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That marriage 'fence' excluding gays isn't protection, it's bigotry

October 13, 2006 12:50 am



THE ANSWER to Linda J. White's question to herself, "Am I a bigot?" is clearly a resounding "Yes!" In fact, the fence that she claims is in need of fortification might as well have bigotry scribbled all over it, clearly evident underneath the whitewash of her views.

The heterosexual bias and arrogance of her views aside, White should at least be honest regarding the influences of her argument. She claims to have withheld any religious beliefs from her views, yet her references have very strong religious affiliations.

The Witherspoon Institute may bill itself as an independent institute, but its religiosity becomes clear once you take a cursory look at its Web site, or research who's who among its academicians and its associations to Opus Dei. In the Witherspoon report cited by White, three of the four psychologist signatories are faculty at a Catholic graduate school; the only psychiatrist signatory to the report is a member of the National Review Board of the U.S. Confederation of Catholic Bishops, and the president of Witherspoon is a member of Opus Dei. But more importantly, where are the facts to support their views?

As a licensed clinical social worker and mental health professional, I would like to point in the direction of contemporary scientific research and to the policy statements issued by so many of the major psychological and medical health organizations that clearly state that there is no reason to continue to keep homosexuals on the other side of White's picket fence. There's no reason for a fence. The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1974. Since then all of the reputable mental health organizations have issued their own research and policy statements in agreement that homosexuality, gay relationships, and gay parenting are essentially no better or worse than heterosexual ones.

According to the American Psychological Association, "Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents. Indeed, the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children's psychosocial growth."

What people with beliefs like White's and the Witherspoon Institute's don't want you to know is that not only does the research show that homosexuals can be excellent spouses and parents, but that some of the research suggests that in some ways they might even be better as parents than heterosexuals. (This research suggests that lesbian couples have stronger parenting awareness skills than heterosexual couples, and that gay parents tend to discipline their children more effectively with positive techniques such as communication and reasoning rather than by using physical discipline such as spanking.)

I would encourage anyone with questions about the effects of marriage, civil-union, and domestic-partnership laws on the health and well-being of children to go to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Web site and find its recently published article on the subject ("The Effects of Marriage, Civil Union, and Domestic Partnership Laws on the Health and Well-being of Children"). This article speaks directly to White's concerns, and presents well-researched science regarding the kind of optimal support children need. It is scientific research without a religious agenda.

Much of the research and conclusions cited in this Pediatrics article fly in the face of White's misguided views. To quote a couple of examples: "Civil marriage is a legal status that promotes healthy families by conferring a powerful set of rights, benefits, and protections that cannot be obtained by other means. Civil marriage can help foster financial and legal security, psychosocial stability, and an augmented sense of societal acceptance and support. Legal recognition of a spouse can increase the ability of adult couples to provide and care for one another and fosters a nurturing and secure environment for their children Children who are raised by civilly married parents benefit from the legal status granted to their parents."

And, "There is ample evidence to show that children raised by same-gender parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexual parents. More than 25 years of research have documented that there is no relationship between parents' sexual orientation and any measure of a child's emotional, psychosocial, and behavioral adjustment. Conscientious and nurturing adults, whether they are men or women, heterosexual or homosexual, can be excellent parents. The rights, benefits, and protections of civil marriage can further strengthen these families."

Ironically, then, White's fence ends up being an obstacle to the strengthening of marriage, families and the nation that she claims she is trying to protect. Her fence actually weakens marriage and families and it undermines our nation by promoting division, exclusion, and instability. This is not the acceptance and respect of individuals and their right to make choices that White claims she believes in. This is bigotry. Period.

When Nov. 7 arrives I will be voting to remove this fence, and I will vote no and against the Marshall/Newman amendment to the Virginia Bill of Rights. I hope that in the meantime White will take another look at the issues and open herself up to a more constructive view.

Might I offer some professional advice to her and suggest that building a bridge, rather than a fence, would be a good first step?

DON CHIAPPINELLI is a licensed clinical social worker in Fredericksburg.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.