Robert Oscar Lopez on gay parenting

02.11.2013, 10:18 AM

At Public Discourse today, Robert Oscar Lopez, has a long, powerful piece denouncing the idea of gay people raising children.  (Lopez was largely raised by his mother, a lesbian, and her partner.) 

Lopez’s indictment is total and unyielding.  Should gays ever adopt?  No:

 Same-sex marriage enthusiasts will say that same-sex couples are already raising children, so if I object to such arrangements my objections should extend beyond merely marriage rights. My response: Yes, my objections do extend to any same-sex couple consciously seeking out exclusive custody of an infant or toddler.

 Is there any legitimate reason – even one shred of one good reason – why we might consider with sympathy the desire of gay couples to marry?  No:

Whatever same-sex marriage is, that’s not what gays are after. They are after a symbolic vehicle that can make them equal to people who can do something they cannot—procreate.

Lopez’s main argument is that marriage establishes parenthood, and that gay marriage means more children not growing up with their own two biological parents.  He says:

Compare the weightiness of the child’s stakes to the levity of what gay activists are fighting for. A same-sex relationship is always a choice, for even if one can’t help having same-sex attractions, one decides with whom to couple and whether to couple at all. Many gays will decide never to settle down with one other person, or if they do, some will decide never to formalize the relationship, and still others will be happy with a civil union. Gays can change their mind, get divorced, and marry the opposite sex. Children of gay couples cannot divorce their parents and go looking for new ones.

Is there any connection at all – even one shred of a connection – between the struggle for gay rights and the struggle for African American civil rights?  No. In fact, quite the opposite:

As long as the focus is on gays, a wealth of metaphors, especially the notion that gay is the new black, can shield the gay activist from inevitable scrutiny about the effects of his demands on children.  By contrast, when speaking of the child’s interests, metaphorical reasoning is highly dangerous. To what can we compare a child who has been partly engineered—either through surrogacy or insemination, always for some kind of fee—and then placed under the power of same-sex parents who deemed their quest for validation more considerable than the possibility that the child might be less than happy missing a father or mother?

To what can we compare a child trafficked from a third world orphanage to America by a couple that knew that the child’s birth culture frowns upon gay relationships? To what can we compare a child who’s been told either that “mother” is double and “father” is nil, or that “father” is double and “mother” is nil? To what do we compare a child who must know, forever, that his mother was treated like a leased oven or that his father was a stranger in a sperm clinic who masturbated into a glass jar for $750?

… Given that the entire basis for overturning Proposition 8 depends on invoking a constitutional amendment designed to protect freed black slaves, racial parallels can only help the cause of people who oppose redefining marriage. From virtually all angles, the modern-day equivalent of uprooted blacks reduced to chattel and severed from their own flesh and blood is not anyone in a same-sex couple, but rather, any child forced to be raised by such a couple!

Lopez has a valid story to tell. (Don’t we all.)  He’s a powerful writer who knows exactly what he wants to say.  In my view, there is some portion of hard truth in what he writes.   I thought so when I opposed gay marriage, and I still think so now that I favor it. I credit Lopez for these things. 

But overall, I am repulsed by what Lopez says and the way he says it.  To me, his voice is the voice of the fanatic, the denouncer of others, the accuser, the utterly self-confident dogmatist who wants to pound us all, in party by the sheer vehemence of his language, into accepting whatever doctrine he is insisting on.  I read him with care, and I find some nuggets of truth, including some that are troubling to me now (in a good way), but  in him I find no wisdom, no maturity, no way of seeing the world that reminds me in any way of our shared humanity or the  complexity and mystery of the human condition.  

I do not a trust a voice of this type on anything that truly matters to me.


50 Responses to “Robert Oscar Lopez on gay parenting”

  1. maggie gallagher says:

    When people who felt long silenced, finally find their voice, they often speak with great vehemence and fervor. Some of Alana Newman’s writing shares this characteristic.

  2. Ralph Lewis says:

    Yes, vehemence, fervor, and pure blinding hatred.

  3. Ralph Lewis says:

    Lopez reminds me of the stake I have in this fight. *For some*, directly beneath the anti-SSM and anti-surrogacy rhetoric is a threat to dismantle my family for “the good” of our children. I take that threat seriously.

  4. maggie gallagher says:

    Also a rather striking utter condemnation of the character of a man you do not know. I wouldn’t have a taste for doing that myself. You do not want to engage at the level of his argument, but simply to say you find him repulsive. Well,well, well.

  5. JHW says:

    I don’t know what in that article you consider to be “hard truths.” I find nothing whatsoever of substance in it. It is very heavy on invective and very short on serious argument. Nobody is going to be convinced by a piece like this, because there is no real reckoning with any view other than the author’s own. Public Discourse has jumped the shark lately on this issue; the articles they’ve published on same-sex marriage and LGBT rights broadly have never been very good (though some of the Robert George ones at least used to be interesting), but with writers like Anthony Esolen and Robert Oscar Lopez, they are embarrassing themselves.

  6. Karen says:

    No Ralph, no hatred….just passion and anger stemming from frustration. This is also a trait of many gay marriage proponents on this blog and the blogosphere.

  7. Karen says:

    I second what Maggie says.

  8. Ralph Lewis says:

    I can’t speak for David, or anyone who has a different kind of stake in the fight, but for me, once he has decided to directly and haughtingly impugn my humanity as a parent, you’re right, I won’t engage.

    Again, for me, it’s the stuff of pure evil, and I won’t fight at that level. I will just fight. Lopez’ writing evidences the same drooling disgust that first galvanized homosexuals 50 years ago to deal with their hiddenness and shame by standing up for themselves.

  9. fannie says:

    Thanks David, I mostly agree with you here. I say “mostly” only because it’s more difficult for me to see anything redeeming in Lopez’s writing. His own personal story is his to tell. But, I don’t think it’s valid, fair, or accurate to use his one personal story to make vast generalizations about the purported unfitness of all gay parents.

    His voice is polarizing and does not move these culture wars toward any semblance of peace, reconciliation, or resolution.

    Maggie, I think a person can speak with great vehemence and fervor while still maintaining rationality and fairness. I don’t think Lopez strikes that balance very well.

  10. Karen says:

    I see Mr. Lopez as one of my own. Fighting for the future dignity of all children in relation to their mothers and fathers. I find the rhetoric of “donors” and “surrogacy” polarizing and frustrating – generalizing for the rest of us that adult so called “rights” trump all and these concerns about the children are only things of personal malcontent.

  11. Maggie, his argument is nothing that you and I haven’t heard a thousand times. He thinks gay people should not parent. I have “engaged” it, as you say you want me to do, on a point by point basis in the past, and will no doubt continue to do so.

    But what struck me about the piece was not the “argument,” but the ugliness and brittleness of the cast of mind. And I don’t cut him slack here, because of his struggles, finding his voice, etc. He is a college teacher. He writes books. He has two blogs. What he wants to say, get published (that’s why you and I know about it). I hold him to the same standards that I would anybody, including those on the other side of the issue.

  12. annajcook says:

    I agree with Fannie that it is possible to speak with passion and even from personal experience without attempting to generalize from our own — very individual lives — about what is best for everyone. We could match Lopez’ story of pain with an equally passionate story of positive parenting by a same-sex couple. But where would that get us? By the same token, we could tell a story of dysfunction and pain from a heterosexual couple’s poor parenting and then generalize and say no straight people should reproduce … that would be neither fair to all of the perfectly capable heterosexual parents out there, nor would it solve the problem of family dysfunction.

    What I wish is that Lopez might find a way to speak of his own experience without trying to make everyone’s lives conform to his perceptions of what same-sex parenting is like, and without trying to re-make the world in a fashion he thinks will help him feel safer or heal from the trauma he experienced. We aren’t all Mr. Lopez, and we aren’t all going to be healed or happy in that world he envisions.

  13. maggie gallagher says:

    He may well be brittle. I know he’s very brave. I’ve never seen a man risk flinging his whole career away to speak truth, in his view, to power. The truth in this case is his truth, born of personal experience—and he’s the only one making it in public. (Zach Wahls need not fear for his career or be accused of wrongly generalizing from his own experience.)

    You label him repulsive. And accuse HIM of being brittle and fanatic? More going on here than meets the eye.

  14. La Lubu says:

    Lopez has an axe to grind for sure….but it is unfortunate that he has chosen to grind it against the two individuals who cared for him (his deceased mother and her partner), rather than the parent who abandoned him (his father). His anti-SSM and anti-same-sex parenting screeds read to me like a continuing plea for acceptance from his father.

    Other than that, what annajcook said. The reason he gets press is because he has focus on a popular target. No media attention is given to persons who grew up in dysfunctional different-sex households who then claim that their trauma is based in the institution of marriage itself—nor should there be. Neither same-sex nor different-sexed parenting is inherently traumatic.

  15. JHW says:

    The difference between Robert Oscar Lopez and Zach Wahls is that Wahls is an especially articulate representative of what is probably the dominant view among children raised by same-sex couples, while Lopez is one of a tiny handful of people advancing a different view, intentionally promoted as a counterexample by organizations dedicated to opposing same-sex marriage and parenting, and coming in concert with a tone and ideological standpoint (extending far beyond his personal experience) that strikes many people as fanatical and dogmatic.

    Personal experience does not count for everything—anecdotal evidence and all that. It counts for especially little when it is invoked to legitimate views of things a person has no personal experience of.

  16. Maggie, the issue here for me is not bravery, or the willing to speak truth to the powerful.

    There have been and are plenty of vitriolic, self-righteous, hectoring, dripping-with-anger voices in the gay rights movement. Many of those persons were and are personally brave. Many of those persons felt and feel that they are lonely misunderstood underdogs speaking truth to power. Fine. Do you want to stand up and cheer them on and tell them they are brave and that you sympathize with their way of seeing the world and of treating others and that you embrace their truth?

  17. Karen says:

    But David, you respect those those persons who felt and feel that they are lonely misunderstood underdogs speaking truth to power in relation to “gay rights”…but not in relation to what Robert Lopez has to say?

  18. La Lubu says:

    Maggie, what Lopez is doing is no different than if I, a person who was raised in a dysfunctional, alcoholic, yet married household were to pursue a vendetta against marriage (or heterosexual parenting). Lopez claims that he was harmed by spending a portion of his teen years in a same-sex household, and that the harms he suffered were intrinsic to his mother’s same-sex relationship. I think that’s patently ridiculous.

    The elephant in the room is that his biological parents got a divorce, and from then on his biological father had (apparently) nothing to do with him (unlike the experience of his older siblings). That would do a number on a person—being the one child out of several singled out for abandonment. Now perhaps there’s more going on than what he has publically said (like, was his father abusive or otherwise dangerous? Was that why he had no contact?)….but his story just doesn’t pass the sniff test. I think if his mother had a relationship with a man instead of a woman, Lopez would have ended up with the same issues.

  19. maggie gallagher says:

    Prof. Lopez responds: http://englishmanif.blogspot.com/2013/02/my-response-to-david-blankenhorn.html

    David, I’ve said my piece: if we are going to speak of “tone” and not “substance” I find the tone of your response rather more bilious and hectoring that Prof. Lopez’s piece. But I do not find you repulsive! Let others talk now.

  20. Teresa says:

    Can’t we separate out the way something is said from the content of what’s being said.

    Sometimes, at least it’s been my experience, truth is hard to bear. Sometimes, how it’s said helps attract those of us so disposed, to finally get it. Sometimes, truth needs to be bold, courageous, and said upfront, blunt, and candid. Pussyfooting around an issue, being oh so politically correct, in the long run gains nothing … in my opinion.

    This article, to me, is wonderful. It reminds me of St. Edmund Campion’s final words at trial: “I will not equivocate, I will not excuse, I am in earnest. I will not retreat one single inch.” (Loose paraphrase)

  21. Karen says:

    WOW to Professor Lopez’s and Maggie’s response. Well said.

  22. Teresa says:

    BTW, David, I didn’t read Lopez’s article in any way that you did. I didn’t find it vitriolic. I didn’t find it as an angry diatribe. I read it as powerful, and dynamic. I read it as a ‘take no prisoners’ voice for truth. Finally.

    Perception, perception, perception.

    Perhaps, we need to be less thin-skinned, less ‘you hurt my feelings’; and, more capable of seeing the point offered.

    I’m certainly with Maggie and Karen’s view on this.

  23. annajcook says:

    Teresa writes:

    I read it as a ‘take no prisoners’ voice for truth.

    The problem, Teresa, is that Lopez is not situating himself as speaking about his own very particular experience. He is using his experience to argue for policies that affect all people. As La Lubu writes, this is about as useful as arguing for the abolition of marriage because one’s own parents’ marriage was dysfunctional.

    I don’t think this is a “tone” argument so much as a question of what types of evidence can meaningfully be used to make public policy decisions. Certainly, personal testimony is powerful and one type of evidence. But part of being a responsible adult is recognizing the limits of one’s own experience in arguing for policy that will apply to all people. And further, it is important to use individual stories in ways that actually directly apply to the situation at hand. So, Lopez’ experience might be powerful testimony giving a human face to the toll that loss of a parent through divorce can take on the children in a family. But his testimony doesn’t meaningfully apply to the question of whether same-sex couples should marry and/or if married should care for children. His story appears, through his own narrative, to be about the absence of his father, not about the presence of his mothers.

  24. David Blankenhorn says:

    Just read his reply to my post on his blog. For me, no surprises, just more of the same. Like Teresa says above, in admiration, his approach is one “take no prisoners.” My points of agreement with him do not interest him. Looking inward does not interest him. Any hints of ambiguity do not interest him. What interests him is taking no prisoners.

    BTW, Theresa, you mention “thin skin” and “hurt feelings.” My skin is fairly thick, and what Lopez writes does not hurt my feelings at all.

  25. Teresa says:

    annajcook,

    Thank you for your comment. I see Lopez’ article as far more than about gays and marriage. I see it all about ‘the children’. I see it as the very reason that Family Scholars is about. All the talk about divorce, 3PR, ART, IVF and what all those changes to marriage will do to the ‘children’. It’s all about what Marilyn and Alana have forcefully brought to our attention.

    Lopez’s article touched all of those things: about the ‘unnatural’ stealing of our ‘children’. About how race has absolutely nothing to do and can never be seen as a trope for same sex marriage.

    From a blog post of Lopez on January 18th of this year speaks mightily to me as a gay woman; and, how I can invest myself in our ‘children’ w/o demanding the overthrow of the beauty of str8 marriage: one man, one woman for the ‘child’.

    The fight over marriage has been emotionally scarring, horrendously expensive, and ultimately pointless. I love the idea of civil unions, because it means forging a new definition of intimacy rather than trying to make another definition of love fit gay relationships, which are quite different. I know countless gay couples that have shown tremendous generosity to children, taking foster kids into their homes and then graciously letting the kids go back to their biological parents, volunteering at shelters, teaching, running after-school programs, coaching teams, doting on nieces and nephews. Why do we discount those forms of love and kindness? They are no less glorious on account of being more temporary than the lifelong bond of a parent to a child. In some ways, they are more glorious because these ways of showing children love reflect an awareness that the child will ultimately be born, live, and die, in a lifelong dramatic saga full of negotiations with a biological mother and father, who will have complexities that a gay community helper won’t and can’t really unravel.

    I think, David, you do an injustice to Lopez by being overtaken by tone rather than content. He has a story that resonates with a number of us, in ways you can’t imagine.

  26. fannie says:

    “Sometimes, truth needs to be bold, courageous, and said upfront, blunt, and candid. Pussyfooting around an issue, being oh so politically correct, in the long run gains nothing … in my opinion.”

    Teresa,

    I think the problem here is that there is significant disagreement that Lopez is actually speaking “truth” here.

    While I don’t find his tone to be civil, I think the issue here is both a form and substance problem.

    Namely, Lopez’s own personal experience is his personal experience and his account of it may be true, but what’s not true is extrapolating his experience to the experiences of all people raised by LGBT people or by same-sex parents.

    That he had a bad experience being raised by a lesbian does not mean that therefore all gay people should not raise children.

    I mean, it seems like simple logic to me, but if anyone wants to explain why they feel Lopez’s argument about gay parenting is correct or “true” I’d be interested in hearing that explanation.

  27. kisarita says:

    A bit too dogmatic for my taste plus conflation of issues that I see as separate (adoption and donor conception).

    Still about “trusting his voice”, do we form our conclusions as a matter of trust, or analysis?

  28. Matthew Kaal says:

    For me, the essential questions being raised are:

    What are the ethics of family formation?
    What gives one the right to create a child?
    Can it even be said that there is a right to create children, or to be a parent?
    If yes, does that right relate to marriage in anyway? If so, how?

    Similarly – what are the rights of a Child with respect to parents and knowing origins?

    If we are serious about having a new conversation, then answering these questions is more important that analyzing the failing rhetoric and internet miscommunication of David and Prof. Lopez.

  29. Karen says:

    Agreed Matthew….And what are the responsibilities of genetic parents in relation to the their offspring if we continue to allow “donation” and “surrogacy” and redefine what marriage means (LOVE).

  30. Teresa says:

    Matthew wrote:
    If we are serious about having a new conversation, then answering these questions is more important that analyzing the failing rhetoric and internet miscommunication of David and Prof. Lopez.

    Exactly. But that’s the rub, isn’t it, Matthew. We have answers to those questions. However, who’s going to be the one to separate the “wheat from the chaff” in those answers? Does consensus building ever really work in the final analysis? Is the truth ever going to be the “city on the hill”, the “light for all to see” that we all are drawn to, like a moth to the flame? Color me cynical, on that.

    Karen wrote:
    And what are the responsibilities of genetic parents in relation to the their offspring if we continue to allow “donation” and “surrogacy” and redefine what marriage means (LOVE).

    Karen, this is what the judicial system should be about. It seems ‘in absentia’ on these issues, unfortunately.

  31. Karen says:

    Teresa writes:
    Karen, this is what the judicial system should be about. It seems ‘in absentia’ on these issues, unfortunately.”

    Amen. Crickets is all I hear…

  32. Kevin says:

    If I recall, Mr. Lopez’ siblings take issue with his characterization of his upbringing. Perhaps an authorized FS blogger can dig around and post something about them, if available.

    Sigh, if only straight people were subject to scrutiny for their parenting capabilities. There are so many more straight parents than gay parents; the opportunity to “save” so many more children……

  33. maggie gallagher says:

    Gee, psychological diagnosis now of a man you never met. Wow. Amazing superpowers that.

  34. Karen says:

    Moderation of Kevin’s comments needed

  35. Teresa says:

    David wrote:
    BTW, Theresa, you mention “thin skin” and “hurt feelings.” My skin is fairly thick, and what Lopez writes does not hurt my feelings at all.

    I apologize for this comment; and, for my ignorance in implying that anyone of the Family Scholars is “thin skinned” or gets “hurt feelings”. I can but imagine,
    David, what you, Elizabeth, Maggie, Alana, et. al., go through on a daily basis with being skewered, maligned, threatened for your positions.

    Again, my apologies.

  36. kisarita says:

    We do not know the circumstances of the divorce and who is to blame for the absence of his father.
    I do however recall that Lopez’s reunion with is father was connected with the ending of the relationship with his stepmother. At whose initiative- don’t know.

  37. fannie says:

    I agree that speculating on Lopez’s mental health is out of line and a distraction from the substantive issues here. His statements can be aptly critiqued for both form and substance, and his critics should focus on those flaws.

    I also want to note that it’s clear that those kinds of attacks often cause people to tune out. Just as Mr. Lopez’s commentary makes a lot of other people tune out.

    Just thought food for people who are dismissive of the importance of tone, miscommunication, and civility in framing one’s arguments.

  38. Ralph Lewis says:

    Karen,

    Or is the child comparable to things less flattering to the same-sex couple: a trophy, a tool, a piece of property, a doll, a cosmetic enhancement…..

    Some may enjoy this rhetorical frenzy. Some may expect its object (families like mine) to reply politely. But for me, when up against this language, being productive is not my goal.

  39. maggie gallagher says:

    Ki Sarita, again what I know I know from reading his pieces. But I gather, in his view, his problems stem from the combination of the absence of his father, of a man’s love and modeling–and the fact that his desire for a father was seen by his mother as a betrayal of her and her chosen partner and so had to be suppressed for years. These are two ingredients probably not uncommon in children raised by two mothers. Surely some parents handle it better than others. I know I promised to shut up and let others talk. apologies.

  40. I just had to delete a number of comments. I’d like to ask all of us collectively to take a breath and tone it down. You all know our policy on comments.

  41. Karen says:

    I’m frustrated and angry. Sorry David.

  42. Karen says:

    I just cannot remain silent on this and allow Professor Lopez to be discredited and demonized. I just won’t allow that to happen…just as I would defend any other “donor/surrogate conceived” person from expressing a rational POV whether or not it challenges the politically correct mantra of the debate. We need to express just as much as anyone else.

  43. Karen: You can make any point you want to make. So can anyone else. You just have to follow the civility policy.

    And in my view there is no need for you or anyone to insist on the right to be heard. You have that right. You just have to abide by the civility policy. You, me, everyone. So please let’s get back to the conversation, not conversation about the conversation.

  44. Teresa says:

    fannie wrote:
    His statements can be aptly critiqued for both form and substance, and his critics should focus on those flaws.

    I also want to note that it’s clear that those kinds of attacks often cause people to tune out. Just as Mr. Lopez’s commentary makes a lot of other people tune out.

    Just thought food for people who are dismissive of the importance of tone, miscommunication, and civility in framing one’s arguments.

    You’re right, fannie. I must admit I completely overlooked the tone; and, went right for the content. I completely disregarded in reading this article, how what we say, matters a lot. Perhaps, upon reflection, I was simply latching on to the “us vs. them” mentality … and, saying, Yay! one for our team!

    In any event:
    Just thought food for people who are dismissive of the importance of tone, miscommunication, and civility in framing one’s arguments.

    I’ll try to remember this.

  45. maggie gallagher says:

    Well yes, except your post is a meta conversation about the conversation.

    : )

  46. Karen says:

    David, you wrote: “I am repulsed by what Lopez says and the way he says it. To me, his voice is the voice of the fanatic, the denouncer of others, the accuser, the utterly self-confident dogmatist who wants to pound us all, in party by the sheer vehemence of his language, into accepting whatever doctrine he is insisting on.

    You should take your own advice. This is serious inflammatory rhetoric you started.

  47. maggie gallagher says:

    Teresa, I’d love to hear more about your own story: maggie1960gallagher@gmail. if you want to talk to me.

  48. Karen says:

    Me too Teresa, I love what you have to add!

  49. maggie gallagher says:

    And Ralph, yes if I were you I’d take great offense at that particular language.

  50. fannie says:

    Hi Teresa,

    Thanks for your comment to me and for making that concession.

    Karen, you said to David:

    “This is serious inflammatory rhetoric you started.”

    Not started. Responded to.