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Recently I posted about the Butler County policy on adoption that gives "preferential" treatment to "traditional couples". I came out opposed to our pastor's characterization of the policy, as it has been publicized anyway, as "immoral and hateful". Honestly, I think one of the reasons I posted it was that I was hoping someone could convince me I am wrong (or at least would try to). Like every other progressive person in the world, I like to think of myself as being "open minded" and liberal. And sometimes (rarely) I even care about being politically correct. So, a policy that discriminates is something I should clearly be against. Right? I mean discrimination is wrong.
However, I think sometimes in our efforts to be open minded and inclusive, we go to far and try to overlook legitimate differences in people. We were created equal, not the same. Being equal in value does not mean that each of us doesn't have different traits and characteristics that actually do matter in everyday life. Taking the idea of equality to the extreme of not discriminating at all get us things like the guy who sued Hooters restaurants because they wouldn't hire him to wear the little orange shorts and serve the Hooters clientele. I'm sorry. But, back in my Hooter's days, I did not want to see a guy in the shorts. It would be absurd for Hooter's to hire male wait staff. Being an attractive female is part of the gig at Hooter's. Should I, in the interest of being inclusive, hire a dyslexic accountant who has trouble reading numbers? I cite extremely ridiculous examples to make a point. Clearly, there are times when we would all agree discrimination is a good thing. There are times though when the situation is not so clear. A few years back there was a professional golfer, Casey Martin, who has a physical disability that makes it impossible for him to walk the courses they play on the PGA Tour. He arguably had everything else it takes to play on the tour. The only exception he was asking for was to be allowed to ride in a cart. My first thought was "Of course. Let the guy ride in a cart." But, many players on the tour argued that the miles of walking they do during the course of a round and four days of a tournament is part of the game. They are often playing in hot, humid conditions. Conditioning (laugh if you like) has actually become a part of golf. Should an exception have been made for Casey or is being able to walk the course part of playing the game? This is one of those situtations that is debatable.
When I was younger, I desperately wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted there to be no differences. As a black guy growing up in a mostly white environment, I just wished we could all be the same and I didn't want to recognize there were any differences between myself and my white friends. As I've gotten older, I've learned to not only accept differences but to appreciate them. Until very recently I didn't have any gay friends. That may have been partially due to my homophobia. But, mostly I think it was due to just not being in an environment where I had a lot of opportunities to get ot know gay people. That has all changed. Now, I know several gay people I'd like to think of as friends. I can't say the fact that they are gay makes no difference. It does. It actually, in some ways, makes them more interesting. In this society, to be comfortable enough with yourself and your sexuality to be openly gay takes a special kind of person.
Recently I was on the search committee for our church as we sought a new pastor. We had tons and tons of candidates to consider. I know you're not supposed to consider (discriminate) based upon age and gender and all of that stuff. We even had to ask the laywer on the committee what questions we could ask candidates. But, I'd be lying if I said I did not consider those things. Typically, a younger person would bring more energy to the job than a guy who had been a pastor for 20 years. I would have preferred a woman because I think having a woman pastor at a progressive church would be a great thing. Older people would bring more maturity, stability, the ability to read people to the job. A black person would be able to relate to the discrimination and social injustice our church tries to fight. A white male would probably have been pretty low on my list of preferences.
We ended up extending the call to Mike Underhill. Mike is an older (relative to other candidates we considered), white male. Mike is also gay. I can't say that any of these characteristics of Mike were not considered in my mind. The fact that Mike is older was a plus, I thought. It could also have been a detriment. But, after meeting Mike, I knew it was a plus. While it's hard to say if Mike will still be leading Nexus in 20 years, the fact is right now he brings maturity and experience from his former career that is a stabilizing force at Nexus. The fact that Mike is a male was a slight negative, in my opinion. The fact that Mike is gay gives him the experience of dealing with discrimination that I think is beneficial in the role he is playing at Nexus. To pretend all of these things about Mike don't matter would be to miss the point of non-discrimination, IMO. Even the fact that Mike is gay is something, in and of itself, that is both a benefit and a possible detriment to the position. Unfair discrimination would be to look at any one of these factors and eliminate a person from consideration based on it. But, to consider each of them as one factor among many is perfectly legitimate.
The question, to me, comes down to "What really matters?". In the case of adoption, the welfare of the child is the most important thing. What really matters is how the person or couple adopting the child will impact the child's life and where we think the best place is for the child. I think it is naive to pretend that society views gay couples the same way as they do heterosexual couples and I would have to wonder what type of impact this might have on a child. I think it's just plain silly to think a single parent doesn't have to work a lot harder than a couple to raise a child. Children take time and energy and we each only have so much of those things. I've now met the couple mentioned in the article (Michael and his partner) and the beautiful little girl they want to adopt. I've only met them in passing. But, I can tell they care for her deeply just from the little bit of time I've spent with them. I can tell they would try their best to make great fathers for her. I would not deny them being able to adopt her based solely on the fact that they are gay. I wouldn't dream of it. But, I think considering the fact that they are gay, and what impact that might have on the little girl, as one of many factors, is not unfairly discriminatory.