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Op-ed: What the JCPenney Dad Got for Father's Day

Op-ed: What the JCPenney Dad Got for Father's Day


He's the dad on the right. And what Cooper Smith says about the reaction his family's photo in a JCPenney catalog might surprise you. It surprised him.

This Father's Day, Todd and I received one of the best gifts any person, father or not, can receive -- the gift of overwhelming love and support.

Earlier this year, we were approached by representatives from JCPenney about our family being part of their Father's Day catalog celebrating the diversity of real-life dads. We instantly agreed, knowing that this would be a great opportunity to "normalize" families like ours in the minds of millions of everyday Americans. Little did we know that it would create the media frenzy that it has, or a tidal wave of love and support.

Since the beautiful two-page photo spread of us laughing and tickling our children Claire and Mason went public, our picture has spread like wildfire across social media, has been flashed on TV screens in just about every media market in the country and has been covered by international press, including CNN, MSNBC, Time magazine and London's Daily Mail.

While we had no hesitation in doing the ad itself, we initially girded ourselves for a negative backlash. To our surprise, the response to our famiy has been overwhelmingly positive -- shockingly positive, in fact.

We've received hundreds of emails, Facebook posts, Twitter comments and cards in the mail from everyone from long-lost friends and classmates to complete strangers in remote parts of the United States and beyond, each filled with heartfelt sentiments of support and acceptance. We've even heard from celebrities and other public figures.

Sure, there have been some pretty hateful comments and notes, too. But they're nothing we haven't heard our whole lives. More importantly, they've been eclipsed at least 100-to-1 by the positive ones.

Some of the best sentiments come from straight mothers and fathers who don't understand what all the fuss is about, accompanied with vows to drop by JCPenney just to spite the "One Million" Moms. Others have shared stories of their own adoptions. And many same-sex couples have thanked us for representing them in their small towns and communities and for sparking a national conversation about the value of diversity and inclusiveness of all families.

Personally, it's warmed our hearts and renewed our faith that most Americans are fair-minded people and that there's a helluva lot more love out there for families like ours than we ever knew.

And that's the greatest Father's Day gift of all.

COOPER SMITH is the founder of Cooper Smith Agency, a public relations and social media firm, and the lifestyle e-zine Gay List Daily. He recently launched Two Daddies, One Love | Two Mommies, One Love, a blog and networking site for gay parents and those who want to be. He lives in Dallas with his partner of 13 years, Todd Koch, and their 3-year-old children, Claire and Mason.

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