Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Opinion

Column: Families of same-sex couples here to stay

My children face many pressures in life. They are both adopted and biracial. If you asked them, they would say the fact that their parents are gay is pretty far down the list of things that bother them.

Much higher up on the list are the restrictions on video games or having to get all their weekend homework done on Friday. Our teenagers hear the debate about gay parents, but they don't understand what the big deal is. As far as they are concerned, all parents are equally uncool.

It isn't often that I inject my life into my writing or television work, but since the quest for equality has come to the Supreme Court, there is no better time.

A week ago I was on the Meet the Press roundtable. I have been on the roundtable regularly over the past year — debating the budget, the election, the differences between our political parties. Yet this time was different. I sat next to Ralph Reed, a man with whom I have had a cordial, even friendly, relationship, as he talked about how much better off my children would be if I weren't their parent.

Of course, he didn't say that directly — he quoted scientific studies (that have been debunked) and unnamed experts to make his point. But his point was unmistakable, and it seared my heart. I realized that my own story is woven into this national debate on marriage, as hundreds of thousands of others' stories are and will continue to be.

I came out as a lesbian in college, though I knew at a much younger age that I felt differently about boys than my girlfriends did.

My first professional job was as an advocate for public interests, and then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein was among the clients. The AIDS crisis hit San Francisco's health department hard, and I was on Capitol Hill seeking support for the Centers for Disease Control. Then-Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., was willing to give support but not if cities used the money to help any "homosexuals." If that were the case, San Francisco would be out of luck. I appealed to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who responded that, since he liked me, he would warn me that I shouldn't be lobbying to help "those kind of people."

It was the first time I had experienced a person in power challenging gay men's and lesbians' rights to access the benefits that all Americans enjoy, just because we are different. When I told him that I was one of those kind of people, he paused.

To his credit, Hatch later helped on some issues. But hundreds of thousands of gay people died because Helms and his allies were more successful than not in those early days. It made an impression on me. While it gave me a deeper understanding of prejudice on all fronts, it also gave me resolve. All too often, human nature is to condemn that which is unfamiliar. So my unofficial job for the next 30 years became making sure that official Washington knew and liked gay men and lesbians — personally. Because we can't do this alone.

Flash forward to today. My children have a great many privileges. They go to great schools; they want for no material needs; and they have a loving family and a large circle of friends who are rooting for their success. They are also growing up among peers who don't care whom their parents love. My biggest hope for my kids is that they don't get so comfortable in their lives that they don't fight against injustices when they see them happening to others — that empathy, rather than judgment, lies at their core.

I know that Ralph Reed wants the same for his children. The difference is that he and his allies are fixated on the notion that their view of "tradition" should be imposed on all of us through the government. That is what lies at the heart of the cases the Supreme Court heard last week. Do the justices uphold "tradition," or do they unfold the real meaning of constitutional rights, to allow the government to treat all Americans equally? No matter what the court does, my family is not going away to make Reed's life more comfortable. He is just going to have to adapt to sharing this world — and the benefits of being an American — with people like us.

Hilary Rosen is a managing director of the political consulting firm SKDKnickerbocker and a contributor to CNN.

© 2013 Washington Post

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