In the weeks leading up to the two major party conventions, we’ve heard a lot of rhetoric from politicians and pundits about “traditional marriage” and “traditional families.” Despite the reality that we are a diverse nation with many different views on marriage and what makes a family, one party platform has gone so far as to say that marriage – defined and limited to the union of one man and one woman – should be the “national standard.” The platform asserts that it is the “best environment” in which to raise children and that “most marriages are entered into for the purpose of producing children.”
I take personal exception to such a narrow and outmoded view. Like the majority of Americans, I have been married more than once, and have been a part of families that resist neat categorizations. I’ve been married to my same-sex spouse now for nearly 8 years and hope to spend the rest of my life with her. I also have three happy, successful adult children from a previous marriage, and four grown stepchildren from previous relationships. From my perspective as a partner, parent, and as a stepparent and step-grandparent, I know first-hand that today’s families can be so much more than the so-called traditional family structure.
In fact, in America today, fully 31% of children live outside a family structure that includes their married opposite-sex parents. My children were in that 31%. My stepdaughter’s five children, who are being raised in a single-parent home, are too. And, so is a fine young man that my ex-partner — his grandmother – has raised. I know very many same-sex couples that are raising children, often through adoption or foster care, and are giving them the loving homes that every child deserves. Love and commitment make a family, no more and no less.
When people or organizations try to say that their definition of family is “best”, what they are really saying is that other families – like mine – in all their confusing, loving glory, aren’t as good; that we don’t deserve the rights and obligations they have. In America, we need not put other families down in order to validate our own relationships. We need not make one child feel less valued than another by denying the legitimacy of that child’s family, which is a direct consequence of refusing to recognize that family under the law. All families should have the same opportunity to flourish; at its core, that really is the promise of America.
We have an opportunity – right now – to stand up for the diversity that is the American family. Today, Family Equality Council released its own platform with 10 key planks and specific actions to be taken and impacts that these actions will have on the value of every family in our society. This platform looks at how we define “family” under the law (and how such definition limits children’s access to vital programs and services), recognizes that employment protection for LGBT parents and access to critical safety nets such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Food and Nutrition Assistance and Head Start are central to full family equality.
Download our platform, read it and share it. Then, join with me and hundreds of thousands of other “non-traditional” families across the country, in raising our voices to such a crescendo that every party and candidate for office will hear us and know that all families matter.
The full platform and action items can be downloaded at www.familyequality.org/platform