Head to head: A daughter of a lesbian mother argues against same-sex marriage

‘I’m opposed to same-sex marriage because redefining marriage redefines parenthood’

I was raised by my biological mother with the help of her same-sex partner. My mom and dad were married for only a short time and divorced when I was too young to remember. I spent most of my childhood with two mothers who cared for me and with whom I have many wonderful and sweet memories. I had one need, however, that they could never meet no matter how much they loved me: the need for a father. I ached for the father I knew I would never have. I often felt angry, sad, and confused about my father’s absence and only later realised the damage it created. As I got older, I engaged in self-destructive behaviour and sought attention from boyfriends as a way to get the love and affirmation I longed for from my father but never received.

I love my mom deeply, fiercely and unconditionally. However, I oppose gay marriage because I recognise that every child has a right and need for a mother and father, whenever possible. I supported and advocated for gay marriage for many years. But then I had children and witnessed fatherhood in action for the very first time. It wasn’t until I saw my children interacting with their father that I realised the full weight of what I’d lost.

It was then that I was confronted with the plain truth that mothers and fathers are irreplaceable and important to the complete wellbeing of children. It’s not the presence of any two people but the presence of both a mom and a dad, the child’s biological mother and father whenever possible, that best nurtures a child. Two mothers cannot make up for a missing father nor two fathers for a missing mother.

My feelings don’t have anything to do with the fact that my mom is gay, and have everything to do with my missing father. While many children find themselves in broken or complicated homes where they experience the pain and loss of a parent, it would be reckless to institutionalise a family structure that will always deny a child either a mother or a father. Every child in a same-sex-headed household must come by way of divorce, abandonment, death (of one or both of their biological parents) or third party reproduction. No matter how it happens, same-sex-headed families are built on top of the profound loss of one (or both) of the child’s biological parents. This is no small thing.


We should not point to the existence of broken homes and use it as justification to create more broken homes. As acceptance for same-sex marriage grows, we are seeing more planned and intentional same-sex parented families. Children are being created with the intent to deny them their mother or father. Third party reproduction is seen as a way to create more “pure” same-sex parented families without the “baggage” from divorce. This is still based on the false belief that as long as there are two parents, gender doesn’t matter, and that a child can be separated from their other biological parent and thereby their roots, ancestry and heritage without consequence to that child. No matter how committed, loving and good the intentions are, there are differences inherent in same-sex parenting.

The primary purpose of marriage is to ensure that any child born from that union has a mother and father. I’m opposed to same-sex marriage because redefining marriage redefines parenthood. The Government should not encourage or promote a family structure in which children are separated from their biological parents. The right to a mother and father is one of the most basic and foundational rights we have, and national policy ought to protect that right.

The benefits of children being raised by their married mother and father are great, and when the family is fragmented we see more instability in society. While some claim that gay marriage would help give stability to children who are already being raised by same-sex couples, the opposite is actually true. By institutionalising gay marriage the Government sends a message that men and women are not unique, that there is no difference between a mom and dad, that having both is unnecessary and a child has no right to be in a family with both of their parents.

Legalising gay marriage will devalue motherhood and fatherhood and hurt children. If my mom and her partner had married it would not have made my life any better. It would have simply added an exclamation point to the fact that I would never have a father.

Heather Barwick was raised by her mother and her mother’s same-sex partner. She is a former gay marriage advocate turned children’s rights activist. She will speak at a conference hosted by Mothers and Fathers Matter on April 25th in Dublin.

Comment on the issue at: http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/have-your-say-should-irish-voters-pass-the-same-sex-marriage-referendum-1.2186482