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viewpoint

A case against SCOP

| Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Regarding his and his partner’s decision to have children, Neil Patrick Harris told Oprah, “We really had thought it through financially, emotionally and relationship-wise. We didn’t just accidentally get pregnant. These kids come into our world with nothing but love.” How many heterosexual parents can say the same?
Whether or not you believe that a loving, heterosexual union is the best moral context for raising children, it is inaccurate and naïve to ignore the fact that not all heterosexual unions produce such ideal family contexts. Currently, four in 10 babies in the U.S. are born to unwed mothers; 19 percent of pregnancies are unwanted and another 29 percent are unplanned, meaning that in only 52 percent of births (these figures exclude abortions) the resulting child is both wanted and planned (Guttmacher Institute). This is not to say that accidental or “oops” pregnancies cannot result in loving, parent-child relationships — many times they do. Rather, it points out that heterosexual parents often deviate from traditional family models, and that since gay parents face enormous obstacles to become parents, they tend to be immensely invested and dedicated when they make the decision to have or adopt a child.
The type of logic that ignores empirical data surrounding the social reality of marriage and parenting moved me to write an initial petition against the group Students for Child Oriented Policy (SCOP). I apologize if the initial petition framed SCOP as a bigoted or heartless group. My intention was certainly not to frame SCOP as heartless or to criticize their moral view; rather, my intention was to point out that there are fundamental issues with the group’s argument.
In the group’s marriage petition, SCOP claims to place primary emphasis on how the particular policy, meaning gay marriage, will affect children. Our petition is not taking a stand against the group’s moral stance on same-sex marriage. We respect the group’s right to object to same-sex marriage on moral and religious grounds. However, the petition addresses that if SCOP stands for “child-oriented policy,” this implies that they want the best outcomes for children. If this is the group’s primary focus, then they must recognize that social science has shown that same-sex unions produce no differential outcomes for children. In fact, in many cases, same-sex parent households provide a loving and caring home for children who would otherwise remain in institutions such as foster care. Thus, same sex marriage can be empirically accepted as a child-oriented policy. In ignoring this data, SCOP’s policy discriminates against all non-traditional family structures in a way that is in opposition of University policy on diversity and inclusion in Du Lac.
When I met with a SCOP representative Tuesday, he did clarify that SCOP is primarily interested in reinforcing the institution of marriage as a union that should be oriented towards lovingly raising and caring for children. This not only focuses on gay marriage but also includes criticizing no-fault divorce and how it has damaged traditional family structure. Additionally, he clarified that in extreme situations, where children cannot possibly be raised by their biological parents, SCOP is not against same-sex adoption as an alternative.
However, the primary grievances stated above remain unresolved. SCOP cannot claim to be inclusive and implicitly nondiscriminatory without recognizing the empirical data surrounding same-sex parenting. In a recent study published in The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (“Can Gay and Lesbian Parents Promote Healthy Development in High-Risk Children Adopted from Foster Care”) authors Lavner, Waterman and Paplau concluded that children adopted out of foster care experienced the same level of improvement across the board, despite the fact that gay couples were disproportionately more likely to adopt high-risk children. Additionally, an objective study from Michael Rosenfeld examined grade repetition using census data to measure “Same-sex Parenting and Kid’s Educational Success.” In the study of the same title, he concluded that there were no differential outcomes in grade repetition — a crude, but nonetheless telling, measure of childhood success, especially considering that children in foster care are highly more likely to repeat a grade.
When asked why SCOP does not recognize or reference this and other empirical data that explores same-sex parenting, my correspondent claimed that the social sciences are not “hard” sciences and that this literature is not relevant to SCOP in its current foundational stages.
While there are certainly issues in attempting to study same-sex parents and their children, and more data is needed for a complete evaluation of childhood outcomes, the studies I reference in the petition provide adequate measures that same-sex couples are perfectly acceptable parents. The existing data has been sufficient enough for the American Sociological Association, American Psychological Association, American Medical Association and the American Pediatric Association to issue statements that disavow the notion that same-sex parenting is in any way damaging or produces differential outcomes, for children.
If you disagree with me, I encourage you to explore the empirical data and academic literature. The reality is that moral opinions surrounding the same-sex marriage debate are completely separate from the empirical data that should constitute a same-sex parenting debate.
I am not criticizing moral or religious beliefs on same-sex marriage, but I am challenging us, as a university community “in the pursuit of truth and knowledge,” to separate empirical fact from moral opinion. The existence of a club entitled “Students for Child-Oriented Policy” that focuses on reorienting the marriage debate without addressing literature that suggests that same-sex unions produce perfectly healthy childhood outcomes is problematic. It does not frame the marriage discussion on completely moral or empirical grounds; instead it implies the moral as empirical and is a poor representation of our University’s mission.
Choosing to frame the discussion in this way does not stand for acceptance or inclusion; it assumes that heterosexual marriage is the most superior context for childrearing. There is nothing about a heterosexual union that is, on the surface, more oriented towards favorable childhood outcomes. Rather, this is dependent on the commitment of the spouses to each other and their children. Ultimately this is a question and challenge to individuals, not the entire institution. Ideal is not reality and, whether or not you agree with same-sex marriage from a moral standpoint, the reality is that, in 2014, the context of same-sex marriages produces no differential outcomes for children.

Shannon Sheehan
sophomore
Pasquerilla West Hall
April 8

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • NDaniels

    Using examples of persons who discriminate against fatherhood and/or motherhood or who do not respect fatherhood and/or motherhood as God intended fatherhood and/or motherhood to be, does not change the fact that intentionally denying a child the love of a loving father or a loving mother, is never oriented towards the good of that child.

    • EMJ02

      And what of children who might otherwise not be adopted who are adopted by loving, stable couples, homosexual or heterosexual?

      http://www.childrensrights.org/issues-resources/adoption/facts-about-adoption/
      When greater numbers of individuals arguing against the adoption of children into stable homes headed by homosexual couples start taking the implications of their own arguments seriously and adopting children themselves, people might be willing to listen.

    • EMJ02

      And what of children who might otherwise not be adopted who are adopted by loving, stable couples, homosexual or heterosexual?

      http://www.childrensrights.org/issues-resources/adoption/facts-about-adoption/
      When greater numbers of individuals arguing against the adoption of children into stable homes headed by homosexual couples start taking the implications of their own arguments seriously and adopting children themselves, people might be willing to listen.

      • NDaniels

        If you do not believe it is unjust to intentionally deny a child the love of a mother or a father than on what basis can you claim that a child is better off if they are adopted?

        • Patrick Guibert

          NDaniels, same-sex marriage wouldn’t force anybody to put their kids up for adoption. How would the love of two fathers or the love of two mothers be any worse for the adopted child than the love of one mother and one father? What are you basing your position off of besides your religious beliefs?

          • NDaniels

            If you discriminate against fatherhood or motherhood, you are not capable of judging what is best for a child, to begin with. The question is, why does The University of Notre Dame, through their student newspaper, allow The Word of God to be put to the test?

          • none

            I don’t think you know what “discriminate” means. Are you a student at ND, btw?

          • Patrick Guibert

            NDaniels, ignore the people asking if you’re an ND student. Your views still matter. But as for repeating your accusation of discrimination, read my response above.

        • Bri O’Brien

          I do not think you are getting the point. The children within the foster care and adoption systems are already without a loving mother or father. Further, there are plenty of children that have both a mother and father but are not treated with the love and respect they deserve. Your scenario would have these children remain in foster care, even though there are plenty of loving homosexual couples who would gladly and graciously adopt them, until some heterosexual couple comes along to adopt said children. Clearly, since there is an overwhelming amount of children in foster care, those heterosexuals just are not getting the job done since they are so preoccupied with procreating for themselves. Do you know the rate of homelessness for children who remain in foster care throughout childhood upon entering into adulthood (meaning leaving the system at 18)? Within a couple years, most of them are homeless. I don’t know the statistic off the top of my head but I do know its staggering as it had quite an effect on me. Did you know that 20% of homeless children identify as LGBT? Why are we keeping these kids from loving homes? Because of “tradition?” Thats absolutely ridiculous. But, lets go with tradition for a moment here. How many of the men in the first testament practiced polygamy? Quite a number of them. How did Catholicism start? The Roman corruption of Christianity. Wait, the bible actually does not say anything about marriage being between a man and woman? Oh, but, wait, women were considered a man’s property upon marriage? That was the tradition for a VERY LONG TIME. Women didn’t even get the right to vote in the US until 1920…because of tradition.
          I say eff tradition and all it stands for (oppression). Children deserve to be LOVED. By whom, it really does not matter as long as they are loved. What they do not deserve is a select group of people determining that they should not be adopted to loving families just because those families happen to be different and nontraditional.

          • NDaniels

            The point is, if you discriminate against fatherhood or motherhood, you are not capable of judging what is best for a child to begin with.

          • Patrick Guibert

            Nobody’s discriminating against fatherhood or motherhood. We’re saying that what makes a father a father is that he is male and has a child. We’re saying that what makes a mother a mother is that she is female and has a child. There are many great heterosexual parents whose roles in the household are the opposite of society’s gender norms.

          • NDaniels

            How can anyone claim that personhood should be defined according to sexual desire/inclination; to do so objectifies the human person and thus we are no longer viewed as persons but objects of sexual desire/inclination. How can the objectification of the human person respect the Dignity of the human person, if we deny the inherent personal and relational essence of the human person from the start?

          • Patrick Guibert

            “claim that personhood should be defined according to sexual desire/inclination”

            Yes, that’s exactly what my claim is. Your reading comprehension and critical analysis is astounding. I’m so glad that you don’t need to resort to blatant misrepresentation of views you don’t agree with.

        • EMJ02

          So, you would rather deny a child the love of ANY parents by keeping them in the foster system?

          Let’s see every single person who is of reasonable means and who opposes the adoption of children by homosexual couples adopt a child themselves. As I previously noted, every argument has its implications, and in this case, it means that heterosexual couples will need to step up their game.

          I could discuss my extensive experiencing working with children who have experienced maltreatment, been in the foster system, and/or are waiting to be adopted, but anecdotal evidence and personal opinion don’t equate to facts. Do the research. Look up the studies and statistics.

    • none

      I’m not sure what you’re getting at with this word salad, but no one is trying to intentionally deprive children of anything. People are saying that children should be in the best possible homes and families they can be in given their particular circumstances. In some cases, that will be with homosexual parents.

    • Matt

      How cozy you must be in your dream world. What a parent’s member looks like doesn’t impact the quality of their parenting, and I know quite a few heterosexual parents that are legitimately awful for their kids, so chew on that.

  • Guest

    I understand your argument but I find your math horrifically wrong. Unplanned/unwanted pregnancies are not mutually exclusive conditions; therefore there’s probably a significant overlap between the 29% and 19% statistics. You cannot simply add them to find the percentage of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. Furthermore, even if you could, 19+29 = 48, not 52. Carry on, friend.

    • Guest

      *note for the arithmatic error, I misread your article, so I see you did correctly add 19+29. But the conceptual error still stands.

      • none

        The 19% unwanted obviously implies they were also unplanned. The 29% unplanned were not planned but not unwanted. There is no error.

        • Guest

          as the 19% unwanted were all also unplanned, then the total figure should be 29% unplanned/unwanted. therefore, instead of “only 52% being planned and wanted” it should be “71% of births are planned and wanted” #math

          • none

            No, you’re not understanding. 19% are unwanted and unplanned. 29% were unplanned, but not unwanted. I’m not sure how else to explain this to you.

            And if you really think that 71% of births are planned and wanted.. um… you need to get out more? #readingcomprehension

          • Guest

            Actually, yes. According to the CDC, about 49% of all pregnancies are unwanted or unplanned–however, as the author notes, half of these end in abortion. Therefore, only about 25% of live births are unwanted or unplanned. Facts! http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr055.pdf

          • Guest

            In fact, if you take the author’s statistic tat 48% of pregnancies are unwanted or unplanned, and then take in to accound that half of unwanted/unplanned pregnancies were aborted, that would lead to the notion that only 4% of all pregnancies were actually intended. That’s absurd.

          • Source

            To clarify all confusion, here is a direct link to the research cited above, it is reputable and accepting by leading Marriage and Family Scholars.

            http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-Unintended-Pregnancy-US.html

            Also keep in mind – If anything this data is probably low, as it is collected after the baby is born, parents are less likely to report not planning or wanting a pregnancy once they actually have the child

          • none

            By “births” I definitely meant “pregnancies.” That’s my fault, sorry. I’m also not seeing where half of the unwanted/unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. The report you cite only looks at live births.

  • wait what

    “there really is no harm”

    You can’t possibly believe this, can you?

    • Johnny Whichard

      Please do not make this into an inflammatory conversation. It would seem like nature has led to children being raised by a man and a woman. If nature and evolution has led to heterosexual monogamy as it is only possible for a child to be made with both sexes, it is a logical scenario that there could be developmental harm from lacking a parent.

      • wait what

        I think you misunderstood. You said there is no harm in waiting until some indeterminable point in the future at which point you will accept the social science. There is plenty of harm. To homosexual potential parents and the children they could be adopting into stable homes, removing them from undesirable foster home/group home situations. There is harm. Plenty of it.

        • Johnny Whichard

          I agree it is sad that children are up for adoption. But I stand by the belief that a child deserves a loving mother and a loving father (the way evolution and nature designed it). We consider single parent homes to be sad scenarios like houses plagued by divorce. I do not think there is sufficient evidence to equate homosexual parents’ effects on children to that of heterosexual parents’. Another unfortunate scenario, is that people are still bigoted against homosexuals (more so in different parts of America). Is it fair for a child to be teased, bullied and harassed because they have homosexual parents? I understand being denied the ability to adopt a child can hurt, but again, I must stress that I value the well-being of an innocent child much more than two people who want to adopt.

          • wait what

            There is no evidence of children being disproportionately teased or bullied for having homosexual parents. That is also the most disgusting sort of victim blaming, and it demonstrates how weak your arguments here are.

            If you care more about the well-being of a child, then why are you insisting that they not be placed in stable, loving homes with two parents? Do you have any evidence at all showing that gay parents are bad parents? I understand you think the burden is on us, but I have a hard time believing you’d ever be convinced.

            If your concern for the child is paramount, then when a child’s best possible option is living with two loving and homosexual parents, why isn’t that what you think should happen?

            It doesn’t add up. The conclusion one must come to when reading your argument is that you care more about discriminating against gay people than you do about the well being of children.

          • Johnny Whichard

            There is evidence of disproportionate teasing. I have seen it personally. It is awful. I would be in full support of a child of a reasonable age could actively consent to adoption. I’m sorry you cannot seem to respect my opinion, I’m just looking for more answers before I make a firm stance on the issue. At the end of the day, I still believe for now that a every child deserves a loving father and mother, and I’d do anything to further that dream.

          • wait what

            Your anecdotal evidence isn’t worth much, if anything at all, and if we tried to legally control for everything that kids get teased for, it would turn into a nightmare (and a big government one at that!) pretty quickly.

            It is fine to think every child deserves a mother and father. I am asking about when that is not possible for a particular child. Why would you avoid maximizing their potential outcome as much as possible by placing them in a stable and loving, but imperfect by your standards, home?

            I have a hard time respecting your opinion because it so obviously intellectually dishonest.

          • Johnny Whichard

            There isn’t enough data to suggest that homosexual parenting is equivalent to heterosexual parenting. If there was, I’d be on board. Currently, I am for CONSENSUAL adoption by a child of age.

          • wait what

            That does not answer my question. Please read it again and answer that particular question.

            I also want to point out the huge numbers of truly awful biological parents out there. This discussion conveniently ignores all of them. Just kind of an aside here though.

          • Guest2

            Wait so all the gay people are going to adopt all the foster kids and THAT’S why they want to get married?

          • wait what

            No one said that. But plenty of gay people do want to get married to provide stability for children they plan to have or already have. Not sure what point you’re trying to make. Probably don’t have much of one, I would guess.

          • Duh

            What about mothers facing unplanned/unwanted pregnancy? Would you allow a homosexual couple to adopt that baby if it meant the mother wouldn’t get an abortion?

          • Eric

            So you don’t want gay people to be parents until enough gay people are parents that we can do studies to determine whether gay people are good parents? That seems pretty tough.

          • Matt

            When there are hetero parents that are perfectly capable of doing terrible things to their children, it isn’t fair to place the burden of proof on homosexual parents-to-be. Furthermore, there isn’t any credible data to suggest that homosexual parenting harms the child’s development There is 0 reason to prevent a large group of people that would very much like to adopt children from doing so, especially when so many parentless children are bouncing around foster homes. We don’t want to make this a matter of guilty until proven innocent–that helps no one.

          • Okay…

            Let’s rephrase the question: there are millions of kids in need of adoption…heterosexual adults are not successfully dealing with this, apparently. Would you rather a child have no parents or two dads/moms? The answer is obvious.

          • Duh

            “Another unfortunate scenario, is that people are still bigoted against homosexuals (more so in different parts of America). Is it fair for a child to be teased, bullied and harassed because they have homosexual parents?”

            The solution to that isn’t banning homosexuals from adopting children; it’s ending homophobia. Why should the children or parents take the fall instead of the bullies, the ones spewing the homophobic nonsense in the first place?

  • This debate is stupid.

    I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school… I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy…

    • Walter

      I was beat up, ostracized, and bullied in middle school. We evidently had very different experiences back then.

    • Damien

      she doesn’t even go here. you need to go home and take your feelings with you.

  • Elena Misailedes

    Even if all of this weren’t true (though it is), the fact remains that there ARE already children being raised by same-sex parents. Given that fact, and the fact that marriage grants legal rights and protections that are hugely beneficial to kids, there should be no debate – failing to legalize same-sex marriage does a disservice to kids already in that situation and puts kids at risk.

    And Shannon, awesome job!

  • Kate

    “Social experiments”? Do you have any idea how research works?

  • Guest

    For people interested how the social-science arguments against
    same-sex parenting are framed, and in a dispassionate response to them, the ruling by Judge Bernard Friedman in the recent Michigan same-sex marriage case is a good place to
    look:
    http://www.equalitymi.org/files/March2014-DeBoer-ruling.pdf

    The full trial transcripts offer more detailed arguments on both sides.

  • Dani G.

    Finally someone who sees that the most glaring problem (among many) with SCOP is their use of Religion (Catholicism) to dictate the Civil institution of marriage. I don’t think anyone cares if the Catholic Church reaffirms its rule that Catholic marriages be performed between one man and one woman. When you start using one religion’s tenets as the basis (and only evidence) for changing the civil law, however…there is a huge problem.

    • NDaniels

      The fact that only a man and woman can exist in relationship as husband and wife is grounded in reality; The Catholic Church did not invent The Truth, The Catholic Church proclaims The Truth, as Chesterton would say, The Catholic Church says it is true because it is true.

      • none

        Marriage was predominantly polygamous and considered a property exchange for a long time.

        Things change, man.

      • Patrick Guibert

        It’s nice that you quote Chesterton and all, and nobody would disagree. Two women can’t be husband and wife and two men can’t be husband and wife. But they can be wife and wife and they can be husband and husband. You’re avoiding the question of how it would be worse for children.

  • NDaniels

    The question is, why does the Observer, allow those who deny the truth about our Catholic Faith, to continue to publish viewpoints that are anti-Christian? As Catholics, we are not called to question The Word of God, we have been called to address the issues of the day, in light of our Catholic Faith. The reality is, there is an order to Love, and any act that does not respect the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the human person, created in The Image and Likeness of God, is not, and can never be, an act of Love.

    In order to be married to each other, spouses must be existing in relationship as husband and wife. Only in an ordered, complementary, communion of Love, between a man and woman, united in Marriage as husband and wife, can two become One Body, One Spirit in Love, creating a new family. Our call to Holiness has always been a call to Perfect Love, The Blessed Trinity. One cannot be in a committed relationship if that relationship is not ordered to Love, The Word of God.

    • none

      To answer your actual question, it is because Notre Dame recognizes itself as a university that allows non-Catholics to attend and that we do not live in a theocracy.

      Do you actually not understand that?

      • NDaniels

        The purpose of a Catholic University is to proclaim The Truth, not debate The Word of God.

        • none

          There are schools like that in this country. Franciscan in Ohio and Ave Maria I think serve that purpose. If that’s what you’re into (although how scarily intellectually stunted is this type of view? You have to have some knowledge of the world outside your own belief system to lead a successful life).

          Notre Dame is and always has been a nationally competitive university for intellectual pursuits of all kinds. It’s not a monastery.

        • Patrick Guibert

          And the purpose of the SCOP, which is a self-described secular organization, is to use evidence to support their claims. By describing their arguments as being based on “The Word of God”, you’re doing them a disservice.

          • ND

            Patrick, how does identifying oneself or someone else as an object of sexual desire/orientation respect the inherent Dignity of the human person?

          • Patrick Guibert

            ND, you and I have both had sexual thoughts about people. That makes them objects of sexual desire. That’s first grade grammar, dude(tte). Desire is a transitive verb. It takes objects.

            Sexual objectification is something different (even though it has the same core, “object”). But sexual objectification is something that straight people and gay people struggle with. The SCOP is about well-being of children. How is sexual objectification relevant?

    • friend

      The answer is, “Viewpoint space is available to all readers. The free expression of all opinions through letters is encouraged. Letters to the editor must be signed and must include contact information. We make our best effort to publish all letters that we receive. We ask that you keep letters to a reasonable length.”

  • NDaniels

    Patrick, Once you make the erroneous claim that in order to be married, it is no longer necessary for a couple to exist in relationship as husband and wife, any relationship can be defined as marriage if one so desires, thus invalidating the validity of a valid marriage. Marriage, by its inherent essence is restrictive to begin with, because not every couple can exist in relationship as husband and wife.

    • Patrick Guibert

      1) The slippery slope argument doesn’t hold water. What’s stopping three person marriages? The fact that full and complete commitment of yourself to another person is not possible if you’re supposed to be fully and completely committed to a third party in the same way. It doesn’t work.

      2) The SCOP is, as its name suggests, “child-oriented”. So please stay focused on whether or not a same-sex family structure would be okay for children.

      • NDaniels

        Right now, the only thing that is stopping three person “marriages” is the self-evident truth that in order to be married, a couple must be able to exist in relationship as husband and wife; it is absurd to suggest that existing in relationship as husband and wife is unconstitutional.

        • Patrick Guibert

          “to suggest that existing in relationship as husband and wife is unconstitutional.”

          Thank you for so accurately representing my position. It shows that not only are you willing to hear what I have to say, but that your reading comprehension and critical thinking are up to the task as well.