If ‘Family’ Means Anything, Family Means Nothing

Barb Wire

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’re well aware that there’s a movement afoot to destroy marriage and family—I mean, “expand the definition of marriage and family” or “expand equality” or whatever sophistry serves the desires for cultural approval of the homosexual community.  One of the permutations of this movement is to deracinate the historical and commonsense understanding of parentage.

Economist Jennifer Roback-Morse has repeatedly warned that intentionally severing the tie between biological parents and their offspring will result in greater intrusive government involvement with and regulation of family life not less as some liberals and libertarians assert. Take a gander at the new 277-page “parentage” bill (HB1243) sponsored by Illinois State Representative Kelly Burk (Democrat, of course) for evidence that Roback-Morse is right.

This bill would replace existing law and grant parental rights to adults who are neither the biological nor adoptive parents of children with whom they are living. Further, it makes no explicit provision limiting the numbers of “parents” to two.

This bill states that a man or woman is determined to be the a parent if “for the first 2 years after the birth of the child, he [or she] resided in a household with the child, openly held out the child as his [or her] own during that time, the child had only one parent under law at that time, and that parent consented to the man’s [or woman’s] holding out the child as her own.” This means that a man or woman cohabiting with the legal parent of a child for two years could be established as a legal parent. Parentage would no longer be connected to biology, marriage, or adoption. This is a revolutionary legal shift that bodes ill for children.

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Equally bad, the bill states the following:

A woman is presumed to be the parent of a child if…she and the birth mother of the child have entered into a marriage, civil union, or substantially similar legal relationship, and the child is born to the birth mother during the marriage, civil union, or substantially similar legal relationship, except as provided by a valid gestational surrogacy contract.

This means that if a woman in a civil union with a woman has a sexual relationship with a man and conceives a child, the non-biological civil partner will be presumed to be the child’s parent. Her legal status as parent supersedes the rights of the biological father. Worse still, since the bill does not limit the number of parents, it’s within the realm of possibility that the child could have three legal parents.

Attorney and Director of the Marriage Law Foundation, William C. Duncan, warned about the radical and subversive nature of this shift of  views on parentage:

[A] revolution in the legal understanding of parenthood seems to have quietly begun with little or no public debate or discussion. This dramatically transformative development is the statutory recognition of “de facto” parenthood—the notion that an unrelated individual (usually the unmarried partner of a biological parent, but potentially any adult) can be designated as the legal “parent” of a child by virtue of an agreement with a biological or adoptive parent, or even just a relationship with the child. …

These changes, however, are radical. The default rules for establishing legal parenthood—which were nearly universally recognized until now—recognize individuals as parents based on (1) biological parenthood, (2) marriage to a parent, or (3) adoption. These clear laws advance the interests of children to know and be raised by their biological parents whenever possible. The one significant exception, adoption, largely imitates the biological mother-father model, thus allowing a child who cannot be raised by his own parents to at least be raised by a mother and father (emphasis added).

Once parentage is severed from biology and from an understanding that children are entitled to a mother and father, there remains no rational justification for limiting parentage to two people. The understanding of parentage as binary emerges from the reality of procreation: There are two sexes the sexual union of which produces children.

Duncan writes that some states have already abandoned the “binary nature of legal parenthood by allowing three or more adults to be designated ‘parents’ of a child at the same time.” The proposed Illinois law has no language explicitly prohibiting more than two people from being identified as parents. That is no mere oversight. “Progressives” committed to deconstructing marriage and family in order to serve the desires of adults—particularly homosexual adults—would like nothing more than to sneak into law the radical possibility of a child having three or more legal parents.

The practice of purchasing eggs or sperm and renting wombs for growing babies commodifies human beings. Children who are created to be intentionally motherless or fatherless are being denied their inherent right to know and be raised by their biological parents.

In the commodification of children who are being created and purchased to satisfy the desires of adults, children suffer most. This law would merely exacerbate the social, moral, economic, and legal problems that our abandonment of truth about marriage, family, and children has created.

Rather than discouraging the practice of non-biological, non-adoptive adults living with children, this law would help normalize and facilitate it, which puts children at increased risk of harm. Again Duncan warns:

Existing law…ensures that when natural parents transfer their legal rights, there are “bright lines” governing the process. Thus, parental rights are only terminated when there is clear evidence of unfitness, or when a parent voluntarily relinquishes them through a formal procedure like adoption (including adoption by stepparents)…It is clear that living with a cohabiting couple increases risks of abuse and maltreatment for children, and that unrelated males living with children are more likely to abuse those children.”

Feckless cultural approval of no-fault divorce, non-marital cohabitation, adoption by homosexual couples, and reproductive technologies that sever the tie between procreation and childrearing has paved the way for this legislation. The loss of a correct understanding of what marriage is has resulted in the subordination of the needs and rights of children to the desires of adults. Conservatives recognize that it seems an insurmountable task to restore sound thinking and sound action regarding family.  But we do have a choice: We can either allow these sorry conditions to dispirit and defeat us or use them to motivate us to fight more courageously and tenaciously for children.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Laurie Higgins
Laurie Higgins has worked as the Cultural Analyst for the Illinois Family Institute (IllinoisFamily.org) since the fall of 2008. Prior to that, she worked full-time in the writing center of a suburban Chicago high school, where all four of her children attended. She is currently working on bulking up her stick arms by dead-lifting her five grandchildren--one at a time, of course.

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