Monday, October 22, 2007

Conscientious objection to gay adoption

There's a lot of irony in this. Much to the chagrin of some of my gay friends I have always maintained that arguably gay people have a moral obligation to contribute to the welfare of children (often gay couples have the resources and the time to do so, frequently more so than heterosexual couples). In view of large numbers of orphans both in developed as well as in developing countries I think it would be only sensible if more gay people who find themselves in the fortunate situation to be able to resource the upbringing of such orphans should do so (eg adopt them). So, rather than thinking about gay adoption as a right that needs to be fought for, I believe it is a moral obligation that sufficiently resourced gay people have toward orphans. While I was saying 'duty' and 'obligation' as opposed to 'right' ('gay' preferably) my gay compatriots were not exactly taken by my views.
Well, thankfully there's always a religious person around working hard to stuff these matters up. You know, some bloke who had a chat with his 'God' the other day, and who then 'feels' strongly enough about it to campaign against gay adoption (the 'right' and, weirdly the 'duty'). The fascinating bit to me isn't that sort of conduct in itself, as to my mind organised monotheistic religions are about little other than this kind of activity. No, it all comes full circle to my other favorite topic, 'conscientious objection'.
63 year old Andrew McClintock is some kind of professional. His job as a Magistrate in Sheffield is to get kids into adoption. Well, you guessed it, Mr McClintock is part of God's squad, so he knows that it's 'wrong' to place orphans with adoptive gay parents. He wants that the place where he works excuses him from having to give orphaned children to gay adoptive parents. Conscientious objection as an idea holds much sway in health care professions. There members of God's earthly team also want a special exemption when it comes to certain types of medical services. The weird bit about the conscientious objection stance is, of course, that it's not about any kind of actual truth of the belief held by the objectors. So, it's not at all about whether they can show that their God exists and that the views they ascribe to their God are truly God's views, basic stuff like that. Rather, it's about the fact that they feel so very strongly about the issue. Well, what if Mr McClintock had joined an Aryan Nation type religion that would prevent him from given orphans to families from an ethnic group that he doesn't like, because his God etc etc, would that also fly as a reason for racial discrimination?
Given that conscientious objection, as we have seen, is not about the truth or otherwise of the God related claims, to me at least it seems that accepting a right to conscientious objection is close to saying 'anything goes' as long as the objector feels strongly enough about it. This absurdity is truly incompatible with professional conduct, and for that reason alone we should do away with any supposed right to conscientious objection.
You don't want to deliver services that we as society can reasonably expect of you by virtue of your professional status ... frankly, then take a hike and get yourself some other job that you're able to fulfill.


  1. AnonymousJune 22, 2008

    I certainly agree that gay people - as do all people - have an obligation to help those in need. The modern practice of adoption, however, is not necessarily a form of help. In many cultures the idea of adoption is alien. In Western society, it is well-known, but has long suffered from the ethical implications of separating parent and child.

    Nevertheless, your post suggests adoption cam be a tool to help; you call out cases where children are labeled "orphans," i.e. those children without parents. This appears an easy way to skirt the larger implications of adoption. Please recognize that there are very few orphans available for adoption. Most such children have parents. When you consider this, you may realize that adoption may not be the optimal way to help all children in need. A valid alternative would be to give the money one may spend on adopting a child to his parents; such resources could allow them to take care of their child in security.

    One last thought, your initial premise that people have an obligation to help is sound. It also follows that nobody - be they gay or not - has a right to take possession of a child. Such an act is a privilege and responsibility granted by society; it has little to do with equal rights but everything to do with the needs of the child. If society believes that gay people should not be given this privilege and responsibility then so be it.


  2. Really, there's very few orphans... may be that's true for the Vatican state, but it's untrue for large parts of the world.

    Hm as to whether or not it's acceptable for the state to discriminate randomly against some of its citizens (then 'so be it'). I've got my doubts about that one, too.

  3. AnonymousJune 22, 2008

    You need to be careful with such statistics. Often at least one parent is still living. I believe a music icon of the 1980's recently found this out. Without doubt, though, HIV has devastated the Africa population. With that loss in mind, would moving the youth of the continent to loving homes in Europe and America really help matters? Please consider the moral implication of that action.

    As for whether the government should 'randomly' discriminate against its citizens...I agree, it should not randomly do so. As you said, adoption is not a right for anyone. In fact, the term "gay adoption" is an odd misnomer. A child is adopted, not a necessarily a gay person. Thus, there is only "child-adoption." When we shift the focus of adoption to the parent, we are not helping children who have already suffered the worst loss children can suffer.

    Perhaps one day we will find out that children raised by same-sex couples turn out equally well if not better than those raised by heterosexuals. Until then, the precautionary principle is warranted. We should not experiment on children because an adult believes they are entitled to raise another person's child.



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