October 19, 2017

Children are not chattels: An interview with children’s rights campaigner Katy Faust

Children’s rights campaigner Katy Faust, pictured during a recent visit to Australia. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Redefining marriage will effectively redefine parenthood, denying children the right to be raised by their own biological parents, says Katy Faust, an advocate for children’s rights from the United States, who was herself partially raised by a same-sex couple.

Recently in Sydney, Katy is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and founder of the Them Before Us movement, promoting the needs and rights of children.

Raised by her mother and father until she was ten years old, like many children of divorced parents, Katy split her time between her mum and her dad. She experienced being partially raised in a same-sex household when her mother began a relationship with another woman. She therefore has insight not only into the pain endured by children of divorced parents, but also the dynamics of a same-sex family.

“It taught me that you can appreciate how critical fathers and mothers are to children, while you love your gay family and friends,” she said.

“There’s no contradiction between those two things.”

Katy Faust speaks with Catholic Weekly journalist Catherine Sheehan. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

While some of those advocating for the “yes” vote claim that the definition of marriage has nothing to do with parenting, Katy says it has everything to do with it.

“When you look at other countries that have legalised gay marriage, you see a very uniform consequence—that when you redefine marriage, you redefine parenthood. Around the globe, countries that have redefined marriage have also actually changed parent-child relationships in law.”

“Look at the United States, and Ireland, since gay marriage was legalised there’s no longer any government or political institution that can recognise a child’s right to both their mother and father. To do so constitutes discrimination.”

When marriage was redefined in Canada in 2005 close on its heels came the redefinition of parenthood.

“Immediately they went from recognising parent-child relationships based on a biological or natural foundation, to just a legal foundation. So now the State decides who the parent is. That significantly weakens child rights.”

Ms Faust was one of the keynote speakers at the national launch of the Coalition for Marriage in Sydney on September 16. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

In 2016 the Canadian government passed the All Families are Equal Act which removed the terms “mother” and “father” from law, using the term “parent” instead, and allowing up to four “parents” on a child’s birth certificate, regardless of biological or legal ties to the child.

“It’s very obvious that marriage and parenting policy goes together,” Katy said. “I would say the ramifications go way beyond just two people loving each other. It actually changes the whole way we look at children and children’s rights.”

This redefinition of parenthood and family violates the rights of children as stipulated in the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention, which Australia ratified in 1990, states that a child has the right to be raised by his or her own parents.

“If you’re not going to recognise the child’s right to their mother and father in the marriage debate, where are you going to recognise it? The answer in other countries (where marriage had been redefined) is nowhere,” Katy said.

Redefining marriage means parenthood then becomes defined according to the desires of adults, she said, when it should be based on the welfare of children.

“That changes the whole concept of children from being someone who is the subject of rights—that we orient our lives around—to being the object of rights, somebody who is owed to someone else. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Children are not commodities.”

According to Katy, biological ties really do matter to kids, for a whole variety of reasons.

“Throughout history, biological basis for parenting has been recognised throughout every culture and religion for good reason,” she said.

“There’s something that biological parents give to children that other adults don’t give, and that is biological identity and the unique capacity to attach, especially for the mother-child bond, from in utero to after delivery to nurturing and breast-feeding. Children are just wired for connection and it’s hard to replicate that outside of that biological system.”

Katy is herself an adoptive mum and strongly supports adoption but she also recognises that when  children lose a biological parent they “suffer loss.” It is “something you can’t recover,” she said.

“Any time a child loses a parent to death, divorce, abandonment or through donor-conception, the child suffers trauma and the trauma actually has long-term implications for the child’s health.”

Social scientists agree overwhelmingly that the biological connection between children and parents leads to better outcomes for children, Katy argued.

“The in-tact home of the married mother and father raising their own children, there’s no other family structure that can replicate those outcomes for kids. So biology matters in parenting.”

“Gender matters in parenting,” she added. “Mothers and fathers do different things. They offer distinct and complimentary benefits to children.”

She finds it rather curious that while social science researchers have agreed for decades that children fare better when raised by their biological parents, it is only recently that some researchers have started saying that children raised by same-sex couples fare just as well.

“They didn’t use rigorous scientific methods to come to those conclusions. What we know from studies that have used rigorous methods of social science, is that kids tend to struggle disproportionately with emotional issues and those family structures tend to be more unstable.”

Katy also has no time for those who put forward the argument that redefining marriage is the “Christian thing to do”.

“Throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament God has identified children in general, and the fatherless specifically, as a demographic that deserves special attention and protection. So we have a mandate to protect the fatherless and to prevent fatherlessness to begin with.”

“To those Christians or churches who have chosen to bend the Word of God to fit this new cultural narrative, I would ask them, if you officiate at a same-sex wedding of two women and they decide to have a child through sperm donation, when that child is 15 and suffering emotional struggles and depression—which disproportionally kids of same-sex couples tend to experience—if they were to ask you ‘how you could approve of me missing out on the fatherly love that I was made for and that I crave, half my biological identity’ what would you say to that kid? Because ‘love is all you need’ just won’t cut it.”

Katy believes that all adults should be protectors of children’s rights and needs. Her movement Them Before Us is designed for those who want to “fight” for children’s rights, she said, and the leadership team is made up of atheists, Christians, gays and lesbians.

“It’s not about your sexual orientation. It’s not about religious verses secular. It’s about adults who recognise how critical mums and dads are, and are defending the rights of kids to have their mum and dad in their life.”

The movement’s website tells the stories of children who suffered the loss of a mother or father.  Katy believes that telling the stories of such children is the key to changing hearts and minds on the issue of marriage.

“This whole debate should be about children and their right to their mother and father … It’s a widely acknowledged universal right and probably the most universal human longing … I think all of us can say that we long to be known and loved by the two people responsible for our existence”.

“Why would we want to move in a direction that says mothers and fathers are optional, when for kids they never are?”

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