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January 09, 2011

State Department Changes "Mother" And "Father" To "Parent 1" And "Parent 2". UPDATE: Hillary Orders Mother/Father Be Kept

I guess it's better than "Parental Unit A" and "Parental Unit B".

A statement on the State Department website noted: “These improvements are being made to provide a gender neutral description of a child’s parents and in recognition of different types of families.” The statement didn't note if it was for child applications only.

The State Department said the new passport applications, not yet available to the public, will be available online soon.

Sprague said the decision to remove the traditional parenting names was not an act of political correctness.

...“Changing the term mother and father to the more global term of parent allows many different types of families to be able to go and apply for a passport for their child without feeling like the government doesn’t recognize their family,” said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of Family Equality Council.

Chrisler recounted the day she and her female partner tried to get her twin sons passports.

“Even though my partner was their legal mother, had adopted them after I gave birth to them, she still had to put her name in the father field, and that is both discriminatory and makes us feel like second-class citizens,” she said.

Let me take the "second-class citizens" part first...tough.

I love and respect the fact that America is tolerant, welcoming and most importantly, protective of a lot of ideas and arrangements that the majority of people don't necessarily agree with. I also think people have the right to organize their private lives the way they see fit (with all the normal caveats about consenting adults, etc.)

Legal or official tolerance or a lack of prohibitions however does not mean that minorities get to force the majority to accept, respect and recognize their choices at the cost of the majority's right to organize civil society.

We've gotten to the point where the self-imposed limits on the majority in some areas has been contorted into actual prohibitions on the ability of the majority to express its legitimate will. At the same time minority groups have asserted there are no restrictions on what they can impose on the majority. Groups like same sex families, and no matter what you see in mass media, "Parent A" and "Parent B" families are tiny, tiny minorities, demand tolerance and respect from the majority but never quite get around to recognizing that perhaps the overwhelming will of their fellow citizens deserves some respect or tolerance.

While I tend to take a more limited view of the role of government in promoting and protecting morality and social codes, it's not because I don't think they aren't necessary or useful but rather because I think that role is best left to non state actors. Social stigmas and preferences are one thing, government prohibitions are something very different.

Government is not about peoples' feelings of self-worth or a way for some to achieve social acceptance. It is simply a tool people use to ensure that the society they create by common consent is maintained in an orderly way. To insist that it be a tool to force the majority to abandon long held arrangements that predate the state is a perversion of the American legal system and our traditions.

That said, I have no problem with people advocating for their position through the democratic process. If they can convince their fellow citizens of the justness of their cause and change the laws, I am fine with that. At the same time, resorting to an end run around the democratic process to courts and bureaucrats when you lose that argument shows that talk of respect and tolerance is simply a one way street.

Yes, yes, I know some will say this is a matter of basic constitutional rights and therefore beyond the will of the majority. To that I say, bull. You simply can not make the argument that either at the time of the founding or the adoption of the 14th Amendment, the framers meant to enshrine gay rights into the Constitution. There's zero evidence of that. If you then argue that the the words as adopted are irrelevant or expansive enough to encompass such rights, then you are a proponent of a living Constitution. In my book, that's about the worst slur there is.

Update: Via Leo Ladenson in the comments, Hillary decides to split the baby (as it were) and keep Mother/Father and add "Parent"

"She has directed that the relevant forms retain to the existing references to 'mother' and 'father' in addition to the designation 'parent,' " Crowley said. He said her decision would ensure that the documents are as inclusive and informative as possible.

Note: I had this post up for like a minute yesterday before the AZ shooting story broke. I took it down because I didn't want it to get lost with all the news that was sure to follow.

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posted by DrewM. at 01:44 PM

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