Missionaries of Charity Stop Adoptions in India Over Inclusive Legislation

The religious order founded by Mother Theresa, the Missionaries of Charity, has decided they will no longer attempt to find homes for the children in their 13 orphanages in India. Their reason for this? Apparently India has made new legislation that allows single people to adopt, and the Sisters of Charity think it’s better for children to remain parentless than to be raised in single-parent homes. You can read more about this here.

The article explains that the sisters have two primary concerns:

“First, [Missionaries of Charity] will not allow adoption by single parents; second, they also have issues with couples, one or both of whom has had a divorce earlier.”

While Catholicism does not technically have a teaching forbidding single parents from raising children, it does prohibit divorce, and many Catholics are also against adoption by LGBT people. Catholic teaching on divorce is very harsh. It literally preaches that once a marriage exists, it cannot be undone. The only situation in which a married couple can separate in Catholicism is through something called “annulment,” which is a process by which the marriage is reviewed by a variety of church leaders and declared to have never happened in the first place. In other words, if a marriage doesn’t work out, the only situation in which that can be admitted is to claim that the marriage never took place, or was not valid in some way. The idea that someone could make a mistake, marry the wrong person, divorce, remarry, then want to have children, is clearly too much for some Catholics, and in this instance we see this attitude affecting orphans in India. Orphans who, as the article explains, are very unlikely to be adopted in the first place because of red tape and stigma. If that’s the case, why make the process any harder? The silver lining in this story is that this is happening because India passed legislation that allows more people to adopt. That, at least, is something to be happy about.

How does Catholic teaching on homosexuality come into play here? Well, you can take it straight from the sister’s mouth:

Speaking about the decision not to offer adoptions, Sister Amala told local media: “The new guidelines hurt our conscience. They are certainly not for religious people like us. … What if the single parent who we give our baby [to] turns out to be gay or lesbian? What security or moral upbringing will these children get? Our rules only allow married couples to adopt.”

I’ve heard my own parents argue that being raised by two dads or two mothers will “confuse” children. Despite the fact that homosexuality is not a choice, they seem to fear that children raised in a situation that does not prohibit other sexualities will lead to more gay children.

There is also a common argument that there are things only a father can do for a child, and things that only a mother can do, with the idea being that children need not only two parents, but that those parents need to be opposite genders in order to properly raise children. This idea is detrimental because it may be keeping some children with ZERO parents from having ANY. Furthermore, it’s based in gender norms. I can’t think of a single thing that a man can do that a woman cannot, and vice versa, when it comes to parenting. A good parent is a good parent. Any argument I can think of for something one gender can do that the other can’t has more to do with the typical roles assigned to each gender by society, and to stereotypes of the genders, not to anything that can be stated definitively that applies to all men or all women.

Ultimately, I’m frustrated to see a Catholic charity organization stop participating in a charitable action over the thought of someone they disagree with doing a good deed like adopting a child, especially in a country that has trouble adopting out its 20 million orphans (according to the NPR article).

If you have any thoughts pertaining to this, especially with regards to gender and parenting, feel free to leave a comment. I’d be happy to hear other opinions. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

The Strangest Homily: “Gay Marriage Means No More Babies”

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Instead of discussing the ridiculous situation regarding Kim Davis, a Kentucky County Clerk who has refused to do her job and issue marriage licenses in light of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, I’d like to go back to the root of her contempt: anti-gay preaching by Christian ministers, pastors, and priests. One can argue that the Bible, with its anti-gay verses, is the root problem, but ultimately it all comes down to interpretation, and while there are plenty of Christians who eat shellfish despite Biblical rules against doing so, too many consider fighting against marriage equality to be their moral duty. Worse, when they try to give secular arguments against marriage equality, their inability to apply reason to the issue becomes apparent.

The homily I’ll be discussing in this post is one that I remember from back when I was in 9th grade. I was homeschooled for the majority of my education, but I attended Catholic High School for one year, and during that year, every month, there was a day when the entire high school (roughly 800 students) would be marched a few blocks away to the nearest Catholic church in order to attend mass. We sat down in our uniforms on the hard, wooden pews in rain or shine, and the same priest would walk in, say mass, and give the same homily (sermon) he had given the month before. It jumped around a lot in topic, but one topic he always discussed for several minutes (after a lecture on how inexperienced high school students are) was gay marriage. It was a bad thing, he insisted. His argument against it, however, was ridiculous.

“What we’re seeing with gay marriage,” he would say, “is that it’s spreading. More and more people want to do it. I shouldn’t have to tell you all why it’s bad for society. It’s bad because gay people can’t physically have children. The biological components that unite a man and woman through God to make a child aren’t there. So what’s going to happen? As more and more people become gay, there will be fewer and fewer children being born. We can’t have a gay society. It’s not sustainable. The church’s stance on gay marriage is clear, and it’s logical, because without heterosexual unions, humans won’t survive.”

Even back then, when I was strongly opposed to gay marriage, this argument didn’t make much sense. I knew not everyone was gay. I was straight! I had friends who were straight. My parents were definitely straight. Why did he think being gay was such a temptation for everybody that if given the freedom to be openly gay, everyone in the world would do it?

Then it hit me:

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I realize this is a fairly common accusation from liberal people, but in this case I really do think it’s true. It’s the only logical explanation. A straight person considering his argument could stop and think, “This doesn’t make sense. I don’t fit that rule,” and most would be intelligent enough to conclude that they aren’t the only exception. Either he’s not bright enough to make that obvious intellectual step, or he was simply using the experience he spent so much time raving about to us, and applying it to gay marriage. In his experience, being gay was a real temptation because it was part of who he was, and he was suppressing it because of the church’s teachings.

That’s one of the strangest and saddest things about gay Catholic priests, and other gay active church members. They buy into a lot of the nonsense even though it actually applies to them. For all of his rants about high school kids being inexperienced–a fair point–he had a lot to learn about himself. Like many priests, he was starting to really advance in age. I wonder if he’s still around, and if so, I wonder how he took the news of the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality.

What’s the craziest argument you’ve heard against marriage equality? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome, just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

What Republicans Don’t Get about the US Supreme Court

Picture from Wikipedia’s page on the Supreme Court building: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Supreme_Court_Building

Growing up, I was taught that, and I quote my mother on this:  “Abortion is an unjust law.” She would elaborate, “It [Roe v. Wade] was made in a way that breaks the law. The Supreme Court can’t make laws, but they made one anyway, and now abortion is legal.”

If you know anything about the US Supreme Court and how it works, this makes absolutely no sense. Worse, Republican presidential candidates are beginning to make the same claims about Obergefell v. Hodges, the US Supreme Court case that just legalized same-sex marriage throughout the US.

Mike Huckabee, for instance, recently said:

“The Supreme Court can’t make a law; the legislature has to make it, the executive has to sign it and enforce it. The notion that the Supreme Court comes up with a ruling and that automatically subjects the two other branches to following it defies everything there is to equal branches of government.”

The best thing about that statement is that it’s a fairly accurate description of the United States’ branches of government and the system of checks and balances that are in place so that laws can’t just be made willy-nilly. Huckabee seems to think those checks and balances were ignored in Obergefell v. Hodges. But that’s not what the Supreme Court did in this case, nor is it what the Supreme Court ever does.

In Obergefell v. Hodges, like in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court did exactly what it’s supposed to do:  it interpreted the constitution. The case wasn’t a question of whether or not there should be a law saying yes to gay marriage. I’m not even sure how that would work. There is still no law saying “gay people must get married.” I’m sure that, as is the case with straight cisgender people, not everybody in the LGBT+ community wants to get married. (Additionally, I’d question the constitutionality of any law requiring any demographic to get married. But I digress.) The case was nothing of the sort. It was about whether or not the constitution allows the country to maintain laws that were already in place:  laws which BANNED same-sex marriage.

It wasn’t a question about a law being made, but rather about whether currently standing laws, which had already been made, were constitutional. The Court convened, they argued, and they concluded that no, those laws were not constitutional. The constitution grants equal protection under the law, and gay marriage bans defied that equal protection. So now those gay marriage bans have been lifted, and the US has achieved legal marriage equality, minus a few rude county clerks in the Bible Belt.

Republicans have been quick to argue that the judges broke the law by making that ruling–but the fact is, they didn’t. If Republicans want to continue to fight against marriage equality, they should be arguing that gay marriage bans are, in fact, constitutional. OR, they should look for secular reasons to ban gay marriage and use those to build an argument toward a constitutional amendment. They’re unlikely to win either way, so they’ve created this ridiculous straw man. My favorite part of this situation is that they clearly understand what the Supreme Court’s job is, yet they simultaneously haven’t been paying attention enough to the details of the actual case to realize that the judges did in fact do their jobs.

I’ve heard some people argue that a state-by-state legalization would have been better for the country. I see what they’re saying, but I don’t think it was necessary. Maybe doing it that way would have avoided this whole ridiculous “They broke the law!” claim by Republicans. However, waiting for the states to decide would have slowed down progress on what is without a doubt a civil rights issue. When there’s injustice going on, it doesn’t make sense to wait for each state to meander towards the right conclusion. At least, that’s how I see it.

I’m not an expert on constitutional law, so if I’m mistaken about anything please do not hesitate to inform me.

Have you encountered this crazy “They broke the law!” argument? What do you think? And would a state-by-state approach have been better, or just slower? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

Confused, Abused, Mislead: When Children of LGBT Parents Don’t Get It

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When it comes to political issues, it is common for each party to look for a spokesperson. This is often  someone with direct personal experience with the issue who happens to take the party’s side. No where has this been more true in recent weeks than for the LGBT community, and LGBT parenting. Sadly, I’m here to write about the spokespersons for the Republican party, who use their childhoods to argue that LGBT people can’t be good parents.  What are they thinking? How can they argue against their own parents?

The Young Turks did a video covering the story of a girl who did just that. It can be viewed here. It’s a very different situation from the one I’m about to discuss, so I’ll let The Young Turks handle it. Sadly, that girl’s not the only one doing this.

I recently stumbled upon an article in which someone else does the same thing. It comes from the extremely biased Witherspoon Institute. They are based in Princeton, NJ, but are not funded by the Ivy League University at all. They actively oppose gay marriage and stem cell research, among other things. One of the people affiliated with them performed a study (see the heading “Regnerus study”) on LGBT parenting which, if you read the page at the link above, appears to have been poorly structured, making its results unreliable.

Of course, my conservative friends think well, it’s in Princeton, a place known for its Ivy League institution. That must mean these articles are well thought out and provide useful information for a serious discussion of an issue like LGBT parenting! A friend of mine shared this article on Facebook, and it’s a bit painful to read. It is written by someone whose father was a transgender woman. In other words, her father was born a man, but felt that was not who she truly was.

The child is very harsh toward her father from the beginning, and says she experienced a great deal of abuse at the hands of her father. I’m not here to argue that that abuse did not happen. Being LGBT does not make a person immune from bad decisions or wrongful actions. As much as I support their rights, no one, of any gender or sexual orientation, should be allowed to abuse anyone.

With that being said, the feeling I get from reading this article is that the child has not been able to separate her father’s abuse from the fact that her father was trans. She has not figured out that it is possible that even if he had been a cisgender male, he might have abused her, though the abuse might have taken a different form. To her, she was abused because her father was trans. In reality, she was abused by her father who happened to be trans. There’s a difference.

In the article, she argues that being abused by her father in ways that related to gender made her disgusted with her body. For example, after describing the abuse, and her father’s tendency to steal her clothing and wear it when she was not around, she says,

I began to hate my body. It was a constant reminder of what my father wanted to become. When I began to wear makeup, I had to block out the images I had of him applying makeup or eye shadow or lipstick. He was destroying my desire to become a woman.

I can understand how this might happen, and I don’t think those feelings she experienced were not real. However, again, she is relating them to the fact that her father is trans, when in reality, I suspect they are the result of the abuse. (She says she experienced emotional and sexual abuse.) Had she had a strong relationship with her father in which there was plenty of trust and stability, I don’t think gender would have mattered, and I don’t think she would have written negatively about her childhood at all.

That’s not what she received from her father, though. She explains, for example, that her father followed the revelation of her gender with the announcement that she never wanted kids. That’s hurtful. My own father used to say something similar when he got mad at us. Before he met my mother, he wanted to be a priest. Instead, he fell in love and got married. When we misbehaved as children, he would say, “I should have been a priest!” and “I shouldn’t have had kids” was implied. (Catholic priests don’t marry or have children. It’s not allowed.) So I empathize with her on this point. That’s not something one should ever hear one’s parent say.

What really bothers me about this story is that this girl seems to assume that all trans people are incapable of raising children in a healthy way, simply because she personally was abused by a trans person. What if the gender identities in this story were reversed, and she argued that all straight people are incapable of raising children because she was abused by a straight person? No one in their right mind would find that plausible. The only reason this story makes sense to some conservative people as a valid argument is that trans people are the minority, so there aren’t as many of them raising children. In other words, most people reading the article were raised by straight people, and are more likely to think, “You know what, maybe this is true.”

That’s a huge assumption to make about a group of people, though. This is just one case. It could just be that that particular person was an abuser for a variety of reasons. For example, the daughter mentions that her father was abused as a child, and we know that can lead a person to become an abuser. Instead of making this connection, however, she hints that the abuse might be what led him to be trans–another version of the misconception that abuse leads to homosexuality.

I wanted to berate this girl for using the wrong pronouns for her transgender parent (I used father here because I think it helped keep track of who was who, though I realize mother might have been the parent’s preferred word.) I have to acknowledge that her upbringing by her (biological) mother may have been very conservative (she married young and seems very religious) so to her, this may not seem cruel or disrespectful even though it likely is to her father. Reading the article as a fairly liberal LGBT ally, I felt torn between feeling bad for the girl, angry with the father for abusing her, and also feeling somewhat sorry for the father as well. I can’t know whether or not a more accepting community would have made a difference, but I wonder whether or not the father would have been a better parent if she had been allowed to be herself. Who knows? This does not excuse her for what she did; it merely adds another level to what is already a very complex situation. It’s impossible to answer that kind of what-if question.

I hope society becomes more accepting. I also hope it can eradicate abuse of all kinds. I hope this girl will eventually get to know a kind, caring LGBT person, and change her mind on this issue. In the meantime, as LGBT people come out and become a visible part of everyday life, at least their rights are improving–and so is public opinion about them.

This is a pretty lousy situation, but it’s written from a very conservative perspective. What are your thoughts about it? All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

What’s Wrong with Gay PDA?

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I like to think I’m not homophobic at all. I consider myself an ally. I support gay marriage and dislike discrimination. I don’t just think these things, I vote that way. I argue that way, and I have friends as well as professors who are LGBT who really are just ordinary people to me. Something happened a couple of months ago, though, and it made me question whether or not I’ve completely eliminated my old homophobia.

I was walking on campus with my boyfriend when I noticed another couple sitting on a step, kissing. One had long, flowing hair, the other a more short, cropped cut. I found myself staring longer than I normally would at a kissing couple, because I quickly realized that despite the fact that one had a more “feminine” and the other a more “masculine” appearance, they were both women. I had to actively remind myself that, just like with any straight couple, I should give them some privacy by not staring them down, and keep going about my business. While I didn’t feel my old knee-jerk reaction of disgust from my homophobic upbringing, nor did I think that that couple should be expected to only share kisses in private, I was a little surprised to see a public display of affection between an LGBT couple. I was so surprised, in fact, that I stared a little. Why is that?

Granted, different people have different feelings about public displays of affection (PDA). I’ve always found it to be fine, so long as kissing is as far as it goes. I’d be very uncomfortable if I saw anything beyond that, but a hug, a kiss, or hand holding are all completely acceptable ways to be affectionate in public in my opinion. I just typically picture a heterosexual couple when I think about PDA. That doesn’t make sense, though.

To be fair to everyone, my opinion about PDA should extend to all couples, and even poly groups. If kissing is an acceptable behavior in public, then it shouldn’t matter who’s doing it, as long as it’s consensual. Why did I stare then? Why does it still matter who kisses who in public?

In the process of writing this post, it took me a long time to find a photo of a gay couple on the photo site I usually use. The photo I decided to use for this post was actually titled “Female Kissing Her Friend,” so it really might not be a gay couple at all. Or it might be, but isn’t being presented that way. Frankly, the only stock photos I could find of two women or two men standing next to each other, either clearly weren’t pictures of a couple, or they looked almost pornographic, and there weren’t many of them. Everything else was just one straight couple after another.

We truly do live in a heteronormative society. Despite the many efforts to raise awareness of LGBT people and the challenges they face, we (at least in the US) still haven’t succeeded in making being LGBT normal by society’s standards, especially when it comes to PDA. While gay people are free to talk about their sexuality, and express it through their clothing or hair, they aren’t allowed to share affection publicly. That doesn’t make any sense.

Part of the problem is that, especially in some parts of this country, it’s considered OK to be homophobic–it’s even encouraged. In places like that, and even in more liberal places, gay people might not feel that PDA are safe for fear of discrimination, and even violence. There are still too many people out there who would willingly beat up two men for holding hands. This makes it a rare thing to see, creating situations like my aforementioned experience. If we don’t see gay PDA, it remains unusual. It remains surprising. It remains abnormal. We need to make this country safer for LGBT people. They shouldn’t have to fear violence or discrimination as a result of PDA, and the rest of us shouldn’t be surprised to see two women or two men kissing any more than we’d be surprised to see a heterosexual couple doing the same thing.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy