by Freddie O’Connell
I am in a committed, heterosexual, unmarried relationship. In fact, this month, I will celebrate my tenth anniversary with my partner.
I occasionally get asked when I’m going to make “an honest woman” out of her, and my reply is usually something along the lines of “She’s more honest than I could ever make her.” But a growing number of people seem to have stopped caring whether or not we’re going to get married, and I’m fortunate not to have a large, intrusive family asking the next logical question: When are we going to reproduce?
We are both in our early thirties, though, and have recently begun having serious conversations about family planning. At a joint visit last month to her gynecologist, we asked a number of questions, including whether her physician knew anything about the difficulty of adopting for unmarried couples. We want to know our options in order to better plan our careers and lives.
Other than that, though, let’s consider our suitability as parents. For years, I have been a Web and IT professional, working in a variety of industries. At the moment, I operate my own business. She is in her third year of medical school. I own our house, although we share financial responsibilities for all utilities, and we will probably move to joint ownership as soon as she is earning an income. We don’t keep any alcohol in the house. She doesn’t drink at all, and I barely drink at all. Neither of us use drugs. Neither of us has ever been convicted of a crime. She volunteers regularly at a local clinic that provides free healthcare to people without health insurance. I serve at the committee and board level with a number of municipal and non-profit agencies. We both have college degrees.
Nashville is my hometown, and Tennessee is my home state. As a man who has only so much as kissed one woman in his entire life, who has been with her for 10 years, and who expects to be with her for the rest of his life, I challenge anyone who questions my moral values or my choices to actually live according to them. The only thing wrong with them to practitioners of various organized religions is that I belong to no organized religions. Other than that, though, my personal life is about as conservative as it gets in contemporary America.
So imagine my surprise when a great moralizer appeared from the western part of Tennessee to assert that I should be considered unqualified for adoption. Exacerbating the offense of a previous incarnation of a bill targeting same-sex couples, state senator Paul Stanley (R-Germantown, Tenn.), in our most recent legislative session, perhaps seeking to blunt criticisms that he was merely anti-gay embarrassingly included unmarried couples in his list of people unqualified to adopt on moral grounds. More embarrassingly still, he specifically mentioned unmarried “sexually cohabiting” couples in his bill. I suppose this means that there would have been a state test of some variety to determine what constitutes sexual cohabitation.
Just a few months later, however, we learned that Sen. Stanley knows full well what the meaning of “is” is. He became the poor, hapless victim of an extortion attempt. One that revealed that he is a man of appetites—appetites for young legislative interns. It turns out that Mr. Stanley, himself a married man with children, had quite the inappropriate extended fling with (at least) a 22-year-old legislative intern, parts of which were photographed. And her boyfriend wound up with those tapes in hand. If you’d like a lesson in the height of hypocrisy, I encourage you to search for the story online.
The audacity for a man like Paul Stanley, whose financial lust is evident in his decision to work for the now-disgraced Stanford companies (a scandal whose eruption would have made bigger headlines had it not been for Bernard Madoff) and whose carnal lust apparently knew no bounds of decency, to set the standard for the moral grounds for adoption is simply offensive.
I was able to conclude from this sordid affair that I would make a much better father than Mr. Stanley. Perhaps the proper response would be for someone to propose a bill in the next session of our General Assembly that would prevent moralizing legislators from adopting. Until then, I’ll be keeping an eye on Congressman Pete Stark (D-California)’s Every Child Deserves a Family Act. The bill would prohibit entities that receive federal funding from denying adoptions solely based on the marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity of the prospective adoptive parents. Those are values I feel comfortable adopting.
Freddie O’Connell is a co-host and co-producer of Liberadio(!), a Nashville-based political talk radio show.
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