One of the disturbing things to me about the current brouhaha over gay parents is the religious right’s elevation of biology over relationships. By this I mean that they act as though being a biological parent is infinitely more important than being a day to day parent, which is entirely contrary to reality. Here’s a perfect example in an email sent out by Stephen Bennett of Concerned Women for America:
Fact is Mary Cheney, the Vice President’s daughter – in one way or another – received a male’s sperm. She is the biological mother, parent number one, and some man, somewhere out there, is Samuel David’s real biological father, parent number two. ..
Heather Poe is Mary Cheney’s live-in lesbian lover. She may act like a parent, she may treat the baby as a parent, she may love this baby with all of her heart, but in this reality we all live in, Heather Poe is NOT the baby’s real parent. She has NO biological connection to the child whatsoever. Some man, the baby’s real Daddy, is the child’s other REAL parent.
But this is quite absurd. The fact that Heather Poe will have no “natural” – i.e. biological – relationship with the child is absolutely irrelevant to the question of whether she will have a healthy parental relationship with the child. Mary and Heather have been together for 15 years, and in all likelihood will be together for the rest of their lives. Heather will be a parent to this child every bit as much as Mary will despite the lack of a biological relationship. The first rule of parenting is this: biology is irrelevant; only relationships matter.
Shaquille O’Neil was raised by a man named Phillip Harrison, who is legally his stepfather. Shaq says Phil is his real father, and he’s right. His biological father is a man named Joe Toney, who suddenly appeared in 1994, when Shaq was a budding NBA superstar. Shaq’s response was to do a rap song called Biological Didn’t Bother where he says that “Phil is my father…cuz my biological didn’t bother.” Shaq knows something that Bennett doesn’t, that parenthood has virtually nothing to do with biology and everything to do with relationships.
If my father called me tomorrow and told me that I was adopted, I wouldn’t even blink. I wouldn’t wonder about my “real” father because I know who my real father is. My real father is the man who raised me, the man who held me when I had bad dreams and spanked me when I was bad. The man who taught me the right way to treat other people and who taught me that when someone you care about needs help, you’re there for them, every time, without question. That’s my father. And if it turned out that he wasn’t the guy who supplied the sperm, that wouldn’t change one iota.
I would like to think that Heather Poe will be a parent to this child just as much as my father has been a parent to me. She’ll help her with her homework and help instill a sense of dignity in that child like all parents should. She’ll punish her when she deserves it and praise her even when she doesn’t. That’s what good parents do, and good parents are not determined by genetics but by love. If she does all those things that a good parent does, does Bennett really think that the child will care whether Heather is her biological mother or not? If so, he’s nuts. This attitude is an insult to the millions of adoptive parents and step parents who have forged real parental relationships with their children without any biological connection whatsoever.