WILL THESE PARENTS DESTROY YOUR FAMILY?
My husband and I have a nephew who — along with his wife — adopted a baby boy at birth. It's an open adoption: their son's birth mother signed over her parental rights in favor of a couple she knew could provide the emotional and financial resources she could not.
Their son is now a healthy, energetic first-grader, living in a two-parent household, and doted on by loving grandparents. Still, as he grew, he began to exhibit developmental problems and behaviors that were eventually diagnosed as autism.
After much research into the best educational and treatment environment for him, our nephew and his wife settled on a highly recommended school for autistic children in a state two thousand miles away. They put their house on the market, despite the bad economy, and said goodbye to close friends and to a city and neighborhood they loved in order to provide their son with the best environment for his development.
"Well, that's what you do when you have children," I said, in a phone conversation with our nephew not long ago. "You have to put their needs first."
To which he replied, "Absolutely."
There was no hesitation in his response or in their decision to move for the sake of their child's well-being. They're devoted to their son, to each other, and to bringing him up in a strong, loving family.
Yet I'm continually astonished to read letters-to-the-editor, blogs and op-eds attacking my nephew's family as a threat to every other family in America. How could anyone call these two loving people and their little boy a threat to the well-being of other families?
How? Because I changed one word, and one word only, in this otherwise true family story. My nephew and his spouse are indeed the devoted parents I've described. But they are both men. They are also a loving couple who have been in a committed relationship for years, and who have recently taken advantage of a change in their state's laws to marry legally as well as in their hearts.
I'm writing about them not because they are the "exception that proves the rule" but because they are not. Nor is our lesbian daughter unique in her devotion to her partner, who is the caring mother of a grown daughter and a dedicated special education teacher.
Couple by couple, family by family, gay men and lesbian women are settling down together and parenting children. And countless numbers, like our own daughter, want nothing more than to stop just living together and assume the rights and responsibilities of a legal marriage.
For those opponents of same-sex marriage who proclaim that the primary purpose of marriage is to provide children the advantages of growing up in a two-parent family, I would ask: Don't children being brought up by two moms or two dads deserve as much legal protection as any other child? Why force them to live in a household where only one parent has legal responsibility for them? How can refusing to allow their parents to marry strengthen their family or American families in general?
These opponents of same-sex marriage don't seem to understand that the gay and lesbian couples striving for equal marriage rights agree with you. They believe that strong families are the bedrock of society. They want to raise their children in a two-parent family; they want to be there for each other for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as they both shall live.
That's why they want to marry, and why they deserve to.
© 2009 by Rochelle Hollander Schwab for SeniorWomen.com
Rochelle Hollander Schwab is author of A Departure from the Script, an award-winning novel about love, family and same-sex marriage. The legal limbo faced by lesbian and gay families is also explored in one of her earlier novels, In a Family Way. Rochelle lives near Washington, DC with her husband of 48 years. She has two daughters and three grandchildren, and is an active member of the Metropolitan Washington chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through her website, http://www.rochelleschwab.com/