The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Growing up with two moms in the San Francisco Bay Area, I thought a family was defined by loud dinners, birthday parties, overprotective parents and unconditional love.

Then, when I was 7 years old, a girl in my class told me I couldn’t sit with her and her friends because I wasn’t a “real person.” The reason? I didn’t have a mommy and a daddy — so how could I possibly have been born?

My classmate hardly understood how babies were made, yet she was certain that a family couldn’t be a family if it had two moms. Adults, of course, should know better. Yet, judging from a bill currently before Congress, at least some of the adults representing Americans in Washington don’t understand that families come in many varieties.

The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014 would allow federally funded child welfare service providers in any of the 19 states where marriage equality is the law to deny adoption rights to same-sex couples without fear of losing taxpayer funding.

The bill, written by Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-WY) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), never specifically mentions same-sex couples, but its intentions are clear. It would bar state governments that receive federal funding for child welfare services from taking any adverse action against an agency based on its refusal “to provide, facilitate or refer for a child welfare service that conflicts with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

In some of the states that allow same-sex marriages, faith-based providers have shut down rather than let LGBT parents adopt or foster children. This bill would provide those agencies with a loophole, allowing them to deny services to same-sex couples without repercussion. But cloaking discrimination in the language of “religious beliefs” and “moral convictions” doesn’t change the fact that the law would be discriminatory.

The law’s introduction is disheartening, especially at a time when so much momentum has built for more inclusive laws and policies. I know firsthand the harm that can come to families when laws are inequitable.

When I was 10, I learned that my parents had never gotten married, because same-sex marriage was illegal. That didn’t compute. I had loving, dedicated parents, yet those in power were denying them the right to be a legal family?

The law also denied me a legal relationship with my non-biological mother. She was every bit as much a parent to me, but according to the state she wasn’t my family, let alone my mom. In order for Judy to be allowed to adopt me, my birth mom, Teri, would have had to forgo all her parental rights, and even then the adoption would have had to be approved. It is alarming, in retrospect, to think that if Teri had passed away, Judy would have had no automatic legal right to continue being my parent. That changed in 1999, when the state allowed second-parent adoption in domestic partnerships, a reform upheld by the California Supreme Court in 2003. But in many states, such laws have not been reformed.

Freedom of religion is crucial. But it should never be used as a cover for discrimination, which is exactly what the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act would do. As many as 6 million Americans today have LGBT parents. These are real families entitled to real rights without loopholes. I hope a majority of the U.S. Congress will see this proposed law for what it is: a legislative assault on basic human rights — and on families.

And for those having difficulty figuring out what a family is, just ask any child raised by gay parents — we’ll be happy to tell you.

Julia Bleckner is an associate in the Asia division at Human Rights Watch. She wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

Photo: Guillame Paumier via Flickr

Want more political news and analysis? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Americans are currently experiencing one of the most peculiar public episodes of my lifetime. Amid a deadly worldwide disease epidemic, many people are behaving like medieval peasants: alternately denying the existence of the plague, blaming an assortment of imaginary villains, or running around seeking chimerical miracle cures.

Feed store Ivermectin? I've administered it to horses, cows and dogs. But to my wife? No thank you. It says right on the label that it's not for human consumption. But at least you won't die of heartworm.

Keep reading... Show less

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}