Mother and Father Replaced by Parent 1 and Parent 2
Fox News heralds the passing of traditional language: ‘Mother,’ ‘Father’ Changing to ‘Parent One,’ ‘Parent Two’ on Passport Applications
The words “mother” and “father” will be removed from U.S. passport applications and replaced with gender neutral terminology, the State Department says.
“The words in the old form were ‘mother’ and ‘father,’” said Brenda Sprague, deputy assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services. “They are now ‘parent one’ and ‘parent two.’”
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. “We find that with changes in medical science and reproductive technology that we are confronting situations now that we would not have anticipated 10 or 15 years ago,” she said.
Gay rights groups are applauding the decision. “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. Her organization lobbied the government for several years to remove the words from passport applications.
But some conservative Christians are outraged over the decision. “Only in the topsy-turvy world of left-wing political correctness could it be considered an ‘improvement’ for a birth-related document to provide less information about the circumstances of that birth,” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins wrote in a statement to Fox News Radio. “This is clearly designed to advance the causes of same-sex ‘marriage’ and homosexual parenting without statutory authority, and violates the spirit if not the letter of the Defense of Marriage Act.”
Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, agreed. “It’s part of an overall attempt at political correctness to diminish the distinction between men and women and to somehow suggest you don’t need both a father and a mother to raise a child successfully,” said Jeffress. “(This decision) was made to make homosexual couples feel more comfortable in rearing children.”
First, yes, this will be for children’s passports only. The question does not appear on the adult applications. (I’ve just filled out my renewal.)
Second, of course this is political correctness. Wikipedia‘s definitions strike me as reasonable: “language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, religious belief, disability, and age-related contexts.” The entry notes that “In current usage, the term is primarily pejorative” and that “In these cases, the term politically incorrect connotes language, ideas, and behavior unconstrained by a perceived orthodoxy or by concerns about offending or expressing bias regarding various groups of people.”
The rationale for changing the everyday words “mother” and “father” to the awkward and bureaucratic “Parent 1″ and “Parent 2″ is precisely to avoid giving offense to parents in situations where there is no mother or father.
But so what? My sense of fatherhood is not going to be undermined 3 years from now when I renew Katie’s passport and am reduced to Parent 1 — or is that Parent 2?! — rather than Father. The two seconds it takes me to fill out that part of the form will neither diminish my self-identification as a man nor my connection to my daughter (aka Child 1).
And, while Chrisler and company are perhaps overly sensitive, the State Department is right: There are indeed “multiple types of families” in existence. As anathema as the concept may have been two decades ago, sometimes Heather really does have two mommies.
The purpose of including the parents’ names on the child’s passport isn’t to trace genealogy but rather to establish legal custody. Indeed, both parents must appear in person, with the child, and present birth certificates and other government documents to demonstrate they have the right to take the child overseas. (In the case of single parents, they must document that they have sole custody. In the case of guardians, they must document guardianship.)
In light of the intended purpose, Parent 1 and Parent 2 are not only more politically correct than Mother and Father, they’re actually more useful. And not just for same-sex couples.
In the case of a child with, for example, a mother, a living biological father, and a living adoptive father, the application wants the names of the mother and adoptive father, not the mother and biological father. Why? The biological father has no authority over the child’s travel.
And, of course, in the case of lesbian couples in which one is the biological mother and the other the adoptive mother — or, as is increasingly the case, neither is the biological mother and they’re both adoptive — the application wants the names of the two people who have the legal right to take the kid out of the country. While they typically overlap, who the “mother” and “father” are is immaterial to the application.