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The Kids Are Not All Right

The Kids Are Not All Right


For the estimated 2 million children of same-sex couples, anti-marriage equality laws have a real and harmful impact.

Earlier this spring, the National Organization for Marriage, a small but well-funded group that serves as the preeminent mouthpiece for anti-marriage equality efforts, found itself in an unenviable position. In 2009, NOM had sued Maine election officials to keep secret the names of donors who had contributed to its successful campaign to repeal same-sex marriage rights in the state. But the organization lost in federal court, is trying to entice the U.S. Supreme Court into hearing its appeal, and has seen saw some of its internal strategy documents go public. In one, NOM detailed its "cultural strategies," where it plotted tactics pitting gays against racial minorities as well as plans to mobilize Catholic clergy in marriage battles around the country. Both of these cynical gambits from the memo appear to be well under way.

But among the group's potential budgeted programs in the document that never caught fire is a $150,000 effort focused on "children of same-sex couples and their concerns" and involving the hiring of an "outreach coordinator to identify children of gay parents willing to speak on camera." This in an obvious attempt to fix what has always been an Achilles' heel for antigay activists: how to spin and obfuscate facts about the real harm faced by children of LGBT parents.

According to the Williams Institute, an estimated 2 million children are being raised by same-sex couples in the United States. None of those couples are afforded the full and equal rights and responsibilities of marriage that straight couples are afforded. As a result, harmful laws create barriers to adoption, treat gay partners as legal strangers in medical decision-making situations for their families, and impose greater tax burdens on LGBT families, according to a recent study coauthored by the Center for American Progress, the Movement Advancement Project, and the Family Equality Council.

Staking equal claim to the word family has been an aim for campaigns working to defeat mean-spirited ballot initiatives in places such as Minnesota, where voters will decide in November whether to approve a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. The state already bans it by law. And unlike NOM, the Family Equality Council has found no shortage of young people willing to speak about their gay parents to stop these measures.

"Families convey what marriage really means," says executive director Jennifer Chrisler. "There should be an emphasis in talking about strengthening families and making sure that kids being raised by LGBT parents aren't being treated unfairly. I think this messaging is now resonating throughout the movement."

To spread the word, Chrisler's organization just launched Outspoken Generation, a youth campaign featuring kids of LGBT parents. They include Zach Wahls, whose testimony before the Iowa state legislature in support of his two mothers became a viral video sensation last year, and Ella Robinson, daughter of gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson.

Antigay folks, not surprisingly, slam this as indoctrinating young people. Sour grapes, perhaps, given that they conspired to manipulate youth for their own divisive agenda. We now have the documents to prove it.

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Andrew Harmon