Dispatch from Ireland: Gay Marriage and Adoption

I was recently in Ireland! In fact I was around for the Pope’s visit, along with the World Meeting of Families. The Catholic Church a very long and controversial legacy in Ireland, so all of this was a big deal. I am just wise enough about Ireland to know that I know nothing, and the point of this post is not to weigh in on Irish politics. So I will refrain.

However the Pope’s visit did indeed lead to a whole lot of conversation about the Church’s legacy and some of the big political/religious/moral issues on the Irish table.

One of the issues that came up is policy regarding gay couples adopting children. The question of course is “should they?”

This question isn’t only asked in Ireland, of course. It’s also asked in the United States; I’ll focus the rest of this post on the US because I know it better.

I’ve heard various arguments regarding the question but they boil down to:
1) Gay parents aren’t going to be as good at raising children as straight parents (i.e., both a man and a woman raising together)

2) Yes they are

I always found this debate odd. It’s one of those “framing” things where both sides seem to be happy to let themselves get dragged into asking the wrong questions entirely. 

There is probably a far better question to be asking: “is having two gay parents better than not having two parents?”

In the US, 430,000 children are in foster care. The highest number in recent record. The number of children entering foster care, every year, is higher than the number being adopted. The mean time in foster care is nearly two years. 

In 2011 the UN estimated there are 153 million global orphans. Most are not in foster care but live in very high-risk situations.

With that context, it seems that if gay couples are not allowed to adopt, fewer children will be adopted. Which is better? Adoption by gay parents, or no adoption at all? (Or a longer wait for adoption, which is statistically true when adoption rates are lower.)

For context there is a similar question that is not as big anymore, but it goes something like this: “Is being gay a choice?” And the two arguments are:
1) Totally a choice
2) Totally not a choice

When it seems the only appropriate response from the perspective of the state, who is setting up marriage licenses that are required for couples to share bank accounts, have spousal visitation rights in hospitals, and all that, is “who cares?” Whatever the debate, it's not clear how choice of sexuality affects it at all.


Erik Fogg

We do politics, but we don't do the thinking for you.