One of the most common arguments I hear against gay parenting is that same sex couples who want to have children are being selfish. The argument goes that if they really cared about the child, they wouldn't force the child to grow up with two same sex parents instead of a mother and father.

Julie Shapiro, professor at Seattle University Law School, had an interesting take on the argument. She said that the question should not be whether having kids is selfish, but whether it's responsible:

The real question, I think, is not whether a person is acting selfishly but whether a person is acting responsibly. I might want to have a child when I am twenty years old, but if I have no way to support myself and my child, lack a strong social network, and am not reasonably mature myself, then I think my decision to have a child and become a parent would be irresponsible. If, however, I wait a few years, find myself a good job with health care benefits, build myself a support network and so on, I might well be able to raise a child. At that point I might responsibly indulge my selfish desire to have a child.

Julie makes a good point, because the question of responsibility applies to all potential parents, gay or straight or single. After all, heterosexual parents are not necessarily responsible ones. See here, here, here, here, here, for examples.

So are gay couples raising children being irresponsible?

Professor Shapiro suggests that people choosing to raise children are resposible when it's likely that the children will thrive. If it's unlikely, then raising kids would be irresponsible. While opponents of gay parenting might say that having same sex parents is detrimental to kids, study after study find that kids with same sex parents end up no worse than kids with opposite sex ones.

If there's no intrensic harm to kids from being raised by gay parents, then the responsibility question should be answered on a case by case basis for any gay couple wanting to have kids, just as it is for heterosexual couples and single parents.

[Cross-posted at the Gay Couples Law Blog, which discusses same sex family law, estate planning, and taxes.]

Gideon Alper

Gideon Alper

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