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Viewpoint: Arnie Fielkow

In an opinion piece, the New Orleans City Council president denounces the recent court decision against a gay couple who wanted their adopted child to carry both men's names on his birth certificate.

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How long must we wait for legislation that will treat all adoptive parents — married or unmarried, heterosexual, gay or lesbian — the same?

Adoptive parents Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith of Orlando, Fla. want nothing more than for both of them to be able to register their adoptive child for school, provide their child with health and life insurance benefits and fulfill the responsibilities all parents have.

But since Louisiana — the state where their child was born — does not allow unmarried couples to adopt legally, these men have to choose which one of them will be on their child's birth certificate.

Demanding the respect shown to married heterosexual couples, Adar and Smith took the matter to court and won. This month, however, they lost to the state in the latest appeal in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

At a time when Louisiana is demanding parental responsibility, we are depriving willing people of taking on those duties. Frankly, I am befuddled. How long must we wait for legislation that will treat all adoptive parents — married or unmarried, heterosexual, gay or lesbian — the same? How long must we wait before all adopted children are allowed to fully become part of a family that loves them?

Most abhorrent was the language used to defend the recent judgment. The chief Judge stated that this ruling is in line with "the state's rational preference for stable adoptive families." Her inference that gay and lesbian couples are not stable is anything but rational. Studies show that same-sex couples raising adopted children are, on average, older, more educated and have more economic resources than other adoptive parents. There are no negative consequences for children of gay and lesbian parents in regard to standard measures of well-being. The state's Department of Children and Families found that "gay people and heterosexuals make equally good parents."

So why, may I ask, is this group of people who are not allowed to marry also not allowed to raise and love children?

Nearly two years ago, I co-authored a resolution urging the Louisiana House of Representatives to vote against the passage of House Bill No. 60, legislation that prohibits unmarried couples from both being on the birth certificate of an adopted child. At that time, Gambit published an editorial I wrote about the unethical nature of House Bill No. 60. I still believe what I wrote then: "Although citizens from around this country, state and the City of New Orleans possess a wide range of views, one issue that will never be controversial is that our children come first." This statement is indisputable, and yet then-House Bill No. 60 and the recent ruling do nothing but harm children. Furthermore, allowing both names on a birth certificate cannot possibly hurt this state or the sanctity of family.

My wife and I are adoptive parents of two little girls from eastern Europe. Our daughters are seen as "our" daughters in the eye of the law. How can the state flatly deny other children that same dignity? After spending two months visiting an orphanage in eastern Europe, I can tell you that children without a home want nothing more than to be loved by a family of their own. They sure as heck don't care if that family comes with two dads or two moms as long as it comes with love.

A 19-year-old son of lesbian mothers recently defended his upbringing in front of the Iowa House of Representatives. His impassioned words, spoken from personal experience, are far more sensible than the sentiments expressed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals majority. In his testimony he stated, "In my 19 years, not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple. And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of my character."

It is my hope that this is the last editorial on this subject that I am compelled to write. Our state leaders will hopefully begin to realize that while couples come in different packages, there are common denominators that deem them fit parents. Among those common denominators are love and responsibility, two characteristics that both married and unmarried couples can show. It is time for us to lift the bar as a community. Our most precious assets, our children, deserve nothing less.

— Arnie D. Fielkow is president of the New Orleans City Council.

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