Variety of families capable of raising children

Oshkosh Northwestern, May 11, 2015

 

Katy Faust’s op-ed piece that appeared in the Northwestern on April 29 offered a perspective on the same-sex marriage debate that has been missing. Ms. Faust’s mother has been in a committed relationship with a woman for more than 30 years. She co-wrote an amicus curiae to the Supreme Court in favor of limiting marriage to heterosexual couples. She contends “It takes a man and woman to make a child, and that happens to be the ideal setting for nurturing the child.” Our public policies, including the legal definition of marriage, she argues, should promote “the rights and well-being of children.”

She believes “Kids have a right to their mom and dad… in the pantheon of rights, and pseudo rights, the right to one’s mother and father is the most self-evident… Yet here we are, barreling down the path of endorsing a family structure that will guarantee life-long loss for children.”

As one who was raised by a single mother, I find Ms. Faust’s thoughts insensitive and hurtful. I understand that research has shown that children raised in two-parent households tend to live more stable and productive lives. Recent research is finding that this also applies to families where both parents are the same gender. I was not raised by research; I was raised by my mother who was widowed at 28 and left with two sons, aged 4 years and 8 months. I suppose I could argue that my “right” to a father was violated. Leukemia had a way of doing that in the mid-’60s.

My mother raised my brother and me in a very stable, loving household. I can only guess whether my life would have been better and more stable had my father lived. Both my brother and I have been married for more than 20 years and have earned advanced degrees. Statistics may show that we are anomalies, but statistics are not destiny.

For years I have found discussions of families and social policy to encourage strong families difficult. Single-parent families are seen as less than optimal, yet as one who was raised in one, I would be thrilled if all families had the same support, love and encouragement mine did. Implicit — and often explicit — in these discussions is the assumption that single-parent households are deficient. That hurts.

My family of origin was just fine. No, it was better than fine. And it was not the number of adults, nor their sexual orientation, that made it so. It was love, dedication and commitment. All kinds of families, all kinds of families have and should be built on love, dedication and commitment. No legislation can compel or create loving, dedicated, committed families.

Policies and attitudes that recognize the wide variety of ways to raise healthy children to be responsible adults should be encouraged and applauded. I cannot imagine how it is friendly to the Supreme Court, or American society, to narrow the beautiful variety that all kinds of families use to raise the next generation.

Community columnist Rev. Thomas C. Willadsen is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Oshkosh. He has lived in Oshkosh since 1999.