It's time to think about the children (National Post, February 5, 2005)

Not long ago I was seated at dinner beside an Ontario family law judge. I asked what his position was on adoption equity for gays. Would he, once gay marriage was entrenched, and in keeping with our government's current equity legislation in the workplace, feel obliged to fast-track gays' access to available children to make up for "past injustices" and their "disability" on the procreative front? And what about a single mother willing to give up her child for adoption, provided the baby went to a heterosexual couple? Whose rights would be privileged, hers or those of gay adoptive applicants?

The judge paused, then said, "I haven't ever really thought about it." Eventually the judge opined that a gay married couple's rights should trump a biological mother's right to have her child raised in a normative family. And on further reflection, he decided, he would also be partial to equity adoption policies for gays.

I know why the judge was caught off guard. Up until now, the gay marriage debate has focused on the rights of adults. The gay marriage bill arose from the conviction amongst our political and ideological elites that the raison d'etre for marriage was romantic attachment, not procreation. Once the bill passes, the focus will shift from "what is marriage?" to "what is family?"

In passing the gay marriage bill, our government will confer rights on homosexuals that all democracies, except two other extremely liberal ones, and the United Nations itself have considered at length and rejected. As McGill bioethicist Margaret Somerville recently noted, Article 16 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, "Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and found a family (my emphasis)," not "two people of full age" and not "to marry and sanctify their romantic attachment."

The gay marriage debate in the media has scanted discussion about family-building in a post-heterosexual-marriage Canada. Theorists agitating for social change imply that human nature is infinitely plastic, dismissing concerns for children with the simplistic and misleading mantra, "all children need is love; and love has no gender."

Love is neither a unitary product, nor all that children need to thrive. If it were, children would do as well with one parent as with two. In the '70s, feminists insisted that single motherhood was in no way inferior to dual parenting. Irrefutable sociological data later proved that under any economic circumstances -- not just in poor households -- children of single mothers fared worse in scholastic achievement, self-esteem and eventual success than dual-parented children. Feminists simply ignored or disparaged the studies.

Whether same-sex and opposite-sex parenting are equally good for children is a proposition that has never actually been effectively tested, much less proved. Gay parenting is such a recent phenomenon, we have no scientifically credible control groups of gay-parented teens and adults to establish or discredit such a claim. But research, data and objectivity matter little to theory-bound ideologues.

What will research -- and adult children of gays themselves -- tell us in 20 years? Third-party parenting is in its infancy. Official sanction will widen its base. Social problems in children rarely surface before adolescence. What if research finds measurable social deficits in children of same-sex households? More worryingly, will ideologues even permit such research to go forward? In today's increasingly frosty academic climate regarding race and gender, such initiatives may be condemned as homophobic, just as comparative aptitude studies are labelled racist. Academic sociologists will likely self-censor themselves on this important issue.

Canadian researchers have made no effort to harvest the views of those most invested in the gay marriage debate -- children. Nobody has asked children if they "strongly prefer, strongly reject or don't care" whether they have: a single mom, single dad, mother and father, two moms or two dads. They won't, because the response from unabashedly politically incorrect children will discomfit the liberal theorists who dictate the rules of sociological inquiry.

You can prep children with Manchurian Candidate-level indoctrination on the fungibility of gender. You can read around the clock to them from books like Debbie Has Two Dads or Brian Has Two Moms And A Deeply Involved Sperm Donor, but children, social conservatives by nature, will always respond: "Strongly prefer" a mother and a father.

Canada is one of only three places on Earth poised to endorse the use of children as social guinea pigs without their consent. And all because our intellectual and political elites "haven't ever really thought about it."
© National Post 2005