Paul Ryan’s recent off-the-cuff statement that he supports gay adoption while he opposes gay marriage is as likely to be a one-time slip as a change in position. Whether or not it represents his real view, it certainly is gaining traction among some Christians. This trend reveals a profound ignorance of the reasons for opposing same-sex marriage even among those who do oppose it. If Americans are to better understand the case for opposing same-sex marriage, they must look to France.
Anyone who has been following the debate over same-sex marriage in France will know that the opposition has focused on L'homoparentalité or “same-sex parenting.” The commission established by the National Assembly, the “Mission of Inquiry on the Family and the Rights of Children” (usually referred to as the Pécresse Commission, after its rapporteure) reported in 2006 that
The link between marriage and filiation is so close that the question of making marriage accessible is inseparable from that of making adoption and medically assisted conception accessible. This link was acknowledged by almost all witnesses, whether they were in favor of or opposed to developments in this area.
In this, they were prescient; the recent legislation does authorize both SSM and joint adoption by same-sex couples. Allowing an unmarried couple to adopt a child jointly was rejected. As the Minister of Justice observed,
We must be guided by the basic purpose of adoption, which is to give a child who has no family to a family itself unable to have one. While de facto spouses form a couple, they do not form a family. They may end their relationship at any time, without the exercise at any point of control by a judicial authority. This significant risk of family instability can prove especially harmful for an adopted child, who, given the nature of his or her personal history, in many cases expresses a greater need for emotional security.
The Commission also noted that the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption of 29 May 1993, of which France is a state signatory, restricts adoption to married couples.
The Commission found further reasons to oppose joint adoption by same-sex couples, regardless of marital status, summarized in the evidence of the eminent psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Pierre Lévy-Soussan, an adviser to the Ministry of Health. “It is in the child’s best interests to join a nuclear family that is already socially accepted so that he or she does not have to take on the additional task, following a history of abandonment, of adapting to a family that is, for whatever reason, ‘non-standard.’”
Lévy-Soussan believes that in order to be successful, adoption must lead to a psychological filiation that “allows for a nexus of the three elements that are basic to any society: the biological, the social, and the subjective dimensions specific to human beings. The psychological strength of this construction exceeds the purely biological connection of filiation and provides it with security. The security and ‘truth’ of this filiation are based on childbirth, on a potential or actual procreative relationship between a man and a woman, allowing the fictional filiation through the encounter with the other sex, alive and of the same generation. The fictional filiation can then be experienced as true, consistent and reasonable.” The difference in sex between the two members of the parental couple thus seems to him indispensable if the adoption “graft” is to take.
Similarly, Janice Peyré, president of the federation Enfance & Familles d'Adoption, told the Commission, “As much as adoptive parents are open to the idea of extending adoption—legally and transparently—to homosexuals, adolescents, or adults who have been adopted express genuine reservations. They attest to a private feeling of being different when they grew up—a feeling accompanied by a very deeply experienced desire for normalcy. In their view, having homosexual parents would simply add to the sense of difference and the curiosity that adoption already engenders. In certain cases and in certain communities, it might even lead to rejection.”
Peyré therefore feels that “bringing an adopted child into a society in which he or she will have the same rights and the same place as other children—as the Hague Convention provides—requires that the child be received into pre-existing family structures, already recognized as such, and not serve as an instrument for obtaining recognition of new family structures.”
Other witnesses argued that, inasmuch as almost 25,000 married couples in France have been approved but wait an average of five years to be able to adopt because fewer than 5,000 adoptions take place each year, it is possible to provide every adoptable child with a father and a mother who will offer him or her the best chance of integrating into a new family.
During the Mission’s deliberations, it was not formally demonstrated that approving legal filiation with two fathers or two mothers has no effect on the building of the child’s identity. Martine Gross gave the Mission a list of studies on children brought up by persons of the same sex. The conclusion, based on these studies, was that there were no negative effects on children.
These studies’ scientific basis and the representativeness of the population samples studied were widely criticized and disputed at the hearings. Few countries allow adoption of a child by two persons of the same sex, and legislation allowing this type of adoption is very recent and has, in fact, led to very few adoptions.
The lack of objectivity in this area is blatant. The studies in question deal, rather, with children born of a heterosexual relationship and raised by a biological parent and his or her companion—a situation that is absolutely not comparable with the establishment of a dual same-sex filiation for a child from outside the couple.
These arguments have resonated with many of the opponents of same-sex marriage.
The approval of adoption by same-sex couples thus appears as a leap of faith. Is it possible that, in the anxiety to combat one form of discrimination, some Americans are unwittingly approving another—namely, discrimination between children.
If L'homoparentalité is to be accepted, is the word “marriage” worth fighting over?
Michael Paterson-Seymour farms in Ayrshire, Scotland and also practices Scottish and French law.