The New-Age American Family:
Same-Sex Couples and Children

Many people truly believe that this society has grown morally from the 1960’s. People everywhere are believed to be more tolerable of African American rights and freedoms, interracial marriages, and minority influences. In some aspects, this is true. However, a new wave of civil rights has become questioned. It has been said that gay and lesbian rights is the civil rights movement of the twenty-first century. The ways gay and lesbian couples are seen in the eyes of the law are the same way African-Americans were seen not even sixty years ago, “separate but equal”. The greatest debate is whether being a homosexual is a result of genetics or of environment. Most sociologists argue that it is a mixture of both. Gay and lesbian couples are not allowed to endure the sanctity of marriage; it is seen as disgraceful in the “eyes of the church”. However, some states grant civil unions between same-sex couples. It is not just about being legally married. Gay rights activists fight for gay rights when it comes to hate crimes, employment rights, and health benefits for their partners. It has become exceptionally hard for a gay or lesbian couple to adopt a child both within United States borders. Even some doctors refuse to do invetro fertilization when it comes to a lesbian couple. This society has not grown morally as it seems to be, it has only jumped from one minority to another to attack.

I. The Great Debate: Genetics or Environment?
A. Genetics
B. Environment

II. Fighting for Rights and Employment to Survive:
A. Medical Rights
B. Gay Hate Crimes
C. Rights for Employment

III. Wanting Marriage, Getting Unions
A. Recognizing Civil Unions
1. States Recognizing Civil Unions
B. The Negative Side of Civil Unions

IV. Gay Marriage
A. States Allowing Gay Marriage

V. Putting Children in the Mix: Will They Do As Well?

VI. The Right to Adopt
A. Adopting
B. States Taking a Stand

VII. Conclusions

VIII. References

I. The Great Debate: Genetics or Environment?
A. Genetics:
Perhaps one of the greatest arguments is whether being homosexual is genetic or a product of environment. Many sociologists are split on this argument. Several believe that both genetics and environment is factors in determining a person’s sexuality. This argument as become such a debate that the National Institute of Health granted Dr. Alan R. Sanders a five-year study, which involved studying the genetics of around 1,000 pairs of homosexual brothers (Murphy, 2004). Many great concerns about these studies the back lash that might come about. Author Timothy F. Murphy is scared that because of the results of these studies that parent will want to have their fetal baby screened for the homosexuality gene, resulting in a possible abortion (Murphy, 2004). For the time being, there is no test that can foresee whether a child will be a homosexual or not. To many people, this seems up surd, but in this society, it is a fact. On the other hand, many gay and lesbians feel these studies will give them the upper hand, like an answer to their “civil-rights prayers” (Murphy, 2004). When it comes to marriage or having children, that they cannot help that their genetics are this way, just like a straight person cannot help that they are, well, straight.

B. Environment:
However, the other side of the coin is how environment influences homosexuality. Many boys are harassed or called names when they are seen to be too close to their mother or enjoy playing with more feminine toys. Girls too, receive some form of harassment when they would rather play sports or with trucks than do ballet or play with dolls. Sociologists have a hard time figuring out if these displays of interest have anything to do with a person’s sexuality. Studies to prove that these interests do deal with a person’s sexuality rarely exist. Most sociologists believe that there is a median between the genetic factors and the environmental factors that determine a person’s sexual preference (Murphy, 2004)

II. Fighting for Rights and Employment to Survive:
A. Medical Rights:
Many find the United States as contradicting. The United States has always been seen as the land of the free. How miss leading that statement is to so many people. All Americans are entitled to their own liberties, their own freedoms, and their own voice. What they mean by all Americans is, white, upper class, straight and married. The fight for same-sex marriage is the new civil rights movement, as it should be. It is not just the vows gay and lesbian couples are looking for; it is to have the same rights as heterosexual couples. Whether it is filing taxes, receiving medical benefits or adopting children, same sex couples want the same rights. The medical field is horrible with gay rights. Even when it comes to the elderly gay community, life is still unfair. Just ask Ms. Donadello who was not just ex-communicated from her friends at the assisted living center for being gay, but fell into a deep depression which caused her to seek medical attention elsewhere (Gross, 2007). Perhaps one of the saddest displays of inequality lies within the rights of a dying homosexual. It is all too often that someone will hear that because a gay couple was not legally married, they could not be together at the last moment of life. The one who is not dying could not hold the hands of their loved one as they took their last breathe. They could not sign the papers or make any decision on the care of their loved one. They could not receive any benefits for their loved one’s passing, all because they were of the same sex and had no legal marital papers.

B. Gay Hate Crimes:
Many gays and lesbians deal with ridicule daily because of their sexual orientation. Gay hate crimes can vary anywhere from verbal abuse, sexual abuse, vandalism, or physical violence. From 1996 to 2006, on average 12% to 16% of hate crimes were sexual orientation bias. Many states in the union do not have laws against sexual-orientation based hate crimes. Texas is included in this list. Men are more likely to be victims of gay hate crimes than are women. Perhaps the most publicized gay hate crime was the murder of a 21 year old gay man in Wyoming, Matthew Shepard. Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming studying political science. After a night out, he asked two men for a ride home. The men agreed. However, their plans were not to take Shepard home. Instead, the two men took Shepard to a field, beat him severally, robbed him, and left him tied to a fence for dead. The Matthew Shepard case almost like the first step to gaining gay hate crime laws throughout the United States. Because of Shepard, an act was passed at the beginning of 2007 to protect gay and lesbians from hate crimes. The Act has three objectives to help protect the gay community against hate crimes. First, it expands the law to investigate and prosecute certain bias-motivated crimes based on the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Second, the Act eliminates a large amount of limitations of federal involvement. Third, the Act adds ‘gender’ and ‘gender identity’ to the Hate Crimes Statistics Act. Gay rights activists are still fighting to get gay hate crime laws established in all fifty states. At this point in time only 24 states in the union have laws protecting their gay citizens from hate.

C. Rights for Employment:
Many companies do not treat their homosexual employees the same as their heterosexual. Many will not hire or keep an employee if there is any inclination that he or she is gay. As stated in Simon and Daly’s article, homosexuals and homosexual relationships are not covered under Title VII. Title VII is the federal standard for ‘federal entitlement and employee benefits programs’ (Daly and Simon, 1992). If employers will not give positions to a gay man or a lesbian, how are they supposed to survive? How are they supposed to be able to maintain a life and provide for their family?

III. Wanting Marriage, Getting Unions:
A. Recognizing Civil Unions:

There are only eleven states in the union that recognize civil unions for same sex couples. Eleven. Civil unions, however, is what most states are leaning towards, if they are even leaning at all. Many politicians see having ‘marriage’ attached to ‘same-sex’ as immoral. Civil unions are defined as a legally recognized union similar to marriage. Similar to marriage, not marriage, but similar! Vermont was actually the first state in the union to coin the term ‘civil union’. Civil unions between same-sex couples are suppose to be provided with the same rights and benefits as given to opposite-sex marriages. When pertaining to benefits, an employer should give the same medical benefits to a same sex couple as they would to a heterosexual couple. This is not the case for a couple in New Jersey. Jodi Weiner from Montclair, New Jersey tried to obtain health benefits for her partner of nine years. She was told by her employer that the New Jersey based union did not cover civil unions. It was not until she mentioned that she and her partner, Sally, were married in Massachusetts that she received health benefits (Kelley, 2007). The term ‘civil union’ is not taken as serious as is marriage. How is this fair when a ‘civil union’ is the best a government can offer? Many same-sex couples find that civil unions are not all they intended them to be.

1. States Recognizing Civil Unions:
a. Vermont (2000)
b. Connecticut (2005)
c. California (2000)
d. New Jersey (2007)
e. New Hampshire (2008)
f. Oregon (2008)
g. Washington D.C. (2008)
h. Maine (2004)
i. Maryland (2008)
j. Colorado (2009)
k. Washington (2009)

B. The Negative Side of Civil Unions:
Many find that there are several negative aspects to civil unions. In Susan Campbell’s article, she describes civil unions as ‘marriage lite’, that they are “unique legal relationships that fall short of marriage in terms of rights” (Campbell, 2007). Many gay couples in New Jersey are extremely displeased with a bill that was in question in late 2006. Tony Graham wrote in his article that “the bill doesn’t go far enough to guarantee them [gay and lesbian couples] the same right as other married couples (Graham, 2007). He says that the gay marriage supporters are afraid that the civil unions “won’t get the job done” (Graham, 2007).The major concerns with the bill in question was that the civil unions would not give health benefits to same-sex couples because they are seen as two people cohabitating. There must be a legal marriage license to receive health benefits.

IV. Gay Marriage:
Same-sex marriage is defined as governmentally, socially, or religiously recognized marriage in which two people of the same sex live together as a family. When it comes to gay marriage, it is like the United States is taken several steps back in time. It was not until after the Civil War that African-Americans were legally allowed to marry anywhere in the union. Then it was not until 1967 that interracial couples could legally get married. Gay marriage brings back an old phrase, “separate but equal”. Like with civil unions, the United States has few states that will legally recognize gay marriage. As a matter of fact, only four states in the union allow a same-sex couple to take legal vows of marriage. It was not until 1996 that the United States even tried to defend their laws of marriage. However, the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, strictly outlined the laws of marriages as between a male and a female. Why should it matter the gender if two people love each other? This is continually the argument Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell try to make in Sue Ferguson’s article ‘It’s About the Love’: A pioneering gay couple defends same-sex union (Ferguson, 2002). These two men have spent their lives trying to defend the relationship they have with each other. When asked why marriage is important to gay and lesbian couples, Bourassa answered, “First, it's about the government being allowed to treat one group that is otherwise protected by the Charter differently. It's important to send a message that gays and lesbians are not second-class citizens. But on a personal level, marriage is about love. We should be able to experience that love in the manner we choose…” (Ferguson, 2002). When will the government learn to separate church and state? Just because several religions believe that marriage is a sacred vow between a man and a woman does not mean the government has to believe that.

A. States Allowing Same-Sex Marriage:
1. Vermont (2009)
2. Connecticut (2008)
3. Iowa (2009)
4. Massachusetts (2003)

V. Putting Children in the Mix: Will They Do As Well?
One of the greatest arguments with letting a gay or lesbian couple adopt a child is whether or not they will do as well as if they were raised by a heterosexual couple. In an article written by Linda Little, she examines several studies aimed at seeing if children raised by a same-sex couple are the same as children raised by a heterosexual couple. The studies provided information and feedback that answered the question. Yes, children raised by a same-sex couple do just as well as children raised by a heterosexual couple. The research should that there was “no difference in intelligence of the children, type or prevalence of psychiatric disorders, self-esteem, well-being, peer relationships, or parental stress” (Little, 2005). The study also showed a trend in personalities among boys raised in a lesbian household. These boys time and time again proved to be affectionate and loyal, things associated with femininity. However, when their masculinity was measured against a boy raised by a heterosexual couple, the rate of masculinity was just as high. The results suggested that boys raised without father have qualities as if a father was present. The boys were outgoing, ambitious, and assertive, parts of a personality usually associated with a man.

VI. The Right to Adopt:
A. Adopting:

What confuses many people when they see a same-sex couple with children is, “how did they exactly have children?” The most common response is adoption. However, whether it is a woman trying to adopt her partner’s biological child, or a couple trying to adopt children together, the United States is making it a challenge for same-sex couples to adopt. Still in some states in the United States, it is illegal for a same-sex couple to adopt children together. Many couples in Minnesota have huge problems with their state’s laws. Couples with children in Minnesota are not allowed to legally adopt. This means that a person can care for, love, be there for, and provide everything a child needs, but because they are their gay or lesbian partner’s biological children, they are not allowed to legally adopt the children (Anonymous, 2007). In an article written by Jannell McGrew, she discusses that because of Alabama’s Marriage Protection Act, it prohibits same-sex couples from adopting children (McGrew, 2005). Also in this article, McGrew interviewed Howard Bayless, a gay man who gave great thought about adopting with his partner. However, because of Alabama’s laws Howard and his partner cannot. He said that “the government does not need to dictate to us what a family should be made of and what a family should look like… I have three sisters, and every single one of them have children, and they have asked me to raised their children if something happens to them. This would not allow me to raise their children” (McGrew, 2005). In Alabama in 2005, there were 641 children awaiting adoption, and 272 of these children had no ‘kin’ to give them a home (McGrew, 2005). 641 children that could have loving, warm homes if states like Alabama would allow same-sex couples to adopt.

B. States Taking a Stand:
As the gay rights movement takes bigger stands, many states are starting to allow same-sex couples to adopt. California, Washington, and New York are just a few of the states that are changing the amendments to allow same-sex couples to adopt. Whether it is a same-sex couple adopting, or a person adopting his or her partner’s children, the tides are starting to change. Many of the states allowing same-sex adoption still have bans against same-sex marriage. For couple Hollie Seeley and Christy Allen of Denver, Colorado being able to adopt each other’s biological children “means more than being able to marry” (Padgett, 2007). Overturning court rulings dealing with same-sex couple adoption has been a huge controversy all over the nation. Judy Harrison wrote in an article entitled Court ruling opens doors for gay, unmarried couple to adopt about several adoption cases being reversed in Hampden, Maine. In the article, Harrison writes that on August 30th, 2007, a reversed decision in a “Cumberland County Probate Court ruled unanimously that a lesbian couple could petition the court to adopt the foster children they had been caring for since 2001” (Harrison, 2007).

VII. Conclusions:

Although gays and lesbians have more rights than past generations, there are so many more rights that should be available. These include gay marriage, receiving health benefits, being able to adopt their partner’s children, and being able to adopt with their partner. When it comes to gay marriage, the government needs to learn how to separate church and state. Just because a book says that a marriage should be between a man and a woman does not mean that the government has to follow that rule. A person’s happiness should not rely on the decision of the government. With having same-sex marriage, couples should be able to have a family. Just because the house hold has two fathers or two mothers does not mean the child is going to have a disadvantage or will not grow up just like a child in a heterosexual household. It has been proven that children who grow up with same-sex parents are just as well adjusted as children who grew up with opposite sex parents. When it comes to adopting their partner’s biological children who is to say just because he or she is gay they are unfit parents. Most of the petitioners for adoption have been there since conception. For the ones who are not, are usually involved more on a day to day basis than the children’s father or mother. The petitioners have loved, clothed, fed, and protected these children from day one or soon after. Who is to say they are unfit? The only difference between gay and straight people is who they kiss and sleep next to at night. Why should that determine a person’s rights?

VIII. References:

Anonymous. October, 11, 2007. Report: Same-Sex Couples and Their Families Denied 515 Protections, Rights, Obligations, and Benefits in Minnesota. PR Newswire, New York.

Campbell, Susan. February 22, 2007. ‘Marriage Lite’: Gay Couples Joined in Civil Unions Freel Married, But The Law Says Otherwise. Knight Ridder Tribune Business News. pg. 1. Washington.

Daly, Erin, Howard, Simon A. Summer 1992. Sexual Orientaion and Workplace Rights: A Potential Land Mine for Employers? Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 18, Issue 1.

Ferguson, Sue. August 12, 2002. ‘It’s About Love’: A pioneering gay couple defends same-sex unions. Maclean’s, Vol. 115, Issue 32, pg. 46. Toronto.

Graham, Troy. December 8, 2006. New Jersey civil-union bill passes committee: Neither foes nor advocates are wholly satisfied. Knight Ridder Tribune Business News, pg. 1. Washington.

Gross, Jane. October 9, 2007. Aging and Gay, and Facing Prejudice in Twilight. The New York Times, pg. A.1. New York, New York.

Harrison, Judy. October 19, 2007. Court ruling opens doors for gay, unmarried couples to adopt. Knight Ridder Tribune Business News. Washington.

Kelley, Tina. October 28, 2007. New Jersey Civil Union Law Has Fallen Short in Its First Year, Commission Is Told. The New York Times, pg. A.30. New York, New York.

Little, Linda. October 13, 2005. Children of Same-Sex Couples Do as Well as Other Children. American Academy of Pediatrics. Washington.

McGrew, Jannell. March 23, 2005. Bill would forbid gay adoptions in Alabama. Knight Ridder Tribune Business News, pg. 1. Washington.

Murphy, Timothy F. June 4, 2004. Genetic Science and Discrimination. Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 50, Issue 29.

Padgett, Tim. July 16, 2007. Gay Family Values. Time, Vol. 170, Issue 3, pg. 51. New York.