What the family values folks don’t get about family

On the weekends, my four-year old daughter comes to work with me. There isn’t much for her to do. She certainly isn’t allowed in patient rooms. She doesn’t help me make medical decisions. But we spend twenty minutes each way in the car laughing. We walk around the hospital, everyone greeting her, everyone her friend. One time, when she was actually admitted to the hospital, she wasn’t scared at all because, “all my friends are there.”

Friday night, we went to services. My mother-in-law was singing, and she asked us to come. Normally, I’m not one for formal religious observances—it’s just not my thing. So rather than contemplating the nature of the universe, I watched my family. My daughter ran around saying “hi” to all of her friends (that’s everyone), cuddled her grandfather, sat on her pre-school teacher’s lap, played with her cousin. It was about family.

When she is having one of her tantrums, and my wife can’t possibly take another minute of it, we trade places. When it’s all over, we all climb in bed together and cuddle and laugh. It’s family.

I was watching Dan Savage and and some Family Research Council talking head on Anderson Cooper the other night. The were talking about the Prop 8 debacle in California, and it finally hit me for the first time—the “family values” groups have no idea what family is, not even a clue.

If you read their websites, James Dobson and others are always talking about things like “Three Lies About Sex Before Marriage”, “Pornography”, and “The Gay Revisionist Agenda”.

And from the AC360 interview:

SAVAGE: There is no confrontation with religious liberties.

PERKINS: — these demonstrations of Violating the spaces of the church and going in and disrupting their services.

SAVAGE: That hasn’t happened.

PERKINS: Yes, it has happened. They’ve been spray painting churches, vandalizing churches.

COOPER: Tony, the tens of thousands of people demonstrated so far most have been extremely peaceful. There may have been a few incidences here and there. But I don’t think it is accurate to say there has been a large scale of invasion of churches.

COOPER: Tony, should the civil rights of individuals be left up to the majority to decide?

PERKINS: No one has unrestrained liberties in this country to marry whomever they want. Someone can’t marry a close blood relative or an underage person. There are restrictions upheld in almost every civilization for millennia.

SAVAGE: For millennia it was legal for men to beat their wives.

PERKINS: Dan, would you let somebody else speak.

COOPER: Tony, you’ve got to finish your thought because I want to ask one other question. Tony, finish your though.

PERKINS: Look, this is about redefining marriage. It is not about what — you try to compare this to interracial marriage. It is not the same thing. There were extra provisions put that would prohibit people that were man and woman to marry.

This is redefining marriage. This is a total different issue. The people of California have spoken. In fact, every time this has gone on to the ballot and people have had a chance to vote —

The anti-gay marriage folks think that family is all about fear, sex, and violence. For them, marriage is about control—control of who marries and why, control of the woman by the man. It’s also about sex. Sure, marriage and sex are related, but most people understand that sex is only one aspect of marriage. If you listen to the Prop 8 types, you’d think that gay people get married for the sex (and that soon enough people will marry their cousins or their goat for sex). News flash, folks—gay people aren’t getting married in order to have sex. They can already do that (thanks to a recent supreme court decision). They get married for the same reasons as most straight couples—love, comfort, freedom from fear. Believe it or not, some gay people want to trade places when their daughter is having a tantrum, and want to cuddle in bed afterward. They don’t want to have to worry that when their kid is in the hospital, there will be a problem figuring out who the “real” parent is.

These folks who fought for Prop 8 don’t understand the real meaning of family, of love, of comfort. For most of us, it’s not about fulfilling one fringe group’s idea of what God wants. It’s about creating a life with another, sharing a physical and emotional space with someone, rejoicing together when things are good, and holding each other when things are tough. It’s human.