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Protecting non-traditional family structures

Yesterday's rant here on the blog really got started several days ago when a prominent Catholic website I casually follow posted a piece on why the Church shouldn't take an accommodating approach to alternative lifestyles. (I enjoy reading opinions that differ from my own to see what others are thinking, even if I wholeheartedly disagree.) I'm not going to give them more web traffic by linking, but the summary is that disagreements within the Church family are different than disagreements outside the Church family. Never mind that the Church has taken a more robust interfaith approach to Muslims, Jews, etc. over the years. These are conservative Catholics trying to defend "traditional marriage." Anyway, what got my full attention was that this was one of the rare occasions in contemporary culture where cohabiting couples got lumped in with other "sinners" in the mix of how the culture is undermining traditional marriage.

I have occasionally spoken up as a defender of unmarried rights, but I wouldn't call myself a spokesperson by any means. Certainly not in the same way I defend modern dads, or science education, or gender equality. But this seemed like one of those situations where not enough of us are speaking up and we need a turn in the conversation. Especially after a friend of mine posted Republican Rick Santorum on The View talking about how important a biological/natural mother and father are to the raising of a child. This nonsense needs to be stopped. Nearly every week there is a steady line of policy papers and news pieces discussing how the decline of marriage (and single motherhood especially) is partly responsible for poverty. As if marrying a man is the key to economic security for women!

The "next step" after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage around the nation has been the twofold debate over religious liberty and the "is polygamy next" topic. Not that I'm against polyamory, mind you. (And please, please learn the difference between polygamy and polyamory if you're going to write on the topic, pundits!) I'm actually going to take it a step farther, however, and discuss why supporting any and all family structures is important. As I outlined in yesterday's post on ethical conflicts, the problem here is not "traditional marriage" per se. If you like the idea of a man and woman formalizing their bond together via the law and/or their religion, go for it. If you don't want that for yourself, here's the shouldn't feel like marriage is the only venue for you to form a family structure.

Because what backers of traditional marriage usually/frequently miss is that Americans already form all kinds of weird, different, unusual, alternative, and non-conforming family structures. And by claiming that traditional marriage holds some kind of mystical, important, dogmatic place in society, you're denying them rights, benefits, legal protections. Not just gays and lesbians. Not just unmarrieds like myself who are cohabiting with a partner. Families come in more flavors than you can count.

There are aunts and uncles, grandmothers, sisters, grandfathers, best friends, threesomes, fivesomes, community living, and more (sorry if I left your family structure out) who are trying their best to raise a family, send their kids to school, get lunches packed, save for retirement, etc.. You hurt them my claiming that marriage between a man and woman is special. Families look like families look. Let's support them all. Let's support the sister who is raising her sibling's kids while she is overseas serving in our military. Let's support the single mom living with her mother and using grandma as a daycare drop off ride while she gets to her early job. I could go on and on. It doesn't matter what a family looks like. It matters that we give them equality and the respect they deserve.

These numerous family structures all deserve to see each other in the hospital, get survivor benefits or not get kicked out of their home if someone should unexpectedly die, make medical decisions for each other, they deserve to be able to have their incomes counted fairly for tax purposes to receive the same resources that our preferred "traditional marriage" families get.

Traditional marriage is fine if that's your thing. But it's not special so quit pretending it is. What you're really saying by not giving equal rights to all families is "your family isn't good enough and it doesn't count." Quit marginalizing families. If you really want to support children, then support the ones raising them no matter who that is.

Let's end marriage-based discrimination.