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Monday, October 30, 2006

The Anti-Same Sex Marriage Movement Takes Aim at My Marriage

South Carolina has a broad anti-same sex marriage and benefits amendment on its ballot this fall.  I've been somewhat involved with the debate and, thus, have attended more than my share of debates and forums on the proposed constitutional question.  In listening to the anti-same sex marriage folks, I have become increasingly troubled (and frankly frightened) about their persistent harping on the innate differences between men and women in explaining the purported need to limit child-rearing to opposite-gender couples.  According to their argument, men and women bring different things to child-rearing and children need that difference.

I have a simple question for those who use this argument to limit the civic equality of gay and lesbian parents:  are you coming for me next? 

My wife and I are both law professors.  We each have two Ivy League degrees and two graduate degrees.  We have separate last names, hyphenated our children's last names, and never even thought about any other option.  We divide childcare very evenly and largely in response to our shifting work commitments.  Because it is more convenient for our schedule, I do all the cooking.

Moreover, my wife has a personality that is, in many ways, more stereotypically male, while I have many stereotypically feminine personality traits.  When we disagree, I am the one who always tries to process things to death, while she eschews talk, needing instead time and space.  She is the stoic one; I am the emotional one.  While we both embrace attachment parenting, she takes a firmer hand when our four-year old misbehaves while I am more nurturing (and more gullible).

We are raising our son and daughter in a household where gender is not destiny, where not only career opportunities but also interests and personality traits are equally open to both of them.

If the anti-same sex marriage crowd means what it says about the need for raising children in households where there are two distinctly and traditionally gendered parents, then they are directly challenging my fitness as a parent (and I suspect many of yours).  If not, then the reference to gender difference as an explanation for favoring one form of two-parent household over another is, at best, ill-thought out and, at worst, a smokescreen for naked bigotry.

Posted by amsiegel on October 30, 2006 at 10:33 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Check out this satire in the New Yorker on samish sex marriage:


which develops "a Manly Scale of Absolute Gender" (before HArvey Mansfield!)

Posted by: GBQ | Oct 30, 2006 11:32:46 AM

Are you a South Carolina native? Perhaps the debate is framed that way because people are reflecting on the gender roles that are common in South Carolina.

Posted by: Hi There | Oct 30, 2006 11:16:18 AM

Well, I don't think there is any doubt that most of these arguments based on child-rearing or marriage or whatnot are just (extremely) thinly-veiled bigotry. I don't think that the people opposed to gays necessarily care whether gays are better parents or worse parents than anyone else-- they just don't kids to be able to adopt because they hate gays.

That being said, I don't think there is anything new or shocking that there are "innate differences between men and women" when it comes to child-rearing. I am sure that there are some things that, on average, a male-female couple is better able to do for their children than a female-female couple. Similarly, I am sure that there are certain things that female-female couples bring to their children that can't be replicated by a male-female couple. But, I think if you are calling for science on that issue, what's the point? That argument is just used to express bigotry-- I don't think most of those making it are making it sincerely (although one certainly CAN make that argument sincerely, I think, but you are not likely to hear such sincerity on the campaign trail).

Posted by: andy | Oct 30, 2006 10:44:20 AM

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