When President Obama issued his statement this past weekend in recognition of Father’s Day, he mentioned one class of fathers that no other president before him has acknowledged: gay dads.
Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a stepfather, a grandfather, or caring guardian.
His acknowledgement of the labor of love two men may put into their relationship with their children drew quick reaction from the “pro-family” but anti-gay set. Christian Broadcasting Network White House Correspondent David Brody tsk-tsked the president, warning he’s alienating religious folks:
First of all, by putting “two fathers” in your proclamation you are really running the risk of alienating networks of pastors and church goers who may buy into the President’s overall but draw the line when it comes to traditional marriage. You put these normally supportive pastors in a tough situation because the fact of the matter is the whole ‘two fathers’ scenario DOES NOT play well in most Churches in America. And that is completely understandable.
My first reaction to that concern was, “welcome to our world.” The LGBT community has been alienated from most of the world for the majority of history, so pastors and churchgoers who balk at the president’s words can enjoy, just for a moment, our reality. Alienation is something we’re familiar with — kicked out of our families, kicked out of our churches, fired for being who we are, denied housing for being who we are, denied the rights and responsibilities of marriage. You want alienation? Mr. Brody, the line starts behind me.
Of course, Brody’s reaction is tame compared to Peter LaBarbera over at Americans for Truth about Homosexuality who gives his usual rant about how gay men are promiscuous (because no straight men are, right?).
But even if two homosexual men keep their disordered relationship “faithful,” homosexual parenting would not be worthy of celebration, LaBarbera said: “It is wrong to force children into a situation where they have two men modeling immoral behavior — condemned by God and all major religions — as the most important role models in their lives.”
Aside from the “scare quotes” around the word “faithful,” LaBarbera makes no sense here. What “immoral behavior” is he talking about? Does he really believe gay dads have sex in front of their children? Do LaBarbera and his wife do “immoral” things in front of their children? Or, perhaps, LaBarbera believes it’s immoral for kids to see their gay dads go to work every day, take out the trash, and instruct their children to clean their rooms and make their beds. What horrible fathers!
There is not a shred of proof that gay men are worse fathers than
straight men. In fact, a recent study, quoted in the Advocate, showed that “gay fathers were more likely to scale back their careers in order to care for their children. Another difference was that gay fathers also saw their self-esteem and relationships with their extended families greatly improve when they had children.” Far from being “immoral” it seems that fatherhood is good for gay men, just as it is for straight men. But, LaBarbera and his “pro-family” cohorts won’t ever let facts get in the way of a good scare tactic.
Even if President Obama has, by and large, disappointed our community since his election with his foot-dragging on issues like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), it feels good to be acknowledged, even in a boiler-plate proclamation. It feels good to have the leader of your country acknowledge not just your existence, but your humanity — your extreme normalness.
If that makes the religious right feel alienated, it really shouldn’t. It simply means that we finally have a commander-in-chief who can acknowledge the reality of the American family and see the humanity of everyone, even if politics prevents him from fully enacting a fairer agenda.
A belated Happy Father’s Day, Mr. President.