Dad Life

Born into the Culture Wars: Growing up with LGBT Parents – Part 1

In Louisiana in 2009 there was controversy as a parish justice of the peace refused to approve the marriage of an interracial couple. Justice Keith Bardwell admitted that this was his customary stance out of concern for the potential children of such a union. In a quote for the NY Times, he gave his reason for not marrying a black man and a white woman as: “There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage,” Mr. Bardwell said. “I think those children suffer, and I won’t help put them through it.”


The reaction to this incident, and the revelation that Mr. Bardwell has done this before, resulted in condemnation from all sides, including from LA Gov. Bobby Jindal. ”Disciplinary action should be taken immediately — including the revoking of his license,” Jindal said. Perhaps the most appropriate response came from Bill Quigley, director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Justice, who opined ”Perhaps he’s worried the kids will grow up and be president,” referring to President Barack Obama.

Mr. Bardwell could be considered a living fossil of an era when bi-racial families had unnecessary hardships heaped upon them by an ignorant populace. Yet if loving couples allowed themselves to be intimated into never having children, our society would never have moved beyond such ignorance. We’re still enough of a race conscious nation that a bi-racial family can cause some controversy, as witnessed by a recent uproar over a Cheerios commercial featuring a bi-racial family, but that is only among an ever-shrinking sliver of the population. It’s now the bigots who are rightfully shamed by society and not innocent couples in love or their children. This was equally evident from the overwhelming support Cheerios and its starring family received in response to the criticisms levied at them.

Justice Bardwell’s concern for children of historically taboo marriages can be seen as equally applicable to the children of same-sex couples. Like bi-racial children, these kids are involuntarily drawn into the culture wars.

And yet as we’re seeing with the overwhelming shift in public support that led to the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy, and the slow but still forward motion in the acceptance of marriage equality, someday LGBT-headed families will likewise be seen as unsurprising. Hearts and minds are already being won through hit shows such as Modern Family and the ever growing number of gay and lesbian celebrities who are visible with their own families. All of this will in turn remove the unnecessary challenges heaped upon our children by the Keith Bardwells of the world whether out of misguided concern, ignorance, or outright hatred.

But until then, what is it like for our kids? What are the current challenges they face while awaiting the day when their families are no longer considered aberrations or threats to the natural order? In Part 2, coming soon, I’ll include conversations I’ve had with grown children of LGBT parents.

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With everything going on in our country, I think saying that it has been a crazy year is an understatement. It has been emotionally difficult and draining at times for many. This year brought so many new changes that it is hard to wrap our minds around some of them. The daunting feeling of uncertainty looms over our heads as we march forward into this unfamiliar territory led by someone we do not particularly trust.

With that said, one thing will not change- the holidays. For my family, this time of year brings cheer, joy, hope, and optimism for the new year to come.

I have always had one golden rule when it comes to decorating our home for the holidays: the current holiday must pass before decorating for another.

Recently, our two year old, Alli Mae, had started to develop an appreciation for all that Christmas brings. The way she lights up and gets excited when she sees Christmas decorations made me think for the first time in my life, what if I changed things up this year? Decorating earlier will also help attenuate the political frustration that this year brought. That coupled with the amazement that our little girl has for Christmas makes a strong case for decorating for Christmas early. Sure, there are diehard Thanksgiving fans that grumble at the thought of Christmas coming early and I am sure they will give this a healthy eye roll and, if so, that's ok. We are not replacing Thanksgiving... we are enhancing it.

We will most definitely continue to teach our children the meaning of Thanksgiving and to enjoy the symbolic feast that comes along with it. The white pumpkins I usually put out for Thanksgiving really made a statement when I mixed them with the Christmas attire. I was quite surprised and impressed by the final outcome!

These days, one of my primary goals in life is to create an environment for my family that is happy, healthy, and nurturing. I want them to get excited about Christmas, both the true meaning and the atmosphere that it brings. When my children walk into the house, I want them to be transported into a bright, cheerful place that they will always remember. Perhaps it will even inspire the way they celebrate the holidays with their families (and our future grandchildren) in the future. The world can be a harsh, cold and scary place, especially lately it seems. I would be lying if I said I didn't do this for myself, too. I am. For the first time in my life, I am worried for the future of our country. I am terrified of the direction we as Americans are taking and worry it is setting a precedent for what the future will be like for my family. Mass shootings seem to happen monthly now, yet there continues to be a lack of response by Congress to create solutions. Bigotry and racism, masked by patriotism, also plague our society. I know I am speaking of sore subjects, but all of these reasons give me the motivation for welcoming the Christmas season earlier.

I do have faith that in time, competent leaders will emerge and will steer us in a direction that will help fade our fear into the bold and lionhearted society that we are. We as LGBTQ families need to comfort one another. Lets extend our hands to each other. Let this holiday season not be about the "correct" time in which we decorate for Christmas, moreover lets make it about coming together as a community that lifts each other up. Lets protect each other. Lets embrace each other for all the we are, all that we bring and all that we stand for. Let us not be silenced- and pushed into a corner but let us lead by example- while showing our children who their parents are by being respectful and tolerant and warmhearted as we welcome this Christmas season.

Erik and Douglas' two daughters, Ella and Alli Mae, who recently turned 2

May you and your family have the most beautiful and happiest of holidays, regardless of when you choose to welcome Christmas. I pray that 2018 will bring each of you happiness, patience, resilience and with time, we will get there, together!

I would love for you to follow our family's journey on Instagram, Nolapapa.com and like us on Facebook.

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As celebrations sweep across Australia, the LGBTQ community, along with their allies, rejoice in the results of the marriage equality vote. Despite the controversial campaign that surrounded the plebiscite, love won. And won big! An overwhelming 79.5% of the population took part in the survey (12.7 million people), and in every state and territory, the majority voted "yes," with 61.6%.

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