“You’ve Come A Long Way Baby,” but Don’t Rest on Your Laurels!

On Thursday, with a 258 to 169 vote, the House lawmakers approved the Respect for Marriage Act.  Thirty-nine Republicans backed the legislation with all Democrats present.  The bipartisan vote mirrored the findings of the May Gallup poll that 71% of Americans say they support legal same-sex marriage, up from 27% in 1996. Once signed into law by President Biden, the Respect for Marriage Law will prohibit states from denying the validity of an out-of-state marriage based on sex, race or ethnicity.

1980s And Now

LGBT marriage was legalized in 2015 and according to a Family Equality Council Survey, 63% of millennials (ages 26 to 41)want to start a family.  However, having gay parents now is much easier than it was during the 1980’s as told in The First Generation of Children from Openly Gay and Lesbian Homes in 1983 by author Joe Gantz.   The straight kids interviewed from 1979-83 said that no one their age would understand their family structure so they kept their home life secret.  They hid because their parents could have lost their jobs or the family could have been split up, viewed as “deviants” by family court judges for violating state sodomy laws.  This pervasive fear led to anger, anguish, poor behavior and dysfunction in the children who were bearing the brunt of the secret.  It was a lot of stress on the family.

Interviewed 40 years later by Gantz, the same kids, now in their 50’s, some married, some divorced, found that they could out their parents, talk about their family freely, and find organizations and support for families like themselves, either on-line or in-person.  There are events for their families such as Family Week in Provincetown during the summer.

LGBT Marriage vs. Straight Marriage

On March 4,2020, I wrote a blog entitled “What Traditional Couples Can Learn from Gay Marriage,”  based on an interview from  QSALTLAKE, an LGBTQ+publication.  The reporter wanted to know whether kids of gay parents fared better than those raised by heterosexual parents.  His curiosity was peaked by a study by the University of Melbourne that had released the first official results from its Australian Study of Child Health in same-sex families.

It showed that kids of same-gender parents do as well, if not better than their parents with straight peers.  The Lesbian or Gay parents had no statistical differences vs. straight parents in mood behavior treatment and mental health that was measured.

I am quoted as saying the study puts to rest the notion that happy, emotionally stable children are the exclusive result of being raised by a straight mother and father.  Same-sex marriages are more equitable and not based on outdated stereotypes.  Consequently, the byproducts are children who are happier and reap the rewards of happily married parents.

Stephanie Coontz’s article in “The Gay Secret to Better Marriage,” February 16,2020, reports on researchers’ conclusion about the satisfaction of marriage in three sets of legally married couples, heterosexual, gay and lesbian.  These groups kept diaries about their marriages vis-a-vis distress.  The results:

  • The same-sex marriages had the lowest distress level.  Lesbians were somewhere in the middle.  Heterosexual marriages had the Highest level of dissatisfaction with their relationships.
  • Women do a disproportionate share of housework.  Seventy four of gay couples shared routine childcare vs. 38% of straight couples.
  • Researchers John Gottman and Robert Leventhal found that gays and lesbians who didn’t see “eye-to-eye” with their partners did so in a less combative way, not domineering or fearful as in a heterosexual way.
  • Husbands are often unaware of the care work their wife provides and commonly fail to recognize her needs for emotional support according to Debra Umberson, a social worker at the University of Texas.
  • Lesbian partnerships have higher breakup rates than gay male or heterosexual couples.
  • Male-female couples who share chores such as dishwashing, report greater intimacy, less strife than those where the wife is assigned the household duties.

Without unwanted children and with greater income and maturity, same-sex couples have to negotiate roles that in the past had no models.  They don’t rely on assumed heterosexual roles within marriage that don’t work for them or subjugate their partner.  They invent their own rules.

Miles to Go Before You Sleep

Although the U.S. and other countries have advanced acceptance of gay marriage, nbc.news.com, reported that in 2022, 240 anti-LGBTQ bills were filed in 2022 (238 in less than three months), up from 41 in 2018.  Florida has the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill, Texas criminalizes parents for seeking treatment for their transgender children.  Books such as Todd Parr’s The Family Book (2003) that was amended by a kindergarten class to include children who have two daddies or two moms, has been banned, along with others, from the school library. Also banned from the classroom are discussion of LGBT subjects. What happened to free speech?

As I said, we have a long way to go!

When Your Child is Gay

When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know

For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting as well as gay and lesbian content. For the past two years, Wesley has concentrated almost exclusively on the lesbian and gay community, specifically on advising straight parents of gay children on how to be better parents and raise happy, well-adjusted adults

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