Wednesday, April 27, 2005

No Gay Foster Parents in Texas?

A state representative in the Texas legislature is trying to pass a bill that would make it illegal for gays and bisexuals to be foster parents. Rep. Robert Talton, who is Republican, says, “It is our responsibility to make sure that we protect our most vulnerable children, and I don't think we are doing that if we allow a foster parent that is homosexual or bisexual.” He has also baldly stated that children are better off in orphanages than in the foster homes of gay or bisexual parents. Under this bill, prospective foster parents would be asked about and investigated as to their sexual orientation before being accepted, and people already serving as foster parents would be subjected to the same. Anyone found to be gay or bisexual would be prevented from acting as foster parents, and those who already are would have the children under their care immediately removed from their homes.

This bill sailed through the Texas house under a 135-6 vote and is now on its way to the senate. If it passes, as it surely will, Texas will become the only state to ban gays from being foster parents, but I can well suppose that it won’t be the last, unless the Supreme Court prohibits it. This seems unlikely, especially if Bush is able to appoint anyone to the Court.

I felt very angry when I first heard about this. Now I mostly just feel sad that so many people think the way these Texas legislators think or, perhaps, pretend to think in order to curry favor with religious fundamentalists bent on making this one nation under the God of the literally interpreted bible.

I presume that one of their primary rationalizations for passing this law is to protect children from being turned into homosexuals or bisexuals either as a result of being molested by adult foster parents of their own sex (So what about placing children with foster parents of the opposite sex?), or more subtly conditioned into thinking that sexual intimacy with people of the same sex is morally and divinely acceptable--an open invitation to a headlong plunge into homosexual depravity and ultimate damnation at the hands of an angry God.

So far as I know, there is no compelling evidence that children raised by homosexuals are more likely to be molested or to become gay than are children raised by heterosexuals. If there is, I think that it needs to be presented to the American public for our careful consideration. But I suspect that the only “evidence” these legislators have for banning gays and bisexuals from being foster parents is a few questionable passages from the “good book” saying that homosexuality is a sin.

But even if one believes that it is a sin, how does it necessarily follow that children raised by adults who practice this “sin” behind closed doors are going to choose it for themselves? It has always seemed to me that Christian fundamentalists suffer from an inordinate fear that homosexuality is so intrinsically and overwhelmingly attractive that we must all be protected from the slightest expression or mention of it lest we be seduced by the tremendously powerful dark side of our carnal desires. What’s more, I have always found it paradoxical that fundamentalists believe in free will and that sin is an expression of free will (i.e., a freely willful choice to violate God’s commands), yet they’re so intent on protecting us all from being "turned into" sinners--homosexual or otherwise--from seeing sin around us. It seems to me that if one really believes that God damns only sinners and that sin is a free choice, then he shouldn’t be afraid of people sporting sinful “lifestyles” around him, since he has the God-given power to resist their sin. In fact, it seems to me that he should be grateful for the opportunity to demonstrate to himself and to God almighty that he is exercising his free-will to choose virtue over vice in the presence of vice and not only in a world where all vice and temptation has been sanitized away. For just as there cannot be true courage without the overcoming of fear, how can there be true virtue or righteousness without the overcoming of sinful temptation? As Freud said, “The moral man is not he who is never tempted, but he who resists his temptations.”

As for me, I believe that if we’re going to start protecting foster children from potentially corrupting influences, we should begin by making sure that they aren’t placed in the homes of adults who believe in biblical fairy tales and who teach them that if they don’t constantly repent of their disgustingly sinful urges and acts and do their very best at all times to walk the straight and narrow path of God’s blessing, they’ll burn in screaming agony forever and ever in Satan’s torture chamber. That, to me, is perhaps the ultimate psychological abuse and corruption of a child.

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