Thursday, August 30, 2012

Stop blaming single mothers

 I wish more LGBT groups would stand up for single mothers of all sexual orientations.  Instead I want to cry - and scream - every time anyone argues for same-sex marriage by aligning with the rhetoric that blames single mothers (and therefore not same-sex couples) for our social problems.  So I am grateful to Legal Momentum (formerly NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund -- don't get me started on these types of name changes....) for consistently demanding that we look at wealth inequality, sex discrimination, lack of state and employer support for caregiving, etc as the causes of the disadvantages faced by children living in poverty, including those with single mothers. (I recently discussed this here).

Well Legal Momentum has just published a simple fact sheet on child poverty and births outside marriage.  Here it is.  By looking at the statistics from other countries, it is possible to see that births outside marriage does not cause children to be poor. The level of child poverty in the US is an outrage and a tragedy.  Other countries do much better, even with nonmarital births as high or close to as high as ours.

I think many gay rights supporters would be surprised to see how often the arguments against same-sex marriage turn out to be about single mothers.  For example, the argument by supporters of Prop 8, in their petition to the US Supreme Court to reverse the 9th Circuit's opinion in Perry finding Prop. 8 unconstitutional, goes like this:  Allowing same-sex marriage will contribute to the belief that marriage is about valuing adult personal relationships.  It isn't.  Marriage is about channeling the sexual behavior that produces children, often unintentionally, into the family structure that will give the resulting children two parents who live together and raise the children together.  The problem with decoupling marriage from providing for the consequences of heterosexual sexual intercourse, namely children, is that...more children will be raised by single mothers.  And that is the real problem.  So they claim.

Advocates for LGBT families usually respond to this by saying how silly it is to argue that letting same-sex couples marry will produce more children of heterosexuals raised by single mothers.  But, really, we need to be careful not to jump on the bandwagon of even hinting that children shouldn't be raised by single mothers.


Rebecca Herman said...

From a straight woman planning to become a single mother - THANK YOU. Oh and I live in a state where gay marriage is legal and I wanted to be a single mother by choice LONG before it was legalized. What a silly argument! I've just always known that I am happiest as a single person and I just don't have an interest in marriage or another relationship. But I've always wanted a child, and I see no reason why I can't raise a happy, healthy child by myself. I guess it would be preferable to some people to force myself into a miserable marriage to have a child, probably end up divorced, then spend years shuffling the child back and forth between households.

colly mack said...

Thank you! I'm the child of a single mom and it drives me up the wall when I hear fellow queers jumping on the anti-single parent bandwagon.

Nancy Polikoff said...

Please make your voices heard. I sometimes feel like I am the only one trying to hold LGBT groups' feet to the fire on this issue.