A Litany on Britney; or, What Makes a Good Parent?

britney.jpgBritney Spears has lost custody of her children to ex-husband Kevin Federline. Unlike a surprising number of people around the world, I really don’t care much about the beleaguered pop star. She holds the honor, however, of being the leading example of why it’s ridiculous to grant or withhold either marriage or parenting rights based on sexual orientation alone (emphasis mine):

  • Terrance at Republic of T sums it up in a lengthy post about her as part of his Poisonous Parenting series. He notes:

    [Britney's] been married twice and, despite the fact that I’ve had pairs of socks longer than she had either of her husbands, even her 55-hour-long marriage came with more benefits and protections than my seven-year marriage to my husband.

    And according to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the fact that she managed to make two babies that she doesn’t much bother to take care of entitles her to those protections, but not the hubby and me. Even though we do a better job of taking care of children we didn’t conceive.

  • Richard Rothstein of Queersighted looks at the overwhelming evidence that children do just as well with two parents of any gender. “If heterosexual parents—like Britney and Kevin—were held to the same standard as gay and lesbian parents, imagine the crushing blow to the therapy business nationwide,” he speculates. “Imagine if the same scrutiny paid to gay and lesbian couples looking to foster or adopt was paid to straight couples?”
  • Connie Schultz of the Cleveland Plain Dealer similarly writes “If state courts and legislative bodies continue to insist that only heterosexuals have the right to marry and raise children, then it might be a good idea for them to provide some guidelines for this superior brand of parenting. I hate to be a contrarian here, but has anyone else noticed how often we heterosexuals screw up?” She then takes a dig at Britney with a reference to “Hollywood heteros who think it’s cute to drive around with their babies on their laps.” (Thanks to To Form a More Perfect Union for the link.)
  • Lesbian rocker Beth Ditto, in the Guardian, talks about the pressure to have children and the importance of making the decision for oneself:

    For women who are worrying about this, though, I think the most important thing is to analyse where these feelings are coming from. Are they a result of outside pressure? Do they stem from the “I wanna be a grandma” funny business that so many of us encounter from our moms?

    If so, then it’s time to separate their feelings from yours—outside pressure shouldn’t come into it. The recent travails of Britney Spears stand as testament to the fact that children aren’t the right choice for everyone, especially if you’re not really ready.

  • Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin doesn’t mention Britney, but gives an example of what happens when bigots say that banning same-sex couples from parenting is “best for the children.” He relates the story of a gay couple in Utah who offered to take care of the four children of their niece “while she dealt with drug-related criminal matters.” Instead of letting the children stay with their great uncles and cousin (the men’s daughter), however, the state wants to put them in foster care, where they will most likely not stay together.

The point isn’t to bash non-LGBT parents or, heaven forbid, compare them all to Britney Spears. As Terrance says, “The point is that there are people who believe that being heterosexual makes someone an inherently better candidate for parenthood and that being gay makes one an inherently inferior parent,” and this simply isn’t borne out by the evidence. Most parents, LGBT and not, are good ones, I believe (even if we don’t all give our kids $50 per lost tooth like Angelina Jolie). Bad parents fall across the spectrum of orientations and identities, but are not in the majority in any of them. If all the money, public and private, that is spent fighting against same-sex marriage and LGBT parental rights (and the money then needed to fight for those rights) was channeled into family services and other programs to prevent child abuse and train new and expectant parents, we’d reduce even that minority. Our children, and our society, would be better for it.

We could call it the Britney Spears Parenting Education Fund.

(Photo credit: © BUSMSR under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License.)