The National Organisation for Marriage must be wishing that Maggie Gallagher would come out of retirement because the guys speaking for them today have a terminal case of hoof-in-mouth disease. At least in the web of lies and misconceptions Maggie spun for the public, she never insulted a Supreme Court Justice , nor a vast swath of Americans who she hoped to reach with her "gays are taking over marriage" tear tactics. And yet, the people who have taken over her job of talking to the media simply do not seem to run their comments through any kind of internal editing process before letting them out in the sunshine to run around and terrorize the public. Case in Point: this week I read, via Towleroad, and story from the AP that made my blood boil. Apparently John Eastman, of the National Organisation for Marriage was waxing philosophic about the likely hood that the personal lives of the Justices could effect their decisions in the upcoming Prop 8 and DOMA trials...and let slip that he considers adoption a "second best" option. Check out his comments and my take on them after the jump...
You're looking at what is the best course societywide to get you the optimal result in the widest variety of cases. That often is not open to people in individual cases. Certainly adoption in families headed, like Chief Roberts' family is, by a heterosexual couple, is by far the second-best option," said John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage. Eastman also teaches law at Chapman University law school in Orange, Calif.
Now I'm not exactly sure in what sense Mr. Eastman regards adoption to be second best, and given the choppy and unclear nature in which it was made, I'm not sure even Mr. Eastman knew what the hell he was saying. Is he saying that adoption is second best to having your own biological children?...or second best to the kids being with their biological parents. In both cases, he would be wrong.
His words seems like just the kind of uncensored, off-the-cuff moment that probably made him kick himself afterward. However, it probably isn't a good idea to refer to adoption as "second best" when your organisation is one of a hand full who have in interest in defending Prop 8 and DOMA before Justices that have adopted...like Justice John Roberts who adopted his two children in 2000 and Justice Thomas who adopted his grandnephew. Nor is it a good idea when you are trying to reach out to mainstream America that gay marriage and adoption in bad by insulting huge numbers of adoptive families. I'm not sure, but I think that would be considered bad strategy....for them....But hopefully their candid comments could translate into a boon for us.
To be fair to Mr. Eastman, he is claiming that his comments were being misrepresented:
"An article by the Associated Press has been mischaracterized by The Huffington Post to grossly misrepresent my views on adoption. I believe that couples who adopt children are heroes and do a great service to society, and to the children they adopt. I strongly believe, based on thousands of years of experience and countless social science studies, that children do best when raised by a mother and a father within the bounds of marriage. I commend all those couples who selflessly give of themselves to raise a child who, through no fault of her own, has been deprived of a mother and father. There is nothing 'second best' about adoption."
Perhaps Mr. Eastmans clarification is authentic, perhaps not. Many who will regard his original comment as being purely motivated by his bigotry and indicative of a viewpoint that their are some people and some families that are better than others. But regardless of his actual motivations, there does seem to be more than a hint of damage control at play. To me that is most evident by how often he uses the word "hero" in regards to adoption and adoptive parents. Whenever I hear of adoption spoken of in that way it signals to me that the speaker really has no understanding of what adoption means to the kids and parents they bring together. Nor is Mr. Eastman...regardless all his anti-gay animus...unique in holding this distorted view of adoption as a less desirable way of building a family. Or alternately, as something too frightening and difficult for most people to manage. Sadly, I get versions of these opinions all over the place.
Both my husband and I are still involved with an adoption support group run through our agency. It's a great place for the kids to be around other kids with backgrounds like theirs and a great place for us parents to vent our worries, fears, and frustrations among others who have been there. One common complaint I hear from other parents is the person who finds out that a person is an adoptive family and then says of their children, "Oh, they are so lucky to have you!"...usually backed up with ,"You are so brave!" In both cases the person giving these remarks thinks you saved a troubled child from a world of hell and that you must be an incredible individual for being able to take care of a child who has to have obvious behavioral and emotional baggage. It sounds very unflattering when put that way...and I know that the person who says it doesn't mean it that way...but the fact they often miss is how much adoptive parents had a child shaped hole in their hearts that only these kids could ever have filled. Nor do they understand that adoptive parents understand that even the best of families come with some baggage that we learn to love each other through it....our kids and families are no different. In short, our kids make us feel like the lucky ones and I try not to take offense when I hear this because I know the person means well...they just don't get it.
What can be more frustrating is the notion that it's better to have your own biological children than to adopt someone else's. As an example, a few years ago our family went on a Rosie O'Donnell, "R Family" cruise. There among other gay families like ourselves, we had hoped that we could just enjoy our vacations without having to focus on who might be looking at us as different. It makes it kind of hard to relax. In engaging other couples about their kids(as parents always do)it began to be clear...especially in male couples....that surrogacy was looked at as a more socially desirable option because it meant that...A) you were biologically related...and B) you could afford it. After hearing all about their process and having the chance to share our own we would often get "...oh..." as a response...and that's all. It was kind of a head scratcher for me and sometime just pissed me the hell off. Our kids were not less wanted or loved for having been brought into our home via adoption and it irritated the hell out of me that anyone felt that way...especially a gay person. If they had said to be, "I think your so brave!"...I think I would have gone off on them. But, I have to ask how many straight families there are out there in the world that think the same way? How many people feel the need for a biological connection with a child in order to look at them as really their own? That seems so sad to me and a loss to both kids and parents alike.
Also...I think sometimes the status issue involves a fear that somehow children in need of adoption must have behavioral issues too frightening to deal with...or that a child they adopt will reject them as a parent because they fear the day they may hear, "your not me real dad!". This is a piece that I think stops a lot of people from considering adoption and also something that most people don't want to own up to. Just like parenting any child with special needs...considering the prospect feels scary at first. Will they be too much to deal with? Will they accept me or I them? Both are really a question of if they will be able to completely bond and feel secure in their role as a parent. I kinda went through this a bit. especially with my son Daniel, who's medical issues gave me pause at first. It's not something I am proud of, because I don't want to think that here I was presented with my son and I hesitated, but his medical issues scared me. I didn't know if I could adequately take care of him, I feared for his experience at school(which brought up my own bullying issues), and I wondered whether a five year old boy would miss his biological dad too much to ever accept me as his father. Those were my very first reactions to seeing his profile. And yet....
The first day I met Daniel and Selena was at an arranged visit at Social Services in Sacramento. I walked into the building to see this little boy holding his foster mothers hand with his big eyes and terrible bowl haircut....and he looked so small. My heart broke wide open then and all the fears I had seemed to be so much less important that loving this little boy who looked so small and so lost. During our fostering period with him and even after final adoption, he would ask lots of questions about his dad and finding his dad(his father had been deported due to criminal activity and could not be contacted). Those questions were hard to deal with, but I understood why Daniel was asking them and I would have asked all the same questions in his place...so we did our best to give him the truth in as much as he could process at his age. Sometimes Daniel would be overly compliant and behave super good because he was afraid we would send him back...and sometimes he would express his anger in the night, when we couldn't see or hear it, in the form of ripping all the pages out of his story books and hiding them under the bed. We had our issues to contend with and it wasn't all smooth sailing. But, all the things I was scared I might have to face turned out to be so much less scary because the love I felt for my kids made it seem so much less important. And they were my kids...even when Daniel asked about his dad...even when Selena asks about her mom. I know that deep down, even they get older and maybe will someday meet their biological parents again...that the people that tucked them in every night, cooked them bad dinners, and forced them to do their homework are who they are going to remember as dad. I know it when Daniel says "I love you" and gives lots of hugs... and I know it when Selena draws me cute pictures of all of us together. We are a family the same as if we had been there for their birth.
And so, when someone says how lucky an adopted child is for having been adopted by us, we will always respond with, "No...we are the lucky ones." We are the ones get to be the beneficiaries of all those hugs and we are the characters that will wind in and out of their memories of growing up...and on into the future of their lives. That makes me feel pretty special actually.
So again we come back to Mr. Eastman and what could have been in his mind when he uttered the words "second best option". Did he mean that my kids would be better off still with their biological parent's being abused and neglected? or simply that they should have been adopted by a man and a woman. Which, if that is the case, makes me wonder how many kids Mr. Eastman has adopted with his wife. But, regardless of if Mr. Eastman spoke his words out of bigotry or not, any adoptive parent who gets called a "hero" will have their red flags go up. our children are not some herculean task we put up with....and they have rescued us as much as we have them. I can't speak for Justice Roberts, but I bet he's had similar experiences enough to see comments like Eastmans for what they are...the words of a man who does not understand how awesome it is to be a part of adoption and how no parent that's ever been through it could EVER view it as the second best choice....because even on our worst days, everyday I wake up to my family, I feel like I won first prize.
Until next time dear readers....