When I was growing up in the 70s the gay rights movement was just beginning. While it would occasionally surge onto the news, it was in many ways treated as secondary to other movements like the anti-war protests and Second Wave Feminism. Those early days truly changed the landscape, however, and set the stage for the broader progress we see today. Things really moved backwards in the 80s and 90s, when you consider how easily gay and lesbian references cropped up on 70s TV like Sonny and Cher and the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
One thing that would never get into the press or the programs was the idea of gay parents. Even as laws punishing gay sex slowly were repealed or went unenforced in many places, homosexuality was still used as a legal barrier to adoption or to custody. (Interesting how that shows how obsessed our opponents are with the sexual side of things…) While the legal landscape still has a way to go, LGBT parents are far more visible and that’s a very good thing. It’s hard to fear what you understand, and it’s easy to understand your neighbors.
Starting with famous books like Heather Has Two Mommies, the narrative of gay parents as part of the American fabric has slowly become clearer and clearer. Celebrity parents like Melissa Etheridge and Neil Patrick Harris opening their homes show loving, supportive families that look familiar to most people. Many more movies and TV show LGBT parents and adoptions just as a matter of course. Modern Family does a phenomenal job of normalizing same-sex parenting, and is far more about parenting than making a big deal that the parents just happen to be two dads. The Kids Are All Right shows that LGBT families are just as normal (and messed up) as any other families – the fact that there are two moms is the least of their issues. JC Penney’s bold new brand is aggressively acknowledging that families come in all flavors with inclusive advertising images (much to the ire of One Million Moms). Even comic books get into the game, with DC’s Apollo and Midnighter adopting Jenny Quantum after their marriage.
Being a parent is hard and being a good parent in a complex world is even harder. We need kids to have strong families and good support; the orientations of the parents are irrelevant. No matter what Mark Regnerus and his funders would have you believe, LGBT folk make great parents, and all the good research supports that wholeheartedly. In fact, same-sex households can turn out kids as wonderful as Zach Wahls. So let’s take time this Fathers’ Day to celebrate the families that often require more intent and face challenges from the narrow-minded no matter how well they work.
P.S. – Let’s also celebrate the straight parents who love and accept their LGBT children unconditionally. Since bullying and abuse of these kids is still a significant problem, a loving home is often the saving grace. Three cheers to the Judy Shepards, Daphne’s Moms, and PFLAG moms and dads all over America.