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Lesbian mothers should be on birth certificates Sometimes, biological reality isn't everything

Not a fan of Peppa Pigs (TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images)

Not a fan of Peppa Pigs (TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images)


July 21, 2023   6 mins

If you’re a politician, the presence of a global LGBT+ activist movement offers large amounts of political bang for your buck, pound or euro — whether that’s by waving trans flags enthusiastically, or by banning books about gay dads. Last year, a senior spokesman for the Brothers of Italy Party sent a strong message to core voters with relatively little effort by demanding the censoring of an episode of Peppa Pig. The episode in question featured the Right’s worst nightmare: co-parenting lesbian polar bears. Since then, the Party has become the majority partner in the Italian coalition government. This week, we discovered that it’s now turning up the heat for lesbian humans, too.

Under leader Giorgia Meloni, it has been decided that only the name of the biological mother within a lesbian couple may appear on their child’s birth certificate, reversing the previous decision of certain Italian municipalities to include both partners. Some town halls are stripping existing parental rights from lesbian partners retrospectively. The grand total of couples involved is said to be 33 — a perfect number, when you want to send a shot across the bows without hitting too many voters along the way.

Luca Ciriani, the minister for parliamentary relations, insisted last month: “In Italy, marriage is only between a man and a woman, and therefore only the biological parent is the parent whose surname can be registered.” (Civil unions, but not marriages, have been around for same-sex-attracted people in Italy since 2016.) Given the international climate, it’s predictable that her party would go in this direction. What is perhaps less predictable, given the heavy presence of lesbians and atheists among them, is that the move has also gone down well with some in the UK fighting for women’s rights.

Tired of the erasure of biological motherhood on multiple fronts these days — whether from activists renaming trans-identified fathers as “mothers”, or from surrogacy enthusiasts presenting a birth mother as a fancy kind of packaging from which a beautiful baby can eventually be unboxed — campaigners such as Kellie-Jay Keen (aka Posie Parker) and others have endorsed Meloni’s conclusion. Any concessions to the renaming of biological reality are “the thin end of the wedge”, Keen argues — where the thick end presumably involves schoolgirls believing they are boys, transwomen photographing themselves “breastfeeding”, and other forms of present or future definitional anarchy.

As it happens, I’m named on my youngest child’s birth certificate, though I didn’t give birth to her. My lack of contribution in that respect is made clear by my categorisation as “parent”, while my partner is named, accurately, as “mother”. Such an entry became legally possible in 2009 for lesbians in civil partnerships, bringing parity with what had already been possible for years for heterosexual males, as long as they were in a couple using donor sperm for fertility issues. If there is a wedge here, it started with infertile men being registered as parents of children they did not conceive.

I don’t object at all to the fact of criticism of either practice, and I certainly wouldn’t hurl accusations of homophobia around because of it. Not every objection to the liberalisation of traditional family structures in favour of gay people is homophobic in origin. In an ideal world, I agree, we would each know where — or more specifically, who — we came from, though the world is far from ideal in that respect. According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2021 nearly 5% of birth certificates issued in the UK didn’t record any father at all.

But this isn’t the only point of a birth certificate in any case. The named presence of an adult there also officially gives him or her the set of legal rights and responsibilities associated with being a parent. It is these that have been removed from one half of lesbian co-parenting couples in Italy. In order to be able to do things like pick up a child after school or take over childcare in the event of the birth mother’s death, the excluded partner must now go through a lengthy adoption procedure.

Viewed in this light, naming a second lesbian parent on a child’s birth certificate is a family-friendly move. Arguably, if you squint a bit, it’s even a socially conservative move — though agreeing probably depends on whether you take, as your baseline, a society where lesbians will have children anyway; or whether you think of it as a cultural aberration that could, with discouragement, be stopped. Either way, putting a second lesbian partner on a birth certificate officially defines and legitimises her parenting relation within the family, allowing the burdens and joys to be shared between two adults, and adding a second layer of protection for the child. Family stability is important for good childhood outcomes, and this measure seems to provide some.

Coincidentally, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act was passed in the UK a decade ago this week. With the benefit of hindsight, it is interesting to revisit the associated parliamentary debate of the Bill, as politicians discussed whether lesbians and gays had the right to nervous breakdowns over table settings and canapé choices like everybody else.

Much of the progressive case for same-sex marriage centred on the notion that the game of marriage — its pleasures and its wider benefits — did not require the pieces on the board to have any particular shape. As Yvette Cooper declared at the time: “We all love the idea of a wedding, we all support the idea of a strong marriage and, clearly, we all like a good party.” The conservative case, meanwhile, focused on sexual difference as the essential basis of a Christian marriage, specifically for the purposes of bringing up children. Yet it seems to me that, as is often the case, both sides overstated things.

Back then, progressives tended to follow the lead of LGB activists in avoiding all discussions of how lesbian or gay partnerships might meaningfully differ from the heterosexual versions. There was a similar code of silence over how lesbian relationships might differ from the gay male kind — bizarrely, since in many ways a female-female couple is the opposite of a male-male one. The general conceit, for the purposes of equality narratives, was (and still is) that any differences — either with heterosexual couples, or with homosexual couples of the opposite sex — are superficial, and that we are all the same really.

Any diversion from this approved line tended to result in immediate cries of homophobia, and still does. It’s a shame, for — as well as having presented a suffocatingly authoritarian blueprint for future transactivists to follow — this strategy has also been counterproductive for child development. Specifically, it has removed any possibility of having constructive, non-judgemental public discussions about how the needs of same-sex parents and their offspring might somewhat differ from those in heterosexual contexts.

For instance, children growing up in lesbian households ideally need strong emotional connections with adult males as well, whether via family or friends, while kids growing up with gay male parents also need positive relationships with women. This is not something that many progressives are prepared to talk about. Also hard to acknowledge — but still true — is that, like straight male counterparts, gay male parents are on average less likely than females to feel confident in caring for young children. A society that could mention these things easily could also offer more support for those that require it.

It would also be good to freely discuss the potential costs of unknown paternity or maternity for children generally, without getting worried about the sensitivities of gays and lesbians in particular. Relatedly, the gay male use of surrogates is an ethical minefield. It requires an open discussion without kneejerk accusations of bigotry.

Progressives have often steered clear of such points because they fear that a slippery slope is invited towards the conclusion that gay people shouldn’t have children at all — a point on which many Christian contributors to the 2013 parliamentary debate doubtless would agree. But most constituents these days are not practising Christians; and even those who are, are usually pretty liberal. Shorn of a religious framework insisting that, by definition, both a marriage and a family must contain one man and one woman, any ensuing draconian policy implications would be unattractive to most. We aren’t in Catholic Italy.

Recently, I’ve been glued to a Netflix reality show called The Ultimatum, where couples swap partners for three weeks, ostensibly in order to assess whether they are ready for marriage in their own couple. It’s a genius idea that could only attract deliciously watchable dysfunctionality, a promise on which it totally delivers. There’s a lesbian version and a straight version — and it’s fascinating to inspect each series with an eye to differences and similarities.

Yes, lesbians seem to cry more (but only just); and yes, heterosexuals seem to have more sex (but only just); but even so, watching the two series consecutively also reveals the deep similarities between humans looking for lasting love. (Indeed, after watching the first one, only featuring females, I struggled not to read the men in the second as particularly successful butch lesbians.)

If it’s a basic aim of society to produce well-adjusted, happy children in the context of stable, long-lasting romantic relationships — and a lot of evidence suggests it should be — then it would be a wasted opportunity not to offer lesbian and gay couples policy tools that help them contribute to this process. We don’t have to choose between traditional complementarity narratives about marriage or parenting, and a structureless free-for-all in which any permutation is permitted in order to prop up fantasies of exact sameness. Paying attention to real differences between sexual orientations should not preclude keeping our eye on the bigger picture — nor vice versa.


Kathleen Stock is an UnHerd columnist and a co-director of The Lesbian Project.
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Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago

Progressives always push things too far and then act shocked, shocked, when their political opponents react vigorously – and go too far as well. Don’t like schools banning LBGT books? Maybe don’t insist on making kids in grade 6 read gay porn. Don’t like absolute bans on medically transitioning youths – maybe don’t bully every medical practitioner who doesn’t get on board with your agenda. I am sorry that lesbian moms can’t get on certificates – but this a pushback against the excesses of the entire LGBT+ movement – and you absolutely deserve that pushback.

Last edited 9 months ago by Peter Johnson
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Totally agree. I find Kathleen’s articles are always well written, logical and persuasive. My rational persona can’t find much to argue with in this, or most of her pieces.

My emotional persona always inwardly grins and does a little jig at any culture war news from Italy, Poland or Hungary.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

I am not at all sorry that lesbian moms can’t get on certificates
The birth certificate is not for the gratification of some here today gone tomorrow lesbian shack up. It for the child and the child will want to know who its actual parents are.

Last edited 9 months ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
William Shaw
William Shaw
9 months ago

I suspect that is the bitter truth that same-sex couples would rather not face.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
9 months ago

But given the divorce rate of heterosexual married couples, as well as the rate of childbirth to unmarried females, I’m not sure that the lesbian shack-up is any less durable. I agree that they tend to have serial relationships (the U-haul joke) and have personally seen children w/ an outrageous number of “moms” who behave like babysitters w/ their non-birthed kids because they’re not really into it–and the poor kids are screwed up from the beginning with 20 families of bio donor this, re-partnered that–and while you’d think that makes for more resources the kids, we all know that kids need a sense that there are 1-2 core parents who’ll love them unconditionally while their kids act like total “nobs” and “bell-ends” (as y’all like to say) from age 12-25.
Kathleen makes such great points. I’m sick of facing gasps from progressives and LGB folk for raising such questions. Course, I’m not around many “progressives” any more anyway.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago

Your biological father will always be your biological father been if your biological father. Even if you cannot remember him you are connected by blood and his family is still your family.
How does this compare to some woman who was hooked up with you mother for a year or two at the time of your birth. This is lesbian preening at the expense of the child.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
9 months ago

The man named on the birth certificate is not always the biological father ( knowingly or unknowingly), though, even if they assume parental responsibility. And of course, some birth certificates have no recorded name for the biological, or any other, father.

Peter D
Peter D
9 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Still, the birth certificate should reflect who the biological parents are as far as it is known. If at some point down the track, it is proven beyond doubt that the father is not the father, then he needs to be removed.
We need to understand that the birth certificate is not an emotional document. Otherwise it would say Dad and Mum/Dad and Dad/Mum and Mum. It doesn’t, it says Mother and Father. There is a significant difference between Father and Dad even though they can be one and the same person.

Peter D
Peter D
9 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Still, the birth certificate should reflect who the biological parents are as far as it is known. If at some point down the track, it is proven beyond doubt that the father is not the father, then he needs to be removed.
We need to understand that the birth certificate is not an emotional document. Otherwise it would say Dad and Mum/Dad and Dad/Mum and Mum. It doesn’t, it says Mother and Father. There is a significant difference between Father and Dad even though they can be one and the same person.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
9 months ago

The man named on the birth certificate is not always the biological father ( knowingly or unknowingly), though, even if they assume parental responsibility. And of course, some birth certificates have no recorded name for the biological, or any other, father.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago

Your biological father will always be your biological father been if your biological father. Even if you cannot remember him you are connected by blood and his family is still your family.
How does this compare to some woman who was hooked up with you mother for a year or two at the time of your birth. This is lesbian preening at the expense of the child.

Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
9 months ago

Well said.

William Shaw
William Shaw
9 months ago

I suspect that is the bitter truth that same-sex couples would rather not face.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
9 months ago

But given the divorce rate of heterosexual married couples, as well as the rate of childbirth to unmarried females, I’m not sure that the lesbian shack-up is any less durable. I agree that they tend to have serial relationships (the U-haul joke) and have personally seen children w/ an outrageous number of “moms” who behave like babysitters w/ their non-birthed kids because they’re not really into it–and the poor kids are screwed up from the beginning with 20 families of bio donor this, re-partnered that–and while you’d think that makes for more resources the kids, we all know that kids need a sense that there are 1-2 core parents who’ll love them unconditionally while their kids act like total “nobs” and “bell-ends” (as y’all like to say) from age 12-25.
Kathleen makes such great points. I’m sick of facing gasps from progressives and LGB folk for raising such questions. Course, I’m not around many “progressives” any more anyway.

Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
9 months ago

Well said.

William Shaw
William Shaw
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

It’s not uncommon for progressives to complain or protest about events in other countries and use that “oppression” to campaign here at home. Examples include anti-abortion advocates in the US, women in Iran and Afghanistan, and now homosexual couples in Italy. The internet is used to make everyone’s problems our own and, as a result, a provide infinite list of issues to use in the victimhood Olympics. First the injustice in some foreign land is trotted out for sympathy and then the, at best, obliquely related cause here in the UK is offered up to ride on its empathetic coat tails. Well sorry, it may be a clever way to advance your cause and it may blind many readers to how they are being manipulated but it’s deceitful, dishonest writing and disrespectful to the reader.

Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Never understood homosexuals and lesbians wanting to have offspring!
I can understand in zeitgeist of yore, that laws, peoples disapproval, rape (even hate) circumstance may have saddled one with a child and then having accepted who one is, end up in a same sex partnership.
But please, when do we start thinking about the children in these ‘un-natural’ situations and not just about ourselves?
Have no issue with who jumps into your bed if they are consenting adults but let us stop pandering to this fallacy that this is a right to mess with children.
All the studies I have read tell one that having both parents present in a marriage is vital for children to grow-up functionally. And even then it’s no guarantee.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Totally agree. I find Kathleen’s articles are always well written, logical and persuasive. My rational persona can’t find much to argue with in this, or most of her pieces.

My emotional persona always inwardly grins and does a little jig at any culture war news from Italy, Poland or Hungary.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

I am not at all sorry that lesbian moms can’t get on certificates
The birth certificate is not for the gratification of some here today gone tomorrow lesbian shack up. It for the child and the child will want to know who its actual parents are.

Last edited 9 months ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
William Shaw
William Shaw
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

It’s not uncommon for progressives to complain or protest about events in other countries and use that “oppression” to campaign here at home. Examples include anti-abortion advocates in the US, women in Iran and Afghanistan, and now homosexual couples in Italy. The internet is used to make everyone’s problems our own and, as a result, a provide infinite list of issues to use in the victimhood Olympics. First the injustice in some foreign land is trotted out for sympathy and then the, at best, obliquely related cause here in the UK is offered up to ride on its empathetic coat tails. Well sorry, it may be a clever way to advance your cause and it may blind many readers to how they are being manipulated but it’s deceitful, dishonest writing and disrespectful to the reader.

Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Never understood homosexuals and lesbians wanting to have offspring!
I can understand in zeitgeist of yore, that laws, peoples disapproval, rape (even hate) circumstance may have saddled one with a child and then having accepted who one is, end up in a same sex partnership.
But please, when do we start thinking about the children in these ‘un-natural’ situations and not just about ourselves?
Have no issue with who jumps into your bed if they are consenting adults but let us stop pandering to this fallacy that this is a right to mess with children.
All the studies I have read tell one that having both parents present in a marriage is vital for children to grow-up functionally. And even then it’s no guarantee.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago

Progressives always push things too far and then act shocked, shocked, when their political opponents react vigorously – and go too far as well. Don’t like schools banning LBGT books? Maybe don’t insist on making kids in grade 6 read gay porn. Don’t like absolute bans on medically transitioning youths – maybe don’t bully every medical practitioner who doesn’t get on board with your agenda. I am sorry that lesbian moms can’t get on certificates – but this a pushback against the excesses of the entire LGBT+ movement – and you absolutely deserve that pushback.

Last edited 9 months ago by Peter Johnson
Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

The episode in question featured the Right’s worst nightmare: co-parenting lesbian polar bears.
Surely they were bi polar bears.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago

Very good R-WH; well-arcticulated.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago

Very good R-WH; well-arcticulated.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

The episode in question featured the Right’s worst nightmare: co-parenting lesbian polar bears.
Surely they were bi polar bears.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
9 months ago

Sorry Kathleen. You are wrong. A woman who has a baby by a man (which is the only way that she can, by whatever means ) and then lives with another woman is in exactly the same situation as a woman who has a baby with one man and then lives with another. Step parents of either sex can adopt children but must not be on birth certificates.
A birth certificate is a legal document that relates to the child, and to the adult that he or she will become. It is nothing to do with the parents, actual or pretend. Everyone has the right to know who their biological parents are and have them named on their birth certificate. To pretend that someone is a parent when they are not is a lie, regardless of sex.
I agree with everything you say on the ‘gender’ nonsense (though I don’t think you go far enough) but you are undermining your argument with this one. Mammals cannot change sex and two mammals of the same sex cannot reproduce. Children are themselves, not the possessions of others, and the legal documents that they carry through life must reflect that.

m_dunec
m_dunec
9 months ago

I see your point of view, but i see Kathleen’s more.

I am a step parent of a 25 yr old, and i have been since birth, but that won’t legally reflect in history, and I’ll never exist as one of the two parents that raised the child into an adult. The father is not present, and both biological parents are on the certificate.

Kinda sad, dangerous and not completely factual. I could be anyone, doing anything and it’s like i was never here – untraceable.

But I get it; until we get better at recording who are actually, in the lives of children, the biological parents are it.

Last edited 9 months ago by m_dunec
Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
9 months ago
Reply to  m_dunec

I grew up not knowing who my father was and being forced to pretend, by my mother, that another man was my father. She even changed my name ‘unofficially’ so that, when I eventually obtained my birth certificate, my exam certificates didn’t match it and I had to embarrassingly supply my university with a letter from a vicar to confirm that I was who I said I was.
I did not fit in with my mother’s new family and had abilities and priorities that they did not value or understand. The very fact that my mother never considered that I might need matching documentation to apply to university was evidence of that.
I have never really had a relationship with my father, although I know who he is, but that doesn’t really matter. Learning who he was, what he was good at, what he did for a living and so on helped me to understand myself. I have also met cousins who grew up about a mile away and with whom I had mutual friends, but I never knew they existed.
I am not only opposed to this proposal, but to closed adoption, donor AI and surrogacy too. Everyone has a right to know who they are and legal documents should reflect that.

m_dunec
m_dunec
9 months ago

I think any person that is given full access into a child’s life should be recorded somewhere, one way or another. Obviously makes sense to start with the biological parents.

Last edited 9 months ago by m_dunec
Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
9 months ago
Reply to  m_dunec

I thought that was covered in the adoption legalese?

Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
9 months ago
Reply to  m_dunec

I thought that was covered in the adoption legalese?

m_dunec
m_dunec
9 months ago

I think any person that is given full access into a child’s life should be recorded somewhere, one way or another. Obviously makes sense to start with the biological parents.

Last edited 9 months ago by m_dunec
Caroline Ayers
Caroline Ayers
9 months ago
Reply to  m_dunec

Maybe we should have birth certificates that have 4 categories, bio father, bio mother, and then the 2 “parents” who are doing the actual parenting. In most gay relationships one of those “parents” will also be either the bio father or bio mother. Kathleen opened my eyes to an issue I was unaware of.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Caroline Ayers

Though we would have to make paternity testing mandatory to guarantee accuracy.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Caroline Ayers

Though we would have to make paternity testing mandatory to guarantee accuracy.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
9 months ago
Reply to  m_dunec

I grew up not knowing who my father was and being forced to pretend, by my mother, that another man was my father. She even changed my name ‘unofficially’ so that, when I eventually obtained my birth certificate, my exam certificates didn’t match it and I had to embarrassingly supply my university with a letter from a vicar to confirm that I was who I said I was.
I did not fit in with my mother’s new family and had abilities and priorities that they did not value or understand. The very fact that my mother never considered that I might need matching documentation to apply to university was evidence of that.
I have never really had a relationship with my father, although I know who he is, but that doesn’t really matter. Learning who he was, what he was good at, what he did for a living and so on helped me to understand myself. I have also met cousins who grew up about a mile away and with whom I had mutual friends, but I never knew they existed.
I am not only opposed to this proposal, but to closed adoption, donor AI and surrogacy too. Everyone has a right to know who they are and legal documents should reflect that.

Caroline Ayers
Caroline Ayers
9 months ago
Reply to  m_dunec

Maybe we should have birth certificates that have 4 categories, bio father, bio mother, and then the 2 “parents” who are doing the actual parenting. In most gay relationships one of those “parents” will also be either the bio father or bio mother. Kathleen opened my eyes to an issue I was unaware of.

Megan
Megan
9 months ago

And if the biological father is actually just the woman’s rapist? Do you really think the rapist who seeded a kid deserves that recognition? Or an abuser who the mother is trying to escape? Do you not think women should have the right to leave off the names of these men?

m_dunec
m_dunec
9 months ago

I see your point of view, but i see Kathleen’s more.

I am a step parent of a 25 yr old, and i have been since birth, but that won’t legally reflect in history, and I’ll never exist as one of the two parents that raised the child into an adult. The father is not present, and both biological parents are on the certificate.

Kinda sad, dangerous and not completely factual. I could be anyone, doing anything and it’s like i was never here – untraceable.

But I get it; until we get better at recording who are actually, in the lives of children, the biological parents are it.

Last edited 9 months ago by m_dunec
Megan
Megan
9 months ago

And if the biological father is actually just the woman’s rapist? Do you really think the rapist who seeded a kid deserves that recognition? Or an abuser who the mother is trying to escape? Do you not think women should have the right to leave off the names of these men?

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
9 months ago

Sorry Kathleen. You are wrong. A woman who has a baby by a man (which is the only way that she can, by whatever means ) and then lives with another woman is in exactly the same situation as a woman who has a baby with one man and then lives with another. Step parents of either sex can adopt children but must not be on birth certificates.
A birth certificate is a legal document that relates to the child, and to the adult that he or she will become. It is nothing to do with the parents, actual or pretend. Everyone has the right to know who their biological parents are and have them named on their birth certificate. To pretend that someone is a parent when they are not is a lie, regardless of sex.
I agree with everything you say on the ‘gender’ nonsense (though I don’t think you go far enough) but you are undermining your argument with this one. Mammals cannot change sex and two mammals of the same sex cannot reproduce. Children are themselves, not the possessions of others, and the legal documents that they carry through life must reflect that.

Rob N
Rob N
9 months ago

Interesting points but I still don’t see why, ideally, anyone should be named on the birth certificate who is not a biological parent. That is different to having parental rights.

However technology, as so often nowadays, causes issues eg egg donation meaning potentially 2 mothers and a father. Expect there are other scenarios as well so birth certificates need more fields to make clear the biological parents and maybe an optional second parental rights certificate to show those with parental rights but that would need verification to ensure accuracy. . We also have to accept or work out how to deal with the ‘fact’ that 20% or so of children don’t have the biological father they are ‘supposed’ to.

Personally I think homosexual couples should be honest enough to accept their reality and adopt, not ‘cheat’, if they want children.

Katherine Ward
Katherine Ward
9 months ago
Reply to  Rob N

What is even more tragic about at least one of the lesbian couples where one the women was erased from the Birth Certificate in Italy (and there are probably more in those 33 couples) is that they BOTH were the biological mother. One donated the egg which was fertilized and implanted in the other woman. So one IS the genetic mom (the one who was erased from the BC) and the other IS the bio mom who gestated and gave birth to the baby. Erasing one mom is horrific. I think in the case of couples who use IVF like straight and lesbian couples, both should be registered as mother and other parent, maybe noting something like the genetic father is unknown or something, but recognizing the other with parental rights. Couples who do this plan for years to have a child and both are the parents, and should be recognized as such.
I totally oppose surrogacy and do not support gay male parents who buy children like a thing and separate it from the mother. If they go through all the background checks to adopt a child who has lost its parents (and ensure its not creepos posing as gay couples to abuse kids), then ok, they can have an adoption paper that recognizes them as the new legal parents, but that childs birth certificate should never be changed to erase its real bio parents.

Katherine Ward
Katherine Ward
9 months ago
Reply to  Rob N

What is even more tragic about at least one of the lesbian couples where one the women was erased from the Birth Certificate in Italy (and there are probably more in those 33 couples) is that they BOTH were the biological mother. One donated the egg which was fertilized and implanted in the other woman. So one IS the genetic mom (the one who was erased from the BC) and the other IS the bio mom who gestated and gave birth to the baby. Erasing one mom is horrific. I think in the case of couples who use IVF like straight and lesbian couples, both should be registered as mother and other parent, maybe noting something like the genetic father is unknown or something, but recognizing the other with parental rights. Couples who do this plan for years to have a child and both are the parents, and should be recognized as such.
I totally oppose surrogacy and do not support gay male parents who buy children like a thing and separate it from the mother. If they go through all the background checks to adopt a child who has lost its parents (and ensure its not creepos posing as gay couples to abuse kids), then ok, they can have an adoption paper that recognizes them as the new legal parents, but that childs birth certificate should never be changed to erase its real bio parents.

Rob N
Rob N
9 months ago

Interesting points but I still don’t see why, ideally, anyone should be named on the birth certificate who is not a biological parent. That is different to having parental rights.

However technology, as so often nowadays, causes issues eg egg donation meaning potentially 2 mothers and a father. Expect there are other scenarios as well so birth certificates need more fields to make clear the biological parents and maybe an optional second parental rights certificate to show those with parental rights but that would need verification to ensure accuracy. . We also have to accept or work out how to deal with the ‘fact’ that 20% or so of children don’t have the biological father they are ‘supposed’ to.

Personally I think homosexual couples should be honest enough to accept their reality and adopt, not ‘cheat’, if they want children.

R Wright
R Wright
9 months ago

It’s articles like this that remind me that radical feminists are not my friend and have been engaging in the subversion of societal norms just as much as their trans counterparts. Despite the author’s vainglorious attempt to recruit me to her argument, it is not socially conservative to try and alter material reality by changing a legal document to reflect a lesbian’s wishful thinking. It’s a birth certificate, not a parent certificate.

No mention is made here of the egregiously sexist reality that unmarried men are blocked from being put on birth certificates for their own children without the mother’s consent. Deal with that, an issue that impacts at least tens of thousands of men a year, before venturing to help a few hundred elite women who want the fruits of ‘heteronormativity’ without the costs.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
9 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Misogynists like you are certainly not my friend. I have been working for 50 years to smash societal norms, particularly those that oppress women and, especially, marriage. Nevertheless, I disagree with Kathleen here. Two mammals of the same sex can no more reproduce than any mammal can change sex, and a legal document should not pretend either. You are no doubt opposed to this because you believe that children should be owned by the men to whom their mothers are legally prostituted in marriage. I am opposed to it because I believe that every human being, including children, is owned by no one but themselves and has a right to know their biological origins.

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
9 months ago

Equating marriage to legalised prostitution is a bit much don’t you think? This isn’t the 19th century, women have equal rights now.

R Wright
R Wright
9 months ago

“I have been working for 50 years to smash societal norms”
I know.

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
9 months ago

Equating marriage to legalised prostitution is a bit much don’t you think? This isn’t the 19th century, women have equal rights now.

R Wright
R Wright
9 months ago

“I have been working for 50 years to smash societal norms”
I know.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
9 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

I suspect that the said male parents might not actually want the legal responsibilities of parenthood….providing money, a secure relationship for the child, etc etc. Given the free and legal abortion laws many men seem to feel that their parenthood is optional-if she won’t abort their child all the responsibility is hers!!

Megan
Megan
9 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Oh no! Not subversion of societal norms! You’re right, radical feminists are not your friends if you thought these RADICAL FEMINISTS wanted to keep society and its norms intact. It’s in the freaking name that we want RADICAL CHANGE for women’s liberation.
As Kathleen Stock pointed out, we are already “trying to alter material reality” when we put male parents on birth certificates instead of the names of sperm donors. Where is your issue with that? Your true criticism clearly lies in “lesbians” and their “wishful thinking”. Kathleen Stock herself is designated as parent, not mother. And women should always be allowed the right to leave off biological fathers if they’re their rapists or abusers. Some things are more important than ~biological reality~ and a woman’s right to parent and not parent with whom she wishes is one of those things.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
9 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

There are, of course, men who do not agree to having their name on the birth certificate because they want no responsibility for the child ( nor for the pregnancy) and as far as I’m aware they canot be forced to.

Last edited 9 months ago by Jane Anderson
William Shaw
William Shaw
9 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

It’s not uncommon for a man to be named by the mother on a birth certificate without his knowledge and held responsible for child support. There are also cases where the mother did not know who the father was but named someone with whom she was intimate around the time of conception. There are even cases where the man has been hauled into court and prosecuted when this happens even though he had no idea he had been put on the birth certificate. In several cases the man named and prosecuted was not the father and when this was revealed in court the court pressed on regardless because they needed someone to pay. Once named and “on the hook” for child support it’s almost impossible change the decision of the legal system. Some men have paid for a child that is not there’s for 18 years. In many jurisdictions it is illegal for the supposed father to perform a DNA test on the child without the mother’s agreement and any test will be declared invalid. The family court system is 100% in support of women and 0% in support of men.

Last edited 9 months ago by William Shaw
William Shaw
William Shaw
9 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

It’s not uncommon for a man to be named by the mother on a birth certificate without his knowledge and held responsible for child support. There are also cases where the mother did not know who the father was but named someone with whom she was intimate around the time of conception. There are even cases where the man has been hauled into court and prosecuted when this happens even though he had no idea he had been put on the birth certificate. In several cases the man named and prosecuted was not the father and when this was revealed in court the court pressed on regardless because they needed someone to pay. Once named and “on the hook” for child support it’s almost impossible change the decision of the legal system. Some men have paid for a child that is not there’s for 18 years. In many jurisdictions it is illegal for the supposed father to perform a DNA test on the child without the mother’s agreement and any test will be declared invalid. The family court system is 100% in support of women and 0% in support of men.

Last edited 9 months ago by William Shaw
Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
9 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Misogynists like you are certainly not my friend. I have been working for 50 years to smash societal norms, particularly those that oppress women and, especially, marriage. Nevertheless, I disagree with Kathleen here. Two mammals of the same sex can no more reproduce than any mammal can change sex, and a legal document should not pretend either. You are no doubt opposed to this because you believe that children should be owned by the men to whom their mothers are legally prostituted in marriage. I am opposed to it because I believe that every human being, including children, is owned by no one but themselves and has a right to know their biological origins.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
9 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

I suspect that the said male parents might not actually want the legal responsibilities of parenthood….providing money, a secure relationship for the child, etc etc. Given the free and legal abortion laws many men seem to feel that their parenthood is optional-if she won’t abort their child all the responsibility is hers!!

Megan
Megan
9 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Oh no! Not subversion of societal norms! You’re right, radical feminists are not your friends if you thought these RADICAL FEMINISTS wanted to keep society and its norms intact. It’s in the freaking name that we want RADICAL CHANGE for women’s liberation.
As Kathleen Stock pointed out, we are already “trying to alter material reality” when we put male parents on birth certificates instead of the names of sperm donors. Where is your issue with that? Your true criticism clearly lies in “lesbians” and their “wishful thinking”. Kathleen Stock herself is designated as parent, not mother. And women should always be allowed the right to leave off biological fathers if they’re their rapists or abusers. Some things are more important than ~biological reality~ and a woman’s right to parent and not parent with whom she wishes is one of those things.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
9 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

There are, of course, men who do not agree to having their name on the birth certificate because they want no responsibility for the child ( nor for the pregnancy) and as far as I’m aware they canot be forced to.

Last edited 9 months ago by Jane Anderson
R Wright
R Wright
9 months ago

It’s articles like this that remind me that radical feminists are not my friend and have been engaging in the subversion of societal norms just as much as their trans counterparts. Despite the author’s vainglorious attempt to recruit me to her argument, it is not socially conservative to try and alter material reality by changing a legal document to reflect a lesbian’s wishful thinking. It’s a birth certificate, not a parent certificate.

No mention is made here of the egregiously sexist reality that unmarried men are blocked from being put on birth certificates for their own children without the mother’s consent. Deal with that, an issue that impacts at least tens of thousands of men a year, before venturing to help a few hundred elite women who want the fruits of ‘heteronormativity’ without the costs.

AC Harper
AC Harper
9 months ago

My only quibble about an otherwise fine article is that the birth certificate is primarily aimed at providing the child with his or her first legal proof of identity. Whether or not a name is included beyond the mother’s is a secondary issue.

David Mayes
David Mayes
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Yes, exactly. It should tell the child who their biological parents are because that will never change. But a second non biological lesbian “mother” or gay non biological “father” could change the next day after the birth certificate is issued if the gay or lesbian couple break up.

Kathleen Stock, who is usually a lucid thinker, seems to be confusing a birth certificate with a marriage certificate or a proof of guardianship. Are same-sex couples confused about these distinctions?

Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

A male parent’s name appearing on a birth certificate proves nothing about biological parenthood. Only a DNA test can do that. So I concur with your point that it is more about providing a child with a legal proof of identity.

tom j
tom j
9 months ago

I’d say it provides evidence of the likely father, Peter. It may not be correct 100% of the time, but it’s going to have a much higher hit rate than a second mother.

tom j
tom j
9 months ago

I’d say it provides evidence of the likely father, Peter. It may not be correct 100% of the time, but it’s going to have a much higher hit rate than a second mother.

David Mayes
David Mayes
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Yes, exactly. It should tell the child who their biological parents are because that will never change. But a second non biological lesbian “mother” or gay non biological “father” could change the next day after the birth certificate is issued if the gay or lesbian couple break up.

Kathleen Stock, who is usually a lucid thinker, seems to be confusing a birth certificate with a marriage certificate or a proof of guardianship. Are same-sex couples confused about these distinctions?

Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

A male parent’s name appearing on a birth certificate proves nothing about biological parenthood. Only a DNA test can do that. So I concur with your point that it is more about providing a child with a legal proof of identity.

AC Harper
AC Harper
9 months ago

My only quibble about an otherwise fine article is that the birth certificate is primarily aimed at providing the child with his or her first legal proof of identity. Whether or not a name is included beyond the mother’s is a secondary issue.

polidori redux
polidori redux
9 months ago

“Progressives have often steered clear of such points because they fear that a slippery slope is invited towards the conclusion that gay people shouldn’t have children at all”
Well, not so much shouldn’t as couldn’t. Not unless someone plays away from home.
I hold that a biological link between parent and offspring is pretty important. There is four hundred million years of evolution behind that link: The whole point of reproduction is to preserve your genes.
By all means adopt a child and so make a public, and hopefully a binding, declaration of your commitment to it, but don’t pretend to be something that you are not. We live in an age of self-delusion.

Last edited 9 months ago by polidori redux
polidori redux
polidori redux
9 months ago

“Progressives have often steered clear of such points because they fear that a slippery slope is invited towards the conclusion that gay people shouldn’t have children at all”
Well, not so much shouldn’t as couldn’t. Not unless someone plays away from home.
I hold that a biological link between parent and offspring is pretty important. There is four hundred million years of evolution behind that link: The whole point of reproduction is to preserve your genes.
By all means adopt a child and so make a public, and hopefully a binding, declaration of your commitment to it, but don’t pretend to be something that you are not. We live in an age of self-delusion.

Last edited 9 months ago by polidori redux
Leanne Glascott
Leanne Glascott
9 months ago

Kathleen is the first person I’ve read to actually raise the issue and context of children and their well-being from a rational perspective, particularly from a LGBTQI + perspective. I don’t have any qualms about gay marriage but I find the raising of children the grey area that no-one really talks about. Particuarly the facts known about children and what they need and require to be raised as healthy adults. That DOES include both sexes. I applaude gay marriage but have very nuanced issues around what is happening to the truth and reality of biological conception. This is a truth that cannot be denied no matter how you identify. Nuance requires nuance and careful thinking through. I agree with the author below about seperating biological parent on the birth certificate and parental rights to partner.
I knew and worked with several people who were adopted for instance, and most, but not all, eventually wanted to know where they come from. This was to help with identity. The truth in their biological make-up. A couple also wanted to know for medical hereditary reasons also.

Leanne Glascott
Leanne Glascott
9 months ago

Kathleen is the first person I’ve read to actually raise the issue and context of children and their well-being from a rational perspective, particularly from a LGBTQI + perspective. I don’t have any qualms about gay marriage but I find the raising of children the grey area that no-one really talks about. Particuarly the facts known about children and what they need and require to be raised as healthy adults. That DOES include both sexes. I applaude gay marriage but have very nuanced issues around what is happening to the truth and reality of biological conception. This is a truth that cannot be denied no matter how you identify. Nuance requires nuance and careful thinking through. I agree with the author below about seperating biological parent on the birth certificate and parental rights to partner.
I knew and worked with several people who were adopted for instance, and most, but not all, eventually wanted to know where they come from. This was to help with identity. The truth in their biological make-up. A couple also wanted to know for medical hereditary reasons also.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
9 months ago

I think it used to be called ‘the art’ of painting oneself into a corner. Maybe the modern, ‘progressive’ version is of a painter (all, nose rings and neon coloured hair) back to the wall, surrounded by a freshly painted rainbow, a prison, and possibly hell, of their own making.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
9 months ago

I think it used to be called ‘the art’ of painting oneself into a corner. Maybe the modern, ‘progressive’ version is of a painter (all, nose rings and neon coloured hair) back to the wall, surrounded by a freshly painted rainbow, a prison, and possibly hell, of their own making.

Lang Cleg
Lang Cleg
9 months ago

“My lack of contribution in that respect is made clear by my categorisation as “parent”, while my partner is named, accurately, as “mother”.
This is the most important thing, since mother, defined as the person who gestated and gave birth to the child is the only person who gets automatic PR (parental responsibility), the foundational safeguard of a newborn baby. The Freddie McConnell judgement cemented this.
What *all* sides in this serious conversation need to remember is that birth certificates are a right of the child and not tools to validate the identities of the various adults who may be emotionally involved with that child.
A birth certificate is the document conferring personhood and citizenship on a child. Not something adults use to make status or identity claims about themselves. They must be accurate.

Lang Cleg
Lang Cleg
9 months ago

“My lack of contribution in that respect is made clear by my categorisation as “parent”, while my partner is named, accurately, as “mother”.
This is the most important thing, since mother, defined as the person who gestated and gave birth to the child is the only person who gets automatic PR (parental responsibility), the foundational safeguard of a newborn baby. The Freddie McConnell judgement cemented this.
What *all* sides in this serious conversation need to remember is that birth certificates are a right of the child and not tools to validate the identities of the various adults who may be emotionally involved with that child.
A birth certificate is the document conferring personhood and citizenship on a child. Not something adults use to make status or identity claims about themselves. They must be accurate.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
9 months ago

Kathleen Stock has an annoying habit of persuading me to viewpoints I probably wouldn’t have expected.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
9 months ago

Kathleen Stock has an annoying habit of persuading me to viewpoints I probably wouldn’t have expected.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
9 months ago

Honest question: what happens when you marry someone who already has a child, do you automatically become the “parent” or do you appear on the birth certificate? What are your rights and responsibilities?
And if instead you just cohabit, what happens?

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
9 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

No you do not appear on the birth certificate – in these circumstances, if parental rights are wanted (there may still be a good relationship with the mother/father who was the original birth parent), then adoption of the child is necessary by the new partner. If you cohabit, so far as I know, barring adoption you have zero parental rights.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
9 months ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

So if you adopt your name does not appear on the birth certificate, but you still have parental rights.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
9 months ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

So if you adopt your name does not appear on the birth certificate, but you still have parental rights.

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
9 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

No you do not appear on the birth certificate – in these circumstances, if parental rights are wanted (there may still be a good relationship with the mother/father who was the original birth parent), then adoption of the child is necessary by the new partner. If you cohabit, so far as I know, barring adoption you have zero parental rights.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
9 months ago

Honest question: what happens when you marry someone who already has a child, do you automatically become the “parent” or do you appear on the birth certificate? What are your rights and responsibilities?
And if instead you just cohabit, what happens?

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
9 months ago

Btw, if I correctly remember, the naming of the lesbian parent in Italy was always illegal, buy some municipality decided to allow them anyway, that’s why there are so few – and why, for good or evil, such a decision offers clarity (we have seen here in the UK what happens when the government let’s things run amok).

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
9 months ago

Btw, if I correctly remember, the naming of the lesbian parent in Italy was always illegal, buy some municipality decided to allow them anyway, that’s why there are so few – and why, for good or evil, such a decision offers clarity (we have seen here in the UK what happens when the government let’s things run amok).

Gregory Taylor
Gregory Taylor
9 months ago

“Relatedly, the gay male use of surrogates is an ethical minefield. It requires an open discussion without kneejerk accusations of bigotry.” Kathleen, your egoistic self-interest is showing.

Kathleen, I do enjoy your work. But do not try and tell us all you have not also noticed the same minefield-esque ethical ramifications involved in male sperm donation. The issues may be slightly different, but none-the-less, they are not trivial. Discussions around adoption and surrogacy with regards to LGBT issues usually boil down to parental rights versus the view of wider society. But why does no one ever consider the children themselves? Children have a right to be born into the world with the possibility of knowing their father as their father, and mother as their mother. Not some hodgepodge concoction in order to make the parents feel better at the expense of the child.

If an LGBT parent is so desperate to have children, they should adopt. No one is entitled to have children, not even heterosexual couples. Nature has endowed us as sexed beings, as you well know. If people who bump uglies cannot produce children, regardless of the particular configuration of the couple, then nature is telling them (and by extension us) something about that configuration. People often completely avoid these questions because they tell us an uncomfortable truth; some people aren’t meant to have children, and that’s ok. There are a multitude of ways hetero or homosexual people can contribute to society, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the children who are brought into the world. They are the only party in the discussion with no choices, and often no voice to represent their interests.

Last edited 9 months ago by Gregory Taylor
Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
9 months ago
Reply to  Gregory Taylor

You have a point, however there are plenty of children who have no idea who their father is – mainly because the mother does not know either. In an ideal world, a child would know who both biological parents were. Sadly we do not live in an ideal world.

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
9 months ago
Reply to  Gregory Taylor

You have a point, however there are plenty of children who have no idea who their father is – mainly because the mother does not know either. In an ideal world, a child would know who both biological parents were. Sadly we do not live in an ideal world.

Gregory Taylor
Gregory Taylor
9 months ago

“Relatedly, the gay male use of surrogates is an ethical minefield. It requires an open discussion without kneejerk accusations of bigotry.” Kathleen, your egoistic self-interest is showing.

Kathleen, I do enjoy your work. But do not try and tell us all you have not also noticed the same minefield-esque ethical ramifications involved in male sperm donation. The issues may be slightly different, but none-the-less, they are not trivial. Discussions around adoption and surrogacy with regards to LGBT issues usually boil down to parental rights versus the view of wider society. But why does no one ever consider the children themselves? Children have a right to be born into the world with the possibility of knowing their father as their father, and mother as their mother. Not some hodgepodge concoction in order to make the parents feel better at the expense of the child.

If an LGBT parent is so desperate to have children, they should adopt. No one is entitled to have children, not even heterosexual couples. Nature has endowed us as sexed beings, as you well know. If people who bump uglies cannot produce children, regardless of the particular configuration of the couple, then nature is telling them (and by extension us) something about that configuration. People often completely avoid these questions because they tell us an uncomfortable truth; some people aren’t meant to have children, and that’s ok. There are a multitude of ways hetero or homosexual people can contribute to society, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the children who are brought into the world. They are the only party in the discussion with no choices, and often no voice to represent their interests.

Last edited 9 months ago by Gregory Taylor
Simon Neale
Simon Neale
9 months ago

If there is a wedge here, it started with infertile men being registered as parents of children they did not conceive.

I would have thought it started earlier, with cuckolded “dads”.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Who are mostly unaware that they are cuckolds

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Who are mostly unaware that they are cuckolds

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
9 months ago

If there is a wedge here, it started with infertile men being registered as parents of children they did not conceive.

I would have thought it started earlier, with cuckolded “dads”.

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
9 months ago

I do think a birth certificate ought to provide information to the child, and potentially other authorities, on the biological parents. This isn’t to disparage people who are in the parental role but who aren’ biologically related, but to provide a personal history for the child. It isn’t just a case of knowing their genealogy either, but for medical reasons as well such as being able to potentially trace a predisposition to certain conditions.
I don’t see why a birth certificate cannot list biological parents and then have a space or column for legal guardians. If it is a sperm donor or there is some doubt, that could be noted too.
There is no guarantee your biological parents or current legal guardians will be around after the baby has been registered, but the information gained from knowing the biological parents could be useful at any point during the child’s lifetime and potentially grandchildren’s as well.

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
9 months ago

I do think a birth certificate ought to provide information to the child, and potentially other authorities, on the biological parents. This isn’t to disparage people who are in the parental role but who aren’ biologically related, but to provide a personal history for the child. It isn’t just a case of knowing their genealogy either, but for medical reasons as well such as being able to potentially trace a predisposition to certain conditions.
I don’t see why a birth certificate cannot list biological parents and then have a space or column for legal guardians. If it is a sperm donor or there is some doubt, that could be noted too.
There is no guarantee your biological parents or current legal guardians will be around after the baby has been registered, but the information gained from knowing the biological parents could be useful at any point during the child’s lifetime and potentially grandchildren’s as well.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago

Stock writes very well and always sounds reasonable For once, though, I don’t agree with her–and do agree with the many commenters who argue cogently that birth certificates exist primarily to serve the needs of children, not their parents. Adults can find other ways to assert their legal claims such as marriage licenses or parental certificates. This is surely not “rocket science” for lawyers.
Moreover, Stock misunderstands at least some of her adversaries. She writes that the “conservative case, meanwhile, focused on sexual difference as the essential basis of a Christian marriage, specifically for the purposes of bringing up children.” It might well be that most opponents of gay marriage argue from a Christian (or some other religious) point of view, but the underlying basis for the argument–that men and women have complementary functions within family life–is by no means sectarian or even religious at all. On the contrary, it’s among the most obviously universal features of human existence. Every child needs at least one father and at least one mother on an enduring basis (to state my case in a way that allows for cross-cultural variation). And being a gay adult gives me no excuse to ignore a fundamental need of all children. I’ve explained elsewhere my reason for identifying and prioritizing this need. It should be self-evident, but it isn’t these days, so I’ll repeat myself here for the sake of clarity.
Parents do not merely serve the physical and material needs of children. Nor, however, are they merely the mediators of cultural information. Even if I were to argue that children must all learn one specific culturally assigned “gender role” and perform it correctly—and I don’t argue that—I still wouldn’t argue that only fathers could teach that script to their sons and only mothers to their daughters. It’s probably easier for fathers to “perform” a standard version of masculinity and mothers to “perform” a standard version of femininity, instead of the reverse, but I’m not referring to that theatrical paradigm. Rather, I’m referring to the distinctive relational messages that fathers and mothers offer their children.
In the case of mothers, their most basic psychological function within family life has always boiled down, ultimately, to providing children with unconditional love. Not all mothers are equally effective in communicating and evoking that bond, it’s true, but all mothers are equipped by nature with the ability to feed infants and, at least to some extent (assuming cultural encouragement), with the willingness to interact emotionally with them. In effect, mothers tell their young children (both sons and daughters), “I’ll always love you, no matter what becomes of you.” This is one of two sources of self-confidence, which is necessary for children to become mature adults.
In the case of fathers, their most basic function within family life has always boiled down to providing their children with earned respect, the other source of self-confidence. This function does not begin immediately for fathers, when their children are newborns or toddlers. It begins gradually and later, when they prepare to leave home and enter the larger community. In effect, fathers tell their somewhat older children (both sons and daughters),”I’ll respect you if you learn to live honorably and effectively in our community.” This has nothing to do with emotion, although it doesn’t preclude emotional attachment. Fathers can, and usually do, love their children. But love, per se, is not their most important contribution. Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily produce emotional gratification for fathers, at least not until their children are mature. In this way, fathers and mothers do not have the same function and are therefore not interchangeable.
It’s true, in theory, that mothers and fathers could switch functions, with mothers providing earned respect and fathers providing unconditional love. But that could present at least two serious problems that few experts or activists are willing to consider. First, I doubt that many mothers are ready even now to distance themselves enough from their children to command earned respect—not even if they are the ones, not the fathers, who work beyond the home. Maybe cultural intervention or training would eventually prepare them to do so, maybe not. The results of current experiments in social engineering, such as abandoning any gender system at all, are not yet in–and these experiments tend to have unforeseen results. Second, especially for single parents, I doubt that either mothers or fathers would help children in this fundamental way by giving them double messages. Coming from the same parent, after all, unconditional love conflicts with earned respect.
And even if children cannot always know their fathers in person (due to death, say, or abandonment), they still need–and almost always want–to know their unique lineage. Deliberately denying them that knowledge by redesigning birth certificates to suit the needs of adults (even if a side-effect might be to stabilize families) makes no moral sense.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago

Stock writes very well and always sounds reasonable For once, though, I don’t agree with her–and do agree with the many commenters who argue cogently that birth certificates exist primarily to serve the needs of children, not their parents. Adults can find other ways to assert their legal claims such as marriage licenses or parental certificates. This is surely not “rocket science” for lawyers.
Moreover, Stock misunderstands at least some of her adversaries. She writes that the “conservative case, meanwhile, focused on sexual difference as the essential basis of a Christian marriage, specifically for the purposes of bringing up children.” It might well be that most opponents of gay marriage argue from a Christian (or some other religious) point of view, but the underlying basis for the argument–that men and women have complementary functions within family life–is by no means sectarian or even religious at all. On the contrary, it’s among the most obviously universal features of human existence. Every child needs at least one father and at least one mother on an enduring basis (to state my case in a way that allows for cross-cultural variation). And being a gay adult gives me no excuse to ignore a fundamental need of all children. I’ve explained elsewhere my reason for identifying and prioritizing this need. It should be self-evident, but it isn’t these days, so I’ll repeat myself here for the sake of clarity.
Parents do not merely serve the physical and material needs of children. Nor, however, are they merely the mediators of cultural information. Even if I were to argue that children must all learn one specific culturally assigned “gender role” and perform it correctly—and I don’t argue that—I still wouldn’t argue that only fathers could teach that script to their sons and only mothers to their daughters. It’s probably easier for fathers to “perform” a standard version of masculinity and mothers to “perform” a standard version of femininity, instead of the reverse, but I’m not referring to that theatrical paradigm. Rather, I’m referring to the distinctive relational messages that fathers and mothers offer their children.
In the case of mothers, their most basic psychological function within family life has always boiled down, ultimately, to providing children with unconditional love. Not all mothers are equally effective in communicating and evoking that bond, it’s true, but all mothers are equipped by nature with the ability to feed infants and, at least to some extent (assuming cultural encouragement), with the willingness to interact emotionally with them. In effect, mothers tell their young children (both sons and daughters), “I’ll always love you, no matter what becomes of you.” This is one of two sources of self-confidence, which is necessary for children to become mature adults.
In the case of fathers, their most basic function within family life has always boiled down to providing their children with earned respect, the other source of self-confidence. This function does not begin immediately for fathers, when their children are newborns or toddlers. It begins gradually and later, when they prepare to leave home and enter the larger community. In effect, fathers tell their somewhat older children (both sons and daughters),”I’ll respect you if you learn to live honorably and effectively in our community.” This has nothing to do with emotion, although it doesn’t preclude emotional attachment. Fathers can, and usually do, love their children. But love, per se, is not their most important contribution. Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily produce emotional gratification for fathers, at least not until their children are mature. In this way, fathers and mothers do not have the same function and are therefore not interchangeable.
It’s true, in theory, that mothers and fathers could switch functions, with mothers providing earned respect and fathers providing unconditional love. But that could present at least two serious problems that few experts or activists are willing to consider. First, I doubt that many mothers are ready even now to distance themselves enough from their children to command earned respect—not even if they are the ones, not the fathers, who work beyond the home. Maybe cultural intervention or training would eventually prepare them to do so, maybe not. The results of current experiments in social engineering, such as abandoning any gender system at all, are not yet in–and these experiments tend to have unforeseen results. Second, especially for single parents, I doubt that either mothers or fathers would help children in this fundamental way by giving them double messages. Coming from the same parent, after all, unconditional love conflicts with earned respect.
And even if children cannot always know their fathers in person (due to death, say, or abandonment), they still need–and almost always want–to know their unique lineage. Deliberately denying them that knowledge by redesigning birth certificates to suit the needs of adults (even if a side-effect might be to stabilize families) makes no moral sense.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago

As someone who’s married to an adopted woman, and seeing the official b/s she had to endure to contact her biological Mum, my sympathies are always on the side of the child, not the self-centred parents. Kids have a right to know who their biological parents are. For that reason, by all means have non-biological carers listed as parents, but for heaven’s sake let’s not erase the biological mother, or father. Let’s centre the kids in this debate, and focus less on the vanities of adults.  

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago

As someone who’s married to an adopted woman, and seeing the official b/s she had to endure to contact her biological Mum, my sympathies are always on the side of the child, not the self-centred parents. Kids have a right to know who their biological parents are. For that reason, by all means have non-biological carers listed as parents, but for heaven’s sake let’s not erase the biological mother, or father. Let’s centre the kids in this debate, and focus less on the vanities of adults.  

Kate Madrid
Kate Madrid
9 months ago

Ms. Stock, I bet you know the Latin names of all the rhetorical tricks you just used. You’re maybe the smartest person I read. Go back over this essay with your usual intellectual rigor. Leave the mortis to others.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
9 months ago
Reply to  Kate Madrid

Friday afternoon at work, afternoon tea time, and all I need is a cup of tea, some chocolate biscuits and Kathleen Stock, who delivers with sentences like: “I struggled not to read the men in the second as particularly successful butch lesbians.”

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
9 months ago
Reply to  Kate Madrid

Yes, this would make an excellent test paper for ‘spot the logical fallacies and propaganda techniques‘.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
9 months ago
Reply to  Kate Madrid

I must say, I would like to know more;)

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
9 months ago
Reply to  Kate Madrid

Friday afternoon at work, afternoon tea time, and all I need is a cup of tea, some chocolate biscuits and Kathleen Stock, who delivers with sentences like: “I struggled not to read the men in the second as particularly successful butch lesbians.”

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
9 months ago
Reply to  Kate Madrid

Yes, this would make an excellent test paper for ‘spot the logical fallacies and propaganda techniques‘.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
9 months ago
Reply to  Kate Madrid

I must say, I would like to know more;)

Kate Madrid
Kate Madrid
9 months ago

Ms. Stock, I bet you know the Latin names of all the rhetorical tricks you just used. You’re maybe the smartest person I read. Go back over this essay with your usual intellectual rigor. Leave the mortis to others.

NIck Brown
NIck Brown
9 months ago

“A society that could mention these things easily could also offer more support for those that require it.“
Society could – but society could also suggest that it’s not its job to support people when they have made a conscious choice (which is different to supporting, say, a divorced mother or a widowed father).

NIck Brown
NIck Brown
9 months ago

“A society that could mention these things easily could also offer more support for those that require it.“
Society could – but society could also suggest that it’s not its job to support people when they have made a conscious choice (which is different to supporting, say, a divorced mother or a widowed father).

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago

Why bother being lesbian or gay if all you want to do is get married and have kids?

Thor Albro
Thor Albro
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

My understanding is that there was a reticent portion of gays who always thought the whole idea of getting married like straight people was absurd. But I never saw a poll or any research. That was, to my mind , the only semi-reasonable argument against gay marriage: perhaps it is fundamentally a hetero thing, and a touch pathetic that gays would try to pretend rather than forging their own relationship traditions. No matter – I happily embrace where we have come with gay marriage.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
9 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

I am against gay marriage for exactly this reason. I am also against marriage per se.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago

How come? I’m happily married, but don’t disagree with you necessarily. Before I got married I was dead set against it for myself, but I was much younger then and less willing to stay faithful.

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
9 months ago

Why? I was happily married (to a man) for 33 years until his untimely death at the age of 56. Best thing I ever did, even if I have been left a fairly young widow due to his early death.

William Shaw
William Shaw
9 months ago

“Marriage has existed for the benefit of men; and has been a legally sanctioned method of control over women… We must work to destroy it.  
– The Declaration of Feminism , November 1971

Alan Elgey
Alan Elgey
9 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

That is the sort of statement which allows people on here and elsewhere to declare that feminists are reaping what they sowed with the emergence of the effect of trans activism on the larger group of ‘all women’.
It may be correct in its origin, centuries ago, but it wasn’t in 1971; times have moved on and, for example, the term Mrs does not any longer hold its original meaning. Other aspects, legal and cultural, have modified as well.

Alan Elgey
Alan Elgey
9 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

That is the sort of statement which allows people on here and elsewhere to declare that feminists are reaping what they sowed with the emergence of the effect of trans activism on the larger group of ‘all women’.
It may be correct in its origin, centuries ago, but it wasn’t in 1971; times have moved on and, for example, the term Mrs does not any longer hold its original meaning. Other aspects, legal and cultural, have modified as well.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
9 months ago

Me too! I’m all for monogamy and love but marriage was always about fertility and inheritance, and attaching men to the children they sired. If there was love too that was great for the people set up by their families. So now we know exactly who is the father of any child and thus who should be supporting said child, marriage as a legal entity is unnecessary. If people are worried about continuity in the relationship should the mother die, they can always be named as guardians in a will.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago

How come? I’m happily married, but don’t disagree with you necessarily. Before I got married I was dead set against it for myself, but I was much younger then and less willing to stay faithful.

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
9 months ago

Why? I was happily married (to a man) for 33 years until his untimely death at the age of 56. Best thing I ever did, even if I have been left a fairly young widow due to his early death.

William Shaw
William Shaw
9 months ago

“Marriage has existed for the benefit of men; and has been a legally sanctioned method of control over women… We must work to destroy it.  
– The Declaration of Feminism , November 1971

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
9 months ago

Me too! I’m all for monogamy and love but marriage was always about fertility and inheritance, and attaching men to the children they sired. If there was love too that was great for the people set up by their families. So now we know exactly who is the father of any child and thus who should be supporting said child, marriage as a legal entity is unnecessary. If people are worried about continuity in the relationship should the mother die, they can always be named as guardians in a will.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
9 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

I am against gay marriage for exactly this reason. I am also against marriage per se.

D Walsh
D Walsh
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

The whole point is to undermine the idea of marriage

It’s working

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
9 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

This is nonsense. Heterosexual couples (should) marry because they want to spend their lives together and maybe have children in a stable home. What Brian and Michael or Sally and Michela do down the road is irrelevant

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago

No it undermine marriage which I think to some extent was the purpose

D Walsh
D Walsh
9 months ago

You’re the type who believed homosexual activists when the said all they wanted was to be left alone, how did that work out ?

They lied, they always lie, its their main tactic. every time they tell you a new lie, you believe it

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Would MPs have voted to legalise homosexual acts had they been told in 1967, and believed, that in in 50 years time it would result in gay marriage. The thin end of the wedge strikes again.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Would MPs have voted to legalise homosexual acts had they been told in 1967, and believed, that in in 50 years time it would result in gay marriage. The thin end of the wedge strikes again.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago

No it undermine marriage which I think to some extent was the purpose

D Walsh
D Walsh
9 months ago

You’re the type who believed homosexual activists when the said all they wanted was to be left alone, how did that work out ?

They lied, they always lie, its their main tactic. every time they tell you a new lie, you believe it

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
9 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Yes, all the changes and tweaks to society advocated by ‘progressives’ might seem trivial, or are named as such, but there are always further consequences: attitudes are affected, and not always for the better. Abortion legality in the UK is an example: its original intention was to save several hundred lives a year lost by ‘back street’ operations; now the number of aborted children (yes, they are children) excedes 200,000 per year, and activists want legalised abortion up to birth, and possibly beyond. The very value of life, the basis of morality, has been diminished to such any extent that many young people now see ‘choice’ as its replacement cornerstone. Same sex parenting, being new, has yet to reveal its wider consequences, but as an earlier commentor noted who had worked with adopted children, they always want to know their origins. I found the same working with disturbed children. Fundamentals just don’t go away.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

I tend to agree with you. I’ve always thought of marriage as a religious institution and not a secular one, which is why I’ve understood why LGBQT wanted to adopt it as their own considering their own vehemently anti-Christian attitudes. That said, I would classify LGBQTism as a belief-system in itself, especially the stuff about gender, which seems to have become a substitute for soul, except more linked to sexual activity and clothing attire.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
9 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

This is nonsense. Heterosexual couples (should) marry because they want to spend their lives together and maybe have children in a stable home. What Brian and Michael or Sally and Michela do down the road is irrelevant

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
9 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Yes, all the changes and tweaks to society advocated by ‘progressives’ might seem trivial, or are named as such, but there are always further consequences: attitudes are affected, and not always for the better. Abortion legality in the UK is an example: its original intention was to save several hundred lives a year lost by ‘back street’ operations; now the number of aborted children (yes, they are children) excedes 200,000 per year, and activists want legalised abortion up to birth, and possibly beyond. The very value of life, the basis of morality, has been diminished to such any extent that many young people now see ‘choice’ as its replacement cornerstone. Same sex parenting, being new, has yet to reveal its wider consequences, but as an earlier commentor noted who had worked with adopted children, they always want to know their origins. I found the same working with disturbed children. Fundamentals just don’t go away.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

I tend to agree with you. I’ve always thought of marriage as a religious institution and not a secular one, which is why I’ve understood why LGBQT wanted to adopt it as their own considering their own vehemently anti-Christian attitudes. That said, I would classify LGBQTism as a belief-system in itself, especially the stuff about gender, which seems to have become a substitute for soul, except more linked to sexual activity and clothing attire.

polidori redux
polidori redux
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Well said. Somebody had to take one for the team!

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Being lesbian or gay is not a choice – its not something one can choose to “be”. Why on earth should lesbian and gay couples not want to get married, and possibly have chidlren? Marriage is the deepest form of commitment for those in a relationship, and being lesbian or gay does not affect anyone’s desire to have children – or not – some will, some won’t, just like hetereosexual couples.

Andrea Heyting
Andrea Heyting
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I never thought unherd needed emojis for the comments, but you just got a rolling eyes. Nobody decides, or “bothers” to be same sex attracted. They just are.
Being same sex attracted doesn’t extinguish maternal or paternal instincts. Neither does it extinguish a desire for a long term stable relationship, preferably one that has standing in law.

Alan Elgey
Alan Elgey
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I suspect that for heterosexual and homosexual couples alike, ‘getting married and having kids’ is not ‘all they want to do’.

Mônica
Mônica
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Because this is who they are, not a lighting fixture that can be switched off? Don’t worry, they are not interested in marrying you.

Thor Albro
Thor Albro
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

My understanding is that there was a reticent portion of gays who always thought the whole idea of getting married like straight people was absurd. But I never saw a poll or any research. That was, to my mind , the only semi-reasonable argument against gay marriage: perhaps it is fundamentally a hetero thing, and a touch pathetic that gays would try to pretend rather than forging their own relationship traditions. No matter – I happily embrace where we have come with gay marriage.

D Walsh
D Walsh
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

The whole point is to undermine the idea of marriage

It’s working

polidori redux
polidori redux
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Well said. Somebody had to take one for the team!

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Being lesbian or gay is not a choice – its not something one can choose to “be”. Why on earth should lesbian and gay couples not want to get married, and possibly have chidlren? Marriage is the deepest form of commitment for those in a relationship, and being lesbian or gay does not affect anyone’s desire to have children – or not – some will, some won’t, just like hetereosexual couples.

Andrea Heyting
Andrea Heyting
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I never thought unherd needed emojis for the comments, but you just got a rolling eyes. Nobody decides, or “bothers” to be same sex attracted. They just are.
Being same sex attracted doesn’t extinguish maternal or paternal instincts. Neither does it extinguish a desire for a long term stable relationship, preferably one that has standing in law.

Alan Elgey
Alan Elgey
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I suspect that for heterosexual and homosexual couples alike, ‘getting married and having kids’ is not ‘all they want to do’.

Mônica
Mônica
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Because this is who they are, not a lighting fixture that can be switched off? Don’t worry, they are not interested in marrying you.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago

Why bother being lesbian or gay if all you want to do is get married and have kids?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
9 months ago

A typically thought provoking article from Prof. Stock. By the end of it I wasn’t disagreeing with her as much as I expected to at the start. Nevertheless, “won’t somebody think of the children?”!!!
Every child deserves to be brought up by a male parent and a female parent in, we must hope, a stable relationship. Of course, life often intervenes to prevent this but it is quite wrong to plan to bring a child into the world into different circumstances and wrong to manipulate the normal process of conception to achieve it. Doing so reduces the child to the status of a pet.
There’s no human right to be a parent and, to widen the debate slightly, infertility is not a disease.The needs and rights of the child must come first.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
9 months ago

A typically thought provoking article from Prof. Stock. By the end of it I wasn’t disagreeing with her as much as I expected to at the start. Nevertheless, “won’t somebody think of the children?”!!!
Every child deserves to be brought up by a male parent and a female parent in, we must hope, a stable relationship. Of course, life often intervenes to prevent this but it is quite wrong to plan to bring a child into the world into different circumstances and wrong to manipulate the normal process of conception to achieve it. Doing so reduces the child to the status of a pet.
There’s no human right to be a parent and, to widen the debate slightly, infertility is not a disease.The needs and rights of the child must come first.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
9 months ago

Sorry, Kathleen. Tampering with birth certificates isn’t even the thin end of the wedge, it’s the thick end: falsification of records so as not to hurt people’s feelings. It’s like pretending criminal convictions are ‘spent’ and therefore, supposedly, never happened. In other words, it’s a LIE.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
9 months ago

Sorry, Kathleen. Tampering with birth certificates isn’t even the thin end of the wedge, it’s the thick end: falsification of records so as not to hurt people’s feelings. It’s like pretending criminal convictions are ‘spent’ and therefore, supposedly, never happened. In other words, it’s a LIE.

Andrzej Wasniewski
Andrzej Wasniewski
9 months ago

What can I say? In this particular narrow case you are right. But you know perfectly well that the trans filth will take it, twist it, and tomorrow they will argue that a convicted child molester who yesterday discovered he is a ..”woman” has a valid claim to be listed as a mother on the birth certificate. After of course raping a real mother of a child in a women’s prison. That how it always ends. And the state will support it.

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrzej Wasniewski
m_dunec
m_dunec
9 months ago

Agreed, and that’s why biological parents aint going anywhere! If anything, details should be added to the existing document, like someone suggested, Step 1 Step 2 idk!

Just a place to record who else is in the child’s life, when a bio parent isnt or is – those with responsibility.

Last edited 9 months ago by m_dunec
m_dunec
m_dunec
9 months ago

Agreed, and that’s why biological parents aint going anywhere! If anything, details should be added to the existing document, like someone suggested, Step 1 Step 2 idk!

Just a place to record who else is in the child’s life, when a bio parent isnt or is – those with responsibility.

Last edited 9 months ago by m_dunec
Andrzej Wasniewski
Andrzej Wasniewski
9 months ago

What can I say? In this particular narrow case you are right. But you know perfectly well that the trans filth will take it, twist it, and tomorrow they will argue that a convicted child molester who yesterday discovered he is a ..”woman” has a valid claim to be listed as a mother on the birth certificate. After of course raping a real mother of a child in a women’s prison. That how it always ends. And the state will support it.

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrzej Wasniewski
Catherine Farrar
Catherine Farrar
9 months ago

I do think birth certificates should reflect biological reality but it seems to me the current arrangements do reflect this as the birth mother is differentiated from the co-parent.

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