First of all, I intended to write a review of a documentary which is coming out later this month which I received from one of the subjects of that film. The film is called Holy Rollers: the True Story of Card Counting Christians, and it's quite a challenging review to write because the right thing to do is to judge the movie for what it is rather than what it is not, and I'm still working on that.
But in the midst of trying to do justice to a movie about a topic which I find radically incongruous, I ran into this story coming out of Florida. Apparently, ... um, here's how the Associated Press put it:
A custody battle in Florida between two lesbians could fuel the growing national debate over the definition of motherhood. ...Let me make something clear before we get into the tall grass over there: there is something unrelentingly-sad about this story even in the sparse way the AP puts it. There's something unambiguously-melancholy in the phrase "their relationship." There's something soul-aching in the phrase "separated two years later." There's something morally unmerciful about the clinical way the child involved here is described as having been brought into the world -- as if it was a fortuitous science experiment. And that this has all turned out to be a fight in court over what the law ought to do about it … it's numbing. It makes you want to turn off your humanity so you can ignore it.
The women, now in their 30s and known in court papers only by their initials, were both law enforcement officers in Florida. One partner donated an egg that was fertilized and implanted in the other. That woman gave birth in 2004, nine years into their relationship.
But the Brevard County couple separated two years later, and the birth mother eventually left Florida with the child without telling her former lover. The woman who donated the egg and calls herself the biological mother finally tracked them down in Australia with the help of a private detective.
Their fight over the now 8-year-old girl is before the state Supreme Court, which has not announced whether it will consider the case. A trial judge ruled for the birth mother and said the biological mother has no parental rights under state law, adding he hoped his decision would be overturned.
The 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach obliged, siding with the biological mother and saying both women have parental rights.
So as a consequence of this, the state of Florida is now trying to re-read and re-write its entire civil code of justice to decipher the rights of two women and how to, as the article says in a sort of Dickensian way, "come to grips with what is best for the child."
I'm having a hard time seeing "best" as a word which can even come into this discussion. What is unmitigatedly best for a child is that it come into this world as the fruit of a covenant between two people -- that a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh, as it has become rather quaint to say. But instead we have a world in which we do what we think is right in our own eyes, and any ol' two people (three actually, since the father here is only a contributor to a test tube who, frankly, has no skin in the game) can have a child and then decide that they can simply "separate two years later" with no shame which lawyers can't fix up for them.
In that, Piers Morgan has the audacity to say this:
some people would say that telling kids that being gay is a sin, or getting married is a sin or whatever – that in itself is incredibly destructive and damaging, in a country where seven states now have legalized it.You know: he thinks what he has said here is an absurdity. That is: to say gay marriage is "a sin" is completely inhuman and more damaging than, for example, what is happening in Florida.
Because consider the example I started with here. In this example, two people made some sort of agreement to live together, and even decided to have a child together. And when they decided it didn't work out, they parted ways. If our response here is that it's just unnatural that this is two women rather than one man, one woman, the other side wonders how we can keep a straight face (pun intended).
In this view -- that is, Morgan's view -- this happens all the time to one man, one woman. In their view, straight people don't even bother to get married anymore -- and when they do, they have an equal chance to break up as not break up without regard to whether there are children involved or any other objective measure. So why not just let anyone who wants to roll those dice roll the dice? They want ...
... now get this, please, because it is actually the point ...
They just want to be happy.
But here's the other thing: the really crazy thing here is that they -- that is, the other side -- know this is not what ought to be. Even if they can't define the real issues here, they know that a child ought not to be somehow without parents. And they know, frankly, that everything I said in the first paragraph after the AP citation is tragic and heart-rendering and makes less of those who are involved. It ruins them -- a fact we can see in everything from pop music to pop literature to the way they dramatize their lives in movies and theater and TV.
What we do not disagree with them about is the human toll involved when families are ill-defined, and ill-made, and ill-kept, and ill-maintained, and torn asunder. What they cannot bear, it seems to me, is to admit that we agree with them that families ought to be a refuge from whims of emotionalism, and personal caprice, and selfishness, and so on. We agree that what ought to happen is that a marriage ought to be formed, and something happen there that is not a matter of law but of something greater than the law, and as a consequence of that union, that one flesh, a family is made -- both as a beginning and as it grows through the birth of children.
Is it really a matter of how many American States issue a legal verdict that this sort of thing ought to be legal and be called "marriage"? Does that actually improve what has happened here, and what happens thousands of times every year? Or does it simply make a bad system of reasoning and living worse by giving permission to people to do it more often?
That's the root of it: what else will we permit? How far will we go to show that in fact we do not have to let a man to leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two to become one flesh, in order to have a marriage and a family? At what point are we actually destroying this thing we think we are longing for?
And then where is the refuge from our own work? That is: how do we get out from under the way we have made the world, doing the things we want to do, and suffering for it because what we want is at the same time somehow apparently-necessary to us and so utterly futile and broken?
If all the things I want to do I cannot do, and all the things I should not want I do with gusto, how terribly faulty, flimsy, forlorn, gloomy, hapless, hopeless, and hurting am I?
And who can save me -- the law? Look at how good the law is doing in Florida. I think the law probably can't come to grips with what is best for the child. The law can't even figure out who the mother of this child is. How can it decide -- let alone create and nurture -- what a family ought to be?