Families living in adoption deal with ranking all the time. People wonder: which is more important — nature or nurture? I’m on a mission, as I stated in my keynote speech last week, to get people to stop thinking this way when it comes to biology and biography. BOTH are important to a child and neither can be weighed.
Ranking — putting similar but different things or people into a hierarchy — makes one better than another. It also grants the ranker some sort of special judging status. That’s why last week’s story about John Eastman, Chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, bothers me so. He has his own personal hierarchy about the validity of families.
The Huffington Post reports that Eastman said, “Certainly adoption in families headed, like Chief [Justice of the Supreme Court] Roberts’ family is, by a heterosexual couple, is by far the second-best option.”
So the family I grew up in, according to Eastman, ranks #1. And the one I’ve created with my husband and my children, in his mind, ranks #2.
Now this can be interpreted in a couple of ways. One is that adoption is second best. I, along with other adoption writers, have covered that before. “Second” can be an ordinal number or a of chronological number. I suspect Eastman was using the ordinal meaning:
Daddy+Mommy+biological child(ren) is best.
Daddy+Mommy+child(ren) via adoption is second best.
But maybe this is not what Eastman meant at all. He says on the NOM website:
“An article by the Associated Press has been mischaracterized by The Huffington Post to grossly misrepresent my views on adoption. I believe that couples who adopt children are heroes and do a great service to society, and to the children they adopt. I strongly believe, based on thousands of years of experience and countless social science studies, that children do best when raised by a mother and a father within the bounds of marriage. I commend all those couples who selflessly give of themselves to raise a child who, through no fault of her own, has been deprived of a mother and father. There is nothing ‘second best’ about adoption.”
The stand that Eastman may have been taking — and perhaps even more odious than adoption as a runner-up — is that adoption is a good second choice, far ahead of other lower-ranking options.
Such as same-sex parenting.
NOM was “Founded in 2007 in response to the growing need for an organized opposition to same-sex marriage in state legislatures, NOM serves as a national resource for marriage-related initiatives at the state and local level.”
Know what I think is less than? Know what I think is second best — nine-thousand-six-hundred-and-twenty-eighth best? What’s less than, as a ranker, is not factoring in love and connection and commitment. What’s 9628th best is thinking you are superior and can pass judgment on others.
I reject Eastman’s rankings. He does not have my permission to judge me or my family or my views on what makes a family.
I prefer to think of family in this way, described by a Facebook status that came across my radar as I wrote this post:
In truth a family is what you make it. A family is made strong, not by number of heads [or other body parts] counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring, and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit. — Marge Kennedy, director of KidSmart Media
There are nearly 5000 comments currently at the HuffPo, and by my quick scan there is very little support for Eastman’s views (no surprise — it’s on the Gay Voices page). If you were to leave a comment about ranking and judging families, what would it be?
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