Marriage is the most fundamental institution of civilization. - George W. Bush, today
No, it's not. Family is, and families take many shapes and forms.
My husband and I both grew up in solid two-parent families where Dad worked and Mom stayed home with the kids. We've been married 14 years with one child and we are doing fine with a two-career marriage that's the norm today.
But is ours the only sort of family that counts? No way. My brother and his longtime partner are a family unto themselves. They're also part of an extended family of friends, and I don't begrudge Jeff the fact that - due to geographical proximity and shared interests - he's closer to them than he is to me. Family means having people nearby with whom you can break bread on holidays, toast milestone birthdays, and call on when you need a hand.
When our daughter was younger, she had three main babysitters. One was from a large Mormon family with both mom and dad at home. Another was a girl being raised by her mom; she later went to live with her dad. Another was a girl being raised by two dads - in Twin Falls, Idaho. Last I heard, they were all happy and close to their respective parents.
In our daughter's circle of friends, single parenting and blended families are common. But even where parents have split up, I see both parties doing their best to stay involved in their kids' lives and fulfill the obligations you accept when you bring a child into this world. It's not always easy, and I can see why social conservatives feel challenged by the rigors of raising kids today. But the fact is, there are many ways to raise a child. What happy, healthy kids have in common isn't having one mom and one dad, but knowing that they have a strong network of people in whom they can place their trust.
Of course, what chafes me the most about the proposed federal and Idaho marriage amendments is that they're divisive distractions from the real issues families face - stagnant wages, soaring health care costs, and the staggering debt we're passing on to our children. It was great to see today how most news coverage of the marriage amendment focused on the fact that it's widely seen for what it is: a political ploy by extremist Republicans to rally their base. I hope Idahoans will see that our home-grown homophobia amendment has similar aims - and that we elect people on the state and federal level who realize they have better things to do than try to legislate what constitutes a loving relationship.