“Selena has two mommies.”
This surprising announcement was made by Selena’s friend at the summer camp where I met the two 8-year-old girls last summer. The statement wasn’t surprising because the girl had two mothers, but more so because she had two mothers and was accepted by the conservative, upper-middle-class community she lived in. This typically is not the case, as the term “parent” tends to have a rigid and exclusive meaning in America.
In New Jersey, where this particular summer
camp was located, former Gov. Jim McGreevey
had filed a custody petition asking for joint custody of his 5-year-old daughter. According to the “New York Times,” he was trying to prevent being cutoff from his child because of issues his wife has with his sexuality.
He only asked for joint custody. And if he wasn’t gay, this likely wouldn’t be a debate.The Evesham School District, also in New Jersey, showed its third-grade classes a video about diversity among families, including homosexual
couples. Parents protested furiously until the school district pulled the video. Now, we understand that the term “parent” doesn’t apply to homosexuals raising a child.
Society generally denies them the right to a parental title. Questions about whether same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt, or whether homosexuals should be allowed legal rights to their partner’s biological children are still widely debated.
Now, the U.S. State Department has tightened the definition of who can be considered a parent. The Department began requesting DNA testing as proof that immigrants are family members of those already living here. But sometimes the DNA didn’t match. It became increasingly difficult for these people to bring their loved ones to the United States without that DNA proof of blood relation.
The definition of a parent has become as exclusive as it can get – the egg donor and the sperm donor. I use the term “donor,” because sometimes that’s all biological parents are to their offspring. Not every person who makes a baby becomes part of that child’s life. Otherwise we wouldn’t have so many children living in foster homes.
Today, homes are as diverse as anybody could imagine. A family today might include a couple and children they’ve had together or children they’ve had from previous marriages. It might be a single parent raising his or her biological child or a foster child. It could even be a grandparent raising a grandchild.Society should not begrudge these people the title of “parent,” and say that these are not families. Some children are closer to a step-parent than they ever were to their biological parent. Some children have two mothers and maybe don’t see their biological father, or vice versa.
Clearly, Selena wouldn’t be accepted by many families in Evesham. No one has the right to deny that the two women raising her are her mothers. Just as the State Department has no right to specify that “family” is limited to blood relations.
They shouldn’t even ask for these DNA tests, which they claim are a security precaution.
DNA testing can’t determine a person’s intentions. And they certainly can’t prove whether or not a person is a terrorist.
Ultimately, blood and sexuality don’t determine what makes a person a mother or father. Supporting a child as he or she grows up – making sure he or she goes to school and does homework, has a place to sleep, clothes to wear and food to eat – is what truly makes a parent. Parents are the people who offer an embarrassing round of congratulations when their son finally brings home an A in Algebra, or who wait up half the night when their daughter didn’t make it home by curfew. No one has the right to say otherwise.
Ashley Helaudais can be reached at email@example.com.