Recently, I called into a radio talk show, a debate between National PFLAG president John Cepek and Peter LaBarbera, founder of Americans for Truth. LaBarbera was described by host Barry Lynn of Culture Shocks (http://www.cultureshocks.com) as a man who has devoted most of his life confronting the homosexual agenda. I picked up the phone when I heard LaBarbera giving the tired old story of how incapable gay men, particularly, are of being fathers to children. He used the same old accusations of promiscuity and a lifestyle that encourages children to experiment in homosexual sex.
Though the debate began as a critique of Vice-President Dick Cheney refusing to defend his pregnant lesbian daughter against right-wing criticism, it quickly shifted to whether same-sex couples should raise children.
Despite the demographics, which show a growing comfort with the idea of same- sex marriage among people who are in their 30s and 40s, LaBarbera insists that people believe same sex-relationships are wrong. “Attitudes change,” he said, citing a new movement against abortion. “ We’re hoping there’s going to be a turnaround. Children need a mom and a dad,” he said, and should not be in “households where a father is intentionally denied.”
Cepek made the point that research shows no disadvantage for children from same- sex households. It is “not a problem not to have a mother and father, if they have two loving parents,” he said. “People are different. They separate, not along gender lines, but in their personalities,” he said. He pointed out that each parent might have different interests that they present to their children, which may or may not follow expected gender roles.
La Barbara was unable to cite legitimate studies that showed being raised in a same-sex household harmed children. He said that the academic world was pro-gay, an argument skewered by the host Lynn, who countered that if this were so, the academic world wouldn’t be academic, would it?
The sparing was polite and restrained, but then LaBarbera said, “Same sex- relationships are immoral.” It is not good for children to be exposed to such relationships, he said, adding later in the debate that the relationships are wrong themselves. LaBarbera argued (without regard to context) that Andrew Sullivan, a well-known gay commentator, states that outside affairs are accepted in gay monogamous relationships. He then leapt to the ridiculous conclusion thattherefore there is no fidelity in gay relationships, no true monogamy.
That’s when I sighed and reached for the phone. “My gay son does not have any children, but I’m tired, Peter, of hearing that my son’s relationship with his partner is not legitimate. They have a relationship. They are true to each other. My son goes out to work to support his partner.” Lynn interrupted me with the news that the participants couldn’t hear me, so I had to stop talking. Lynn summarized my statement and made it sound even better, I thought. After my comment Cepek cemented his point: we are talking about loving families and homes, not merely sex.
I would have liked to finish what I intended to say. I was just getting warmed up to tell LaBarbera that he is talking about families here, not isolated couples who decide to raise children on their own. These couples assume responsibilities for families, often without having federal or state support in the form of the many civil rights accorded heterosexual families. They raise responsible children, good citizens, in spite of lukewarm or absent societal support. They find for themselves and their children community support among their families of birth, peers, their coworkers, and their houses of worship.
When a right-wing conservative talks authoritatively about gay people with nothing more than righteous absurdities, he is talking falsely to me about my son. He is hurting not only my son and others like him, he is hurting me and he is hurting my family. He demonizes and slanders us without knowing us, without caring about us.
Who does he think he is, anyway? What gives him the right to spout nonsense, to judge people who love one another and establish homes together? Unable to hear and accept legitimate academic data, he bolsters his so-called arguments with opinions from gay commentator Sullivan who has long been in favor of gay marriage but has given opinions on promiscuity in a certain segment of the gay community. LaBarbera generalizes this activity to all gays. As Cepek pointed out, promiscuity is equally alive in the heterosexual community. Swingers are swingers, whether gay or straight.
I’d go on, but I calm myself with the thought that my friends, a lesbian couple, are at last going to be parents. Having gone through the expense, the rigors, and the intrusions of fertility treatments, the implantation of embryos and the disappointment of a miscarriage, they have persisted over years to come to this point. They are having twins. And, oh, these babies are so wanted! They will be so loved and so cared for by us all: their mothers, their mothers’ families, their friends, their coworkers, and their religious family. Here is where I shall put my hope for the future and let the rhetoric of the Peter LaBarberas of the world fade into eventual obscurity.
©2007 Kay Mehl Miller. Kay is the author of Talking It Over: Understanding Sexual Diversity.