Kathleen Parker

  Ever since the same-sex marriage debate began, I've wondered: Where are the fathers? If ever there were a cause to which the once-robust fatherhood movement might attach itself, this one logically should be at the top of the list.

The answer I got when I posed the question to one of the movement's leaders was threefold:

One, fathers have avoided the issue as marginal, believing that same-sex marriage doesn't directly concern them.

Two, though people have a visceral reaction to the idea of same-sex marriage, they have trouble articulating why they oppose it.

And finally, ?Nobody wants to be called a bigot,? said Stephen Baskerville, a Howard University political science professor and president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.

Fathers don't think same-sex marriage affects them directly? In light of the travails endured by the fatherhood movement over the past decade, same-sex marriage stands as a particularly decisive blow in the disenfranchisement of fathers in American culture. How? By reinforcing the idea that one parent is disposable, which has been both an unspoken tenet of American divorce and the animating force behind the fatherhood movement.

Ever since no-fault divorce became the law of the land, fathers have lost their children in family courts as judges typically have awarded custody of children to mothers. This trend has shifted somewhat in recent years, but the fact remains that millions of fathers have been sidelined and made occasional weekend/holiday visitors to their children's lives.

Clearly, some irresponsible fathers have earned their court-imposed distances ? and other may have voluntarily removed themselves from the equation ? but it only exacerbates this tragedy when innovations in family law make it difficult for willing fathers to be involved in their children's lives
The consequences of this travesty are the stuff of newspaper headlines. As families have disintegrated and children ? especially boys ? have been denied the essential stabilizing influence of fathers, we've seen marked increases in a variety of childhood pathologies.

When we survey the evidence, what happens when children don't have fathers? Single motherhood, despite the heart-warming stories of virtuous single moms (I was once one), is a predictor for children at higher risk for teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, academic underachievement, drug use and juvenile delinquency.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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