A Seat At My Table

posted on Fri, Jun 1 2012 9:40 am by Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director

I’m still not certain if it will be the best or worst dinner party I’ve ever hosted.  It certainly will be the most memorable.
 
At some point in the not too distant future, my spouse Cheryl and I will invite into our home a man who has questioned the validity of our relationship, the value of our love and the worth of our family.  But Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, will be a welcome guest.  
 
Last week, Mr. Perkins appeared on CNN to vigorously defend his support of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and to explain why he was opposed to marriage equality for LGBT couples.  During the course of the interview, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin asked him if he had ever actually been to the home of a same-sex couple. Mr. Perkins acknowledged that he had not.
 
I’m sure that it occurred to many who watched the interview that if Mr. Perkins visited just one of the 1 million homes where LGBT parents are raising 2 million children, he might begin to understand why marriage equality strengthens not only our families and our community, but all families and all communities.
 
So, I wrote to him and invited him to dinner with my own spouse and children.
 
In the letter, I explained that we had much in common.  We both were parents and both have devoted ourselves to our family, our community and making the world a better place. I went on to write:  “I imagine we share many of the same joys and struggles in doing the important work of raising our children and contributing meaningfully to our community. We attend church regularly and our children attend Sunday school weekly. We love our children intensely and feel a deep desire to protect and nurture them as they continue along their journey to adulthood. We are also anxiously awaiting the arrival of our third child, due in August, and have worked since his conception to ensure his health and welfare. This is the face of the one million families you have taken no time to get to know. I think if you could spend meaningful time with any of us, you would find we share many of the same values that you have worked to teach your own children.”
 
It was with those thoughts in mind that I extended the sincere invitation.  Earlier this week, Mr. Perkins told CNN that he looked forward to “ finding a time that works” so I guess he is indeed coming to dinner at some point.
 
Some have asked me what I truly think can be accomplished by this gesture.  I’ve thought long and hard about it and fully recognize that it’s unlikely I’ll change his mind.  But, there is the possibility that it might soften his heart.  When I take my twin boys, Tim and Tom, to Sunday School, I know they learn not to judge and to instead live by the golden rule.  Cheryl and I also teach our boys that when they are in conflict with someone else, the first option is to talk about their differences.
 
As Christians, I’m certain that at the very least, Mr. Perkins and I share these values. If nothing coming of this experience, at the very least he can say that he has spent time with an LGBT family and I can challenge Mr. Perkins to live up to the values that he advocates and that he knows in his heart that we both share.