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Living with the enemy

by Jessica Carreras

Imagine welcoming someone into your home who adamantly disagrees with
everything you believe in. Imagine sharing meals with them, watching
them hug your children and giving them a place to sleep for a month.
To Tom and Dennis Patrick of Ann Arbor, it was a situation they welcomed
with open arms.
Now in its third season, the FX show "30 Days" has put willing participants in uncomfortable situations that test their beliefs and expose them to direct opposition. For the Patricks, whose "Same-Sex Parenting" episode airs on June 24 that meant bringing Katie, a 41-year-old housewife from California, into their home.
Dennis, a professor at Eastern Michigan University, and Tom, a math teacher in the Plymouth-Canton high school, live with their four adopted sons: Josh, Joey, Paul and Raul. Likewise, Katie and her husband have two adopted sons of their own. However, while Katie – who was also adopted as a child – believes that its important to help foster children, she believes that gay and lesbian couples should not be part of that equation. Her beliefs were put to the test last year when she spent the month of September with the Patricks, who hoped that they could help her to accept that their family was just as good as theirs. "I was very hopeful that she would change her mind after spending time with our family," said Dennis Patrick of his initial expectations.
However, the month would pan out much differently than either side expected. In the end, both sides remained steadfast; Katie with her views and the Patricks with theirs. But despite the negative outcome, Dennis and Tom felt it was still worth their time.
"I got to see some of the other episodes," Dennis Patrick said of "30 Days." He noted that while in some, the participants came into the experience with an open mind, Katie came to cement and defend her beliefs. "I learned from her that some people's minds don't change that easily."
Still, the Patricks tried to befriend her. Throughout the month, Katie attended numerous gay and lesbian functions, including a meeting with COLAGE, a get together with lesbian moms and a barbeque with the Patricks and their friends. But none of it was enough to change Katie's mind – even seeing the rough conditions that foster children live in when they're not adopted.
"I tried to develop a relationship with her and find what I could connect with her on because I thought that'd be a way of reaching out to her and changing her mind," Dennis Patrick explained. "But then it seemed like it was the same thing over and over again. No matter what experience she went through, seeing our family, seeing other families…nothing changed her mind. It became a little frustrating after a while because she kept going back to that same belief."
That belief was based on her religious morals, grounded in the Mormon church. Katie's belief that gays and lesbians should not adopt children or have the rights of married couples was cemented – leading to heated arguments, tears shed and the loss of what could have been a friendship with the Patricks.
"She was under the impression that we could still be friends, even though she felt what we were doing was a sin," Dennis said. "I didn't want her to leave thinking that was acceptable, even though that was hard."
Moreover, though it wasn't part of the show, Dennis said that Katie revealed plans to go back to California and work against gay foster parents. "I told her I spent so much of my time trying to open doors for kids in foster care that I couldn't be friends with someone who is trying to close the same doors I'm trying to open."
Though the Patricks were disheartened by the situation, they came out with the hope that not every critic would end up like Katie after watching the show. "I'm hopeful that people watching the episode might change their minds about gay parents," Dennis Patrick said. "If that happens, if even one person changed their mind, the whole 30 days would be worthwhile."
Until June 24, that positive outcome remains to be seen.

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Topics: News
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