Indiana AG’s Same-Sex Parenthood Case Is Harbinger Of Conservative Long Game

The scales of justice aren’t always even?Creative Commons

Indiana’s Attorney General, Curtis Hill, is arguing before the Supreme Court that same-sex parents of adopted or biological children should not appear on their birth certificates, because, in Indiana’s view, such entries should be reserved for straight couples only. At issue is last January’s lower court decision which held that the Hoosier State’s laws limiting who can be listed as a parent were unconstitutional. The AG wants the high court to reverse that ruling, effectively removing parental rights from same-sex parents, including the ability of both parents to speak for their child in hospitals, school enrollment, and as legal guardians.

That this case originated in a state where Vice President Mike Pence, as Governor, happily signed a Turn Away The Gays bill into law, permitting individuals and businesses to legally refuse goods or services to LGBTQ people. The same hard-hearted attitude apparently carries forward in this new attempt to squelch the parental rights of same-sex couples, whether the children are adopted, inseminated from a donor and carried to term, or conceived and born in the usual way. It’s part of a growing number of anti-LGBTQ cases on the Supreme Court’s docket that will be heard by an ultra-conservative panel of judges, following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg earlier this fall. Unsurprisingly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t even wait for RBG’s body to get cold, hypocritically announcing on the night of her death, that his Republicans would confirm a conservative replacement for her on the SCOTUS bench, ahead of the election. The rushed confirmation of hard-right jurist Amy Coney Barrett in record time, tilted the balance of justice on the Supreme Court for decades to come. None of that bodes well for LGBTQ rights in America, and Hill’s case, among others, is just one component of a larger, longer-term plan to render the LGBTQ community in the United States a very marginal, vulnerable, and quite possibly criminal, element in our society.

Once upon a time, there was a world without the Internet, cell phones, or Facebook. Into that turbulent era of the 1960s, I was born on Staten Island, that forgotten borough of New York City which sits uneasily in the harbor between Brooklyn and New Jersey. Through a turn of fate, I ended up on the adoption rolls, and was eventually placed with a Queens couple who adopted me as their own. They cared for me, they raised me, they looked out for my well-being; I was loved with them just as if they had given birth to me themselves. Even back in that period, it was New York City’s practice to enter the names of the adoptive parents onto the child’s birth certificate, which the city’s Bureau Of Vital Statistics did in my case. In the 1960s, of course, gay or lesbian couples were generally hidden, and criminalized by laws specifically targeting sexual orientation. Therefore, all couples accepted for adoption of children were straight, and almost always married. But, shouldn’t gay or lesbian couples be able to claim their children as their own, just as my parents did, regardless of sexual orientation?

By removing the ability of LGBTQ couples to adopt children and document these kids as their own, dating from birth, the conservative right is laying the groundwork for further delegitimization of LGBTQ people. Their goal of destabilizing the LGBTQ family is clear. Consider that parenthood and marriage are closely linked in American society, and you can then perceive how a framework is being established to reverse other LGBTQ-affirming decisions, such as Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized marriage equality nationwide. Before Obergefell and its sister case, Windsor, marriage for same-sex couples was a crazy-quilt hodgepodge of state or municipal laws. A gay couple married in New York were complete strangers in the eyes of the law in Kentucky. Some states had civil unions, others had domestic partnerships, still others recognized no legal relationship of any kind between same-sex couples.

A reversal of Obergefell — and trust me, there are challenges coming; in fact, Judges Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have publicly asked for such a case to be brought before the Court — would follow hard on the heels of any revision to the legality of a same-sex parental family unit. These changes would further set the stage for SCOTUS to revisit another landmark case, Lawrence v. Texas, a 2003 decision that ended prosecutions of gays and lesbians who lived and loved in their authentic, genuine truths. With a 6–3 advantage, the hard-right plaintiffs who will bring cases to SCOTUS designed to recriminalize gay men like me, are assured a good chance of victory. The LGBTQ community would then return to what it was years ago — underground, hidden, illegal, and fractured.

If we look hard at the Indiana case going before the Supreme Court now, we can see in it an augury of the long game the anti-LGBTQ forces in America — political, religious, and legal, have been planning during the Trump years. It will take some real heavy lifting in both the court of jurisprudence, and public opinion, to stave off the dark future they so desperately want for us.

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