Children need loving parents — period

Friday, March 24, 2006

Tres Kerns’ mission in life is to prevent people like me from enjoying the same rights and privileges as people like him (‘‘Children learn how to interact with both sexes by watching opposite sex parents,” March 3 letter). Although I’m not calling him a hate-monger, his suppressive speech promotes a peculiar brand of ‘‘loving” intolerance that threatens thousands of Maryland families like us.

As a parent and a clinical psychologist, I write not only from personal experience, but also from a professional perspective that spans three decades and contains great familiarity with the professional literature about same-sex marriage and parenting.

Fact one: Sexual orientation is not learned or taught, it’s discovered. After all, most of us with a homosexual orientation were raised by heterosexual parents. Similarly, many gay parents have straight kids.

It has long been known in the social sciences that gay people do not choose their orientations any more than do straight people. Like when throwing a ball, most people are right-handed, but some people feel more comfortable lobbing with their left.

Gay or straight, people discover their sexual and romantic feelings early in life. Romantic and sexual feelings lead us to form mutually satisfying relationships, which lend our lives meaning and help define the happiness, which our Constitution guarantees us the right to pursue. The only difference between Mr. Kerns’ marriage and mine is a piece of paper and the gender of our spouses.

‘‘Defense of marriage” is a popular euphemism describing the actions of those who oppose giving gay couples the right to marry. Just who will be hurt by my partner and I marrying and why do they care?

After all the rhetoric, I still don’t understand how families such as ours seem threatening. My choice of a life partner was not an effort to attack other people’s marriages. My straight neighbors are still married, even though their children play with ours; our kids’ classmates’ parents (at least the half that haven’t divorced) are still married, even though their children attend school with our children. We’re not contagious, we don’t hurt anyone and the facts of our lives don’t affect the divorce rate.

Take note, all the Chicken Littles who predicted the sky would fall in Massachusetts when the courts found the state in violation of its own constitution and granted citizens the right to marry regardless of their gender: the sky is still in the firmament and people still go to work on Mondays.

My partner and I have been together for 29 years. We built our home, pay our taxes, contribute to the common welfare (he is also a doctor) and have raised our two wonderful children, now 11 and 13, from birth.

As we grow old together, legally, we remain strangers. Our children’s parents remain unmarried against their will. The state should recognize it is in the best interests of our children to enjoy the same protection as children coming from conventional families. The state has no demonstrable interest in deciding who should and should not marry.

Our children have thrived under our loving parenting. Despite Mr. Kerns’ misguided opinion, they do not want a mother. They already have two loving parents devoted to their welfare. It is not our genders that make us loving parents, it is our love and devotion.

This simple truth was brought home recently by a panel of children, ranging in age from 9 to 30 who were raised by gay or lesbian parents, when they spoke of their experiences at the Park School in Baltimore. Uniformly, they were grateful to their same-sex parents and confused by those who held negative views of families such as theirs.

It’s about time we listen to those children and for Heaven’s sake, keep them away from ‘‘well-meaning,” poorly informed, self-appointed, social guardians like Tres Kerns.

Kenneth B. Morgen, Ph.D., is director of Chesapeake Psychological Services in Towson and president of the Baltimore Psychological Association.