Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Strategy They've Adopted

Today was supposed to be a day for celebrating adoption. Kid T and I attended a Tet celebration at the Vietnam Orphans Relief Fund(for those of you who haven’t read the PhAQs, Kid T was adopted from Vietnam). VORF grew out of our adoption agency during a 2 ½ years when Vietnam was closed to American adoption. In addition to celebrating Tet, we were celebrating Vietnam recently reopening to adoption and celebrating VORF being certified by Vietnam as an adoption agency. Meanwhile, we saw the facilitator from our trip to Vietnam, met some people looking to adopt and reacquainted ourselves with some local adoptive families we haven’t seen in a couple years. I came home feeling as warm and fuzzy as I ever do.

So I was particularly distressed to learn that the Ohio far right is seeking to ban LGBT’s from adopting or serving as foster parents. Outrage echoes over the left side of the blogosphere. Jill was the first blogger I saw discussing the matter (after seeing the CD story ($$$.)) You can click through her links, but special kudos to Michele guestblogging at Word of Mouth for her touching personal testimonial.

According to the press reports, Speaker Husted is agin it, says it’s DOA. Great. But what happens next? Ted Strickland predicted at Meet the Bloggers that the far right would put a gay adoption ban issue on the ’06 ballot to mobilize the far right. One procedure for putting an issue on the ballot is to take it to the legislature first. Or, they may just be looking at it as a stalking horse. In any event, I've been waiting for this.

Blackwell still brags about strategically using the anti-gay marriage strategy in 2004 which, hateful as it was, undeniably worked. It passed by a spectacular margin, and did especially well among African Americans. It did well despite the objection of nearly every Republican leader. It may well have boosted turnout among conservative Christians, giving Bush the edge in Ohio. It was the issue Republicans used to motivate Amish and Mennonites to vote for Bush, despite that war thingy that they generally oppose.

Blackwell gives the issue credit for Bush’s relatively strong showing among African Americans and may be right. From that rhetoric, I surmise that Blackwell sees gay rights as a wedge issue to peel African American support away from Democrats.

Doing some research on the matter, I ran across the anti-gay-adoption game plan. They will site the rigged studies purporting to show children raised by gays have difficulties. They will overclaim the lifestyles of the licentious swatch of the gay male population, including couples with open relationships. They will quote at length the writings of fringe queer theorists. I won’t give the bastards the benefit of linking to the sites, just Google “gay adoption research” and you will find it. A page from the Family Research Council is particularly helpful.

The gay adoption issue will be, if anything, more potent with the African American community than gay marriage. Black people, in the aggregate, are very sensitive to what happens to Black children in the system. For years, trans-racial adoption was forbidden or discouraged throughout most of the country, primarily due to advocacy from Black activists. That ban has been lifted – a happy consequence of Republican rule. The specter of, not only white, but white and gay people raising Black children will send Blacks running to the polls.

And what will we do? First off, we understand that the legislative battle is just the prelude. It’s important to raise our voices, though probably more important that moderates raise theirs.

Second, the Democratic candidates need to call Blackwell and Petro out. They need to step up, condemn this legislation, and call on Blackwell and Petro to do the same. If nothing else, Blackwell’s actions will give us a preview of what is to come.

Third, we start – NOW – working on messaging for the big show in November. The messaging has to move beyond simple appeals to fairness. They don’t work for reasons I don’t quite understand. Because too many people see homosexuality as a choice on some level or something. In particular, those appeals do not work with the African Americans who see attempts to draw parallels between their struggle and the gay struggle as diminishing their experience. (Exceptions exists, and I give belated big ups to George Thomas at the ABJ for drawing that parallel on 90.3 at Nine last week.)

As I play with it, ideas about, irony alert, the sanctity of the family keep popping up. As an opener to the discussion, I submit the following: In our society, we treat the parent-child relationship as sacred, even when parents do things that studies say they should not. You can find studies saying that spanking is bad for kids, but we don’t take children out of homes for mere spanking. You can find research saying that feeding kids a diet high in sugars and fats is bad for kids, but we don’t take kids out of homes for that. You can find research – embraced by the same people who advocate for this ban – saying that kids in single-parent households are at greater risk for a variety of bad outcomes, but we don’t take kids away just because they are being raised single parents. To invade the sanctity of the family based on a few studies – particularly studies as flawed and biased as these are – sets a dangerous precedent.

Suggestions welcome.

Meanwhile, George at BFD has wondered out loud whether Blackwell and Petro will sit down to Meet the Bloggers. If Blackwell does, I have some questions for him. Like:

-Does he have any figures on how many marriages have been saved so far by the gay marriage ban?

-Does he have any other legislative ideas about gays? Mandatory employment discrimination? Mandatory Christian counseling?

-Does he have a Final Solution to the Gay Problem?

-Does it involve boxcars?


Jill said...

Pho, another excellent post. Thanks for the clear and incisive review, analysis and call to action.

Yellow Dog Sammy said...

Let me echo Jill ... excellent, thoughtful post. (One of these days maybe I'll get to a blog before Jill does.) Comparing the African-American reaction to gay adoption with the history of the cross-racial adoption thing is huge, so thanks for bringing it up, and you're absolutely right about the resentment on the part of many African-Americans to treating equal rights for gays as a civil rights issue on the same level as race. I've encountered this locally, in my neighborhood and among my friends, and it's painful for me because I believe fervently in equality for gays as a fundmental civil rights issue. Frankly, however, Democratic candidates cannot afford to make equality for gays a major campaign issue, and this would include gay adoption, but at the same time it's crucial for them to oppose the vile bigotry and diviseness of bills like H.B. 515.