Parent A and Parent B - and baby makes C?

Posted: Jul 29, 2005 12:00 AM

The slippery slope that wasn't supposed to happen once same-sex marriage was granted is making Everest jealous.

In Massachusetts this week, Gov. Mitt Romney has been butting heads with same-sex couples over birth certificates for their newborns. I'll give you a minute to wrap your mind around that concept.

The problem is that birth certificates as currently written reflect archaic notions of procreation, that is, involving a mother and father. Thus, gay and lesbian parents have asked the state to replace "mother" and "father" with Parent A and Parent B.

And we thought Dr. Seuss was just being silly when he created Thing One and Thing Two in his "Cat in the Hat" series.

Romney thus far has prevailed in declining to eradicate the notion of mother and father from his little corner of civilization, noting that all children not only have a right to a mother and a father but, in biological fact, (BEG) do have a mother and a father. Records should reflect that reality to the extent possible, says Romney.

Nevertheless, recognizing that married same-sex couples do have children these days, Romney has been instructing hospitals to cross out the word "Mother" or "Father" and write in "Second Parent" as necessary to accommodate individual cases.
The governor's view is that these altered certificates, while not perfect, at least resolve the immediate issue of recording the intended, if not the biological, parents' names.

Problems arose recently when Massachusetts town clerks suggested that certificates thus altered might not pass legal muster in some circumstances and urged that new forms be created. Although Romney has refused, it's probably only a matter of time before the courts are asked to intervene.

The fuss over birth certificate terminology might seem insignificant in the scheme of things, but words matter. The larger effects of this little two-word change are enormous over the long haul, despite protestations to the contrary, and Romney seems among the few willing or able to articulate them.

Children are born of man and woman. Or so it has always been. Now with technology, sperm donors and "uterobots" - women willing to sell or give away the flesh of their flesh - any random collection of human beings can "parent."

Or so the theory goes.

In one case Romney recently had to entertain, two men - one a sperm donor and the other his boyfriend - became "parents" when a woman gave birth to the donor's child. The two men wanted their names on the birth certificate, with the boyfriend replacing the birth mother. In a bold act of increasingly rare sanity, Romney said "no."

No doubt the gentlemen-parents were distressed by this negative intrusion into their familial fantasy, but Romney appears to understand that effectively codifying the "family" of two men and a newborn birthed by a uterobot has extensive implications.
Meanwhile, one can't help but feel sorry for the infant - Baby C, or Thing Three?

"Thing" is used here neither dismissively nor derisively, but as a term of stunning accuracy. Throughout our culture, children have become objectified, "thingified," created or acquired for the fulfillment of our selves - decor options, accessories, cute little bundles for our entertainment and amusement.

Unless, of course, we're not in the mood, in which case we hit the "abort" button, the ultimate expression of "thingification."

As long as children are viewed as mere extensions of our selves, put here to satisfy some narcissistic need for self-actualization, it is easy to suppose that our needs and their needs are complementary. If same-sex marriage is what "I" need, then two same-sex parents are what "my" child needs.

What we know but the courts apparently choose to ignore is that identity and selfhood are rooted, in part, in our biological origins. Adopted children seek out biological parents in their quest for identity. Genealogical organizations do a brisk business as families try to reconstruct their lineage. "Who am I?" keeps psychotherapists in new Volvos.

Obviously, narcissism isn't limited to the gay community, but it is surely at the root of the current skirmish in Massachusetts. What's really behind the push for biology-neutral birth certificates isn't fairness, or equal rights, but the elimination of any biological/procreative connection to parenthood.

Same-sex couples need this and, therefore goes the Seussian Logic, it is good for the children as well as civilization. Once the idea of a biological mother and father is expunged from the culture, there is one less logical impediment to normalizing same-sex marriage, which is, of course, the point.