As empowering as the blogosphere has been for gay and gay-friendly folks, it is always worth remembering that the virtual world is also host to plenty of hateful and reactionary rhetoric. In Indiana, one such site is a right-wing blog called Veritas Rex. Recently, a friend called my attention to a post there, headlined piteously “No Choice for Pro-Family Voters.” The post had been triggered by news that the local Stonewall Democrats had hosted a reception for the Democratic Gubernatorial candidates. And the candidates actually attended! And candidates who openly take money and/or solicit votes from citizens who are gay can’t possibly be “pro-family.”
Odd as it may seem to the exemplars of Godliness over at Veritas Rex, I have always considered myself pretty damn pro-family. (We have five kids! We’ve been married for thirty years! I couldn’t stand being any more pro-family!)
Admittedly I have a rather different take from the wingers on what a real family looks like, but then, I live in the reality-based community, where we’ve noticed that families have changed since the 1960’s.
In 1960, according to the U.S. census, 44.2% of Americans lived in “Ozzie and Harriet” households, defined as a married couple living with their own children under eighteen. (Okay, so maybe mom was hitting the bottle in her suburban kitchen and dad was smacking the kids around when he came home from golfing with his buddies, but in Ozzie and Harriet time we didn’t ask impertinent questions. They were married, the kids were theirs, God was pleased. End of story.)
By 2000, however, only 23.5% of Americans fell into that category, and the folks at places like Veritas Rex (the folks who know exactly which families God approves of) are anguishing over what went wrong.
Data not being the wingers strong suit, permit me to enlighten them.
One big piece of the puzzle is pretty value-neutral: people got older. The life expectancy and average age of the population has increased, and those kids aren’t under 18 any more. More women are widowed. But there are, of course, many other factors. Maybe mom got the hell out of the kitchen, found out she could make a living and didn’t have to stay any longer in a sterile or miserable marriage. Maybe Dad found the courage to come out, and is living happily with his life partner in Upper Sandusky. Or maybe Mom and Dad are happily married, but have joined the growing numbers of married couples who’ve decided—for whatever reason—not to become a Mom and Dad.
When we look at couples who do have children, it is certainly true that two-parent families have more money, and more personal resources, and that money and other resources are important to childrearing. In a society that truly valued children, the census findings would motivate us to find ways to help children who are living in poverty, children whose custodial parent is overwhelmed. A number of initiatives come immediately to mind: expanded Day Care and Head Start programs, easier access to Medicaid coverage for children and pregnant women, increased educational and job opportunities for single parents.
Whatever the merits of such programs, however, they aren’t even being discussed. They cost money, and we need to save our money to make war in Iraq, and to ensure that the richest 1% of the population continue to enjoy tax relief. Instead, for the poor folks, George W. Bush and his administration have pursued programs that “provide incentives” for marriage by those receiving government aid. (Add a breadwinner to that household and get off the dole, you slut!)
Leaving aside the general lunacy of this approach, gays have to appreciate the irony. The Bush Administration says marriage is the answer to all our social ills. It will provide jobs for the unemployed, make an uncaring father into an earnest and helpful mentor, improve public school test scores and keep people off welfare. (Hell, it might even cure cancer! Worth a try—maybe we can avoid expanding health care.) But even though marriage is the prescription for what ails you, we sure aren’t going to let those homosexuals marry! Two parent families are more financially secure, and have more resources to devote to childrearing, but we aren’t going to let gays and lesbians in committed relationships adopt children!
Those who bemoan the demise of “traditional families” and “family values” refuse to admit that there are many different kinds of families, and that no one type has a monopoly on the ability to raise emotionally healthy children and contribute to the public welfare. They are too intent on seeing to it that everyone accepts their limited and limiting definition of “family.”
Real “family values” would require valuing families. Everyone’s families.
As gay communities celebrate Pride this year, they can take comfort—and pride—in the knowledge that the culture wars are ending. And that the good guys won.