8:37 (BST)

Pro-family groups this week lauded the recent decision by McDonald’s to no longer support activists working to advance the homosexual agenda. “The Big Mac attack on family values is finally over,” exclaimed Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, to supporters Friday. “After a five-month boycott, Americans finally got what they ordered – McDonald’s agreement to stop financing the homosexual agenda.”
In late March, McDonald’s sparked controversy after the company’s vice president of communications joined the board of directors of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) – an organisation “dedicated to expanding the economic opportunities and advancements of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual (LGBT) business community.”
The American Family Association, in response, said that the move – combined with a $20,000 donation McDonald’s handed over to the NGLCC and the fast-food chain’s frequent and boastful support in sponsoring gay pride parades – was detrimental to pro-family causes and the sanctity of marriage.
The AFA requested McDonald’s to remove its name and logo from the NGLCC website and drop the vice president of communications’ endorsement of the organisation. When McDonald’s rebuffed the requests, AFA began asking its two million supporters to boycott the popular fast-food chain. “[T]he company has ramped up its support of the gay agenda and it leaves us no option but to call for a boycott,” said AFA Chairman Don Wildmon in a statement earlier this summer.
Whilst some criticised AFA’s efforts, accusing them of being “haters”, the pro-family group emphasised that the boycott was not about hiring homosexuals, or homosexuals eating at McDonald’s, or how homosexual employees are treated. “Our concern was: Here is a family-friendly company that has, all of a sudden, joined hands and became a partner and ally with an organisation that is absolutely attacking the moral foundation of our nation; trying to redefine marriage in our nation,” recalled Buddy Smith, executive assistant to AFA’s chairman.
“All we were asking is that they just simply be neutral in the culture wars and focus on doing their business and remain neutral,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. Supporters of the boycott further noted that McDonald’s could have chosen to support efforts such as those against poverty, hunger or child abuse rather than controversial issues.
After the months-long boycott, McDonald’s eventually informed AFA of their decision to remain neutral in the culture war regarding homosexual “marriage”, reporting that they have no plans to renew their membership in NGLCC when it expires in December. Furthermore, in a September 23 memo revealed this week to AFA, the nation’s No 1 hamburger chain told franchised owners that its policy is “to not be involved in political and social issues”.
“McDonald’s remains neutral on same sex marriage or any ‘homosexual agenda’ as defined by the American Family Association,” the memo stated.
Following McDonald’s report to AFA, group chair Wildmon told supporters that the boycott of McDonald’s was ending. “We appreciate the decision by McDonald’s to no longer support political activity by homosexual activist organisations,” he stated in his message on Thursday.
Earlier this year, AFA ended a two-year boycott of Ford Motor Co, saying the company had met most of its demands, which included ending donations to groups that support same-sex “marriage”. Other companies that have been the targets of AFA boycotts include 7-Eleven, the Walt Disney Company, and Abercrombie & Fitch. Most recently, on August 25, the AFA announced its boycott of Hallmark Cards for their decision to start selling same-sex wedding cards.


Filed under Same Sex Marriage, Strengthening Families

2008: Do Fathers Matter Uniquely for Adolescent Well-Being? / Center for Marriage and Families

This study shows without doubt that fathers matter uniquely to their families, and impact them in ways that no one else can. Lets strengthen fathers avoiding the mistake of weakening it severely as an institution by by passing Proposition 8.

See the original of this article on the Center for Marriage and Families website at this link.

Thanks much,

Steve St.Clair
Do Fathers Matter Uniquely for Adolescent Well-Being?
David Eggebeen

The evidence is in and it is clear that fathers do matter for the lives of children. Hundreds of studies over the past two decades have consistently demonstrated that fathers have a measureable impact on children.[1] Studies show that infants are positively affected by the interactions and care given by their fathers.[2] Research has also established the importance of fathers for older children’s well-being. Good studies have found that the quality of parenting exhibited by the father as well as the resources fathers bring or don’t bring to their families predict children’s behavior problems, depression, self-esteem, and life-satisfaction.[3] The reach of fathers has been shown to extend to adolescents and young adults, as research shows adolescents function best when their fathers are engaged and involved in their lives.[4] Finally, there is good evidence that fathers play an important role in helping their children make the transition to adulthood.[5]

Much remains that we do not know about the link between fathers and their children. Yet the first “stage” of work, that of establishing that fathers matter, is well advanced. The next stage, exploring the unique contributions of fathers as compared with mothers or other adults, remains less well developed. To date, debates about whether fathers are essential to optimal child development have taken place without much anchor in empirical research.[6] Assessing the unique effects of fathers on children is important for several reasons.

First, high rates of divorce and nonmarital childbearing mean that about half of children today are likely to live some of their childhood in a home where their father does not live.[7] As of 2007, 19.2 million children were not living with a biological or adoptive father or stepfather, compared to 9.5 million children living in fatherless homes in 1970.[8] While many nonresident fathers work hard to provide for their children and take parenting seriously, research shows that responsible, involved nonresident fathers remain rare. In a large number of cases, nonresident fathers are largely absent from the lives of their children.[9] Given this demographic reality, it remains imperative for family scholars to continue to research the full “cost” of fatherlessness for children.

Second, an increasing number of children are growing up in households that differ in important ways from two biological-parent households as well as female-headed households. Certainly, the numbers of children in multigenerational households, cohabiting-couple households, and other nontraditional living arrangements can no longer be ignored. Put another way, do children develop optimally when raised by their father and their mother? Or can any number of adults, regardless of their gender, parent as effectively as a father and a mother?

Finally, there is considerable cultural pressure today for fathers to be involved in the lives of their children. What exactly this “involvement” means, however, remains unclear. Should fathers act like mothers to their children? What does it mean that children might be better off if “there is a man around”?[10] Research on the similarities and differences between mothers and fathers in characteristics, behavior, and parenting may help parents better appreciate the distinctive parenting contributions of their spouse or child’s parent.

To date, research attempts to disentangle the effects of mothers and fathers have been thin. One review of the literature on the effects of fathers on children identified only 8 of 72 studies that took into account the relationship between the mother and the child when assessing the effects of father involvement.[11] Most of these studies have simply “controlled for” (or taken out) the effects of the mother’s characteristics in their assessment of whether fathers matter. The relationship between the mother’s and the father’s characteristics and behavior on a particular outcome, however, can potentially take three forms.[12] First, the father’s effects may be additive; that is, what fathers do may have an effect on adolescent outcomes over and above what mothers do. It is also possible, however, that the father’s and the mother’s involvement or characteristics are redundant; that is, children benefit from a father or mother—it doesn’t matter which one—engaging in certain behaviors or possessing certain characteristics. Finally, it is possible that fathers have a unique effect on certain outcomes; that is, fathers, but not mothers, are important for distinct outcomes. Little is yet understood about how the father’s influence is distributed across these possibilities.

In this research brief, I explore the importance of fathers and mothers for a nationally representative sample of teenagers, specifically examining whether a father’s human capital, social capital, and role modeling may uniquely influence his adolescent’s self-identity and behavior.

Sociological Perspectives on Fatherhood
When sociologists think about what fathers do and how they might make unique contributions to the welfare of their children beyond that of mothers, they focus less on the particulars of how fathers interact with their children (the province of psychologists) and more on what resources fathers directly or indirectly provide. Much of the sociologically oriented research concentrates on using survey data to compare children living in married-couple families with children in mother-headed families. While this approach has been useful for understanding the advantages for children of growing up in a two-parent family, it is not very useful for understanding the precise role fathers play because researchers are comparing unlike situations: children reared by one parent instead of two.[13] To better understand the unique roles of fathers and mothers, this brief compares the contributions of fathers and mothers within two-parent heterosexual families to determine if they are unique.

From a sociological perspective, what kinds of contributions to children might we expect from fathers? To answer this question, sociologists tend to think about what kinds of human capital and social capital fathers possess and how this might uniquely affect children. Also, because sociologists see both parents as the primary agents of socialization, they look at the role modeling of both mothers and fathers as important influences on children.

Human Capital
How mothers and fathers care for their children is strongly influenced by their human capital—the skills, knowledge, and values that they possess and that are associated with occupational success in American society. Parents with high levels of human capital, typically indicated by years of education, are more likely to do the kinds of things that enhance their children’s cognitive abilities and school performance. They are likely to provide a stimulating home environment by limiting television and encouraging reading. They are more likely to take their children to museums, libraries, plays, and other enriching activities. They may choose to live in communities with good schools or sacrifice to send their children to strong private or parochial schools. Mothers and fathers with high human capital not only encourage high occupational aspirations in their children but also promote the kinds of behavior in their children that are associated with success in school.

Most, but not all, studies show mothers and fathers with high education levels have children who do well in school.[14] Furthermore, most of these studies find that a father’s education affects children independently from a mother’s education. Although less studied, where fathers have good education, families have also been found in some studies to have children with positive self-esteem, life skills, social competence, and cooperativeness.[15] In short, there is consistent evidence that children benefit from the human capital characteristics of both their parents.

Social Capital
In a classic article in 1988, sociologist James Coleman identified “social capital” as resources embedded in family and community relationships. The quality of the relationship between each parent and child represents one important component of social capital.[16] A large number of studies that investigated associations between paternal supportive behavior and child outcomes found that the overwhelming majority showed significant associations between father support and measures of child well-being. Only a few studies, however, took into account characteristics of mothers, and among those that did, the evidence for father effects was weaker.[17]

Role Modeling
Beyond their resources and relationships, fathers and mothers influence their children simply by who they are and how they act. Children learn by observing those around them—and parents are the most visible adults in their world. Children who observe fathers and mothers treating others with respect, handling conflict in effective ways, and engaging in responsible and appropriate behavior are likely to emulate these behaviors themselves. On the other hand, children learn quite different lessons about themselves, how to behave or treat others, when parents treat each other badly, are neglectful or abusive to their children, or engage in inappropriate or illegal behavior. In addition, fathers and mothers uniquely model to their children what it means to be a man and a woman. The importance of parental modeling has been shown in a large number of studies, although only a few studies attempted to assess the effects of both mothers and fathers simultaneously. Two recent studies that did account for the role-modeling behaviors of both mothers and fathers show that each parent’s psychological health, drinking behavior, availability, as well as the degree of marital conflict all influence the child’s self-image and behavior.[18] More research needs to be done to understand the relative importance of mothers and fathers as role models.

An Analysis Using the National Study of Adolescent Health
Data drawn from the National Study of Adolescent Health (or “Add Health”) provides an excellent opportunity to examine these theoretical ideas. The Add Health survey is a long-term nationally representative sample of 20,745 middle and high school students first interviewed in 1995–1996. A second wave of interviews was conducted one year later, and a third round of 15,170 persons was interviewed in 2001.[19] I looked only at respondents who were living with both biological parents during the first round of interviews.[20] I focused on the link between mothers and fathers and two adolescent outcomes: poor mental health (indicated by the number of symptoms of depression) and bad behavior (indicated by participation in violent or delinquent activity in the past year). Both depression and delinquent behavior become significantly more common during adolescence and represent major risk factors for poor school performance, drug and alcohol abuse, and risky sexual behavior.[21]

I used two indicators of the mother’s and father’s human capital: education levels and whether or not they had worked full time in the previous year. I used two indicators of the father’s and mother’s social capital: adolescent reports of the relationship quality with their parent and how close they feel to their parent. Finally, I looked at three indicators of the mother’s and father’s role-modeling behavior: the number of activities they did with their adolescent, whether they were available for the adolescent at certain times of the day, and whether the parent engaged in excessive drinking.[22]

Fathers and Adolescent Depression and Delinquent Behavior
I found that the father’s levels of social and human capital, as well as some role-modeling behaviors, are strong predictors of the likelihood his child will show depression symptoms. Furthermore, the father’s characteristics and behavior remain statistically significant even when the mother’s human and social capital characteristics and her role-modeling behavior are taken into account. Specifically, if the father has a poor relationship with his adolescent, the adolescent reports lack of closeness, the father has a low education level, and the father does few activities with his adolescent, the more likely both male and female adolescents are to show depression symptoms, regardless of the mother’s characteristics.

Fathers also matter a great deal when it comes to delinquent behavior. The higher the father’s social capital (quality of father-child relationship and closeness) the less likely both boys and girls are to engage in delinquency. In addition, the father’s lack of education is associated with the son’s delinquency, and the father’s lack of availability increases the likelihood of the daughter’s delinquent behavior. All these indications of the father’s influence appear to exist regardless of the mother’s social and human capital and her role-modeling behavior.

Fathers as Complementary and Unique
In my analysis, I found that fathers typically make additional or complementary contributions beyond that of mothers to adolescent well-being. In almost all of these cases, the human and social capital of mothers and fathers tended to be additive in nature. In other words, two parents are better than one. In a few instances, adolescents benefit from having at least one parent modeling appropriate behavior—or suffer if one parent models bad behavior. For example, lack of one parent’s availability tended to increase the likelihood of the boy’s delinquency, and one parent’s excessive drinking tended to increase the likelihood of the girl’s delinquency. In addition, I found evidence that mothers and fathers make unique contributions to parenting depending on the gender of the adolescent, most often by their particular role modeling. For example, the father’s, but not mother’s, lack of involvement in the adolescent’s activities was associated with the girl’s depression symptoms, and the mother’s lack of involvement in her child’s activities uniquely predicted the boy’s delinquency. The mother’s, but not the father’s, lack of availability and excessive drinking were associated with the boy’s depression symptoms.

What these analyses clearly show is that mothers and fathers both make vital contributions to adolescent well-being. In a few instances, fathers and mothers appear to be interchangeable. There are more instances, however, in which mothers and fathers complement each other in their characteristics or behavior in ways that benefit children, and in most cases fathers make positive contributions to the well-being of their children beyond what mothers do.

While this research demonstrates that the well-being of adolescents living with their biological parents is influenced by both mothers and fathers, significant questions remain. Very little is known about how the parenting practices, parent-child relationships, and characteristics of the parents or other adults who care for children in cohabiting-couple families or other nontraditional family arrangements are similar to, or different from, married-couple families. Until careful, methodologically rigorous studies based on reasonably representative samples are conducted, we cannot be confident that these nontraditional arrangements offer the same potential benefits to children as growing up with involved, educated, and responsible mothers and fathers.

1. For recent reviews of this large literature, see William Marsiglio et al., “Scholarship on Fatherhood in the 1990s and Beyond,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 62 (2000): 1173–1191; Daniel Paquette, “Theorizing the Father-Child Relationship: Mechanisms and Developmental Outcomes,” Human Development 47 (2004): 193–219; Ross D. Parke, “Fathers and Families” in The Handbook of Parenting, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Being and Becoming a Parent, ed. Mark H. Bornstein (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002), 27–74.
2. Frank A. Pedersen, The Father-Infant Relationship: Observational Studies in a Family Setting (New York: Praeger, 1980); Michael W. Yogman, “Games Fathers and Mothers Play with Their Infants,” Infant Mental Health Journal 2 (1981): 241–248.
3. Marsiglio et al., “Scholarship on Fatherhood in the 1990s and Beyond.”
4. Cheryl Buehler, Mark J. Benson, and Jean M. Gerard, “Interparental Hostility and Early Adolescent Problem Behavior: The Mediating Role of Specific Aspects of Parenting,” Journal of Research on Adolescence 16, no. 2 (2006): 265–292.
5. Paul Amato, “Father-Child Relations, Mother-Child Relations, and Offspring Psychological Well-Being in Early Adulthood,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 56 (1994): 1031–1042.
6. Joseph H. Pleck, “Why Could Father Involvement Benefit Children? Theoretical Perspectives,” Applied Developmental Science 11, no. 4 (2007): 196–202; David Popenoe, Life Without Father (New York: Pressler Press, 1996); Louis B. Silverstein and Carl F. Auerbach, “Deconstructing the Essential Father,” American Psychologist 54, no. 6 (1999): 397–407.
7. Larry L. Bumpass and R. Kelly Raley, “Redefining Single-Parent Families: Cohabitation and Changing Family Reality,” Demography 32 (1995): 97–109.
8. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey, March and Annual Social and Economic Supplements, 2007 and earlier, retrieved 8/20/2008 at Census data does not distinguish among fathers as biological, adoptive, or stepfathers.
9. Kathleen Mullan Harris and Suzanne Ryan, “Father Involvement and the Diversity of Family Context” in Conceptualizing and Measuring Father Involvement, ed. Randal D. Day and Michael E. Lamb (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004), 293–319; Daniel N. Hawkins, Paul R. Amato, and Valerie King, “Parent-Adolescent Involvement: The Relative Influence of Parent Gender and Residence,” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. no. 68 (2006): 125–136.
10. For a fascinating account of the tendency for lesbian mothers to want a male to be involved in their children’s lives, see Abbie E. Goldberg and Katherine R. Allen, “Imagining Men: Lesbian Mothers’ Perceptions of Male Involvement During the Transition to Parenthood,” Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (May 2007): 352–365.
11. Marsiglio et al., “Scholarship on Fatherhood in the 1990s and Beyond.”
12. For a related discussion of these issues, see Jeffrey T. Cookston and Andrea K. Finlay, “Father Involvement and Adolescent Adjustment: Longitudinal Findings from Add Health,” Fathering 4 (2006): 137–158.
13. Pleck, “Why Could Father Involvement Benefit Children?” 200.
14. See Paul Amato, “More Than Money? Men’s Contributions to Their Children’s Lives” in Men in Families: When Do They Get Involved? What Difference Does It Make? ed. Alan Booth and Ann C. Crouter (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1998), 241–278.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid., 245.
17. Ibid., 253–255.
18. D. Wayne Osgood et al., “Routine Activities and Individual Devia­nt Behavior,” American Sociological Review 61 (1996): 635–655; Lauren M. Papp, E. Mark Cummings, and Alice C. Schermerhorn, “Pathways Among Marital Distress, Parental Symptomatology, and Child Adjustment,” Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (2004): 368–384; Benjamin W. Voorhess et al., “Protective and Vulnerability Factors Predicting New-Onset Depressive Episode in a Representative of U.S. Adolescents,” Journal of Adolescent Health (2008): 605–616.
19. A more detailed description of the data can be found in Kathy M. Harris et al., “The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health: Research Design” (2003), available at
20. N=5,494.
21. Robert D. Ketterlinus, Michael E. Lamb, and Katherine A. Nitz, “Adolescent Nonsexual and Sex-Related Problem Behaviors: Their Prevalence, Consequences, and Co-Occurrence” in Adolescent Problem Behaviors, ed. Robert D. Ketterlinus and Michael E. Lamb (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1994), 17–39; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Trends in the Well-Being of America’s Children and Youth: 2003 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2003).
22. Ordinary Least Squares regression was used to estimate the models. Besides the mother and father variables, all the models included the respondent’s age and race, family income, and parent’s marital status as control variables. These analyses were all weighted using the wave 1 sample weights, adjusting the sample to be nationally representative.

About the Author
David Eggebeen is Associate Professor of Human Development and Sociology; Senior Research Associate, Population Research Institute, Pennsylvania State University.

1 Comment

Filed under Strengthening Families

2008: The Revolution in Parenthood: The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children’s Needs / Elizabeth Marquardt

The reason I support Latter-day Saints’ coming closer to Christianity (especially conservative Christianity);
The reason I agree that the decline of the west and especially Europe must be countered at every turn;

The reason I fight gay marriage and the other radical attacks on the traditional family.
They are all the same: the terrible impact which a society that ignores Jesus Christ has on the most defenseless among us, our children.

This article on the website is the best evidence in support of my premises that I have yet seen.
Love & thanks,
Steve St.Clair
The Revolution in Parenthood
The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children’s Needs

An International Appeal from the Commission on Parenthood’s Future
Elizabeth Marquardt, Principal Investigator

Original article on the site at this link:

Executive Summary

Around the world, the two-person, mother-father model of parenthood is being fundamentally challenged.

In Canada, with virtually no debate, the controversial law that brought about same-sex marriage quietly included the provision to erase the term “natural parent” across the board in federal law, replacing it with the term “legal parent.” With that law, the locus of power in defining who a child’s parents are shifts precipitously from civil society to the state, with the consequences as yet unknown.

In Spain, after the recent legalization of same-sex marriage the legislature changed the birth certificates for all children in that nation to read “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B” instead of “mother” and “father.” With that change, the words “mother” and “father” were struck from the first document issued to every newborn by the state. Similar proposals have been made in other jurisdictions that have legalized same-sex marriage.

In New Zealand and Australia, influential law commissions have proposed allowing children conceived with use of sperm or egg donors to have three legal parents. Yet neither group addresses the real possibility that a child’s three legal parents could break up and feud over the child’s best interests.

In the United States, courts often must determine who the legal parents are among the many adults who might be involved in planning, conceiving, birthing, and raising a child. In a growing practice, judges in several states have seized upon the idea of “psychological” parenthood to award legal parent status to adults who are not related to children by blood, adoption, or marriage. At times they have done so even over the objection of the child’s biological parent. Also, successes in the same-sex marriage debate have encouraged group marriage advocates who wish to break open the two-person understanding of marriage and parenthood.

Meanwhile, scientists around the world are experimenting with the DNA in eggs and sperm in nearly unimaginable ways, raising the specter of children born with one or three genetic parents, or two same-sex parents. Headlines recently announced research at leading universities in Britain and New Zealand that could enable same-sex couples or single people to procreate. In Britain, scientists were granted permission to create embryos with three genetic parents. Stem cell research has introduced the very real possibility that a cloned child could be born—and the man who pioneered in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment has already said in public that cloning should be offered to childless couples who have exhausted other options. The list goes on.

Nearly all of these steps, and many more, are being taken in the name of adult rights to form families they choose. But what about the children?

This report examines the emerging global clash between adult rights and children’s needs in the new meaning of parenthood. It features some of the surprising voices of the first generation of young adults conceived with use of donor sperm. Their concerns, and the large body of social science evidence showing that children, on average, do best when raised by their own married mother and father, suggest that in the global rush to redefine parenthood we need to call a time-out.

Right now, our societies urgently require reflection, debate, and research about the policies and practices that will serve the best interests of children—those already born and those yet to be born. This report argues that around the world the state is taking an increasingly active role in defining and regulating parenthood far beyond its limited, vital, historic, and child-centered role in finding suitable parents for needy children through adoption. The report documents how the state creates new uncertainties and vulnerabilities when it increasingly seeks to administer parenthood, often giving far greater attention to adult rights than to children’s needs.

For the most part, this report does not advocate for or against particular policy prescriptions (such as banning donor conception) but rather seeks to draw urgently needed public attention to the current revolutionary changes in parenthood, to point out the risks and contradictions arising from increased state intervention, and to insist that our societies immediately undertake a vigorous, child-centered debate.

Do mothers and fathers matter to children? Is there anything special—anything worth supporting—about the two-person, mother-father model? Are children commodities to be produced by the marketplace? What role should the state have in defining parenthood? When adult rights clash with children’s needs, how should the conflict be resolved? These are the questions raised by this report.

Our societies will either answer these questions democratically and as a result of intellectually and morally serious reflection and public debate, or we will find, very soon, that these questions have already been answered for us. The choice is ours. At stake are the most elemental features of children’s well-being—their social and physical health and their moral and spiritual wholeness.


MANY CHANGES in marriage, reproduction, and family life in recent years have had one feature in common: They have pushed the boundaries on who is called a child’s parent. Courts and the culture have at various times determined all kinds of people to be parent figures in children’s lives, including stepparents, parents’ unmarried partners, sperm donors, surrogate mothers, and even extended family members or close family friends.

This broadening of the term “parent” first arose amid the steep rise in single-parent childbearing and as a result of the divorce revolution. But more recently—indeed, many important developments have taken place in recent months—the redefinition of parenthood is taking new forms as cultural attitudes continue shifting; as reproductive technologies advance, access expands, and science continues pushing the boundaries on baby-making; as increasing numbers of same-sex couples are openly raising children, with many of them also advocating for marriage rights; as new players enter the marriage debate, including advocates of group marriage; and as the law struggles to catch up, often creating as many problems as it resolves.

Rather than striving to link the man and woman who conceive, bear, and raise a child into one unit called the child’s “parents,” today’s trend toward redefinition separates genetic, gestational, and social parenthood into increasingly fragmented activities and separate legal terms.1 In nations throughout the West and beyond, expert commissions, courts, legal scholars, and medical groups are leading the way in redefining parenthood, almost entirely without awareness of or influence from other disciplines and the broader public. While the state has a vital role to play in finding parents for needy children through adoption, today in many nations the state is creating powerful new uncertainties and vulnerabilities as it seeks to redefine parenthood for far broader categories of children.

Right now, the needs of children—those born and those yet to be born—are being threatened by policies and practices that are transforming and fragmenting the meaning of parenthood.

Redefining Parenthood—What’s Happening Around the World Right Now

Events that form a revolutionary redefinition of parenthood are proceeding at breakneck speed around the world.

In Canada, the law that recently legalized same-sex marriage nationally also quietly erased the term “natural parent” across the board in federal law, replacing it with the term “legal parent.”2 With that provision, the federal understanding of parenthood for every child in the nation was changed in order to bring about the hotly-debated legalization of same-sex marriage.

Also in Canada, in an amazingly contradictory pair of moves, in some provinces it is now the right of an adopted child to know the identity of his or her biological parents; whereas in the case of children conceived by sperm or egg donors, revealing to the child the identity of his or her biological parents is a federal crime, punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both.

In Spain, after the recent legalization of same-sex marriage the National Civil Registry struck the words “mother” and “father” from the first document issued to every newborn by the state. Instead, all birth certificates will now read “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B.”3

At the same time and in a strange coincidence, law commissions in three other nations released reports in the spring of last year on assisted reproductive technologies. Each report makes radical headway in redefining parenthood.

In a report on “New Issues in Legal Parenthood,” the Law Commission in New Zealand made the unprecedented proposal of allowing children conceived with donor sperm or eggs to have three or more legal parents, with sperm or egg donors allowed to “opt in” to parenthood if they wish.4

In Australia, the Victoria Law Reform Commission proposed that access to donor insemination services be expanded to same-sex couples and singles, as is currently allowed in many nations including the United States (but which remains illegal in a number of European and other nations). Their rationale was striking. The commission argued that expanding donor insemination access to same-sex couples and singles is vital because it will reduce social discrimination against children raised in these kinds of families.5 In a follow-up report, this commission also proposed that sperm and egg donors be allowed to “opt in” as a child’s third legal parent.

At the same time, in Ireland the Commission on Human Assisted Reproduction stunned many by proposing that couples who commission a child through a surrogate mother should automatically be the legal parents of the child, leaving the woman who delivers the baby with absolutely no legal standing or protection should she change her mind.6 A dissenting member of the commission warned ominously, “If the surrogate mother resisted [handing over the baby], reasonable force could be used.”7

Meanwhile, in India new guidelines on assisted reproductive technology issued in June of 2005 by the Indian Council of Medical Research state that “the child born through the use of donor gametes [i.e., sperm or eggs] will not have any right whatsoever to know the identity of the genetic parents.” The local news headline stated the new rules “go a long way in curbing exploitation”—viewing the matter entirely from the point of view of adults who give or receive sperm or eggs, but not from the perspective of children who will be forever barred from knowing where they come from.8

Other steps governments are taking signal a greatly heightened level of state intervention and increasing control over reproduction and family life.

In Britain, a recent law banning donor anonymity caused a purported drop in the number of persons willing to donate sperm or eggs.9 Soon thereafter the government health service began an active campaign to recruit sperm and egg donors, no longer just allowing the planned conception of children separated from one or both biological parents, but now very intentionally promoting it.10

In another example of active state support, in high-tax Denmark the state subsidizes the practice of sperm donation by allowing the income earned by sperm donors to be tax-exempt. The Danish company Cryos, one of the world’s largest sperm banks, ships almost three-quarters of its sperm to individuals and couples overseas—all with the implicit support of the Danish taxpayer.11 And in a recent, dramatic step, the Danish parliament narrowly passed a law that gives lesbian couples and single women the right to obtain free artificial insemination at publicly-funded hospitals.12

In Vietnam, the state supported hospital is running short of voluntary sperm donors. It is now considering setting up a community sperm bank in which those who request donor sperm must supply a family member or friend who will donate sperm to the bank for use by another couple. The increasing demand for sperm comes from “families where husband and wife are white collar workers, and single women who want a baby but wish to remain unmarried.”13

In Australia, a law passed in 1984 that allows sperm donors to contact their over-18 offspring has now raised the prospect that, starting this year, young adults who were conceived using donor sperm might receive a letter from the state alerting them to the sperm donor’s wish to contact them. In Australia, as elsewhere, most young people who were conceived with donor sperm were never told the truth by their parents.14 To help offset the potential shock, the state government in Victoria has proposed a public advertising campaign warning all young adults that they could be contacted by a sperm donor father they never knew about.15

Meanwhile, in the United States the field of reproductive technology continues in an almost entirely unregulated environment. Agonizingly difficult decisions are often left to judges in local jurisdictions (with these cases sometimes rising to state supreme courts). These courts all too frequently must decide who a child’s parents are, picking and choosing among the many adults who might be involved in planning, conceiving, birthing, and raising the child.

Recently the California State Supreme Court heard three cases from lesbian couples who used sperm donors to have children and then split up. In these cases the nonbiological mother figure (none of whom had adopted the child) was either denied access to the child or wished to have no further financial obligations to the child.

The courts ruled in all three cases that the non-biological mother figure is like a child’s father and should be granted full parental status and held to the same standard of rights and responsibilities.16 The outcome has potentially far-reaching implications not just for same-sex couples but for the many heterosexual couples in stepfamilies17, as well as those who might use reproductive technologies or temporarily raise children together without marriage, adoption, or other legal arrangements.

In Erie County, Pennsylvania, a judge recently had to decide parentage in a case in which a surrogate mother carried triplets for a 62-year-old man and his 60-year-old girlfriend. When the couple failed to pick up the infants, the hospital initiated steps to put them in foster care. In response, and eventually with the judge’s approval, the surrogate mother took the children home and began raising them as her own. But the commissioning couple continues to fight for access to the children (and the 62-year-old man has been ordered to pay child support), while the college student who contributed her eggs for their conception is asserting her parental rights as well.18

In another case now before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a sperm donor was ordered by a lower court to pay child support for twins conceived by in vitro fertilization. The lower court said the mother and sperm donor had wrongly bargained away the twins’ rights in agreeing that the sperm donor would not have responsibilities for them. The high court is now being asked to overturn that ruling.19

In response to these two cases lawmakers in Pennsylvania convened a joint subcommittee on assisted reproductive technologies. An attorney who sits on the subcommittee said, “It’s becoming common in today’s society for a sperm donor, an egg donor or a surrogate mother to be used in family-building, and it’s in the best interest of everyone in this state to create a definitive pronouncement of who is a legal parent and define the rights and responsibilities of those parents.”20 The article reporting these developments framed the issue solely as a matter of protecting the rights of adults including egg and sperm donors, surrogate mothers, and legal parents. There was no consideration by the reporter of how these decisions might affect children.

In Ohio, a recently proposed bill addresses the growing practice of “embryo adoption,” in which a couple with an unused embryo created for infertility treatment donates the embryo to another couple, who implant it in the woman and raise the resulting baby as their own. The bill defines the birth mother, not the biological mother, as the legal mother of the child, and says that the husband of the birth mother who consents to the embryo adoption is the legal father.21

While such rulings and proposals might bring clarity in specific scenarios, they also create astonishing new uncertainties and questions for case law as an almost unimaginable range of adults—from a sperm donor to the husband of a woman implanted with someone else’s embryo to a surrogate mother or egg donor and even a parent’s ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend—can be designated the legal parent of a child.

At the same time, the active public debate about legalizing same-sex marriage and the increasing visibility of same-sex couples raising children contribute to new uncertainties about the meaning of parenthood. These new uncertainties potentially affect many children, not just the relatively small number of children raised by gay and lesbian people.

In Massachusetts, nearly three years ago, a 4-3 decision by the State Supreme Judicial Court legalized same-sex marriage. (It is notable that among all the laws, rulings, and proposals discussed in this report, legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts is among the very oldest.) In response to that court decision, the State Department of Public Health changed the standard marriage certificate to read “Party A” and “Party B,” instead of “husband” and “wife,” and proposed amending birth certificates used for all children in Massachusetts to read “Parent A” and “Parent B” rather than “mother” and “father.”22 As in Canada and Spain, once same-sex marriage is legalized some advocates immediately argue that legal understandings of parenthood for all children must change, even to the point of erasing the words “mother” and “father” from the foundational legal document issued to all children by the state.23

In fact, same-sex couples, adoptive parents, and singles and infertile couples using donors routinely petition to have one or both biological parents left off the birth certificate—and even to have non-biological parents included without going through the process of adoption. In Quebec, when a woman in a same-sex civil union gives birth, her female partner is presumed to be the father and can be registered as the father on the child’s birth certificate.24 A similar ruling was recently made in Ontario, with the judge noting that the testimony of non-biological mother figures who have not been automatically recorded on birth certificates “reveals a lot of pain” and that some find the requirement to adopt the child “immoral.”25 The state of California allows a “second mother” to be entered on the birth certificate as the child’s father.

Last year, a New Jersey judge ruled for the first time in that state that the same-sex partner of a woman who conceives with donor sperm has an automatic right to be listed as a birth parent on the child’s birth certificate without having formally to adopt the child, just as the husbands of women who use donor sperm are listed.26 Earlier this year, Virginia issued a birth certificate to a lesbian adoptive couple that reads “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” after the couple rejected having one of their names put in the blank for “father.”27 A similar suit was just filed in Oregon.28 More are likely.

Around the world, the state is a fast-growing, active player in the field of redefining parenthood. This redefinition increasingly emphasizes adults’ rights to children rather than children’s needs to know and be raised, whenever possible, by their mother and father. The state is becoming routinely involved in the practices of regulating, apportioning, and resolving disputes involving fertility and parenthood.

This global shift is encountering active resistance in only a few places.

Perhaps the most surprising development is in France where a “Parliamentary Report on the Family and the Rights of Children,” published in January 2006, took a radically different stance. The report’s authors note critically that “the desire for a child seems to have become a right to a child” and argue “when children’s lives are at issue, legislators must act very cautiously and calmly seek social consensus….” The report’s authors recommend denying the legalization of same-sex marriage, citing concerns about the identity and development of children when the law creates a “fictitious filiation” or a situation in which there are “two fathers, or two mothers—which is biologically neither real nor plausible.” Citing the “precautionary principle,”29 the report’s authors conclude that there must continue to be a medical justification for assisted procreation “under the rubric of ‘a father, a mother, a child,’” and that the ban on surrogacy should stand.30

In another notable development, Italy’s voters last summer defeated a referendum that would have loosened their restrictive fertility law. The law that was upheld bans the use of donor sperm or eggs and allows assisted reproductive technology only for married couples. In a somewhat less stringent example, Taiwan’s cabinet last year approved an assisted reproductive technology law that restricts the use of such technology to infertile couples, bans receiving donor sperm and eggs from close relatives, and does not allow sperm or eggs from the same donor to be used by more than two couples. But examples like these are rare.31

How the Global Redefinition of Parenthood Threatens Children’s Identity

Why should we be concerned about the many rulings, laws, and proposals around the world that are aimed at redefining parenthood?

A good society protects the interests of its most vulnerable citizens, especially children. Right now, the institution that is most core to children’s very survival—that of parenthood—is being fundamentally redefined with the state giving its implicit support and at times leading the way. In law and culture, parenthood is increasingly understood to be an institution oriented primarily around adults’ rights to children rather than children’s need for their mother and father. These extraordinary moves are being made largely absent any real public awareness or debate.

The common thread running through many of these decisions is the adult right to a child. These rights claims are important. The desire for a child is a powerful force felt deep in the soul. The inability to bear a child of one’s own is often felt as an enormous loss, one that some grieve for a lifetime. These desires must be responded to with respect and compassion. The claim that medicine and society should help those who cannot bear children is a legitimate one.

But the rights and needs of adults who wish to bear children are not the only part of the story.

Children, too, have rights and needs. For example, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified in 1989, states that “the child shall…have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.”32 The authors of the convention understood several key features necessary to human identity, security, and flourishing— having a name, being a citizen of a nation whose laws protect you, and, whenever possible, being raised by the two people whose physical union made you.

Adults who support the use of new technologies to bear children sometimes say that biology does not matter to children, that all children need is a loving family. Yet biology clearly matters to the adults who sometimes go to extreme lengths— undergoing high-risk medical procedures; procuring eggs, sperm, or wombs from strangers; and paying quite a lot of money—to create a child genetically related to at least one of them. In a striking contradiction, these same people will often insist that the child’s biological relationship to an absent donor father or mother should not really matter to the child.

Of course, there is a very real and urgent role for the state to play in defining parenthood. Some biological parents present a danger to their children or are otherwise unable to raise them. Adoption is a pro-child social institution that finds parents for children who desperately need them. Adoption is a highly admirable expression of altruistic love, a kind of love that transcends our hardwired tendencies to protect our blood relations above all others. But the existence of legal adoption was never intended to support the argument that children don’t care who their fathers and mothers are, or to justify the planned separation of children from biological mothers and fathers before the children are even conceived.

Certainly, biology is not everything. It does not and should not determine the full extent or depth of human relationships. Biological parents are tragically capable of harming their children, and some children are better off removed from these parents (though, as we will see, children on average are far safer with their biological parents than with unrelated adults). But the actions and testimony of children and adults often powerfully suggest that biology does matter.

In the current rush to redefine parenthood, we must stop to ask critical, childcentered questions: Are children’s understandings of parenthood as flexible as those who pose these issues mainly as a matter of adult rights believe them to be?

How do children feel about the brave new world of parenthood? Does how they feel matter?

The Child’s Point of View: Emerging Voices from Children

Children raised without their own married mother and father often have perspectives about their lives that are radically different from how the legal scholars, courts, and would-be parents expected they would feel. For example, studies on the inner lives of children of divorce are showing an enormous downside for children that was never considered in the heady, early days of the no-fault divorce revolution.33

To be perfectly clear, the question is not whether children love the parents who raise them. Children almost universally and unquestioningly love their parents, whether their parents are married, divorced, single, gay or straight. Rather, the question is how children feel and how they make sense of their identities when their mother or father (or both) is absent from their daily lives.

The first generation of donor-conceived children who are now coming of age form a remarkable case study to explore this question. Most in this first generation were conceived by married heterosexual couples using donor sperm. Anecdotally, many are now speaking out about the powerful impact on children’s identity when adults purposefully conceive a child with the clear intention of separating that child from a biological parent.34 These young people often say they were denied the birthright of being raised by or at least knowing about their biological fathers. They say that this intentional denial profoundly shapes their quest to understand who they are.

Donor-conceived teenagers and adults are forming organizations,35 are frequently quoted in news articles,36 and are using the Internet to try to contact their sperm donors and find half-siblings conceived with the same sperm.37 They hail from the United States, Canada, Australia, Britain, Japan, and elsewhere. Numbers are hard to come by, but estimates are that the number of children now born in the U.S. each year through artificial insemination range from 30,000 to 75,000 and that about 3,000 each year are conceived using donor eggs.38 While the numbers arguably are small, they are growing, and the stories these young people tell raise questions not only about their own experience but also about the prospects for the next generation of children born of still more complex reproductive technologies.

Donor-conceived young people point out that the informed consent of the most vulnerable party—the child—is not obtained in reproductive technology procedures that intentionally separate children from one or both of their biological parents. They ask how the state can aid and defend a practice that denies them their birthright to know and be raised by their own parents and that forcibly conceals half of their genetic heritage. Some call themselves “lopsided” or “half adopted.”39 At least one uses the term “kinship slave.”40 Some born of lesbian or gay parents call themselves “queer spawn,” although others in the same situation find the term offensive.41

No studies have been conducted focusing on these young people’s long-term emotional experience.42 Clearly, rigorous long-term studies need to be done. For now, we should listen to their compelling voices.

Narelle Grech, an Australian donor-conceived woman in her early twenties, asks, “How can you create a child with the full knowledge that he or she will not be able to know about their history and themselves?” She wonders what social message the practice of donor conception gives young men: “Will they think it’s OK to get a woman or girl pregnant and that it would be OK to walk away from her, because after all, biology doesn’t matter?”

A fellow Australian, Joanna Rose, asks why everyone “flips out” when the wrong baby is taken home from the hospital, yet assumes that donor-conceived children are just fine. She argues: “Our need to know and be known by our genetic relatives is as strong and relevant as anyone else’s.” She writes, movingly, “I believe that the pain of infertility should not be appeased at the expense of the next generation.”43

In interviews, donor-conceived young adults often say something like this: My sperm donor is “half of who I am.” One young woman known as Claire is believed to be the first donor offspring to benefit from open-identity sperm donation and have the ability to contact her father upon turning 18. She says she wants to meet her donor because she wants to know “what half of me is, what half of me comes from.”44

Eighteen-year-old Zannah Merricks of London, England says, “I want to meet the donor because I want to know the other half of where I’m from.”45 Lindsay Greenawalt, a young woman from Canton, Ohio who is seeking information about her sperm donor, says, “I feel my right to know who I am and where I come from has been taken away from me.”46

Eve Andrews, a 17-year-old in Texas, plans to ask the California sperm bank that aided in her conception to forward a letter to her donor when she turns 18. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions in my life and I guess I want the answers,” she explains. By contrast, her 51-year-old mother, interviewed for the same story, says, “As a woman dealing with the prospect of infertility, all you want is that baby.… It never even occurred to me this child might want to find her biological
father someday.”47

One young man, a 31-year-old doctor in Japan, learned that he was conceived by donor sperm when he examined his parents’ white blood cell group while studying medicine. “The most painful thing was the fact that my parents didn’t tell me for 29 years,” he said. “Unless I was told by my parents, I couldn’t even exercise my right to know my biological origin.”48

A 14-year-old girl in Pennsylvania wrote to Dear Abby after finding out she was conceived with donor sperm. In just a few sentences she identified some of the enormous identity issues that confront donor-conceived young people and that are now a challenge to our society. She wrote: “It scares me to think I may have brothers or sisters out there,49 and that he [my father] may not care that I exist.” This young teenager, struggling alone with feelings of abandonment, grief, and confusion, poignantly
challenged the current legal and social position on this issue: “I don’t understand why it’s legal to just donate when a child may be born.”50

Some observers respond to the voices of donor-conceived adults by saying that there is an inherent contradiction in their argument. These observers say that donor-conceived persons who question the practice of donor conception are wishing away their own existence, and that without the use of a sperm or egg donor or surrogate these young people would not be alive. I find this response highly insensitive. All of us, no matter how we arrived here, should be able to share our stories and struggles in an atmosphere of respect and dignity without being told that we are irrationally ignoring the process that gave us life or are failing to show sufficient appreciation for our life.51

The Social Science Evidence Suggesting the Importance of Biological Parents

From a social scientific point of view, what do we know about children’s experienceswhen they do not grow up with their own mother and father? In many areas we know a great deal. In some, we need to learn more.

In recent decades a powerful consensus among social scientists has emerged about the benefits of marriage for children. The New York Times not long ago reported: “From a child’s point of view, according to a growing body of social science research, the most supportive household is one with two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.”52

Children raised by divorced or never-married parents face an increased risk of living in poverty, failing in school, suffering psychological distress and mental illness, and getting involved in crime. Children raised outside a married family are less likely to graduate from college and achieve high-status jobs. When they grow up, they are more likely to divorce or become unwed parents.

In terms of children’s physical health and well-being, marriage is associated with a sharply lower risk of infant mortality, and children living with their own married parents are more physically healthy, on average, than children in other kinds of families.

Most tragically, children not living with their own two married parents are at significantly greater risk of child abuse and suicide.53

Increasing numbers of people are realizing that marriage has important benefits for children. What many do not know is that there is something about the marriage of a child’s own mother and father (as opposed to a remarriage) that on average brings these benefits. On many important indicators of child well-being, such as teen pregnancy, educational failure, delinquency, and child abuse, children raised in married stepparent families look more like children of single parents than children raised by their own, married mother and father.54

Some who advocate for legalized same-sex marriage say that it will be good for children because the children will now have two parents. But the stepfamily data suggest it may not be that simple. We don’t know how much the poorer outcomes in stepfamilies are due to the history of dissolution and other unique problems facing stepfamilies and how much is due to the child being raised in a home with a non-biologically related stepparent.55

Most stepparents are without question good people who do their very best raising the children in their care, but it is vital for those shaping family policy to be acquainted with the large body of research showing that children raised in the care of non-biologically-related adults are at significantly greater risk, in particular of abuse. Many are not aware of the body of research showing that mothers’ boyfriends and stepfathers abuse children more often on average than fathers do, with children especially at risk when left in the care of their mothers’ boyfriends. More than seventy reputable studies document that an astonishing number—anywhere from one third to one half—of girls with divorced parents report having been molested or sexually abused as children, most often by their mothers’ boyfriends or stepfathers.56

A separate review of forty-two studies found that “the majority of children who were sexually abused…appeared to come from single-parent or reconstituted families.”57

Two leading researchers in the field conclude, “Living with a stepparent has turned out to be the most powerful predictor of severe child abuse yet.”58

The fields of evolutionary biology and psychology yield some insights into why children are, on average, far safer with their biological parents. David Popenoe, a sociologist at Rutgers University, sums up the research this way: “From the perspective of evolutionary psychology, the organization of the human nuclear family is based [in part on]…a predisposition to advance the interests of genetic relatives before those of unrelated individuals, so-called inclusive fitness, kin selection, or nepotism.59

With respect to children, this means that men and women have likely evolved to invest more in children who are related to them than in those who are not.60 The world over, such biological favoritism seems to be the rule.”61

Of course, to recognize that adults tend to favor their biological children is not to say that this predisposition is necessarily or always a good thing. Rather, it is to recognize that this tendency is highly common and probably even hardwired, or biologically primed, into humans.

Ideally, all of us would be as deeply committed to and concerned for other people’s children as we are for our own, but practically speaking the human race is not there yet.

The example of adoption, however, remains an inspiration. When the state carefully screens prospective adoptive parents and these parents receive social support for their role as parents, and particularly when adopted children can be raised from birth by parents who are committed to one another over the long haul, the outcomes for those children don’t look much different from those raised by their own married parents and are almost certainly better than those being raised in an unwanted, abusive, or neglectful environment.

So again, we see that while biology is not everything—biological parents can fail their children, and adoptive parents are generally highly committed and loving parents—in both the sciences and in the voices of children we learn that biology does matter.

What does the research on non-biological parents and parent figures, including those found in stepfamilies and other alternative family structures, mean for children being raised by same-sex parents? We don’t know, at least not yet. The existing research on same-sex parenting is limited because same-sex couples raising children comprise a very small part of the overall population and are only recently becoming more visible.

There have been a number of scholarly reviews of the literature on same-sex parenting.62 One of the most thorough was prepared by Steven Nock, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, who was asked to submit a brief for a major same-sex marriage case in Canada. After reviewing several hundred studies he concluded that all of the articles “contained at least one fatal flaw of design or execution” and “not a single one of those studies was conducted according to general accepted scientific standards of research.”63

Limitations and design flaws that he and other reviewers have noted include: a virtual lack of nationally representative samples used; limited outcome measures (mostly of interest to developmental psychologists rather than to sociologists who study the family); frequent reliance on a mother’s report of her parenting abilities and skills rather than objective measures of the child’s well-being; and a virtual lack of long-term studies that follow children of same-sex parents to adulthood.

But the biggest problem by far is that the vast majority of these studies compare single lesbian mothers to single heterosexual mothers—in other words, they compare children in one kind of fatherless family with children in another kind of fatherless family.64

How does the long-term experience of children raised by partnered lesbian moms or gay dads compare with those raised by their own mom and dad? We don’t know yet. But we do know that compared to children in many other alternative family forms— children of divorce, never-married heterosexual parents, stepfamilies, and those with single mothers—those children who are raised by their own married mother and father in a low-conflict marriage are, on average, significantly better off.65

Similarly, with regard to children conceived with donor sperm, a donor egg, or a surrogate mother, as yet there are no data on these children’s long-term, emotional well-being. Researchers should listen to the stories that are beginning to emerge and undertake rigorous studies of their experiences.

We have more to learn. But evidence and sensitive observations of children’s lives strongly suggest the importance to children of recognizing their need to be raised, whenever possible, by their own mother and father.

Redefining Parenthood—What’s Next?
Increasing Slippage in the Meaning of Fatherhood and Motherhood

The redefinition of parenthood is shaping our culture and our legal system in ways that contribute to further deep uncertainties in the meanings of fatherhood and motherhood.

Evidence of this new uncertainty is found in rulings, proposals, and stories from around the world. In Australia, sperm donors now have the right to contact their over-18 progeny. But who are these men? Are they sperm donors, or are they fathers who have rights to know their children? In New Zealand, the law commission proposed that sperm and egg donors be allowed to “opt in” to legal parenthood if they wish. Who are these people? Are they donors? Are they legal parents? If these biological parents can opt in and out of responsibility to children, as it pleases them, what is the rationale for not allowing other biological parents to do the same thing?

The Washington Post Magazine recently featured a story in which a woman who bore two children from the same anonymous sperm donor located him and brought the children across the country to meet him when they were 7 and 3 years old.66 They stayed for a week in his home. Since that time the mother has legally changed the children’s names (making the donor’s surname their middle names) and designated him their guardian if she were to die. She has the children call him “Daddy” but there are no definite plans for the future. An unknown number of other women also conceived children with his sperm. For this 7 year old and 3 year old, is this man a father? A sperm donor? Something else? Who decides?

Last summer in Britain a new website was started— The website is intended for lesbian and single women who wish to bear a child using donor sperm and want “both parents” to play a role in the child’s life. Potential sperm donors who wish to have some kind of relationship with the resulting child are invited to enroll. If the desires of a lesbian or single woman and a sperm donor to share a child raising arrangement coincide, bingo! They can set up a broken family for their child before the child is even conceived.67 A similar site for lesbians and gay men exists in Canada. Called the “LGBT Parent Matchmaker,” it helps those in the Toronto area who wish to locate and pair off with one or more opposite sex partners with whom they can conceive and “co-parent” a child.68

In another example, last summer in the U.S. a classified ad ran on a West Hollywood news website that read: “I am a single mom who wants to have another baby, but does not wish to use anonymous donor sperm. If you would like to be a father with visitation rights, send a picture and introductory letter to Kelly W.…”69

Even the meaning of the term “sperm donor” is in flux. In some arenas sperm donors are being equated with fathers. In other situations “sperm donor” has become a term of opprobrium, hurled by women at the ex-boyfriends who are the fathers of their children. In one article from Florida a teenage girl refers to the ex-boyfriend who got her pregnant as “not a father” but “the sperm donor.”70 In anarticle from the Philippines a woman’s friends refer to her ex-boyfriend, the father of her child, as a “mere sperm donor.”71 The term apparently signals that the man is meaningless to them (and, they most likely hope, to their children). It is a cutting put-down, equating a man they probably once cared for with nothing more than a minimal and fairly crude biological product.

Yet by far the most striking and potentially far-reaching development signaling slippage in the meaning of motherhood and fatherhood—a development already being witnessed in numerous courts—is the increasing recognition of “psychological” parenthood or “de facto” parental status. In the United States at least ten states, including Washington, California, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, now allow someone with no biological or adoptive relationship to a child (and no marital relationship to a child’s parent) to be assigned parental rights and responsibilities as a psychological or de facto parent. To determine retrospectively whether an adult was a “parent” in a child’s life, the courts examine indications such as whether the adult lived in the same household as the child, was encouraged to act as a parent by the child’s existing parent, had acted like a parent without expecting financial compensation, and had spent enough time with the child to have bonded with him or her.72

In many of these cases the petitions are brought by ex-partners who charge that the child’s existing parent is denying their rights to the child. In other cases the child’s existing parent charges that the ex-partner is now shirking parental responsibilities. These cases typically concern same-sex partners, but they also have serious, as yet unknown implications for the many heterosexuals who are or have been a child’s stepparent,73 or who have been a live-in partner.

In Britain, in a chilling, recent decision, a court ruled that two sisters ages 4 and 7 must be removed from their biological mother. Primary care was awarded instead to her ex-partner, another woman with no biological or legal relationship to the children. The decision was made after the biological mother violated a visitation order and fled with the children to another part of the country. In the decision, one judge (who nevertheless agreed with the order) expressed her qualms: “I am very concerned at the prospect of removing these children from the primary care of their only identifiable biological parent who has been their primary carer for most of their young lives and in whose care they appear to be happy and thriving.”74

Advocates of assigning legal rights and responsibilities to “psychological” parents argue they have the best interests of the child in mind. The law, they say, should not allow biological or adoptive parents to deny their child a relationship with someone who the child has come to see as a mother or father, nor should it allow someone who has acted as a parent to evade those duties after the adults’ relationship ends.

This concern is well-intended but woefully misguided, because it ignores an existing option that is far preferable for children. Even without same-sex marriage rights, most states in the U.S. allow second-parent adoption by gay and lesbian partners. In most of the cases that end up in court the second “parent,” for whatever reason, did not exercise the option to adopt. Perhaps the couple could not agree on the adoption. Perhaps the second “parent” was uncertain what level of responsibility he or she wanted to take on. Perhaps they just never got around to it. (Or, perhaps they lived in a state that does not allow or readily facilitate second-parent adoption by same-sex couples, which I believe speaks far more to the need to expand second-parent adoption access than it does to create an entirely new, retrospective category called “psychological” parent.)

In contrast to the sometimes vague, gradual ways that parents can introduce newpartners into their child’s life, even asking the child to call that person “Mom” or “Dad,” and the sudden ways in which these same parents can at times change their minds if the relationship goes sour, the clearly defined (and in the best interests of the child, appropriately onerous) process of adoption is the law’s best way of protecting children’s interests and their relationships with both parents should their parents break up. As a legal process, adoption is proactive, rigorous, and clear. The child, the child’s other parent, their community and the state know precisely when the adult in question is the child’s parent and when he or she is not.

Once that adult becomes an adoptive parent an array of laws and norms clearly define his or her appropriate role in the child’s life. Adoptive parents cannot pass in and out of children’s lives. Their status is understood to be permanent and the legal and social consequences for trying to forsake that status are clear. For all these reasons, adoption is in general a far better way to protect children than routinely asking judges to determine whether an adult in the past met certain subjective criteria to qualify as a parent, especially when the judge acts over the objections of the child’s existing biological or adoptive parent.75

In the brave new world of redefined parenthood, sperm donors might or might not be fathers.76 Mothers’ girlfriends, and even ex-girlfriends, can be mothers (or fathers!). Despite their biological or gestational relationship to the child, egg donors and surrogates are usually not considered mothers, but they can be.77 Absent fathers, when they anger their ex-girlfriends, can be reduced rhetorically to mere sperm donors. But generally unlike sperm donors, the state holds them accountable for child support for years to come.

What does “father” mean? What does “mother” mean? Who decides? How do children feel about these decisions?

Cloning and Same-Sex Procreation

Not that long ago the specter of reproductive cloning induced gasps of horror in nearly everyone. No longer.

Despite the dramatic fall from grace of South Korean cloning researcher Hwang Woo-suk, research on cloning is proceeding with increasingly broad public support in many states and nations around the world.78 The same month that Hwang Woo-suk made the now-discredited announcement that he had created 11 new stem cell lines derived from cloned human embryos, a team of scientists at Newcastle University in Britain announced that they had created cloned human embryos, one of which grew in the laboratory for five days. At the time, the South Korean achievement made front-page headlines around the world but the British news a week later barely elicited a yawn. Cloning embryos was already old news.

These researchers are pursuing what’s known as “therapeutic” cloning, meaning that cells are farmed from the cloned embryos before allowing them to expire. Many nations have banned reproductive cloning but allow varying degrees of therapeutic cloning. Yet the only difference between therapeutic and reproductive cloning is whether the cloned embryo is implanted in a woman’s womb.79 The technology to implant the embryo—in vitro fertilization—has been in increasingly widespread use since 1978.

Has anyone implanted a cloned embryo in a woman’s womb? A fringe group called the Raelians has claimed to have done so but the reports have not been confirmed. So far, no reputable scientist has announced doing so. But how long will it be?

An astonishing article ran last spring in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, headlined, “Process holds out hope for childless couples.” The process is reproductive cloning. The experts quoted at a conference who support this claim are not nobodies. Professor Robert Edwards, who pioneered in vitro fertilization and created the world’s first “test tube” baby, Louise Brown, in 1978, said that “reproductive cloning should be considered for patients who have exhausted all other forms of treatment.” For example, it “would be helpful for people who cannot produce their own sperm
or eggs.”80

At the same conference, James Watson—yes, the James Watson who with Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA—argued “there is nothing inherently wrong with cloning.” He went on: “I’m in favour of anything that will improve the quality of an individual family’s way of life.”

Critics point out that cloning experiments in animals have led to numerous stillbirths and deformed animals before succeeding in a live, apparently healthy animal (and even those animals have sometimes developed serious health problems later on).

To those critics, Professor Edwards responds that genetic screening of embryos will take care of all that. With enormous confidence in the ability of medical science to detect every problem in an embryo—and with casual acceptance of tossing out all embryos that are not up-to-snuff—he remarked that “very soon” “only healthy embryos will be implanted during assisted reproduction.” The “birth of a child with defects after fertility treatment” will be “a thing of the past.” He concluded with conviction: “If we stand back and say it can’t be done, this is letting our patients down.”81

The potential use of cloning techniques to aid in assisted reproduction is only one example of the stem cell research field growing ever closer to the fertility industry.

In another example, an ongoing problem for stem cell researchers is the shortage of human eggs required for their work. Eggs can be retrieved from women only by putting them through a risky regimen of drugs and surgery.82 The same scientists in Britain who recently cloned a human embryo announced a plan one week later to ask women undergoing infertility treatment to donate their spare eggs for stem cell research. The proposal has been approved by the university ethics committee and is under consideration by Britain’s fertility regulatory authority—potentially opening the door for a woman’s doctor, her most trusted advisor in her often years-long effort to become pregnant, to ask her to donate her unused eggs for experiments with therapeutic cloning.83

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there.

Scientists truly on the cutting edge are now especially interested in creating artificial sperm and eggs and fusing them in unexpected ways to create human embryos for implantation in the womb. Last summer researchers at Sheffield University in Britain announced that they are now able to develop human embryonic stem cells into early forms of cells that can become eggs and sperm. If they succeed their work could mean, for example, that a single man could provide both the egg and sperm for fertility treatment, or that same-sex couples would no longer have to rely on sperm or egg donors—instead, they could have children genetically related to both of them.84

In headlines around the world news articles were frank about the implications: “The consequences of such work might even mean gay couples or single men could produce children,” said the Guardian story.85 “The technique raises the possibility that gay couples will be able to have biological children,” said the story in the New Zealand Herald.86 An article about the Sheffield research and similar work underway at Monash University in Australia was headlined: “Doing away with donors.”87 In a story filed from Copenhagen that ran on a U.S. advice and support website for gay and lesbian parents, the headline was, “Stem cell research may provide hope to gay couples.” The article said the research is “huge news for the gay and lesbian community.”88

At the same time, last fall a team in Edinburgh announced it had tricked an egg into dividing and created the first human embryo without a genetic father.89 That same week British scientists at Newcastle University were granted permission to create a human embryo with three genetic parents.90

Over and over, reports about these breakthroughs emphasize the urgent and fundamental importance of assisting adults who wish to bear children. At most, some ethicists are quoted who might raise concerns about health risks. But the biggest issues are almost never raised: the long-term physical and emotional consequences for the children who might result; the movement toward a society that views some human lives as fit for laboratory experimentation for the benefit of others; the larger consequences for children and society when parenthood is increasingly viewed mainly as a means to fulfill adult desires—mediated, defined, and administered by the state.91

Group Marriage: Polyamory and Polygamy

Whatever one’s feeling about the legalization of same-sex marriage, and however emphatically most advocates of same-sex marriage say they do not support group marriage, recent events make clear that successes in the same-sex marriage movement have emboldened others who wish to borrow the language of civil rights to break open the two-person understanding of marriage and, with it, parenthood.92

These efforts are emerging from at least two surprising directions.93

Polyamorists are perhaps the newest, most unfamiliar players on the scene. Polyamory (meaning “many loves”) is different from polygamy (meaning “many marriages”). Polyamory involves relationships of three or more people, any two of whom might or might not be married to one another. Polyamorous people variously consider themselves straight, gay, bisexual, or just plain “poly,” while polygamists are generally heterosexual. Polyamorists distinguish themselves from the “swingers” of the 1970s, saying that their own relationships emphasize healthy communication or what they call “ethical non-monogamy.”

Polyamorous unions have been around for a while—probably for a long while—but they and their supporters are now seeking increasing visibility and acceptance. Indeed it seems one can hardly pick up a major newspaper without reading about them. A recent Chicago Sun-Times article mentioned the “Heartland Polyamory Conference” to be held this summer in Indiana (a similar Midwestern polyamory conference was held two years ago near the Wisconsin Dells).94 A Chicago Tribune article not long ago featured John and Sue, a married couple, and Fred, Peggy, and Bill who share their bed—the reporter termed them an “energetic bunch” of polyamorists.95 And there are routinely articles about polyamory in alternative periodicals such as the Village Voice and Southern Voice and, increasingly, campus newspapers.

Yet support for polyamory is not just found among the fringe types; notably, the topic is emerging at the cutting edge of family law and advocacy. In a recent report on family law, Daniel Cere of McGill University cites examples including a University of Chicago Law School professor, Elizabeth Emens, who last year published a substantial legal defense of polyamory in a New York University law review; a major report, “Beyond Conjugality,” issued by the influential Law Commission of Canada which wondered whether legally recognized relationships should be “limited to two people,” and in An Introduction to Family Law, published by Oxford University Press, a British law professor who notes quizzically, “The abhorrence of bigamy appears to stem…from the traditional view of marriage as the exclusive locus for a sexual relationship and from a reluctance to contemplate such a relationship involving multiple partners.”96, 97

Meanwhile, the Alternatives to Marriage Project, whose leaders are featured often by mainstream news organizations in stories on cohabitation and same-sex marriage, includes polyamory among its “hot topics” for advocacy.98 Among religious organizations the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamorous Awareness hopes to make their denomination the first to recognize and bless polyamorous relationships.99

Advocates for polyamory often explicitly mimic the language used by supporters of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. They say they must keep their many loves “in the closet.” That they cannot risk revealing their personal lives for fear of losing their jobs or custody of their children. That to reveal their inner “poly” nature is “coming out of the closet.” That being poly is just who they are.

One potential complication is children. Websites for practitioners of polyamory devote considerable space to the challenges of being a poly parent.

At, one mom says, “Polyamory is what my kids know. They know some people have two parents, some one, some three and some more. They happen to have four. Honestly? Kids and polyamory? Very little of it effects [sic] them unless you’re so caught up in your new loves you’re letting it interfere with your parenting.”100

Another older mom advises a young poly mother-to-be who isn’t sure how to manage a new baby and her poly lifestyle: “Having a child… and being poly isn’t exactly a cakewalk, but…it is possible. Sometimes it means that you take the baby with you to go see your OSO [other significant other], or your OSO spends more time at the house with you, your husband, and the baby, and sometimes things will come up where plans have to be cancelled at the very last minute because baby is sick or something…. There is a lot of patience that is needed from all parties involved, but it can be done. The first six months are extremely hard.” (italics hers)101

Another woman is offended by her best friend’s lack of support for her polyamorous relationship that involves a couple who have a six-year old daughter. She writes, “No matter how happy and content that kid is, according to my friend we and her parents are undoubtedly wreaking some serious damage on her by not completely concealing our relationship from her.” She sighs: “Sometimes intelligent, goodhearted, rational people who know you fairly well can still hold rather irrational and bigoted opinions.”102

A pro-poly website despairs: “One challenge that faces poly families is the lack of examples of poly relationships in literature and media.”103 A sister site offers the “PolyKids Zine.” This publication for kids “supports the principles and mission of the Polyamory Society.” It contains “fun, games, uplifting PolyFamily stories and lessons about PolyFamily ethical living.” Its book series includes titles such as The Magical Power of Mark’s Many Parents and Heather Has Two Moms and Three Dads.104

No one can predict the legal future of polyamory. But in a startling development, and coming from a very different direction, another cultural assault on the two-person understanding of marriage and parenthood is resurging—polygamy.

The debut this spring of HBO’s new television series, Big Love, which features a fictional, in some ways likeable polygamous family in Utah, has suddenly propelled polygamy to the front pages and put the idea of legalized polygamy “in play” in some surprising quarters. An article in the March issue of Newsweek, headlined “Polygamists Unite!” quotes an activist saying, “Polygamy is the next civil rights battle.”

He argues, “If Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy.”105 That weekend on the Today show hosts Lester Holt and Campbell Brown gave a sympathetic interview to a polygamous family. During that same month, the New York Times devoted much attention to the subject of polygamy. One article featured several polygamous women watching Big Love’s first episode, sharing their perspectives such as: “[Polygamy] can be a viable alternative lifestyle among consenting adults.”106 In another article an economist snickered that polygamy is illegal mainly because it threatens male lawmakers who fear they wouldn’t get wives in such a system.107 In a separate piece, columnist John Tierney argued that “polygamy isn’t necessarily worse than the current American alternative: serial monogamy.” He concluded, “If the specter of legalized polygamy is the best argument against gay marriage, let the wedding bells ring.”108 Not to be outdone, the cover of the June 19, 2006 New Yorker magazine featured three smiling brides and a beaming groom driving away in a convertible with “just married” scrawled across the trunk.

It is not just Big Love that is putting polygamy “in play” in the West. In a development that shocked many Canadians last winter, two government studies released by the Justice Department recommended the decriminalization of polygamy, with one report arguing the move was justified by the need to attract more skilled Muslim immigrants. And in Canada and the U.S., a significant number of today’s legal scholars are arguing, as one columnist summarized, that “the abuses of polygamy flourish amidst the isolation, stigma, and secrecy spawned by criminalization.”109 Polygamy per se is not the problem, only “bad” polygamy.

Still, why would any society make the formal move toward legal recognition of polyamorous or polygamous unions? One likely justification might arise from proposals to recognize as third parents those who donate sperm or eggs for the conception of a baby, such as the New Zealand Law Commission and Victoria Law Reform Commission proposed last year. In Canada, judges have already been asked to recognize three legal parents for children. In one decision involving a lesbian couple who wanted the biological father recognized as a third parent, the judge noted that he wanted to grant their petition and was only prevented from doing so by existing laws.

If and when children are recognized as having three (or more) legal parents, the argument for recognizing some form of group marriage will almost certainly go something like this: “Why should children with three parents be denied the same legal and social protections that children with only two parents have?”

If we get to that place, pity the children. Already we see the havoc wreaked on children’s lives when two parents break up and fight over their best interests. Imagine when three or more adults who have equal claims on a child end their relationship. In the future, how many homes will we require children to grow up traveling between in order to satisfy the parenting needs of these many adults? Three? Four? More?

Unless and until same-sex procreation or three-person reproduction becomes a reality, children will always arise from the union of one man and one woman. All children have, as the French feminist philosopher Sylviane Agacinski calls it, a “double origin,”110 that of a mother and a father, an origin we cannot deny and that the children certainly cannot ignore, for they see it every time they look in the mirror. When we change the mother-father dimension of marriage or the two-person understanding of marriage, we also change understandings of parenthood in ways that will almost certainly dramatically shape the future for children.


AT THIS MOMENT, with virtually no public discussion, the relationship that is most core and vital to children’s very survival—that of parenthood—is being fundamentally redrawn through new laws, proposals, and practices affecting marriage, reproduction, and family life, with the state playing an increasingly active role in defining parenthood for broader categories of children.

Given that in some ways the genie is already out of the bottle, it is not entirely clear what actions the state and social leaders should take in the near future. For instance, some nations have moved to ban the practice of anonymous donation of sperm and eggs. This would seem to be a positive development for children—after all, there is a strong argument to be made that children have a right and need to know their origins. Yet greater acceptance of the idea that donor-conceived children have a right to know their origins is also leading to the idea that these children should have the possibility of some kind of relationship with their sperm or egg donor (and not just a file of information), or even that the donor should have some kind of legal parental status in the child’s life, such as in New Zealand and Australia where commissions have proposed allowing donors to “opt in” as children’s third legal parents.

What might the future hold for children with three or more legal parents? We have no idea.

Or, in another example, after Britain passed a law banning donor anonymity there was a purported drastic drop in the number of men willing to donate sperm. The state health service then began an active campaign to recruit sperm and egg donors, no longer just allowing the intentional conception of children who will not know or be raised in relationship with their own biological parents, but very intentionally promoting it. Meanwhile, couples in that nation who wish to conceive have even greater incentive to go abroad to nations or regions that have less regulation—such as Spain, India, Eastern Europe, or elsewhere—to procure sperm or eggs or surrogate wombs, making it even less likely that their child will ever be able to trace their origins or form a relationship with a distant donor abroad.

Again, how will these developments affect children? At the moment we have no real idea. But we certainly do have serious and immediate cause for concern.

For reasons like these, this report does not conclude with the usual list of specific policy recommendations. Rather, this report issues a call to fellow citizens in the United States and Canada and around the world. The call is for all of us to participate in urgently needed conversation and research about the revolution in parenthood and the needs of children.

This much is clear: When society changes marriage it changes parenthood. The divorce revolution and the rise in single-parent childbearing weakened ties of fathers to their children and introduced a host of players at times called “parents.” The use of assisted reproductive technologies by married heterosexual couples— and later by singles and same-sex couples—raised still more uncertainties about the meaning of motherhood and fatherhood and exposed children to new losses the adults never fathomed. The legalization of same-sex marriage, while sometimes seen as a small change affecting just a few people, raises the startling prospect of fundamentally breaking the legal institution of marriage from any ties to biological parenthood. Meanwhile, successes in the same-sex marriage debate have encouraged others who wish fully and completely to break open the two-person understanding of marriage and parenthood.

Here is where we are. In law and culture, the two-natural-parent, mother-father model is falling away, replaced with the idea that children are fine with any one or more adults being called their parents, so long as the appointed parents are nice people. This change is happening incrementally, largely led by self-appointed experts and advocates in a few fields. But it does not have to be this way. Those of us who are concerned can and should take up and lead a debate about the lives of children and the future of parenthood.

As we launch this conversation, a guiding principle could be this: When there is a clash between adult rights and children’s needs, the interests of the more vulnerable party—in this case, the children—should take precedence.111

A great deal of evidence supports the idea that children, on average, do best when raised by their own, married mother and father, with adoption as an important, pro-child, admirable alternative.

With regard to some newly visible family forms, such as families headed by gay or lesbian parents or those created using donor sperm, eggs, or surrogacy, we have more to learn more about the lasting, inner experience of the children.

To provide time and space for this conversation and for more research, this report also calls for a moratorium or a “time out” lasting five years. Until we better understand and prioritize the needs of children, no legislatures, courts, or commissions should press forward with recommendations or changes that broadly undermine the normative importance of mothers and fathers in the lives of children, nor should they support intentionally denying unborn children knowledge of and a relationship with their own mother and father. Rather, they should concentrate their energies on rigorous inquiry and active debate about the needs of children and the role of mothers and fathers in their lives.

The well-being of the world’s children calls us to act—not years from now but right now. For their sake, for those born and those yet to be born, we must be willing to launch a sometimes uncomfortable but urgent debate about the well-being of children born in an age that is rapidly redefining the meaning of parenthood. Nothing is inevitable. The time to act is now.


1. Key insights about the fragmentation of parenthood come from Dan Cere, Principal Investigator, The Future of Family Law: Law and the Marriage Crisis in North America, (New York: Institute for American Values, 2005), especially the section titled “Fragmenting Parenthood.”

2. Bill C-38 legalized same-sex marriage nationally in Canada. Same-sex marriage was already legal in seven Canadian provinces and one territory, including Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.

3. Reported as “Spanish birth certificates to account for gay couples,” on the, March 8, 2006. They cite an article from The Daily Telegraph in London. For further discussion, see also George Weigel, “Europe’s Two Culture Wars,” Commentary, May 2006. Weigel writes, “…Earlier this year [in Spain]…the Zapatero government, which had already legalized marriage between and adoption by same-sex partners and sought to restrict religious education in Spanish schools,
announced that the words ‘father’ and ‘mother’ would no longer appear on Spanish birth certificates. Rather, according to the government’s official bulletin, ‘the expression ‘father’ will be replaced by ‘Progenitor A,’ and ‘mother’ will be replaced by ‘Progenitor B.’’ As the chief of the National Civil Registry explained to the Madrid daily ABC, the change would simply bring Spain’s birth certificates into line with Spain’s legislation on marriage and adoption. More acutely, the Irish commentator David Quinn saw in the new regulations ‘the withdrawal of the state’s recognition of the role of mothers and fathers and the extinction of biology and nature.’”

4. New Zealand Law Commission, report 88, “New Issues in Legal Parenthood,” (April 2005, Wellington, New Zealand).

5. Victorian [Australia] Law Reform Commission, report on assisted reproductive technology, (April 2005, Melbourne, Australia), Section 2.35. In other words, the planned conception of children lacking a relationship with their own father or mother serves a social good of reducing the stigma felt by already-born children who do not live with their own father or own mother.

6. “Report of the Commission on Assisted Reproduction (Ireland),” April 2005.

7. Christine O’Rourke, quoted in “Reproduction report ‘too radical for legislation’” in The Sunday Times—Ireland, May 15, 2005, online edition.

8. “ICMR guidelines go a long way in curbing exploitation,” NewIndPress.Com, June 21, 2005, emphasis added.

9. Countless articles reported that banning donor anonymity had caused a sudden, drastic drop in men willing to donate sperm in Britain. But just recently the agency that regulates fertility clinics in Britain—the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority—refuted that claim, calling it a “myth” and saying the problem instead is “patchy provision” of sperm “across the country.” See “Sperm donor law not a deterrent,” BBC News, June 8, 2006, online edition. Nevertheless, the perception, real or not, is that it is very difficult to obtain donor sperm in Britain and extremely difficult to obtain donor eggs.

10. See “Sperm donor campaign launched,” DeHavilland, National News, January 26, 2005; “Every sperm donor recruited costs public £6,250, say critics,” News Telegraph, by Charlotte McDonald- Gibson, July 3, 2005, online edition. In the United States, the California Cryobank has been offering open identity sperm donation for nearly two decades. Some of the larger sperm banks in the U.S. are beginning to offer this option. See “Sperm donation process moving toward more openness in identifying fathers,” Pittsburgh Post Gazette, by Virginia Linn, August 24, 2005, online edition.

11. There is now pressure on the state to tax this growing business. “Taxman has eye on sperm,” The Copenhagen Post, June 3, 2005, article not available online. See also, “Danish tax may drain world’s top sperm bank,” China View, May 27, 2005. Coverage of Cryos prompted a spate of stories about blue-eyed, blonde “Viking babies” being born around the world.

12. “Insemination rights for lesbians,” via Reuters, June 2, 2006,10117,19346798-23109,00.html.

13. Thanh Nien News, “Doctors call for community sperm donation in Vietnam,” August 15 2005, reported by Thanh Tung, translated by Minh Phat.

14. Medical professionals used to urge infertility patients (who were almost always heterosexual married couples) to keep their use of donor sperm a secret, for their sake as well as their child’s. Now the trend is moving toward encouraging parents to be open with their children, but many parents remain reluctant to do so, especially when there is a (social) father in the family.

15. “Pressure on Sperm Donor Laws,” The Age, by Carol Nader, June 1, 2005, web edition; “Ad campaign planned for sperm donor kids,” Tanya Giles, June 2, 2005, Herald Sun, web edition; see also, “Revisiting a law that was ahead of its time,” The Age, June 6, 2005, editorial, which states that “by 1995, an estimated 10,000 Victorians had been born using donor sperm or eggs” and argues that the rights of children to know their genetic origins outweigh the rights of their parents to keep this information from them. Further coverage of the planned $100,000 ad campaign is found in Carol Nader, “Bid to ease trauma as donors seek children,” The Age, January 27, 2006, online edition.

16. Bob Egelko, “State Supreme Court upholds rights, responsibilities of same-sex parents,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 22, 2005, online edition; Adam Liptak, “California Ruling Expands Same- Sex Parental Rights,” New York Times, August 23, 2005, online edition; David Kravets, “California Court Protects Kids of Gay Couples,” Associated Press, August 23, 2005.

17. As Time magazine noted when the Supreme Court refused to hear a case from Washington State that granted de facto parental status to a mother’s lesbian ex-partner, “While we closely monitor how gay rights are granted and taken away, we pay almost no attention to the fact that stepparents are in the same legal limbo. Despite being ubiquitous, step-relationships are rarely recognized by the law. In most states, stepparents are considered ‘legal strangers’ even if they have cared for and supported a stepchild for years. They have almost no official responsibility and barely any rights.” Rulings on de facto parenthood are likely to unfold among heterosexuals in unexpected ways. Po Bronson, “Are Stepparents Real Parents?”, Time Magazine, May 17, 2006, online edition.

18. A subsequent decision denied the egg donor any relationship to the children. The surrogate mother was later awarded custody of the triplets; in a recent development a judge ordered that she must repay the biological father her surrogate fee as well as child support. (The surrogate mother and her husband already have other children and, while her husband does work, they appear to live on a limited income.) The surrogate mother took the triplets home against the biological father’s wishes after, she claims, he and his girlfriend did not name the children or visit them in the hospital for six days after seeing them when they were born. “Surrogate Mom Must Repay Biological Father,” AP, March 16, 2006.

19. A similar case, in which a mother now seeks child support for two-year-old twins fathered by a known sperm donor, was recently filed in the Chicago area. As in the Pennsylvania case, the biological mother and father worked out an informal arrangement for use of the sperm. To my knowledge, men who donate their sperm anonymously in clinics have not been held liable for child support in the United States.

20. Lawrence Kalikow, quoted in “PA legislators ponder laws for egg, sperm donors,” in Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 5, 2005, online edition.

21. The Ohio legislation is H.B. 102. In New Zealand a New Zealand Herald article, headlined “New hope for childless couples,” reports “In a significant social shift, embryos left over by couples who have successfully undergone in vitro fertilization (IVF) will be made available to others trying to have a child.” New Zealand Herald, by Stuart Dye, September 8, 2005, online edition.

22. Gov. Mitt Romney has opposed this idea and instead instructed hospitals in these cases to cross out the words “mother” or “father” and write in the phrase “second parent.” He added: “Look, each child has a mother and a father. They should have the right to have that mother and father known to them…” See “Massachusetts debates birth certificates for babies of same-sex couples,” Fox July 27, 2005.

23. In a “softer” example of this kind of thinking, a city in Australia, using state and federal funds, distributed a booklet called “We’re Here” to more than 2,000 day care centers which encouraged staff to challenge homophobia. Among its recommendations was to use the terms “Partner A and Partner B on forms instead of Mum and Dad.” Reported in the Herald Sun, August 5, 2005, by Susie O’Brien.

24. A recent article about the policy was on the front page of the Montreal Gazette, June 1, 2005.

25. Justice Paul Rivard of the Supreme Court of Justice, quoted in “Court rules lesbians can be co-mothers; Ontario given 12 months to change law,” by Tracey Tyler, Toronto Star, June 7, 2006. In Canada, the email newsletter produced by Diane Allen of the Infertility Network (based in Toronto) is a very helpful source for news items related to infertility, donor conception, adoption and reproductive/ genetic technologies in Canada and around the world. See

26. Note that in the area of adoption the question of revealing the identity of birth mothers is hotly contested, in part because of fears that loss of anonymity will discourage women from bringing the child to term.

27. Larry Fisher-Hertz, “Ulster gay couple wins legal battle; son’s birth certificate is changed,” Poughkeepsie Journal, January 19, 2006. The child was adopted in Virginia.

28. See “Emmett has two mommies: the next gay rights battle heads to court,” Portland Mercury News, April 9, 2006, online edition.

29. The English translation of the report, made available on the French report website, translated “le principe de precaution” as “a principle of caution,” but an ethicist fluent in English and French tells me that the more accurate translation in English is the commonly used term “precautionary principle.”

30. French National Assembly, “Parliamentary Report on the Family and the Rights of Children,” January 26, 2006.

31. The redefinition of parenthood also appears to be encountering some resistance in Finland. There, one article reports the nation is in the midst of “intense debate” about a bill that would impose regulations on fertility treatments. “Leading the assault against the bill were the opposition Christian Democrats, with the party’s chairwoman Paivi Rasanen in the vanguard. Her main argument was that fatherlessness for a child is worse than childlessness for an adult, and that therefore a child’s right to a father trumps other rights in the matter.” From “Opinions deeply polarized in parliamentary debate on fertility treatment bill,” Helsingin Sanomat, February 24, 2006, online edition. China also bans the sale of sperm or eggs and recently warned it will punish those who profit from surrogacy, but of course there are other significant concerns about China’s role in regulating reproduction, including coercive enforcement of the one-child policy.

32. See Debates at the time of the ratification make clear that treaty signatories understood “parents” to mean a child’s own mother and father. The United States has not signed the convention. For more on the convention, see Don Browning, “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Should It Be Ratified and Why?” Emory International Law Review, volume 20, no. 1, Spring 2006.

33. Elizabeth Marquardt, Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce (New York: Crown Publishers, 2005); Judith Wallerstein, Julia Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study (New York: Hyperion, 2000).

34. Donor-conceived people say that donor conception is very different from adoption. Adopted children know that their biological parents, for whatever reason, could not raise them. That knowledge can be painful. At the same time, they also know that the parents who adopted them saved them from the fate of having no family. By contrast, donor-conceived children know that the parents raising them are also the ones who, before conception, intentionally planned to deny them a relationship with (and often knowledge of the identity of) at least one of their biological parents. The pain they might feel was caused not by a distant, unknown biological parent who gave them up but by the parent who raised them and cares for them every day. This knowledge brings the loyalty and love children naturally feel for the parents raising them in direct conflict with the identity quest that most young people go through. When donor-conceived young people ask, “Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here?” they can confront a welter of painful uncertainties that our culture hasn’t begun to understand. For example, Joanna Rose, a doctoral student and donor-conceived adult in Australia, writes: “Our kinship was broken as part of a reproductive ‘service’ to the parents that raised us. Unlike the child placement principle now in effect in adoption this is not a last resort, nor could severed kinship be said to be in our best interests….” See

35. Tangled Webs is an organization based in Victoria, Australia that is organizing some of these donor-conceived young adults around the world. Another organization of donor-conceived adults was recently formed in Japan: “Japanese children of anonymous sperm donors seek support, right to truth,” from the Yomiuri Shimbun, reprinted in Fort Wayne News Sentinel, July 5, 2005, online edition.

36. “I want to know where I come from,” BBC News, April 26, 2005, online edition; “Sperm and the quest for identity,” BBC News, June 1, 2005, online edition; Nancy J. White, “Are you my father?” Toronto Star, April 16, 2005, online edition; Carol Nader, “My dad is my dad, but who gave the sperm?” The Age (Australia), June 3, 2005, online edition; Judith Graham, “Sperm donors’ offspring reach out into past,” Chicago Tribune, June 19, 2005, online edition, and more.

37. In the United States, see, a website started by a mother originally to help her donor-conceived son who wished to locate his half-siblings. It has since been featured on Good Morning America, The Today Show, Oprah, and many other programs. In Britain, see, a pilot voluntary information exchange and contact register funded by the Department of Health. Its mandate is to “encourage more donors, donor-conceived adults and their genetically related half-siblings to register with them and have the chance to make contact with each other.” See, “UK Donor Link Confirms Matches for Half-Siblings,” Medical News Today, June 1, 2005, online edition. Note that it is more than a little ironic that the British Health Service is funding recruitment efforts for sperm and egg donors and also funding attempts for donor-conceived adults to make contact with their donors and their half-siblings. The New Zealand government just began a similar donor registry service in August 2005: “The Human Assisted Reproductive Technology (HART) Register will record all future donations at fertility clinics which result in a birth, and information about earlier donors and births. It will allow future donors and their offspring to find out about each other, and will also give people involved in earlier donor treatments the chance to do the same if they all give consent.”,2106,3385637a7144,00.html. “New register for donors and donor offspring launched,” August 22, 2005.

38. The obvious absence of the biological father in families headed by single mothers by choice and lesbian couples appears to have prompted more openness among many of these mothers to telling their children they were conceived with donor sperm, but studies suggest that the majority of generally heterosexual, married women do not tell their children they were conceived with a donor egg. For one analysis, see Nancy Hass, “Whose Life Is it Anyway?” Elle Magazine, September 2005
issue. Among many astute observations in the piece, Hass notes that becoming pregnant with a donor egg is yet another way that ageing women can suggest they are still youthful. (Among married, heterosexual men, there are indications that use of donor sperm is declining because of increasingly effective treatments for male infertility.)

39. These terms were used by donor-conceived teenagers in Amy Harmon, “Hello, I’m Your Sister. Our Father is Donor 150,” New York Times, November 20, 2005, front page.

40. Joanna Rose, on the Family Scholars Blog.

41. See Abigail Gardner, Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is (New York: Harper Paperbacks, 2005).

42. One of the few studies of their attitudes is a small study by J.E. Scheib, M. Riordan, and S. Rubin, “Adolescents with open-identity sperm donors: reports from 12-17 year olds,” Human Reproduction volume 20 no. 1, (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, 2004), pp. 239-252. The majority of the teenagers who returned mail-back questionnaires reported that they would contact the donor because they believed it would help them learn more about themselves. They are reported to have felt “somewhat to very comfortable” about their origins. Very few said they wanted a “father/child relationship” with the sperm donor and none said they would ask him for money. (One of the primary concerns of this study was how open-identity sperm donation would impact the adults as well as the children, and most headlines reporting the study emphasized the “good news” for adults, such as this one: “Children ‘respect privacy’ of their sperm donor fathers,” News Telegraph, by Nic Fleming, December 11, 2004, online edition.) While the study findings merit consideration, a mail-in survey with check-the-box responses is not a particularly strong way to gauge the inner experience of young people. It is also problematic to survey teenage and younger children who are still living at home and very much dependent on their parents. In-person, lengthy interviews with independent young adults who are perhaps more open and reflective about their childhood experience might yield a different portrait, especially if the anecdotal stories from young adult donor-conceived people now emerging are any indication.

43. Narelle Grech and Joanna Rose posted their comments on the Family Scholars Blog

44. Quoted in Tom Sylvester, “‘Sperm Bank Baby’ to Meet Test Tube Dad”, National Fatherhood Initiative, Fatherhood Today, page 4, volume 7, issue 2, Spring 2003. Sources for the article included Brian Bergstein, “Woman to meet her father—a sperm donor,” Associated Press, January 30, 2002; Yomi S. Wronge, “P.A. teen to contact dad who was sperm donor,” Mercury News, January 20, 2002; Trisha Carlson, “Sperm bank baby to learn donor’s name,” KPIX Channel 5, February 1, 2002; and Tamar Abrams, “Test Tube Dad,” viewed on, April 1, 2002.

45. “I want to know where I come from,” BBC News, April 26, 2005, online edition.

46. Judith Graham, “Sperm donors’ offspring reach out into past,” Chicago Tribune, June 19, 2005, online edition.

47. Ibid.

48. “Japanese children of anonymous sperm donors seek support, right to truth,” from the Yomiuri Shimbun, reprinted in Fort Wayne News Sentinel, July 5, 2005, online edition. Also in Japan, a 39 year old donor-conceived woman told a reporter, “I feel that I came into this world for the sake of my mother. After she died, I started wondering if I had a reason to exist anymore.” She continued, “I can’t overcome the feeling that I wasn’t exactly born, but made.” (italics in article) See Tomoko Otake, “Lives in limbo,” The Japan Times, August 28, 2005, online edition.

49. Many donor-conceived adults raise the problem of having an unknown number of unknown half-siblings, both because they want to know about their other blood relations in their quest to understand who they are, and because they fear unknowingly dating offspring of one of their half-siblings). Since many children close in age could be conceived from the same sperm donor and live in relative proximity to the sperm bank, and since sharing half your genetic make-up with someone might make them seem especially “familiar” and attractive (especially if you did not know they were your blood relation) the fear of unknowingly dating a half-sibling is not unfounded. At the Family Scholars Blog, Narelle Grech, a donor-conceived adult, asks, “In the future, will we all have to have a DNA test when we start dating someone, ‘just in case’?” In a news article, one mother who used donor insemination says optimistically that her son will simply need to get DNA tests of partners once he starts “dating seriously.” See Kay Miller, “The legacy of donor 1047,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 21, 2005, online edition.

50. Dear Abby, San Jose Mercury News, January 2, 2005, web edition. In a terse, two sentence reply, Abby told the girl that the sperm donor “was doing a noble deed” and there is “no way to trace his identity.”

51. The response is akin to those who suggest to children of divorce that they should be grateful for their parents’ divorce because without it they would not have the new half-brother or half-sister who was born in a subsequent marriage. There is no rational or compassionate basis for suggesting to someone who is struggling to tell their own story that to do so is to wish away the existence of a human life, their own or someone else’s.

52. Blaine Hardin, “2-Parent Families Rise After Change in Welfare Laws,” New York Times, August 12, 2001.

53. For full citations, see Why Marriage Matters: 26 Conclusions from the Social Sciences, 2nd edition (New York: Institute for American Values, 2005). See also Robin Fretwell Wilson, “Evaluating Marriage: Does Marriage Matter to the Nurturing of Children” (San Diego Law Review, volume 42: 847- 881, 2005).

54. Girls in stepfamilies are slightly more likely to have a teenage pregnancy compared to girls in single-parent families, and much more likely to have a teenage pregnancy than girls in intact, married families. Children who grow up in stepfamilies are also more likely to marry as teenagers, compared to children who grow up in single-parent or intact, married families. (See Why Marriage Matters, footnotes 36 and 37.) In regard to educational achievement, children whose parents remarry do not fare better, on average, than do children who live with single mothers. (See Why Marriage Matters, footnote 84.) One recent study finds that boys in raised in single-parent homes are about twice as likely, and boys raised in stepfamilies are more than two and a half times as likely, to have committed a crime that leads to incarceration by the time they reach their early thirties. (See Why Marriage Matters, footnote 130.) Teens in both one-parent and remarried homes display more deviant behavior and commit more delinquent acts than do teens whose parents have stayed married. (See Why Marriage Matters, footnote 131.) Children living with single mothers, mothers’ boyfriends, or stepfathers are more likely to become victims of child abuse. (See Why Marriage Matters, footnotes 153-155.)

55. Some same-sex marriages will involve children from previous unions and in that sense will be very much like stepfamilies. Other same-sex marriages that form before children are born or adopted might in some ways parallel an intact, heterosexual marriage, but even in these unions at least one parent will not be a biological parent to the child, much like stepfamilies (or heterosexual adoptive families).

56. Robin Fretwell Wilson writes, “These studies of fractured families differ in their estimates of the percentage of girls molested during childhood. However, regardless of whether the precise number is 50% or even half that, the rate is staggering and suggests that girls are at much greater risk after divorce than we might have imagined.” She continues, “Despite these studies, the idea that so many girls in fractured families report childhood sexual abuse strains credulity. Nevertheless, with more than seventy social science studies confirming the link between divorce and molestation, there is little doubt that the risk is indeed real. As difficult as it is to accept, a girl’s sexual vulnerability skyrockets after divorce, with no indication that this risk will subside.” In “Children at Risk: The Sexual Exploitation of Female Children after Divorce,” 86 Cornell Law Review 251: January 2001, p. 256.

57. Joseph H. Beitchman, et al, “A Review of the Short-Term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse,” 15 Child Abuse and Neglect 537, 550 (1991), cited in Robin Fretwell Wilson, footnote 9.

58. Martin Daly and Margot Wilson, 1996. “Evolutionary Psychology and Marital Conflict: The Relevance of Stepchildren,” in Sex, Power, Conflict: Evolutionary and Feminist Perspectives, eds. David M. Buss and Neil M. Malamuth (Oxford: Oxford University Press): 9-28, cited in Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-One Conclusions from the Social Sciences, published by the Center of the American Experiment, the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, and the Institute for American Values (2002).

59. Cites W.D. Hamilton, “Significance of paternal investment by primates to the evolution of adult male-female associations, in D.M. Taub, ed., Primate Paternalism (New York: Van Nostrand, 1964), pp. 309-335.

60. Cites M.S. Smith, “Research in developmental sociobiology: Parenting and family behavior,” in K.B. MacDonald, ed., Sociobiological Perspectives on Human Development (New York: Springer- Verlag, 1988), pp. 271-292.

61. David Popenoe, “The Evolution of Marriage and the Problem of Stepfamilies: A Biosocial Perspective,” in Alan Booth and Judy Dunn, eds., Stepfamilies: Who Benefits? Who Does Not? (Hilldale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994), pp. 3-27.

62. See “Do Mothers and Fathers Matter? The Social Science Evidence on Marriage and Child Well- Being,” iMapp Policy Brief, February 27, 2004 (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Marriage and Public Policy), which includes full citations.

63. Affidavit of Stephen Lowell Nock, Halpern v. Attorney General of. Canada, No. 684/00 (Ont. Sup. Ct. of Justice).

64. See “Do Mothers and Fathers Matter? The Social Science Evidence on Marriage and Child Well- Being,” iMapp Policy Brief, February 27, 2004 (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Marriage and Public Policy).

65. Approximately two-thirds of divorces end low-conflict marriages; about one-third of divorces end high-conflict marriages. See Paul R. Amato and Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), p. 220.

66. “Family Vacation,” by Michael Leahy, Washington Post Magazine, June 19, 2005, online edition. Examples of other media coverage of the same story includes, “Anonymous Sperm Donor Meets Kids,” CBS News, New York, August 23, 2005, online at

67. See

68. Http:// Note that the term “co-parent” evolved amid the divorce revolution as mothers and fathers were urged to be effective “co-parents” in the wake of their split. The term is now also commonly used to describe situations in which two or more men and women (who may be gay or straight)—long before the birth of a child—plan to conceive and raise a child together without being in a romantic relationship with one another and usually without living together.

69. The ad listed a PO Box and advised, “Must be white, in good health, no family history of ADD or ADHD please.” Website viewed July 12, 2005.

70. “Baby Mamas,” by Rodney Thrash, St. Petersburg Times, May 6, 2005 online edition.

71. “All About Eves,” by Anne A. Jambora, Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 8, 2005, online edition.

72. See Sara Butler Nardo, “De Facto Parenthood: The reformers’ latest unwholesome innovation in family law,” The Weekly Standard, March 6, 2006. She argues the courts are operating on a “circular definition” in which “a parent is a person who performs the function of a parent….” In November 2005, Washington State was the most recent to award psychological parent status to a parent’s expartner (in this case, a mother’s ex-girlfriend); the opinion is available here For a rebuttal to the Nardo article, see Dahlia Lithwick, “Why courts are adopting gay parenting,” Washington Post opinion piece, March 12, 2006, B02.

73. See Po Bronson, “Are Stepparents Real Parents?”, Time Magazine, May 17, 2006, online edition, for an examination of the Washington State de facto parent case and its implications for the approximately one-third of Americans who live in stepfamilies.

74. Frances Gibb, “Mother loses her children to former lesbian partner,” The Times Online, April 7, 2006.

75. Of course it is heartbreaking to see a parent alienate a child from someone to whom the child is close. Unfortunately, it can happen in all kinds of situations, for instance, when mothers alienate their children from their ex-husband’s parents; parents alienate their children from loving aunts or uncles; parents abruptly dismiss nannies who the children have come to love, and so on. The law is largely unable to heal these disappointments, and the attempt to do so—with the state intervening further in private decisions made by mothers and fathers that are not resulting in abuse or neglect of children—is likely to do children overall more harm than good. Further, if same-sex couples in some states are encountering discrimination in accessing second-parent adoption (that is, if they are finding the process more onerous than heterosexual couples pursuing the same status), or if the option is not available in some states, then the appropriate response is to fix the problems in second-parent adoption and not to resort broadly to an entirely different, after-the-fact category called “psychological” parent.

76. A company called Family Evolutions in New Jersey, owned by a lesbian couple with children, has created a t-shirt and bib for children which reads, “My Daddy’s Name is Donor.” (Their young son is pictured in the t-shirt on their website.) See Elizabeth Marquardt, “Kids need a real past: Children with donor parents suffer when those raising them downplay their origins,” op-ed in Chicago Tribune, May 15, 2005. Available at

77. “Egg donor has parental rights, courts say,” AP article in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 10, 2005, online edition.

78. In the United States, Harvard University recently announced plans to begin privately funded stem cell research, joining the University of California at San Francisco and a few private companies. These teams are working to clone human embryos that are genetically matched to patients.

79. Increasingly the distinction between “therapeutic” and “reproductive” cloning appears to be dropped in the media—and, to hear some tell it, only extreme conservatives oppose cloning. For instance, on NPR the scholar Alan Wolfe said that Pope Benedict is on the “far right” because he opposes, among other things, “cloning.” Similarly, in a column Maureen Dowd said that one of the many serious concerns about the new Pope is that he “once called cloning ‘more dangerous than
weapons of mass destruction.’”

80. Alok Jha, “Process holds out hope for childless couples,” Guardian, May 20, 2005, online edition.

81. Ibid.

82. A young woman in Britain recently died from ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS), the most common high-risk side effect of egg donation. Another young woman who developed OHSS and suffered a stroke and brain damage just won a large lawsuit in Britain.

83. Mark Henderson, “Cloning team calls for IVF egg donations,” Times Online, May 31, 2005; “Cloning research egg donor plan: women could be allowed to donate their eggs for therapeutic cloning research under new rules to be considered by fertility watchdog,” BBC News Online, February 14, 2006. In July of 2006 the fertility regulatory authority granted a team of scientists from Newcastle and Durham Universities permission to contribute to the costs of a patient’s IVF treatment in return for receiving some of her eggs for use in therapeutic cloning research. See Andrew Douglas, “Human egg donor boost for stem cell research,” The Northern Echo, July 27, 2006, online edition.

84. In Japan in 2004, scientists created a mouse from the genetic material of two females—in other words, a mouse with two genetic mothers and no genetic father. To do so, they created over 450 embryos of which 370 were implanted and ten were born alive. Only one survived to adulthood. The others died of a range of birth defects. See Bijal P. Trivedi ,“The End of Males? Mouse Made to Reproduce Without Sperm” National Geographic News, April 21, 2004, online edition. How can anyone even consider experimenting with human embryos and children in this way?

85. James Meikle, “Sperm and eggs could be created from stem cells, says new study,” Guardian, June 2, 2005, online edition.

86. Maxine Firth, “Stem cell babies could have single parent,” New Zealand Herald, June 21, 2005, online edition.

87. Milanda Rout, “Doing away with donors,” Herald Sun (Australia), June 21, 2005, online edition.

88. “Stem cell research may provide hope to gay couples,” at, June 30, 2005. An example of news coverage later in the year included Hannah Seligson, “Science’s hope of two genetic dads; stem cell research could soon enable both partners in gay, lesbian couples to pitch in,” at Gay City News, September 8-14, 2005 issue, online edition. The article quotes a physician (not involved with the research) saying that “gay and lesbian couples often have to ‘deal with the
issue of not being a genetic parent and that can be tough for that parent.’” The reporter writes, “The hope is that this new discovery could alleviate that component of stress for gay and lesbian couples starting families.” The article does not address the possibility of serious health (or other) risks for these embryos or children.

89. Roger Highfiel and Nic Fleming, “Scientists create human embryo without a fathe

90. Mark Henderson, “Scientists win right to create human embryo with three genetic parents,”Times Online, September 9, 2005.

91. In her article, “Where Babies Come From: Supply and Demand in an Infant Marketplace,” Harvard Business Review, February 2006, pp. 133-142, author Debora L. Spar suggests that market regulation of the fertility industry in the U.S. could, among other things, assure equity (for adults). She writes, “Legislators…could decide that having children is a basic right and that society therefore needs to find some way to provide at least one child to everyone who wants to be a parent.” (p. 140) Spar does not claim necessarily to support this idea but neither does she oppose it. This suggestion is the clearest articulation yet of the adult right to a child, taken to its most logical—and chilling—conclusion.

92. When confronted by the specter of group marriage; increasing use of donor sperm and eggs or surrogacy; new advances in reproductive technology, and the like, some who support same-sex marriage argue that heterosexuals are almost wholly responsible for this revolution in marriage and parenthood given their rampant divorce, unwed childbearing, and initial use of sperm and egg donors and surrogates in reproduction. As Stephanie Coontz wrote in a New York Times op-ed (“The Heterosexual Revolution,” July 5, 2005), “Gays and lesbians simply looked at the revolution heterosexuals had wrought and noticed that with its new norms, marriage could work for them, too.” These critics are partly right. Heterosexuals have certainly done a fine job of messing with marriage and parenthood. (Most of my time is spent researching the impact of divorce on children.) But here is where the critics are wrong: None of the other legal and social changes so far have required a legal redefinition of marriage. Same-sex marriage requires legally redefining the institution with gender neutral terms that make law and culture unable to affirm children’s real needs for their mother and their father (instead law and culture can only affirm that children need “two parents”). Because the vast majority of children in the population are born to heterosexuals, not homosexuals, silencing the dialogue about the importance of mothers and fathers will negatively affect mainly and overwhelmingly that far larger group of children. To raise the troubling and perhaps even unintended consequences of legalizing same-sex marriage is not meant to stigmatize same-sex couples raising children. These couples are and will continue to raise children. I do believe they need social and legal protections for themselves and their children and they should certainly not be denied the children born to them. But there could be significant unintended consequences for the vast majority of children born to heterosexuals when we edit mothers and fathers out of marriage and family law.

93. Much of this section was published in Elizabeth Marquardt, “The Future of Polygamy: Two Mommies and a Daddy,” Christian Century, July 25, 2006.

94. Reid J. Epstein, “Whole lotta love; ‘Polyamorists’ go beyond monogamy,” Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel, September 12, 2004, online edition.

95. Trevor Stokes, Columbia News Service, “A poly life: monogamy with more partners,” Chicago Tribune, viewed February 24, 2006, online edition.

96. See Dan Cere, The Future of Family Law.

97. In a bid for greater public attention for their argument that marriage rights should be extended not just to same-sex couples but to any group of caring adults (who might or might not be in a conjugal relationship), 250 U.S. academic and social leaders (including many notables) released a statement at the end of July of 2006 titled “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision For All Our Families and Relationships.” For the executive summary, full statement, and list of signatories, see

98. See their website at “Hot topics” are listed at left.

99. See

100. Http:// For me, one of the most disturbing ideas in all this is the all-too-common assumption that when adults begin a sexual and/or live-in relationship they become “parents” to each other’s already-born children. Children with single or divorced heterosexual parents will tell you that their parent having sex with someone does not make the child automatically see that person as a parent. Even marriage (as in stepfamilies) does not automatically create (legally or psychologically) a parent-child relationship. Trusting, parent-like bonds between stepparent and stepchild typically take time to form, if they form at all. Moreover, a stepparent must formally adopt a child in order to become a legal parent to that child (and before the adoption can proceed the parental rights of the child’s other parent must be revoked, a grueling process when undertaken by the courts).

102. Http:// At the same site another mother writes that she has a “simple rule” for her 12 year old when he visits: “What happens at Mommy’s house stays at Mommy’s house if you want to keep visiting Mommy.”

104. Http://

105. Elise Soukup, “Polygamists, Unite! They used to live quietly, but now they’re making noise,” Newsweek, March 15, 2006, online edition.

106. Felicia R. Lee, “Real Polygamists Look at HBO Polygamists; In Utah, Hollywood Seems Oversexed,” New York Times, March 28, 2006, Arts Section, online edition.

107. Robert H. Frank, “Polygamy and the Marriage Market: Who Would Have the Upper Hand?,” New York Times, March 16, 2006, Business Section, online edition.

108. John Tierney, Who’s Afraid of Polygamy? New York Times, March 11, 2006.

109. Stanley Kurtz, “Polygamy versus democracy; you can’t have both,” The Weekly Standard, 06/05/2006, Volume 011, Issue 36, online edition. Stanley Kurtz’s columns at National Review Online have documented many events and emerging arguments relating to polyamory and polygamy. See for example his column, “Big Love, from the Set: I’m taking the people behind the new series at their word,” March 13, 2006 at National Review Online.

110. See Sylviane Agacinski, Parity of the Sexes, translated by Lisa Walsh, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), especially the chapter titled, “The Double Origin,” pp. 99-110.

111. For a fuller discussion of this principle and the problems surrounding the redefinition of parenthood that accompanies the deinstitutionalization of marriage, see David Blankenhorn, The Future of Marriage (New York: Encounter Books, November 2006), especially the chapter titled “Goods in Conflict.”


Filed under Same Sex Marriage, Strengthening Families

2001: Love and Marriage: A combination necessarily exclusive to a man and a woman / Stanley Kurtz

This article by Stanley Kurtz on the meaning and operation of heterosexual love and marriage is a reminder of its cruciality to each generation, and a necessary prelude to understanding why moves to regularize homosexual or gay marriage is so destructive to it.

See the original at this link on the National Review website.

Thanks much,

Steve St.Clair
Love and Marriage: A combination necessarily exclusive to a man and a woman
By Stanley Kurtz
July 30, 2001, 8:30 a.m.
Let’s talk about sex. That’s the one thing proponents of same-sex marriage don’t seem to want to discuss. Yet sex has everything to do with the debate over gay marriage, and over the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, which defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman. Until we face certain truths about sex — I mean heterosexual sex — we will never understand the real implications of the movement for same-sex marriage.

This was brought home to me with stunning clarity by William Raspberry’s column, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” in last Friday’s Washington Post. Raspberry bemoans the near total absence of rules of courtship — indeed the absence of courtship itself — from our college campuses.

Building on what he’s seen over several years as a college teacher, but even more so on a new report entitled, “

Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right: College Women on Dating and Mating Today,” Raspberry chastises parents and college administrators for having abandoned college women to the false equality of meaningless sex with men.

Although a majority of female students expect to meet their future husbands on campus — and expect the marriages to last — the campus culture of “hooking up” (quick, no-strings sexual encounters) makes those marriages impossible to achieve. These women are out of their minds, says Raspberry, to think that hooking up can ever lead to a wedding ring or a long-lasting marriage. But Raspberry reserves his greatest scorn for the adults who’ve effectively deserted their children by failing to teach or enforce reasonable rules of courtship.

In repudiating the bogus claim of sexual “equality” implicit in the culture of no-strings sex, Raspberry offers a remarkable statement: “I don’t doubt for a minute that women’s control of sex helped to tame men, to focus their attention and make them suitable for, and amenable to, marriage.”

Now nothing in that statement would have been remarkable a generation ago. And it’s certainly arresting that Raspberry is publicly willing to affirm today what ought to be obvious: that men and women approach sex differently, and that women, by waiting, help men to yoke together love and sex in a way that leads to and strengthens marriage. But what’s truly interesting about Raspberry’s column is that he wrote it after penning a piece only last year expressing puzzlement that anyone could find gay marriage a threat to marriage itself.

Raspberry wasn’t being dense — just honest. Marriage is one of those institutions we take for granted. The rationale for marriage isn’t so much written down somewhere as buried in the thing itself. That’s why neither Raspberry, nor other right-thinking liberals, can see the connection between the rise of the movement for gay marriage and the decline of heterosexual courtship and marriage. But the link is there.

In one way or another, the rules of courtship and marriage are all a way of insisting that, in matters of sex, men and women are different. And since courtship and marriage depend for their successful operation upon an ethos of sexual complementarity, people who imbibe the ethos of courtship can’t help but feel that there’s something not quite right about the idea of a homosexual marriage.

You can certainly argue that our growing tolerance for homosexuality is worth some weakening in the ethos of courtship, marriage, and sexual complementarity. But painful as it is to acknowledge, it’s a terrible mistake to pretend that our increased tolerance for homosexuality isn’t related to the weakening of modern marriage. It’s no coincidence that on the same college campuses where men and women “hook up” as though there were no real differences between them — as though they might as well be two men — it is forbidden to openly oppose same-sex marriage.

Yet for all that, William Raspberry still can’t see the contradiction between his call for a renewed acknowledgment of sexual difference in courtship and his inability a year ago to see the harmful effects of homosexual marriage upon the institution of marriage itself. How can we revitalize an ethos of courtship based upon the sexual complementarity of men and women while simultaneously declaring that marriage itself has nothing whatsoever to do with the differences between the sexes?

A world of same-sex marriages is a world of no-strings heterosexual hookups and 50 percent divorce rates. The divorce revolution, the sexual revolution, and the homosexual-rights movement all emerged simultaneously in the sixties, and the entirely related advances in these three social movements explain why we are on the verge of legalized same-sex marriage today. Again, you can argue that the gains in freedom and tolerance are worth it, but don’t try tell me that the costs to marriage — and to children — of our new cultural mode aren’t real.

Yet that’s exactly what Jonathan Rauch tried to tell us, in a critique of the Federal Marriage Amendment in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal, the very same day that Raspberry’s column on “hooking up” appeared in the Post. Rauch, a senior writer for National Journal, and one of the wisest observers of the Washington scene, is a chief exponent, along with journalist Andrew Sullivan, of the “conservative” case for gay marriage. For Rauch, same-sex marriage is a win-win-win proposition: good for homosexuals, good for heterosexuals, and good for marriage itself.

That’s because Rauch believes that marriage will help to transmute the sometimes fleeting love that gay couples feel for one another into stable and lasting commitments — just as it does for heterosexual couples — all the while strengthening, rather than weakening, the institution of marriage itself. But Rauch misses the fact that it’s women — not marriage as such — who make men, in William Raspberry’s words, “suitable for, and amenable to, marriage.”

It is the unique sexual dynamic between men and women that domesticates men. Marriage ratifies and reinforces the basic effect, but cannot create it out of whole cloth. The ethos of marriage builds upon a series of shared and pre-existing expectations about the way a man ought to treat a woman — because of her sexual vulnerability, and because of her need for support as a mother.

So contrary to Rauch’s hopes, simply redefining the union of two men as a “marriage” will not bring those social expectations into play. Whether the relationship is called marriage or not, if a man sleeps around on another man, or fails to offer him financial support, he will not be condemned as a cad or a shirker. Indeed, a substantial number of gay couples openly reject such expectations and declare that their interest in marriage is confined to its economic and legal benefits. More than this, many homosexuals look to same-sex marriage as an opportunity to intentionally subvert the ethic of sexual fidelity and ethos of sexual complementarity that they consider keys to the “oppressiveness” of marriage itself. So contrary to Rauch’s soothing promises, same-sex marriage will seriously undermine the ethos of marriage, without significantly stabilizing gay relationships in return.

The truth is, but for a few exceptional conservatives such a Rauch and Sullivan (and in some ways, even for them), the movement for gay marriage has little to do with an expanded regard for marriage and everything to do with an attempt to gain social approval for homosexuality. In effect, marriage is being “used” to send a message that has little to do with the institution itself — without anyone having honestly faced the real and harmful consequences to children and families of the change.

That’s why advocates of gay marriage and opponents of the Federal Marriage Amendment want to talk about civil rights, states rights, federalism, even love — anything but sex. Marriage springs directly from the ethos of heterosexual sex. Once marriage loses its connection to the differences between men and women, it can only start to resemble a glorified and slightly less temporary version of hooking up. And in the end, it is children who will pay the price.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Leave a comment

Filed under Same Sex Marriage, Strengthening Families

2003: The Libertarian Question: Incest, Homosexuality, and Adultery / Stanley Kurtz

in 2003, when the discussions taking place on the subject of Gay Marriage in the state of Massachussetts, Stanley Kurtz of the Hoover Institute at Stanford University generated a series of articles on the subject in National Review that was in my opinion second to none, and certainly has not been surpassed by any family-values thinker since. I’m adding them to my posts for people to use as resources, including myself.

This particular article answers perfectly the Libertarian Question, that gay marriage does not hurt others, and shows how it does using the idea that the three necessary attributes of traditional marriage would be destroyed by society’s acceptance of Incest, homosexuality, and adultery. This is why societies always have, and need to have, taboos on these three things.

See the original of this article on the National Review website at this link.

Thanks much,
Steve St.Clair

The Libertarian Question
Incest, homosexuality, and adultery.
April 30, 2003, 9:35 a.m.

here is a mystery at the heart of the gay-marriage debate. I call it the “libertarian question.” The libertarian question (really a series of questions) goes like this: Why should any form of adult consensual sex be illegal? What rational or compelling interest does the state have in regulating consensual adult sex? More specifically, how does the marriage of two gay men undermine my marriage? Will the fact that two married gay men live next door make me leave my wife? Hardly. So how, then, does gay marriage undermine heterosexual marriage? Why not get the state out of such matters altogether?

The libertarian question is mysterious because, in modern society, we find it difficult to understand the continuing necessity of shared moral standards — and of collective taboos against actions that violate those standards. Traditional societies depend on shared moral sentiments and collective taboos. Modern democracies, for the most part, have rejected these forms of collective morality in favor of an emphasis on personal freedom. Yet the truth is, although their workings are mysterious to us, shared moral codes (and a structure of taboos that guards those codes) can never be entirely dispensed with.

Let’s approach the libertarian question about gay marriage from a new angle. The flap over Senator Rick Santorum’s remarks has raised the question of incest. If homosexual sex is declared private, why won’t consensual adult incest fall under the same sort of protection? (In raising this question, Sen. Santorum was simply echoing Justice Byron White’s decision in Bowers v. Hardwick.)

In his very useful exploration of the consensual incest problem, (See “Incest Repellent?” and “Incest Repellent, Continued.”) William Saletan points to a case of incest in which a woman was drawn into a sexual relationship with her uncle while she was still a minor, but continued that relationship as an adult. The woman was found guilty of incest and sentenced to supervised probation. After violating probation (presumably to return to her uncle) she was sentenced to five years in jail. Why should this woman have been jailed?

The prevalence of consensual adult incest is difficult to judge. It may be relatively rare. The deeper problem, of course, is the sexual abuse of children by older family members. The impossibility of real consent, as well as the potential psychological damage in cases of incestuous child abuse, are matters of very serious concern. But incestuous child abuse can obviously be made illegal. What is wrong with consensual adult incest?

Let’s return to the libertarian question. If a man happens to walk around town arm and arm with his adult niece, is that going to make me abuse my teenaged niece? In most cases, probably not. Clearly, however, there is a connection. Our collective horror at incest-even adult incest-acts as a protective barrier against the temptation to incest with minors. The very real dangers of child abuse within families shows us that a significant number of people are potentially susceptible to sexual interest in the children under their control. Our collective taboo on incest, as expressed in our laws, helps to offset that potential temptation.

The mechanism here is embodied in the law, but goes well beyond the mere mechanical workings of the law. The real mechanism is collective and psychological. The law on incest expresses a shared moral value. It is a collective statement. As such, it reinforces a sense of disgust that helps to ward off temptation.

To see the mechanism of our incest taboo at work, imagine a world in which consensual adult incest was legal. Once we see or hear of couples — even a relatively small number — who engage in legal, consensual, adult incestuous relationships, the whole idea of incest with minors becomes thinkable. Preventing incest with minors from becoming thinkable is the purpose of the taboo.

The reason we need an incest taboo is because there is no effective way for the state to protect children from sexual abuse by family members. Children are essentially at the mercy of the adults who care for them. So only by building into adults a psychological mechanism of disgust and horror at incest can society protect children from the psychological harm of abuse by close relatives. The taboo runs deeper than the law itself. Yet the law embodies and reinforces the taboo. Were the law to be eliminated — even for consenting adults only — the taboo on incest with minors would be weakened, or break down-maybe not in all families, or even most, but for far too many.

The taboo against homosexuality works in a similar fashion. But what, exactly, does the taboo on homosexuality protect? There is more than one way to approach that question, but the short answer is: The taboo on homosexuality protects marriage. Or, to look at the same problem from a slightly different angle, the institution of Western marriage, in its most traditional form, has been protected by a many-sided taboo against all sexuality outside of its confines — and against non-procreative sexuality within it. Just as the taboo on incest reduces the temptation to child abuse, the taboo on non-marital and non-reproductive sexuality helps to cement marital unions, and helps prevent acts of adultery that would tear those unions apart.

As an ultimate symbol of sexuality for the sake of pleasure (rather than reproduction) homosexuality has traditionally been taboo. That taboo was embodied and expressed in sodomy laws. Rigorous enforcement of these laws was secondary — and in any case, next to impossible. The important thing was the statement of collective values made by the laws against sodomy. By making homosexuality taboo, the law reinforced the idea that the highest and proper purpose of sexuality itself was to bind and energize families.

Of course, over the last 30 years, the taboo on homosexuality, like the broader taboo on a purely pleasure-seeking sexuality inside and outside the confines of marriage, has substantially broken down. And it’s not surprising that, as a consequence of our changed understanding of sexuality, the rates of divorce and out of wedlock birth have dramatically risen. Of course, at the same time as the divorce rate has risen, the weakening of the old taboos has substantially increased our personal freedom. And our new sexual freedom has benefited no one more than homosexuals, who no longer serve, in nearly the degree they once did, as ultimate symbols of forbidden sexuality.

On balance, I think we as a society have gained much from the weakening of the old sexual taboos, although it is important to keep in mind that we are in fact dealing with a trade-off here. Traditional sexual taboos protect marriage, and their weakening cannot help but weaken marriage — even as they increase personal freedom. But again, on balance, I believe that at least some of the weakening in the old sexual system has been worth the trade-off.

What we need to understand — but do not — is that gay marriage will undermine the structure of taboos that continue to protect heterosexual marriage — and will do so far more profoundly than either the elimination of sodomy laws, or the general sexual loosening of the past thirty years. Above all, marriage is protected by the ethos of monogamy — and by the associated taboo against adultery. The real danger of gay marriage is that it will undermine the taboo on adultery, thereby destroying the final bastion protecting marriage: the ethos of monogamy.

Gay marriage threatens monogamy in two ways. First, gay marriage threatens monogamy because homosexual couples — particularly male homosexual couples — tend to see monogamy as nonessential, even to the most loyal and committed relationships. Of course, advocates argue that legal gay marriage will change all that — that marriage will make gays more monogamous. But it is just as likely (indeed, far more likely) that the effect will go in the other direction — openly non-monogamous married gay couples will break the connection between marriage and monogamy. (For more on this, see the NRO Gay-Marriage Debate, particularly my, “Point of No Return.”)

Even more powerfully, gay marriage threatens monogamy through its tendency to lead, on a slippery slope, to the legalization of polygamy and polyamory. (For more on this, see my Commentary article, “What Is Wrong With Gay Marriage.”

It’s important to understand what the danger of openly non-monogamous gay marriages, and of legalized polygamy and polyamory, really is. The key problem here is not, say, that polygamous marriages are unfair or exploitative to women. (That is a legitimate concern, of course, but it is not the greatest social danger posed by legalized polygamy.) The real problem is the effect of openly non-monogamous gay unions, and of legalized polygamy and polyamory, on the ethos of monogamy.

Even in the wake of the sexual-cultural changes of the Sixties, there is still a strong consensus in our society that marriage means monogamy. That consensus is expressed in the taboo on adultery. Legal recognition for group marriage, and for openly non-monogamous gay unions, would effectively destroy the taboo on adultery. That doesn’t meant that everyone would instantly go out and commit adultery — any more than everyone exposed to legal incestuous unions between consenting adults would engage in child abuse. But there would be a significant social effect — and it would be over and above the weakening of marriage that has already occurred in the wake of the changes since the Sixties.

The libertarian asks, Just because two married gay men live next door, is that going to make me leave my wife? In a way, the answer is “Yes.” For one thing, as a new generation grows up exposed to gay couples who openly define their marriages in non-monogamous terms, the concept of marriage itself will gradually change. No doubt, movies and television in a post-gay-marriage world will be filled with stories of the “cutting edge” understandings of open marriage being pioneered by the new gay couples, even if the actual number of such married gay couples is relatively small.

A large segment of the gay community looks forward to gay marriage for precisely this reason. Many thoughtful gay activists see same-sex marriage as a chance to redefine marriage itself — stripping marriage of what they see as its outdated and constricting connection to monogamy. And of course, even more powerfully than openly non-monogamous gay marriages, legalized group marriage would destroy the taboo against adultery. (Lot’s of potential for movies and TV there.)

Still, the libertarian asks, Would the group marriage next door really make me leave my wife? Maybe not. Of course, the married commune next door might invite the two of you over for some fun, with potentially problematic results for your marriage. But even that is not the real problem. The deeper difficulty is simply the breaking of the taboo on adultery. Sodomy laws were barely enforced, yet they made a collective statement about social attitudes toward non-marital and non-reproductive sexuality. Similarly, incest laws are rarely invoked. Yet their existence reinforces the horror of incest, and helps prevent the sort of violations that make incestuous temptation thinkable.

So the mere social statement that marriage does not mean monogamy is where the real danger of legalized gay-marriage and polyamory lie. And the collapse of consensus about shared social institutions really does effect us as individuals. Once we as a society no longer take it for granted that marriage means monogamy, you may not decide to leave your wife. But you may be more likely to give in to the temptation of an affair. And that could mean the end of your marriage, whether that’s what you wanted going into the affair or not. (For another way of looking at this problem, see my, “Code of Honor,” where I compare the operation of the taboo against adultery to the working of a college’s anti-cheating honor code.)

As with the taboos on incest and sodomy, society can’t enforce the taboo on adultery with laws. Laws on matters of sexual conduct do make a difference, but less as enforcement mechanisms than as embodiments of common values. Precisely because the state cannot monitor and prosecute adultery, society writes a taboo against the practice into our hearts. The laws of marriage as currently constituted embody and express that taboo. Transform those laws, and the taboo will disappear.

The ongoing need for shared social understandings on matters pertaining to the family and sexuality does not fit neatly into the libertarian playbook. Social and sexual taboos are the stuff of traditional societies. But the truth is, so long as we live, not merely as isolated individuals, but in families together, we shall be in need of social and sexual taboos.

If the controversy over Senator Rick Santorum’s remarks has made it possible to openly discuss the real basis of our shared social and sexual understandings, then it will have done some good. Unlike Sen. Santorum, I would rather accept some disruption in family stability than go back to the days when homosexuality itself was deeply tabooed. The increase in freedom and fairness is worth it. Yet there has been a terrible social cost for the changes of the sixties. We need to mitigate those costs. And we certainly do not need to risk the destruction of an already weakened family system by radically undermining the ethos of monogamy.

Gay marriage would set in motion a series of threats to the ethos of monogamy from which the institution of marriage may never recover. Yet up to now, our society has been unable to face the real costs and consequences of the proposed change. That is partly because of an understandable sympathy for the gay-rights movement. But it also reflects the sheer inability of modern folk to grasp the operation, necessity — or even the existence — of the system of moral consensus and prohibition upon which society itself depends.

— Stanley Kurtz is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Leave a comment

Filed under Same Sex Marriage, Strengthening Families