Marc Salans, his partner and their 12-year-old twins don’t plan to do much this Father’s Day. “The kids usually make us a card or cook us breakfast, but it’s all very low key. Oddly enough, we make a much bigger deal out of Mother’s Day,” he wrote to me in an e-mail.
“The idea behind [it] is that we want our children — who don’t have a
mother — to look forward to Mother’s Day rather than dread it. And, guess what — it works! Our kids LOVE mother’s day!”
The Chevy Chase family is part of the gay parenting community, a demographic that is both growing and gaining acceptance. With its presence, more and more Americans are coming to see gay parenting as, well, parenting.
Of the almost 800,000 gay couples in the country, about 20 percent are raising children. In raw numbers, that translates to more than 270,000 children, according to UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute (PDF), which crunched the most recent U.S. Census figures on sexual orientation.
Gay adoption is also growing, despite significant legal barriers in some states (recall the bruising battle over possibly banning sexual orientation discrimination in adoptions in Virginia this year?).
The Williams Institute figures show that 19 percent of gay households raising children include an adopted child. That’s up from 8 percent in 2000. Tuesday, the New York Times examined how much of that growth is due to more and more partnerships between adoption advocates and the gay community.
At the same time, Americans are becoming as blase about the difference between same-sex and hetero parents as Salans is about Father’s Day. A Pew Research Center survey released this year reported that 48 percent said it didn’t make much difference to society.
Fourteen percent of respondents said gay parenting was “good for society.” Thirty-five percent called it “bad for society” when a same-sex couple raises a child. That was down from 50 percent in 2007.
Salans, a lawyer with the federal government, offered me a glimpse of just how normal his parenting world is when I first asked for his Father’s Day plans.
“This is a really, REALLY bad week for me! I’m getting ready to go on vacation at the end of the week, am frantically trying to get things done at work before I leave, and doing last-minute shopping for items I’m suddenly realizing the kids need but don’t have. . . . I’ll try my best to be helpful.”
It was the kind of e-mail I’ve composed myself. The kind that expresses the insanity we all try to juggle sometimes. The kind that gives us a good reason to thank our parents and ourselves twice, or once, a year.