“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast ordained strength,” prayed David to the Lord. When Gregory Kingsley came along, the Lord seems to have been taking a lunch break. A judge in Florida granted Gregory’s wish to “divorce” his natural mother and evolve into the son of foster parents. Maybe his real mother should rejoice to be rid of him.
Quizzed by reporters after Judge Thomas Kirk used his legal scissors to snip the natural cords that bind children to parents, young Gregory declaimed upon the “abuse and neglect” he had endured from the woman who brought him into the world.
Mrs. Kingsley stuck him into several foster homes. Years went by when he did not hear from her, even at Christmas or on birthdays. Often, when he did live with her, she drank and smoked marijuana. Young Gregory’s lawyer claimed Mrs. Kingsley not only smoked pot but also practiced lesbianism and prostitution — charges she denies. By the time Gregory and his legal pit bull had finished, you would have thought they were writing a sequel to Oliver Twist.
The fact is that at no time has Gregory or his lawyer given any evidence of what the real world normally means by abuse or neglect by his natural mother. No one alleges she beat him, sexually abused him, abandoned him, or failed to provide food, clothing, and shelter for him. It is true that Mrs. Kingsley placed him in foster homes, and maybe, as alleged, that was because she just did not care about him. But placing a child in a foster home shows care of a kind.
It is hardly the same as throwing him out on the street, tossing him into a trash can, or selling him to strangers — actual cases of which are common enough these days.
If there were no abuse or neglect in any normal sense, why did Gregory bring suit? What comes from this babe’s mouth is the motto of the modern world: “I’m doing this for me so I can be happy.” When Judge Kirk uttered his foolish decree, that portion of the modern world that has nothing better to do than haunt courtrooms burst into applause.
There is, of course, no reason to doubt that Gregory’s real mom was pretty lousy, but there is every reason to doubt he will be any happier with his new parents. It would not be surprising if he eventually discovers another couple from whom he imagines he can extract even more gratification, presents, attention, or whatever it is he thinks he wants. The road to happiness is paved with quicksand, and those who tread it usually sink pretty fast, especially when they are children with the law on their side.
Yet, regardless of the merits and flaws of Gregory’s case, the real issue transcends even his personal happiness, as inconceivable as that may be to him and his supporters. The issue is that, for the first time in American history, a minor has succeeded in using the law to challenge the authority of his natural family. This means that from now on there is a precedent for arguing that what nature put together human beings — even children — can break apart.
To those who consider that patterns rooted in nature offer no norms any more valid than those invented by lawyers, the results will not be disturbing. Gregory’s legal victory is implicit in the ideology in which they pretend to believe. Now they will have a chance to enjoy a world that deceives itself into importing their pretenses into law.
To those who think that the bizarre relationship between Gregory and his real mother is an aberration — one on which no norms, let alone legally binding ones, should be founded — and that emotional bonds as natural as a bitch fighting to protect her puppies tell us something about how human societies are and should be constructed, Judge Kirk’s decision is an invitation to anarchy.
Nature has not so constructed 12-year-old boys that they know more than their parents, let alone what happiness really is. Nor has it so constructed judges and lawmakers that they are able to improve on what nature normally does construct. Maybe Gregory is exceptional, but with his exception a legal precedent, others are now free to extend it. The Washington Postreports that “Legal experts have expressed doubt that children will hire their own attorneys, except in the most unusual cases.” But the same day’s edition carries a story of another 12-year-old boy in Virginia who “is seeking to ‘divorce’ his parents so he can stay with his foster family.”
Having wrapped ourselves in the illusion that we can redesign nature to make ourselves happier, there is no telling what legal mischief we will proceed to erect. What if children make their parents unhappy? Can Mom and Dad take Junior to court because he plays his stereo too loud? Maybe Gregory and Judge Kirk have not thought about that. Children obsessed with themselves and their own gratification seldom do. That is why nature made adults.