Monday, August 25, 2008

There are families, and then there are ... you know... "families".

There's something about the word "family" that just screams "political buzzword", don't you agree? Because that's sure what I think of when I reflect on growing up. For the past few years, you can pretty much guess what political side an organization was on by whether or not they used the word "family". The Family Research Council, the Council for Nebraska Families, the Family and Faith Initiative, Focus on the Family, etc. The idea is that the family is wholesome and nurturing, and everything that's not a family is a lesser quantity or even distasteful. Not coincidentally, the "family" groups hate the "gay" groups.

It comes down to marketing. It's always better to be FOR something, rather than against something. Take abortion, which hasn't yet raised its head too far in the current election. The groups are known as Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. Nobody wants to be Anti-Life or Citizens against Choice; that's just bad P.R. This isn't like the more clear-cut issues, either. You can be pro-taxes or you can be anti-taxes; both of those positions are clearly distinct from the other. But while you can be pro-life, your opponents cannot be "anti-life", unless they look like Arnold and come from the future to assassinate John Conner. It's an example of a logical fallacy called the "false dichotomy", where two issues are presented as opposites when they really aren't.

The false dichotomy they hit on is "family" vs. "homosexual". There were lots of gay-rights groups popping up all through the 80s and 90s, and it was tough on people to be "anti gay rights", especially in the aftermath of the civil rights movement, which kinda turned out to be a good thing: people against civil rights got marginalized and demonized when the "pro" group won out.

So the groups of people who don't like gays put their heads together: what "pro" symbol could they use? It could be "pro-religion", because some particular faiths are really the basis for most of the disapproval of homosexuality in our modern society. But there are some religions that don't actively hate gays, and some even like gays, so that'd be too confusing. They could be "pro-traditionalists", but that's pretty vague too. Getting warmer. They decided on the "pro-family" angle because (I guess) gay people don't have families or come from families. They just spring fully-grown from the heads of their gay forefathers, like Athena of yore.

It's a pretty good tactic, really: nobody wants to be AGAINST families, that's just political suicide. So for years, the number of political groups with "family" in the name that were opposed to gay rights, gay marriage, and gay adoption grew and grew. Then I read an interesting article.


The article is about a proposed ban on unmarried couples having foster children or adopting in Arkansas. It takes a little bit to wrap your head around that ban; is Arkansas suffering from a runaway surge of men and women adopting kids? Probably not, which is why the legislature had to skirt the issue using creative terminology.

First of all, everybody in Arkansas can still have all the natural children they want, no matter what their married status is. This regulation only applies to non-genetic kids, and then only to parents who aren't married. Parents who are married can adopt and foster all the kids they want. But homosexuals can't get married in Arkansas, and marriages performed outside Arkansas are not recognized. Plus, they can't have children naturally, so the whole thing is stitched up pretty tight.

Except for the unmarried straight people who adopt kids. But who does that, right? Nobody! Well, except for weird and anti-family people. I guess that particular couple should stick to their home in New Orleans and stay out of Arkansas, or else ... what? The government takes their kids away? Now THAT would be some kinda uproar.

All this verbal dancing has to be in there, because you can't just word the ban to prohibit gays from adopting. For one, that's probably unconstitutional. For two, you aren't required to put your sexual preference on adoption papers. In either event, opponents of gay adoption still have a ways to go, even if the initiative makes it on ballot AND passes. Because of current Arkansas state law, individuals are not prohibited from adopting. So... if one person adopts a child, and the state doesn't keep track of what a "couple" is, well... the only thing the ballot would prohibit is having two people walk into a courthouse and adopt a child. One person, of any affiliation or sex, could still adopt a kid. They're not opposed to the idea of gays adopting kids, just the idea of TWO gays adopting kids.

As an aside, even expected hotbeds of anti-gay sentiment like Oklahoma and Kansas specifically allow single gay adoptions. SOURCE

There are two groups working on this ballot initiative mentioned in the original article: the Arkansas Family Council and Arkansas Families First. Quick, can you decide which one supports the ban and which opposes it?

It's tricky, but the Arkansas Family Council is the one gathering the signatures to place the initiative on the November ballot, while Arkansas Families First is questioning the validity of the signatures and preparing a lawsuit to keep the initiative off the ballot. Just for more hilarity and confusion, I also found the Families First Association of Arkansas, which is for the ban, and the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, which opposes the ban. I'm reminded of "The Life of Brian", where Eric Idle can't remember if he belongs to the Judean People's Front, the People's Front of Judea, the Judean Popular People's Front, or the Judean Populist Front. Splitters!

So now everyone's got Family in their names, which must confuse people who only vote by the names of Political Action Committees. Families are what it boils down to, though. Opponents say that the measure will severely reduce the ability of Child Protective Services to find homes for children in Arkansas. Supporters of the ban say, "No! This will mean MORE suitable adopting families, because we're out there telling everyone to keep the gays from adopting. That raises adoption awareness, which is guaranteed to get more straight, married couples to sign up." How can you argue with that logic?

Interestingly, the ... let me see if I get this right... the Family Council Action Committee (which may or may not be different than the above entities) has a FAQ on their website which states that single homosexuals can still adopt children, as the ballot will not prevent them, as long as they refrain from "cohabitating". So I've got this all wrong! It's not really about gays at all! They just want to keep the kids away from couples who are "living in sin", where sin is defined as cohabitation before marriage! They're totally cool with single straights and gays, as long as you don't live with whomever you're dating, because that would interfere with the family atmosphere.

Actually, the proposed Act is VERY VERY CAREFUL not to mention that it's doing anything to homosexuals, specifically. They always mention that cohabiting straight AND homosexual partners are ineligible for adoption. They never mention one without the other, and several times assert that they "are treating everyone equally", i.e. both kinds of couples. Very careful to say that each and every time. No doubt there would be some constitutionality issues if they didn't say that, as they specifically mention they do not foresee vulnerability to discrimination lawsuits because the initiative effects straights and gays alike.

Of course, all my earlier relief at finding out that the Family Council Action Committee wasn't targeting gays is misplaced, because they state that one of the main goals of the legislation is to "blunt a homosexual agenda". So they're just biding their time until they can actually ban homosexuals from adopting, without worrying that "activist judges" will overturn it based on the pesky part of the Constitution that calls for equal protection under the law.

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