Who decides who we call family?
It doesn’t often happen but last week a quote from the leader of the Southern Baptist Convention made me smile. In an interview with Michel Martin of NPR, Russell Moore stated “we are living in a post-Bible Belt America; the Moral Majority is gone for good.” While the mission of this religious sect is still far from changing, an admission like this almost overpowers the High Church Episcopalian in me and makes me want to stand up and shout “AMEN!” Moore goes on to tap dance around recent defeats to the conservative ideals of marriage and family and performs some of the best evangelical voguing I have seen since Jimmy Swaggart issued his second apology for hiring hookers.
The positive takeaway to the statement from Moore is that after decades of hate-speech and pomposity, the people who once defined “family values” in America are experiencing their long overdue decline. A family unit can no longer be defined as a group of parochial kinbred people who are focused on marginalizing those who are different in structure and philosophy. It is time for a voice of reason to take center stage.
Enter the Family Equality Council. For those of you who are not familiar with the organization, it started as a grassroots effort in 1979 when a group of gay fathers formed a small network to provide support to each other and to reach out to others with similar family dynamics. In 1986, the group expanded to embrace lesbian mothers and changed its name from the Gay Fathers Coalition to the Gay and Lesbian Parents Association International. By 1999, the organization realized that it needed to expand again to include all parents in the LGBTQ community and it became the Family Pride Coalition. In 2007, the name and the vision evolved to reflect a mission that all loving families should be treated equally and the organization became the Family Equality Council.
Organizations like this one are important for many reasons. Aside from pissing off fundamentalists, their mission is to make the world a more secure place for LGBTQ families. They accomplish this by systematically reducing the influence of people and of groups who would deny any and all parental rights to members of the LGBTQ community. By collaborating with corporate sponsors such as Target, HBO, General Mills and Capital One, the Family Equality Council establishes the LGBTQ family unit for exactly what it is: a family.
The process by which a family unit is created is no longer simple to define. Regardless of demographics, families now opt for international and domestic adoptions and often decide to make those adoptions open in order to extend their families and to enrich the lives of the children. The number of surrogacy agencies are at an unprecedented level and reproductive science extends options to people that were never thought possible. The people who once condemned and obstructed what they considered to be non-traditional families are now becoming less relevant than a Rolodex.
As a child who was adopted, it should be no surprise that I think that qualified people who want children should get them. The same rules should apply to everyone and sexuality should not be an allowable factor. In fact, I think gays and lesbians should go to the front of the line when it comes to adoption. If you think that gay people moving into your neighborhood can drive up the value of real estate when we move into an area, just wait until you see what our kids can do to the test scores in your schools.
I have also experienced the unparalleled joy of being a part of what some people would consider a non-traditional family. As a self-identifying gay man, the likelihood that I would be in the delivery room and hold a newborn baby would not get great odds in Vegas. But thanks to my best friend Cindy, who is one of the bravest people I have ever met, I experienced that life-changing event 20 years ago and it has forever enriched my life. There is no life event that can surpass being loved by a child. If someone thinks that experience should be denied to someone based on their sexuality, then I just don’t know how to reach that person.
The Family Equality Council is one of the greatest resources for the LGBTQ community. Diversity Best Practices ranks FEC as one of the top 20 LGBTQ organizations in the nation. Along with GLAAD, PLFLAG and HRC, FEC is ensuring that our rights are not infringed upon and that our families are safe. We have a very active local representation in Tommy Starling of Pawleys Island who is a member of the Board of Directors and who, along with his husband Jeff Littlefield, are parents of two wonderful children. If you want to feel good about the future of all families, visit www.familyequality.org.
OUT & ABOUT
Saturday, Sept. 14 – CLAWS, the Coastal Leather Allegiance to Wisdom and Service will host its monthly bar event at Pulse Ultra Club from 6-9 p.m. Pulse is at 803 Main St, Myrtle Beach. For additional information on CLAWS, visit www.clawsllc.org.
Sunday, Sept. 22 – Takeover Florence will host its third Down Under Event at Outback Steakhouse in Florence starting at 5 p.m. Outback in Florence is at 118 Dunbarton Dr. For additional events and information go to www.facebook.com/TakeOverFlorence.
Friday, Oct. 4 – Takeover Grand Strand/First Friday Happy Hour will celebrate its Seventh Anniversary at Nalu’s Restaurant & Beach Bar from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Special $6 appetizers will be available to all FFHH group members. Nalu’s is at 107 Atlantic Ave, Garden City Beach. For additional information see www.firstfridayhappyhour.org .
Have a thought, comment or Out & About event? Send Drew Levy-Neal an e-mail to Drew.Levy.Neal@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @Drew_Levy_Neal.