Arts & Entertainment
We must take back 'family'
Originally printed 7/21/2011 (Issue 1929 - Between The Lines News)
The word family has suffered a lot of abuse.
Republicans have dubbed themselves the "family values party." Many conservative organizations have hid their bigotry behind the word, such as the American Family Association. In our current collective consciousness, the word family means something traditional, parochial and conservative.
But we all have families.
No matter who you are or how you label yourself, you have parents and siblings and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.
You also probably have people you care about but are related to by something other than blood, such as marriage or adoption.
Conservatives, Republicans and evangelicals like to pretend that only one kind of family is valid: the so-called "traditional" family structure of a man, a woman and 2.5 children. But all of our families should be respected and protected.
In our first-ever family issue, we show how gay and lesbian parents and their families are completely unprotected in the state of Michigan. People in our community want to start families, but there are many dangerous pitfalls that await them.
There are thousands of children in the state who would benefit by being adopted. But the ones in our community who want to adopt are relegated to a life of single parenthood: even though there is no law explicitly stating that gay and lesbian parents cannot adopt, it's banned in practice - thanks to people in power who value only one kind of family. Even the children of same-sex couples who conceive will have only one legal parent in our state.
For at least six years, the state legislature has all but ignored bills that would make same-sex parent adoption explicitly legal. Different attorneys general and state Supreme Court justices have snubbed out the practice (because such adoptions used to happen). And our community centers and supporting foundations have even ignored the plight of parents who are fighting for the right to visit their children - this we find especially shameful.
In cases of breakups, only the biological parent or the legal adoptive parent has right to full custody of the child. This means many of the other non-biological or non-legal parents get left behind, and many children lose the love and care of a parent who raised them.
And if these children lose a parent by death, they can be put into foster care or they can be left financially destitute. Why? Children can't receive Social Security benefits for a parent they were never legally attached to. And if their legally recognized parent passes away, they can easily become a ward of the state.
For being a community that doesn't make much noise about our families, we sure do have a lot of pressing family issues. It's time that we stick up for ourselves. It's time that our community centers and foundations rally behind this issue. It's time that we tell our legislators that our families are our lives, and our families must be protected. It's time that we stop suffering in silence. It's time that we demand the right to care for our families.