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Same-Sex Couples and the Definition of Family

Gays and lesbians are currently fighting for equality and acceptance and moving forward. One of the main issues surrounding this movement is marriage and family. The dictionary states that a family consists of, ‘parents and their children, considered as a group’ and that parents are considered, ‘one who begets, gives birth to, or nurtures and raises a child; a father or mother’. Where do same-sex couples fit into these definitions? What makes up a family is coming into question as same-sex couples are starting families successfully. It is common to hear that children need a mother and a father to be taken care of properly. Many believe, without fact or reason, that same sex couples should not be able to raise children. There are a lot of misconceptions that gays and lesbians cannot adequately raise children or that they negatively affect them. Through studies and research these opinions are proved to be only ignorance. These assumptions have resulted in adoption and other ways having children very difficult or even banned in some states. Exposing the false conclusions against same sex couples and their parenting skills will eventually lead to change. It is unfair and unjust to let the U.S. ignore this issue because there are absolutely no proven facts to back up these heteronormative ideals that are excluding and discriminating against same sex couples. This is significant because it is time for people to start understanding and accepting instead of judging and oppressing, especially at such a critical time in the lgbt movement.

1. History/Background
a. Social construct of a family
b. Attitudes towards same sex couples with children
2. Children: Same-sex Couples vs. Straight Couples
a. Parenthood
b. Studies of the outcome of children
3. Results of the Redefinition
a. Decrease the number of children without families
b. Help discrimination against same sex couples

1. The “nuclear family” consists of a mother and a father and at least one child. Marriage was one of the main bases of what created or made a family. This is what society perceives as the most normal or well-ordered family. Typically single parent families usually occurred because of a death of a spouse unlike today which is now divorce. During the 70’s single parents, stepparents, and couples without children became more acceptable. Overall family structure has changed very little besides the fact that women have challenged gender roles and started to be more independent from their traditionally duties. Ideally the family is thought to provide everyone with protection, companionship, security, socialization and stability. This is completely possible from same sex parents but they are excluded and oppressed because they do not fit this idea of family. Same sex couples have always had to face great oppression from their straight counterparts. Only recently have the rights and inequality of same sex couples and people become such a huge issue. The concept of family is just another one of these issues they face. A majority of society tends to believe a family should and can only consist of a mother and a father. This definition leaves out same sex couples and causes them to struggle to have families of their own. Many people ignorantly believe that two men or two women are unable to raise children as successful as a man and a woman. Therefore, people seem to look down on same sex couples that have families, thinking that they some how threaten their own family. They are somewhat outcaste by the rest of society.

2. Advances in reproductive technology, including artificial insemination, egg donation and in-vitro fertilization, have given gay and lesbians ways to become parents other then adoption. Although these things make it possible it still is an extremely time and money consuming process. Although this is the same for heterosexuals, they have a much more manageable procedure to go through. Gay and lesbian couples often have to hide their relationships or even lie completely in order to go through these different options of having children. We are told that children of lesbian and gay couples grow up lonely, depressed and excluded from normal childhood activities. Statistics show that this is completely untrue. There is no evidence to suggest that children of gay parents are less intelligent, less popular or more likely to have problems than children of straight parents. Actually the children of gay parents grow up as happy, healthy and well adjusted as every other child. The excuse that sexual orientation somehow affects parenting skills is starting to fade as gay couples continue to raise children successfully and prove this unfair stereotype wrong. Studies have shown that children with same-sex parents and children with straight parents have no significant differences. In 15 studies on more than 500 children by either heterosexual mothers or same-sex mothers, evaluating possible stigma, teasing and social isolation, adjustment and self-esteem, opposite gender role models, sexual orientation, and strengths showed no evidence in any difference between the two. Some studies even showed that children with a single heterosexual parent have more difficulties than children who have parents of the same sex. Good parenting depends on a parent's ability to create a loving and nurturing home, something both gay and straight parents can do. It seems the only different struggle that they deal with is the homophobia that is taught by their classmates and friends parents. However, people want to say otherwise, possibly because they are scared that more kids will be “influenced” to be gay. Even though children of gay parents are no more likely to become gay than other children. These are issue caused by society not by homosexual parents.

3. There are almost 130,000 children who are currently in foster care. Children are removed from their families due to neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, which is mainly caused by heterosexual parents. As show in the previous section, there is no reason why same sex couples should not be allowed to adopt these children who so desperately need a family. Instead, a lot of them end up growing out of the system. Even though most states allow gays and lesbians to adopt, only 11 states allow same-sex couples to adopt together. If it was easier for same-sex couples to adopt then this number would decrease drastically. More children would grow up with loving, supporting families instead of alone. Heteronormative ideas are not allowing children the opportunity to have homes and families they so desperately want. In my opinion by redefining what constitutes a family it could help gain rights for gays and lesbians. Although questioning and redefining family will not necessarily immediately create change it will help the movement and cause people to take action on the issue. If laws and definitions change then eventually so will the way society views gays and lesbians. It would make it more acceptable and easier for them to start families and could possibly lead to the legalization of marriage as well. By normalizing same sex families discrimination would be less likely to happen. If people see how similar they are to their own family then it may help gay and lesbian people to move forward with their struggle.


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