The Tennessee Senate and House of Representatives are currently considering a bill that calls for the ineligibility for cohabitants to adopt a child. Senate Bill 0078 and House Bill 0605 prohibits the adoption of a minor by either same-sex or opposite-sex individuals cohabiting outside of a marriage that is valid under the constitution and laws of the state. The Senate has referred it to the Senate Judiciary, while the House has referred it to the House Family Justice Subcommittee. I find it grotesquely ironic that, the future of this bill will be determined by two political committees that both claim to uphold and legislate ‘just’ laws, when it is blatantly obvious that this bill is strictly hetero-normative.
If passed, this bill will prevent foster children from being adopted into financially stable, safe, and loving homes. Consequently, foster homes across the nation will continue to weigh the burden of an unjust system of adoption in America. Overpopulated and under-funded, foster organizations face numerous obstacles in achieving their ultimate goal of housing homeless children. The adoption process is already extremely rigorous, wearisome and time-consuming for straight and eligible couples. So to pass a bill that prevents equally eligible and loving couples from adopting an orphan is simply illogical and discriminatory towards same-sex couples who, mind you, also do not have the right to legally marry.
By institutionalizing the terms of marriage and adoption requirements, the government is essentializing a political system that is presumed to promote the best-interest of the majority of American citizens, when in reality it is only reifying a system that benefits the privileged Americans. According to this bill, if you are capable of marrying then you are potentially capable of raising adopted children. This assumption is predicated on the belief that all married couples are inherently more qualified to raise children than are same-sex or non-married opposite-sex couples. If you do not see something fundamentally wrong with this assumption, alone, then I suppose the argument stops here, but if we take moment to consider what our state politicians aren’t, then perhaps we can see past the superficial implications of this bill.
I do not disagree with those who argue that having same-sex parents is a potential risk for being ridiculed in school, but let’s be honest, who doesn’t? Every child is picked on; every child goes through a traumatizing experience at some point in his/her life. It’s only a matter of time and setting. Kids may be ruthless, but they are not a legitimate reason to deem same-sex couples inept at raising children. In fact, the slightest consideration that same-sex couples are some how incompetent parents perpetuates the tendencies to justify such a discriminatory discourse.
Perhaps if we shifted our focus from the potential risks of raising a child in a same-sex household to the potential risks of raising a child in a household with a married opposite-sex couple we can being to illuminate the nuances of what is implied by this bill. For example, what if the child up for adoption is gay, and is placed in an extremely conservative homophobic family? What if the child’s previous parents were gay, and he or she feels more comfortable being raised by a similar couple? What if the child is guaranteed to get a better education if adopted by a same-sex couple? I guess what I am trying to highlight with these questions is my doubt that politicians and citizens who support this bill are really advocating for the best interests of children in state custody. It seems more reasonable to recognize that they are driven by their self-interests to get re-elected and preserve the sacredness of marriage, all at the expense of hundreds of children without a home and even more unmarried individuals who are willing, able and eager to provide one. Yet, we’re supposed to believe in something called justice?