Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists For Choice. Today I am very excited to introduce Professor Carlos A. Ball, author of The Right to Be Parents, From the Closet to the Courtroom and The Morality of Gay Rights. I asked Carlos a few questions about his latest book The Right to Be Parents.
1. What was your inspiration for writing The Right to Be Parents?
I wanted to bring attention to the committed and courageous LGBT parents who have turned to the courts to protect their relationships with their children. While the issue of same-sex marriage has received an immense amount of attention by the media and the public, there has been a quieter revolution going on in terms of getting many courts to recognize and protect the relationships between LGBT parents and their children. I had previously written a book about the amazing human stories behind some of the leading LGBT rights lawsuits, but none of those cases involved parents. So I wanted to dedicate an entire book to this important subject.
2. In The Right to Be Parents you include extremely powerful stories of both success and discrimination that really highlight the struggles for LGBT families. How did you go about choosing the various stories?
I chose the cases based on a combination of their legal importance and the extent to which materials about them are available to researchers like me. As time goes on, it becomes especially important to honor and recognize some of the pioneering LGBT parents who, in the 1970s and 1980s, fought for their children in the courts before there was any real social acceptance of LGBT people and their relationships. It is important to me that the stories of these parents not be lost to history. I hope that my book contributes in some small ways to that process.
3. Over time, LGBT individuals and couples have gained many judicial rights when it comes to parenthood, but discrimination is still rampant. What do you believe needs to be done to continue working towards greater rights and equality?
Most of the progress that I document in my book resulted from judicial rulings. I think it is very important, going forward, to also focus on what legislators and child welfare officials can do to prevent discrimination when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity in matters related to parenting. There is only so much that courts can do, which means that long-term solutions will have to be found elsewhere.
4. The notion that heterosexual couples are better suited to instill gender conforming values in a child is discussed in the book even though you mention that research states that sexual orientation does not matter. Why do you believe this idea still persists?
The idea that children need both a mother and a father (as opposed to simply parents who love and support them) in order to thrive remains a deeply ingrained one. The social science literature is actually quite clear that neither parental gender nor sexual orientation is associated with child well-being. But it takes time for that evidence to overcome the strong assumptions and stereotypes that many people have about what children need in order to thrive. At the end of the day, what matters most in promoting the welfare of children is that they have adults in their lives who are able to care for and nurture them. The gender and sexual orientation of those adults matters little.
5. Several states, such as Mississippi and Utah still have laws that prohibit LGBT individuals and couples from adopting. Do you believe that these laws will change anytime soon?
I think it is likely, unfortunately, that some of the more conservative states will retain their legal restrictions on LGBT parenting for some time. But I think those states are to some extent already outliers. Most states do not impose explicit restrictions on the ability of LGBT individuals to serve, for example, as adoptive and foster care parents. I am hopeful that, as with the issue of marriage, equality will eventually prevail in matters related to sexual orientation/gender identity and parenting.