When the Needs of Children Are Secondary to the Desires of Adults, Guess Who Keeps Losing?

From the new issue of Salvo:

Family Skewed

When the Needs of Children Are Secondary to the Desires of Adults, Guess Who Keeps Losing? by Marcia Segelstein

Perhaps the producers of “Sesame Street” were prescient—or, more likely, trying to push things along—with the lyrics of one of the show’s songs, “Doing the Family Thing”:

Any group of people
Living together
And loving each other
Are doing the family thing . . .
It doesn’t really matter
Just who you’re living with;
If there’s love, you’re a family too . . .

Little listeners (among them my own then-preschoolers) were being taught, albeit subtly, a new definition of family. Daddy’s not around? No worries; Mommy’s live-in boyfriend is family. Never mind that it wasn’t actually true. But the message was clear: all it takes to make a family is love.

Fast-forward fifteen years, and kids hearing that song might be reassured that Mommy’s live-in girlfriend, or Daddy’s live-in boyfriend, is family. Only now, depending on a state’s marriage laws, it could be true. In Connecticut, for example, an organization calling itself Love Makes a Family successfully took up the fight to get so-called same-sex marriage legally recognized there.

Same-sex marriage is legally recognized in several other states now, too. And while it may be the most headline-making example of how norms of family structure are changing, it’s hardly the only one. Shifting societal attitudes, easy accessibility to artificial reproductive technology, and the success of the gay rights movement have opened a Pandora’s box of possibilities for “doing the family thing.” The definition of family is changing, and with it, the definition of parent. In today’s brave new world, biology—and even love—are being trumped by “intention.”

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