When Will They Come for Your Children?

The following is the conclusion of the presentation, “Marriage Without Adjectives,” by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Foundress of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage, made at the St. Anthony of Padua Institute event at the Manhattan Forum in Oakland, CA.

It is an account of what the city of Oakland, CA, might look like, thirty years from now, if the trends toward redefining marriage, redefining parenthood and expanding anti-discrimination law continue. As a side note, the current Roman Catholic bishop of Oakland, Salvatore Cordileone, is known to his friends and enemies alike as the Father of Proposition 8, which sought to maintain the traditional definition of marriage in California.

You and your grandson are going to a private prayer meeting at an apartment building in Oakland. You’ve been there often enough that you know a lot of the people sitting on the steps or out in the yard.

There is old Mrs. Garcia. She is raising her grandchildren. Her daughter got caught up in drugs and men and went off the deep end. Her three grandchildren have different fathers. She hopes she can keep the kids, but you never know what the courts will decide.

There is Ms. Marisol. Her little girl lives with her some of the time. But when she broke up with her boyfriend, he went to court to claim he was the “de facto” parent, and should have shared custody. He was doing it to be mean to her and because he wanted to have access to the little girl, if you know what I mean. Under the de facto parenting law, he counted as a parent, because he spent enough time with the child and she used to call him “daddy.” So Marisol’s daughter is with her old boyfriend part-time and she can’t do anything to stop it.1

She didn’t fight too hard because of her friend Lisa who used to live in the same complex. Lisa got her daughter taken away from her completely. Lisa went into hiding with her daughter when the court ordered her to turn the little girl over to her former girlfriend part time. Somebody saw her, told on her, and she got found. Her little girl was taken away, and Lisa did jail time. So Marisol figured she was better off not fighting with her ex.2

Then there is Sherry and Rebecca. They are married to each other. They don’t have sex with each other. They have sex with men, but nobody cares about that. They each have two kids with different guys. So there are four kids there, with four different dads, which actually means no dads. They each raise their own kids under the same roof. They share health insurance, but that’s about it.3

Of course, there are a few guys around. Billy Jo Bob just hangs around his mom’s apartment. He has a couple kids by a couple different women. He doesn’t feel any obligation to support any of them, because he doesn’t love any of those women or their brats. The courts have decided that after all, “love makes a family.” Besides Billy Jo Bob makes sure he doesn’t earn very much money anyhow, so he doesn’t pay any more. His mom yells at him a lot, but he just laughs at her and does as he pleases.4

There is Luke. He got married to Sam when they were in the military. They thought it would be cool to get off-base housing. They figured when their tour of duty was up, they’d get divorced and it would all be cool. But Sam got greedy and decided to sue Luke for his pension. Luke ended up broke and living in this broken down joint.

Then there is little Ned. He has two mommies and two daddies. I should say he started off with 2 mommies and 2 daddies.5 They quarreled amongst themselves. They went to court over his custody, and worked out an elaborate plan for sharing parenting among the 4 of them.6 Most of them got tired of being on the cutting edge of social change and lost interest in Ned. He used to cry at school every day because he never knew who was coming to pick him up from school. Now Ned lives here with his natural mom, Janet. Sometimes one of the fathers or the other mother will come over and demand to see him and take him on an outing. But his story ended pretty well, because most of those people pretty much just leave him alone now.

Then there is Emily. Emily was bought and paid for by a guy who wanted a little girl. Of course, no one would marry this creeper. So he bought an egg, hired a surrogate and used his own sperm to have this little girl. The law now says that artificial reproduction is a service and children are a commodity. Anyone who can pay gets to do anything they want.7 Anyhow Emily’s teacher figured out that something weird was going on. She called Child Protective Services. So now Emily lives here with her teacher, Miss Lydia. But she had lived with her dad, or should I say, her manufacturer, for 7 years before anybody stepped in to help her.

Then there is Tom. You can’t look at Tom without thinking of the old saying, “nice guys finish last.” He married some guy from Latin America who wanted a green card.8 They both agreed that they’d get divorced as soon as the immigration deal was sealed. But while that was going on, his “husband” Alejandro acquired a live-in girlfriend. She got pregnant. They used to ask Tom to look after the baby while they partied. He didn’t think too much of it. He was trying to help out and be a nice guy. When the time came for Tom and Alejandro to get divorced, he found himself sucked into a child support suit.9 Unbeknownst to him, the law of marriage says that any child born to one partner during the life of their union is automatically the child of both. So, when the girlfriend established his husband as the father of her child, Tom became the parent also. They stuck him for child support. They had it planned out from the beginning. He used to have a pretty nice car and live in a nice house. He still has a good job, but now he’s stuck in this wreck of a place. Like I said, nice guys finish last.

So you go up the steps to the prayer meeting at Miss Lila’s apartment. Not too many people are coming these days. Today it is just Miss Lila, Mrs. Garcia and old Mr. and Mrs. Villanueva. They used to be very active in Couples for Christ, a worldwide Pilipino organization for married couples. But some same sex couples wanted to join. The organization tried to accommodate them, Christian charity and all that. But those couples didn’t feel at home because so many of the Couples for Christ programs talked about how men and women should treat each other, and how they could understand one another and talk to one another better. So the same sex couples sued.10 The judge made Couples for Christ take out everything that had to do with sex differences. There was not much point to the organization after that. Old Mr. and Mrs. Villanueva didn’t quite know what to do with themselves after the organization closed. They had lived and breathed Couples for Christ.

So Miss Lila brought out the old plaster statue from its hiding place and everybody brought out their prayer beads. They said their prayers for a while and drank coffee and you and your grandson left.

As you got on the train, you told your grandson, “Back in the day, these BART trains used to go all over the place. There aren’t too many left now.” You remember hearing back at the turn of the 21st century how much the government was spending on taking care of kids without their own parents. Back then, it cost the US government the equivalent of the GDP of New Zealand, $112 Billion per year. You don’t want to think about what it costs today. 11

As you’re riding along, your grandson asks you, “why is Miss Lila so sad?”

“Her brother used to be the bishop of Oakland. He has been in jail for the last ten years. She’s praying for him all the time.”

“Why did he go to jail?”

“You know that high school over on Fruitvale Ave?”

“Sure, Vaughn Walker High School.”

“That used to belong to the Catholic Church.” Your grandson’s eyes get wide.

“The Church used to have schools?”

“That school used to be called St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School.” You couldn’t bear to tell him that she had been a great pioneer of Catholic education in America. He wouldn’t have understood such a thing. “The City tried to tell the Bishop that the Catholic schools had to teach stuff that he didn’t want to teach.” 12

“What kind of stuff?”

“God knew what he was doing when he created men and women as different but equal; marriage is between a man and a woman; kids need a mom and a dad. Stuff like that.” His eyes get really wide now: he hasn’t seen either of his parents in a long time.

“A lot of people started coming to the Catholic schools because they wanted their kids to learn that stuff and nobody else was teaching it. One day, the police came to force them to get rid of some books. All the parents came to the school to guard their kids and their books. The Bishop blocked the doorway of the school. The police took him away. Some of the parents tried to fight back, but when the police started taking kids away to put them in foster care, most of the parents gave up.13 The Bishop is still in jail. He was one tough guy. He never backed down. Secretly, a lot of people admire him but are afraid to say anything.”

“You aren’t afraid are you? That’s why we go over to Miss Lila’s isn’t it?”

“That’s right.”

“Grandpappy, you fought for the bishop, didn’t you?” Long silent pause. The BART train rattles on.

“Grandpappy, you didn’t do nothing to help the bishop, did you?”

“No, I didn’t do nothing. Here is our stop. Let’s go watch the Raiders play ball.”

So, you and your grandson get out of the BART at the end of the line, at the crumbling Coliseum, the last remnant of what was once a great civilization.

This is what our future could be, if current trends continue. But this does not have to be our future. Many, many people believe in man woman marriage, traditional marriage, or I should say, just marriage without adjectives. If all of us get off the bench, and onto the playing field, we can prevent this story from coming true. We can preserve marriage for our children and grandchildren, so that one man, one woman for life, can be a possibility for us all.

Revised and fully footnoted, October 15, 2011

1 “Undeserved Trust: Reflections on the ALI’s Treatment of De Facto Parents,” Robin Fretwell Wilson, in Reconceiving the Family: Critique on the American Law Institute’s Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006)

2 “FBI arrests Tenn. Pastor in Vt.-VA custody case,” Sign On San Diego, April 22, 2011. http://www.signonsandiego.com/ news/2011/apr/22/fbi-arrests-tenn-pastor-in-vt-va-custody-case/ “Vermont: ruling in Lesbian Custody Case,” New York Times, January 22, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/23/us/23brfs-RULINGINLESB_BRF.html

3 Jennifer Roback Morse, “The Curious Case of the Incurious Economists,” American Thinker January 17, 2010 http://www. americanthinker.com/2010/01/the_curious_case_of_the_incuri.html

4 In the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision rendered in Ferguson v. McKiernan, 940 A. 2d 1236 Pa: Supreme Court 2007, the court upheld a private contract between a mother and a known sperm donor. The contract called for no visitation by the father, in exchange for no child support demands by the mother. This contract was upheld in part because failure to do so would make sperm donation less likely and reproduction without sexual intercourse less likely.

5 “Johnny has two mommies—and four dads,” Boston Globe, October 24, 2010, http://articles.boston.com/2010-10-24/ lifestyle/29312572_1_three-parents-modern-family-parental-relationship For an academic defense of multip-parenting by contract, see Associate Professor at Michigan State University College of Law, Melanie B. Jacobs, “Why Just Two? Disaggregating Traditional Parental Rights and Responsibilities to Recognize Multiple Parents,” 9 Journal of Law and Family Studies 309 (2007)

6 The PA Superior Court Jacob v Shultz-Jacob, 2007 Westlaw 1240885, 2007 PA Super 118 ruled that a child may have three parents, in this case a former lesbian couple and the man who donated sperm.

7 Superior Court of Pennsylvania, J.F. v. D.B., 897 A2d 1261 (Pa. Super. 2006), http://caselaw.findlaw.com/pa-superior-court/1119500.html In this case, a 61 year old man purchased the services of an egg donor and a gestational/surrogate mother. He intended to raise the triplets with his 59 year old girlfriend. The father did not come to the hospital to take the babies home, and the babies were discharged to the surrogate. In a complex and tumultuous course of litigation, the surrogate mother and her husband raised the babies for the first two and half years of their lives. The surrogate and her husband attempted to obtain custody of the children, but were ultimately denied. The sperm donor father got what he paid for: three children without a legal mother. For details and analysis of this case, see Robert E. Rains, “What the Eire “Surrogate Triplets” can Teach State Legislatures about the need to Enact Article 8 of the Uniform Parentage Act (2000). Cleveland State Law Review, Vol. 56:1 (2008) https://www.judicialview.com/ ajaxupload/upload_pdf/Constitutional_Law/1247510048.pdf For similarly convoluted cases, see Indiana Supreme Court, No. 29S02-0904-CV-140, In the Matter of the Adoption of Infants, H. Marion County Division of Indiana Department of Child Services v. S.M.

8 “In Norway, 43% of male partnerships included a non-Norwegian citizen. In Sweden, 45% of gay partnerships involved at least one foreign-born partner, compared with 22% of newly contracted heterosexual marriages that had at least one partner of foreign origin.” “The Demographics of Same-Sex Marriages in Norway and Sweden,” Gunnar Andersson, Turid Noack, Ane Seierstad, Harald Weedon-Fekjaer, Demography Vol 43, No. 1 (Feb. 2006).

9 “Court upholds woman’s ‘de facto’ parental rights,” Delaware on-line, April 18, 2011, The Delaware statute ”is not specific to same sex couples, but applies to other unmarried partners and stepparents.” http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20110419/ NEWS01/104190347/Court-upholds-woman-s-de-facto-parental-rights?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Home|s; State of Minnesota, A05-537, May 10, 2007, In re the Matter of Nancy SooHoo, Respondent, vs Marilyn Johnson. In re parentage of L.B., Washington case creating 4 part test for definition of de facto parents.

10 For a general discussion of the likely impact of same sex marriage on a variety of church-related activities, see Douglas Laycock, Anthony R. Picarello, Jr. and Robin Fretwell Wilson, Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts, (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2008).

11 Benjamin Scafidi, “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and for All Fifty States,” Institute for American Values

12 For some of the California enactments mandating public school curriculum favorable to the interests of the gay lobby, see the following bills: SB 572: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/sen/sb_0551-0600/sb_572_ bill_20090910_enrolled.html AB 394: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/asm/ab_0351-0400/ab_394_bill_20070919_en­rolled.html SB 48: http://e-lobbyist.com/gaits/text/74798 SB 777: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/sen/sb_0751- 0800/sb_777_bill_20070917_enrolled.html You may object that this legislation only applies to public schools. Is there any legal barrier to legislation requiring gay-friendly curriculum in private schools? Would the gay lobby, including libertarians, oppose such legislation if it were proposed? If the answer to one or both of these ques­tions is “no” then the threat to independent schools such as Catholic schools must be taken as a serious possibil­ity.

13 In the UK, a Pentecostal Christian couple who had been foster parents for years were disallowed due to being unwilling to sign gay-affirming statement. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1361469/Christian-beliefs-DO-lose-gay-rights-Judges-ruling-devout-foster-couple-lose-case.html

Jennifer Morse


Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. is the Founding President of the Ruth Institute, an educational organization promoting lifelong married love to college students and young adults. She thanks Mr. Austin Muck, her 2011 Blackstone Legal Fellowship intern, for his assistance with the legal research on "In re M.C."

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  • Bob

    Dr. Morse

    You capture the heart of the debate by this illustrative technique. Most excellent.

  • Jill

    Implying that a desire to co-parent a child you have helped raise is tantamount to sexual abuse, as you do in the third paragraph is shameful.   

  • Onion

    It says a lot about the power of your argument that you have to cherry pick the very worst examples of these cases and dress them in hyperbolic penny-dreadful melodrama to make your point.

    At any rate, your logic is faulty- the fact that these sad situations make it to court and are reported on prove their comparative rarity, and the examples you cite span five years. You advocate traditional marriage and family life, and I won’t deny that it’s a fine environment for producing happy children, but other ways work too. In the US, around 2.7 million children live with relatives of one kind or another in informal or formal fostering arrangements(1). Now it can’t possibly be that all of these households are unstable- the majority are not. They’re just getting on with it, making mistakes, but trying to do the best by the children in their care. So to flag up sensational cases in order to slap down something that is some children’s only chance of a loving and secure home is unworthy of someone with your credentials.

    I have an example in fact, C, a friend, was born to a married couple. They then divorced, and her father had very sporadic contact with her, and generally turned up drunk anyway. Her mother got a new boyfriend and they all lived together. When C was 11 her mother died. By your reckoning, C should have gone to her father, rather than the man who had loved her and raised her for the last ten years. Happily, British law takes a more sensible view and awarded him guardianship. I’m willing to bet that there are more cases like this than the litany of neglect and hopelessness you describe.

    (1) http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_20764836/more-kids-now-live-relatives-other-than-their