Waldlaw Blog

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Search for Common Ground with Pete Wilson

Local television news anchorman and talk show host Pete Wilson is getting blasted -- and was briefly threatened with being fired -- for his blunt and unkind comments about Bevan Dufty and Rebecca Goldfader and their baby daughter. For those of you who don't live in San Francisco, Bevan is on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and Rebecca is a dear friend of his. Both Bevan and Rebecca are gay. They decided to have a baby together, and that baby was born last week. Bevan and Rebecca have been very public about their decision to have a baby, and their plans to move in together and raise their child together. (In fact, I wrote a blog about them on April 8, shortly after the news of their pregnancy went out on the wires, congratulating them and welcoming them to the San Francisco "non-traditional" family community.) Anyway, Pete Wilson made a bunch of comments about Bevan and Rebecca and their daughter on his radio show on Thursday, including the statement that: "I do not now nor have I ever accepted the idea that a baby is a toy, that it is a social science project or a possession. A baby is a human being, a delicate thing, our past, present and future. It is not a science experiment. It is not an opportunity to see how far you can carry your views on parenting, alternative life-styles, or diversity in family structures." First of all, let me say that I don't think it is appropriate to make mean and rude comments about any individual couple's choice to have a baby. This is not an area where public dialogue is warranted. As one woman asked to comment on the whole Wilson/Dufty story said: "If I thought it was anybody's business beyond the people's involved, I might have formed an opinion." That said, would any of us disagree with Pete Wilson about his sentiments that babies aren't toys or science projects?? Do Bevan and Rebecca disagree with Pete Wilson about these sentiments?? Pete Wilson is absolutely right -- babies are precious, and they are our future, and their care and upbringing needs to be taken very seriously. There, see, we have common ground.... The place where we come apart is this: According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Wilson "said he supports same-sex marriage and adoption for same-sex couples and single parents. His problem with the decision by Dufty, who is gay, to have a baby with a friend who is a lesbian is that the couple have no romantic attachment." So here's my question: should children only be raised by parents who are having sex with each other?? I mean, Bevan and Rebecca have known each other for a long time, love each other, and have made the commitment to live together and raise a child together in a stable home. But apparently that isn't enough, because their attachment to each other isn't "romantic." As if romance between the parents were the one thing most likely to lead to a stable, well-adjusted childhood. Well, let me tell you that when it comes to raising children, romance may not be all that it's cracked up to be. Children born into romances often find themselves in trouble when the romance wanes, as so many romances do. Wilson said: "Look around you, folks. You think the high divorce rate in this country has been, generally speaking, good for kids? So, why not start out divorced? See if that'll work." Bevan and Rebecca -- and the many other lesbians and gay men who have embarked on the adventure of co-parenting together -- aren't "starting out divorced." They are starting out with a clear-eyed, lifelong commitment to raising a child together in a stable, loving way. A commitment that isn't based upon their romantic feelings for each other, and therefore is less likely to falter if their "love affair" should hit some bumps in the road. Their children are at least as likely to experience stability and consistency as the children of couples who are romantically involved -- the only clear difference is that these children's parents won't be having sex with each other. Is that really the factor that is most likely to predict good parenting??? Oops, I guess that wasn't common ground.... But I have to say that I strongly agree with Pete Wilson on one more point. When interviewed about his talk show comments, he said: "I still believe the argument is a perfectly appropriate argument. I think the argument needs to take place about the number of directions we have gone with parenting and children." I couldn't agree with him more. For years now, I have been telling everyone who will listen that we need to be having a national conversation about what we mean by the terms "parent" and "family," given how much our family structures are changing. I, for one, am glad that Pete Wilson isn't being fired for diving into this conversation, even if he was rather rude in the way he went about it. We do need to be talking about these issues, and being honest about how we really feel, and sharing our views and experiences, and trying to ... well, find common ground. If Pete Wilson believes that children should only be raised in the context of a romantically-based relationship, I'm sure he isn't the only one, and his voice needs to be a part of the conversation. So, rather than trying to shut him up, I'd rather talk to him. I'd rather take the time to figure out where we agree and where we disagree. This discussion is too important to put off any longer. And we all need to bring our honest views to the table. Pete Wilson included. There, you see, we do have common ground. Now let the discussion begin!


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