That’s what the state of Michigan is asking in a Detroit federal court case this week. The children in question are being raised by two mothers who can’t marry each other (due to Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage) and therefore can’t jointly adopt the children.
The state, defending its current law, wields a controversial and widely discredited study which claims that gay parents are bad for kids. The paper is controversial because it takes some pretty big liberties with scientific best practices. The research itself could be the subject of an 800-word rant, so for today I’ll stick to the definitive question being raised by this case: should parenting ability (or lack thereof) be a determining factor in a couple’s legal right to marry?
I remember applying for my marriage license in Michigan many years ago. It wasn’t like applying for college or a job – this was a sure thing! Marriage license applications had a 100% acceptance rate. The clerk wasn’t looking askance at me, wondering if I’d be a good parent someday, and the law didn’t require any proof of such a thing.
Let’s admit that all kinds of riff-raff get married in this country – including people who may become terrible parents. Marriage is legal for convicted criminals, people who have terminal diseases, and people who think Disney World makes for a romantic honeymoon destination.
Half the married couples I know wouldn’t be married if “studies show you’ll be a great parent” were a required box on the married license. That would rule out people who yell at the refs during sporting events, people who sneak into the express check-out line with 11 items (cheaters!), and anyone who doesn’t want a puppy. The list of the unmarriageable would include (but is certainly not limited to):
- Candy Crush addicts
- Consumers of junk food
- Anyone who watches too much TV
- Those who are afraid of clowns
- Disposable diaper advocates
- Late sleepers
- High-functioning alcoholics (then who would run the PTO?)
- People who don’t compost or sort their recycling
- New York Times subscribers (takes too long to read)
- Frequent McDonalds customers
- Residents of poor school districts
- Ohio State fans (poor judgment)
- Anyone in Mississippi (obviously)
- Men who forget to put the seat down
- Women who wear too much perfume
- Renters of houses that have lead paint on the walls
- Anyone whose sense of style and personal aesthetics prevent ownership of a minivan
Here’s what I think of the children: the ones in the current Michigan court case are lucky indeed. They have been chosen by a loving couple because their birth parents can’t care for them. One of the little boys has disabilities that may prevent him from ever walking, talking, or feeding himself.
So I have a hard time conjuring a mental image of “better” parents than the women in this court case, who have voluntarily signed up for the toughest kind of parenting. Two three-year-olds and a four-year-old! I’m exhausted just looking at a sweet picture of them.
If being a dedicated, loving parent becomes a condition for marriage in Michigan, approving this couple’s marriage license is a no-brainier. The state should pay for the wedding and give them a free honeymoon trip to Mackinac Island (a legitimate destination for excellent parents).
Good luck, state of Michigan, if this is particular case is your best shot at convincing the judge that gay parents aren’t as good for kids as heterosexual parents. It may be an uphill battle with these particular plaintiffs.
For goodness’ sake, think of the children!