The Road to Same-Sex Marriage: Lesbian Mothers, Gay Fathers, and the American Family

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tags: same-sex marriage



Daniel Winunwe Rivers is an Assistant Professor of History at The Ohio State University. An historian of LGBT communities in the twentieth century, Native American history, the family and sexuality, and U.S. social protest movements, he received his PhD in history from Stanford University.

...Children have been and continue to be used as symbols on both sides of the issue. Young children, flanked by their same-sex parents, speak out against being second-class citizens before state legislatures, while political campaigns for Proposition 8 in California, which prohibited same-sex marriage in the state, raised the specter of children being taught homosexuality in schools.

Lesbian and gay childrearing is increasingly visible in American culture, in television shows and films such as Modern Family and The Kids Are All Right. The popular media portray these families as a new phenomenon in American culture, part of a “lesbian and gay baby boom” that began in the mid-1980s.

But in fact, lesbians and gay men have parented children for generations since the Second World War.

Since the 1950s, the experiences and efforts of lesbians and gay men with children have laid the groundwork for what has now become a central focus on domestic and family rights in the modern LGBT freedom struggle. Much of the opposition to these rights in recent decades echoes the rhetoric of custody courts and state authorities that took children away from lesbian and gay parents in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as widespread cultural assumptions about what families should look like dating from the 1950s and 1960s.

The misperception that gay and lesbian parenthood is new is actually connected to the longstanding cultural notion in American society that lesbian and gay identities and parenthood are mutually exclusive. If parenting is not solely heterosexual, goes the current manifestation of this idea, it has at least been so until very recently...




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