By Marc Paige
Originally published on Advocate.com February 18 2005 12:00 AM ET
At 19 years old, Maya Keyes, daughter of former presidential and U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes, finds herself in a difficult position—one that is very familiar to millions of gay youth in our country, especially those who have grown up in right-wing Christian families. She loves her father, does not want to disappoint him, yet knows that her father thinks her sexual orientation is “sinful” and represents “selfish hedonism.” For the young gay daughter of a man who has often cited his religion to denigrate homosexuals, Maya Keyes has had to endure a father who has campaigned for years against her own welfare and equality.It is always ironic and sad when a high-profile public figure in the antigay movement is found to have a gay child. Many of these young people are raised in right-wing Christian environments and have parents who campaign against any government recognition of the humanity of gay people. Yet some of their kids end up gay. If they are very strong, these young people may become well-adjusted adults despite the self-hatred that their parents and their churches have instilled in them throughout childhood.Right-wing Christians continue to rant about homosexuality undermining American families, but actually it is homophobia that has damaged so many families—including some rather high-profile right-wing Christian ones. Operation Rescue founder and fervently antigay Randall Terry has said of his gay son, Jamiel, that he is “bringing great sadness to our home and embarrassment to our family” and “is no longer welcome in my home.” For his part, Jamiel said he still loves his father, and if he could choose, he “definitely would not choose to be gay, especially in the family that I live in.”When Sadie Fields, chairwoman of the Georgia Christian Coalition, found out her daughter Tess was gay, she went to where she worked and told her she was “dead to the family” and called her sick, crazy, and “of the devil.” The late conservative Republican state Senator from California, William J. “Pete” Knight, was that state’s leading opponent of gay marriage. He was estranged from his gay son David and never met David’s partner of 10 years, Joseph.There are also some high-profile right-wing parents that have kept their gay kids close in their lives. Phyllis Schlafly, founder of Eagle Forum, has for years deftly finessed the delicate balance of satiating her “pro-family” constituents while trying to avoid assaulting her own family member; Schlafly and her gay son John remain close.Parents, Friends, and Families of Lesbians and Gays is launching an ad campaign highlighting the close relationships of some high-profile straight celebrities and their gay loved ones. The campaign’s message is: “Stay close to your loved ones because relationships are too precious to lose.” It will feature, among others, Ben Affleck and his cousin Jason, congressman Gregory Meeks and his brother John, talk show host Cristina Saralegui and her brother Ignacio, and congressman and Mrs. Gephardt and their daughter Chrissy.In the future, maybe we will see our nation’s vice president in the ad campaign with his wife, Lynne, and their gay daughter, Mary. Although the Cheneys have stated they have tremendous pride in both their daughters, there are some in the Bush-Cheney administration who continue to promote the idea that homosexuals are not as good as heterosexuals, and that positive images of gay people should not be in public view.In only her second day in office, Education Secretary Margaret Spelling attacked a PBS children’s program featuring various families from around the country for including two loving Vermont families, each with two gay moms and their kids. When any member of the Bush-Cheney administration deems gay families not fit viewing for children, it is an assault on all gay Americans, including the daughter of our nation’s vice president. A Cheney family appearance in the PFLAG “Stay Close” campaign would go a long way to heal the deep wounds left by a presidential campaign marred by politically motivated attacks against gays and this most recent display of intolerance by Margaret Spelling.One family we will not be seeing in the PFLAG campaign any time soon is the Keyes family. Maya Keyes has recently written in her blog that her father has given her two weeks to leave the family-owned apartment in Illinois and has terminated her employment, leaving her with no resources. Maya writes, “After all the arguments and tension over the years, I always hoped it would never actually get to this point, although I suppose given our vastly divergent political beliefs it was inevitable.” [The Point Foundation, which awards scholarships to GLBT college students with leadership potential and limited resources of their own, has since stepped in to help Keyes with her immediate housing and with tuition for college this fall. —Ed.]For his entire career, Alan Keyes has promoted his version of “family values.” Now he is challenged to show his gay daughter true family values: not to have her sexual orientation be a barrier to the love and support that all young people need and deserve.