Earlier this month, 11-year-old Grace Evans testified before the Minnesota House Committee on Civil Law, speaking out against gay marriage. Her testimony reflects the actions of many children who are speaking out for or against gay marriage, such as a 12-year-old Matthew Lannon from Rhode Island speaking out to defend his same-sex parents. However, given the insulting comments that Evans has allegedly received since her statements, which is also seen in the case of a 14-year old girl from Maryland who received death threats after speaking out against gay marriage, some have begun to question whether children should even contribute their voices to this debate.
While a poll on the Huffington Post indicates that the majority of respondents feel that children should stay out of the debate, it is important to note that children’s voices in the debate are becoming more and more important, as the debate surrounding gay marriage is increasingly focused on children’s welfare.
The American Academy of Pediatrics asserts that it is in the best interests of the children to allow same-sex couples to marry, as the important thing is to have two loving and responsible parents regardless of sexual orientation. However, some conservatives assert that only marriage between a man and a woman can create the proper environment to raise children; some back this assertion with “hard science” arguments regarding “conjugal sex.”
In this partisan atmosphere, the last thing that is needed is to dismiss the voices of the people that an important issue of the debate centers around: the children. As Evans’ father says, the fact that people are making insulting comments toward his 11-year-old daughter is “representative of where political discourse is in our country, where you can’t take a position without receiving a great deal of flak.” Even Lannon’s statement speaking out in favor of gay marriage was met criticism, with some saying that he was too young to know anything about commitment.
I’m going to be open about this: I do not agree with any of the arguments given against same-sex marriage. However, I think it’s important to allow children to raise their voices and opinions on an issue in which their voices are key, no matter which side of the argument they take. Sure, they might be too young, and might not realize what they are saying. But I do not think that this precludes them from being able to speak about their opinion.
If we are going to make the issue of same-sex marriage an issue of parenting and children’s welfare (which, Pew Research Center Director Michael Dimock says, most Americans view same-sex marriage and parenting as separate issues), then who are we to leave children’s voices out of the discussion? If we are going to center arguments about the legality of same-sex marriage on the welfare of children in same-sex parented households, then we need to recognize that children have the right to share their opinions as well.