Modern Family

Today’s modern family is not like the modern family of the 1950s… in what you can see in old “Leave it to Beaver” reruns on some cable channel.  Sure there are plenty of families out there that still consist of mom, dad, and the kids (and maybe some pets, too).  My family is like that.  Even my sister’s is like that.  But in the 21st century, the modern family can be a lot more complex more times than it is simple.  There are step parents, step siblings, and half siblings.  There are single parents, and even grandparents or an aunt and uncle raising someone else’s kids.  There are also adoptive parents and kids.  And yes, there are even gay parents.  Within today’s modern circle, the idea of family has become a bigger circle and yet the concept still remains the same.

And as our concept of the modern family changes in the present time, we must also be willing to change our perceptions of what that means.  Most religious scholars would say that a family is proper with mom, dad, and the kids.  That kids need a mom and dad.  Yet more studies are showing that kids need a loving and nurturing home and environment, and that can come from any of the various types of families that I mentioned above.  In that sense, the term family can take on any of those meanings and be acceptable.

The other week in Congress, the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) was introduced, and I will say that this particular piece of legislation (and what I’m going to say about it) has a personal connection to myself.  So please keep that in mind as you proceed.  This particular legislation in aimed at reuniting families of an American citizen who’s partner is from another country.  With a heterosexual couple, if one person is an American citizen then they can sponsor their spouse for citizenship no matter what country they were married in… whether it be here in the US, in the other spouse’s home country, or even in just a random country.  The marriage is legal and recognized.

As it stands right now (mostly because DOMA — the Defense of Marriage Act), the federal government only recognizes a marriage between a man and woman.  Yet, the federal government says it’s an issue that is left to the states.  Several states have passed gay marriage laws and others have passed civil unions.  But still the federal government doesn’t recognize any of them.  And since the federal government handles immigration, when it comes to a gay couple, a person cannot sponsor his/her partner for immigration (or citizenship)… even if they were married (or entered into a civil union) legally in one of the states (or the District of Columbia) that permits it, or in the other partner’s home nation should it be legal there.  It is a double standard that goes against the very concept of the term “modern family,” and leaves the federal government once again telling its people who you’re supposed to love and making some of us choose between love of that special person and love of our country.  Any heterosexual couple in an international relationship can more or less choose which “home” nation they want to live in, but a gay couple can only choose the one that will recognize their union.

So here’s where it gets to the more personal side.  A couple of years ago I met a British guy when he was vacationing here in my home city.  We were instant friends and there was a bit of a spark between us.  Even since he has left, we have kept in touch through emails and even Skype and what started when he was here definitely hasn’t gone away.  We have found that we do care about each other more than we thought possible for two people living so far apart and having spent just that short amount of time together.  There has been some talk about our future plans together and where we would want to take things.  As of right now, though, the only option would be for me to move overseas to his country as they would recognize our union and allow me entry.  Here in the US, even if we did everything legally, the federal government could still deport him… which wouldn’t happen if he was in a heterosexual relationship.  We have talked overall about what we do if we did have that choice that a heterosexual couple would have over which country to live in.  And the conversation did lean more toward living here in the US rather than Britain.  Though his family and friends are there and that is his home, there were more things at stake.  The biggest (so there aren’t too many details listed) came down to employment.  I’ve been at one of my jobs for 6 1/2 years (and the other 4 years); whereas, he’s only been at his for one.  Though moving to Britain would give me a chance to work for the BBC… and that does kind of have me enticed just a bit.  But the entire discussion we knew was a mute point considering what the US policy is at this time.  This is why the UAFA is an important piece of legislation and why it is so very important to me.

When UAFA was reintroduced, it had a record number of new cosponsors.  Could this be a sign that the times are changing and that the powers that be can now see that the idea of “modern family” is changing, too?  The legislation has been brought up before, but has never been successful.  With Republicans in control of the House of Representatives now, it still seems like a distant prospect, but one can’t help but be hopeful with all the new cosponsors signing on.  Maybe they have heard the voices that have spoken up in support of it.  True, there are plenty out there who will be adamantly against such legislation because it involves gay spouses and their idea of the “modern family” still remains stuck in that old 50s style.  And that is fine for their own beliefs, but unfortunately, there are others that exist within society that do not form to that “classic” mold.

The federal government shouldn’t be making it’s own people feel like second-class citizens, and yet we find it doing just that once again.  This time we find it making a person decide between love of country and the love of their life instead of leaving the decision on where to live up to the couple and what they want… like a heterosexual couple would have.  It is the final line of Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty that comes to mind… “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  The door that opens to American freedoms might be golden for some, but for others that gold has been dulled by the idea that we are all not treated equally under the law and that some of us are held as second-class citizens.

So I ask all of you to think about the concept of modern family and think about how you would feel if you were in mine or someone else’s shoes in this one.  Should the federal government deport a legal spouse of a US citizen simply because it’s a gay union and the federal government chooses not to recognize it?  Is it fair to treat two legally-binding unions differently under the law (meaning heterosexual and homosexual unions)?  It is my firm belief that within today’s society there is no difference between these two types of unions and that they shouldn’t be treated any differently.  So as the entire idea of the “modern family” changes, we have to make sure that we keep up with it.

INFORMATION:  And you can call your Congressman/Congresswoman and Senators to tell them to support the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and/or Reuniting Families Act (RFA) by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.

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One Response to Modern Family

  1. Deborah Mraz says:

    The United States has been making it’s citizens feel like second class for a long, long time my friend…take the first world war when African-Americans served overseas and saw NO segregation, then come home to a segregated society in their home country. Would you want to come home? I wouldn’t! I say go to where you are happy and treated as a human being! I love my country, but sometimes the U.S. policies make me nuts!

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