June 14, 2004
As a daughter of gay parents, I have not one, but two dads to celebrate on Father's Day. I have no problem with this, but President Bush does. He wants to ban same-sex marriage with a constitutional amendment.
What is it about my two dads' 26-year-relationship that the president finds so threatening?
I was 5 years old when my mother and father divorced and my dad came out as gay. My father's partner, Russ, is my "other father." We have a history together, we share holidays, we re-tell each other old jokes that seem funny only to us and, yes, like any other family, we can get on each other's nerves.
The Bush administration wants Americans to believe that recognizing the relationship between Russ and my father would threaten the sanctity of marriage.
But if protecting the sanctity of marriage is the goal, then banning same-sex marriage is counterproductive.
Denying marriage equality -- and, in essence, denying respect and dignity -- leads some gay people to hide by entering into fake heterosexual marriages. Taunted by the rhetoric that says that their love for someone of the same gender makes them less than worthy, they force themselves to say false vows in front of their family, their community and their God.
In the short term, these marriages might look like successes -- "ex-gay" people who now seem heterosexual -- but this facade comes at a huge emotional cost to spouses and children. Either the couple stays together maintaining an illusion, or the relationship ends in divorce.
My father hoped he would "change" when he married my mother. It was 1963, and he saw no examples in our society that showed it was possible to have a healthy, happy relationship with another man, much less raise children as a same-sex couple. But trying his best to suppress his homosexuality did not make him heterosexual. It only made him married.
And then divorced.
This Father's Day when I go out to brunch with my two dads, I would like to be able to simply enjoy my time with my family. But the president's insistence on vilifying gay families makes it impossible to forget that the validity of our family is under attack.
I'm not asking Bush to join my family at brunch or even to pretend to like us. His record shows he is no ally. But it's mean-spirited to use his power to recruit more bullies for his playground of intolerance.
Abigail Garner is author of Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell it Like It Is (HarperCollins, 2004). She can be reached at email@example.com.