Originally published at The Tennessean
Lawmakers here in Tennessee are catching a lot of flak for their support of HB 836, which supposedly allows adoption agencies to “discriminate against” LGBTQ applicants. At first glance, it looks unfair. After all, we all have friends we know and love who are gay and who deserve to be treated fairly. But HB 836 sounds unfair only if we are looking at it from the adults’ perspective. When we view adoption from the child’s perspective, prioritizing homes with both mothers and fathers not only makes sense, it’s critically important.
For the first eight years of my life, I was raised by two gay men — my father and his partner. My formative years were almost entirely devoid of women. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a mother until I watched “The Land Before Time” at school. My 5-year-old brain could not understand why I didn’t have the mom that I suddenly desperately wanted. I felt the loss. I felt the hole. As I grew, I tried to fill that hole with aunts, my dads’ lesbian friends and teachers. I remember asking my first grade teacher if I could call her mom. I asked that question of any woman who showed me any amount of love and affection. It was instinctive. I craved a mother’s love even though I was well-loved by my two gay dads.
Gender matters in parenting
Why is that? Because gender matters in parenting. And because gender matters in parenting, that means gender matters when placing children for adoption. I have personally experienced the pain that motherlessness causes. I could never support any law or institution that endorses motherlessness. Many sociologists agree that fatherlessness is a scourge on our society. Why would anyone think that purposely depriving a child of the love of a mother or father is a good thing?
When it comes to HB 836, we need to be clear about who adoption is for. In adoption, the child is the client. Adoption is not about giving children to adults who want them. It’s about finding the best home for children who have lost their parents. When adoption is done right, every child will be placed in a loving home, but not every adult who wants a child will get one.