According to homophobes, some families are better than others. In fact, they would even say that some people who consider themselves families are not really “true” families. For a “real family” there has to be a married heterosexual man and a woman with their biological (or at least adopted) children.
Some bigoted politicians have worked very hard to enshrine homophobia into laws. Section 110 of the Latvian Constitution states that:
The State shall protect and support marriage – a union between a man and a woman, the family, the rights of parents and rights of the child. The State shall provide special support to disabled children, children left without parental care or who have suffered from violence.
At first, the words “a union between a man and a woman” were not there, this explanation of what exactly constitutes a marriage was added in 2006 thanks to the efforts of some homophobic politicians.
In Latvia, gay marriage isn’t legal in any way or form. Regardless of how desperately conservative people want everybody to get married to a partner of the other sex, here marriage isn’t that popular even among heterosexual people. Many heterosexual couples live together for years without getting married, a significant portion of them also raise children without bothering to sign marriage papers.
In 2019 in Latvia there were 18 786 live births. From those 7 209 children were born to non-married AFAB people. This means that 38% of kids born in 2019 were born out of wedlock. And their female parents weren’t all single mothers. Many couples just don’t want to marry for various reasons and are content to simply live together and raise children.
Since a state cannot force people to marry against their will, and a noticeable number of children grow up without married parents, politicians had no other choice but to pass laws protecting the interests of such de facto families. For example, after a child is born, fathers can apply for parental leave from work even when they aren’t married.
Then one day a lesbian couple with a child decided that they want parental leave for mother’s female partner, and the constitutional court confirmed that parents in a family can also be same-sex, and imposed on the state the “obligation to protect and support” them as well.
At this point, defining what is a marriage was not enough for bigots. Now homophobes want to define also what constitutes a family. Recently conservative politicians proposed the following wording of Section 110 of the Constitution:
The State protects and supports marriage – a union between a man and a woman, a family based on marriage, blood relation or adoption, the rights of parents and a child, including the right to grow up in a family based on a mother (woman) and father (man).
The State particularly helps disabled children, children left without parental care or suffering from violence.
The proposed law thus highlights three possible ways in which the family is formed: (1) marriage, (2) blood relations, (3) adoption.
At this point you are probably laughing about this definition and thinking about how it fails to encompass countless families and not just those gay and lesbian families abhorred by the authors of this law. What about a straight couple living together for years who still haven’t gotten married, because a fancy ceremony would cost too much but merely signing papers without a wedding feels unsatisfactory? What about a woman with fertility issues who uses donor eggs and gives birth to a child that doesn’t have any of her DNA?
Moreover, this law implies that in order to be a family with one’s children, a person has to be either a man or a woman (ignoring the fact that agender, genderfluid, and non-binary people also can have children).
Personally, I define “family” as “several people who consider themselves a family.” It’s possible to have a family without living together, without marriage papers, without blood relations, without adoption. It’s even possible for a person to consider somebody their family member without loving or caring for said person. Granted, personally I do think that whether some person qualifies as my family depends upon the existence of mutual love and care. For me papers and DNA do not determine who is or isn’t my family. But I am fine with other people selecting different criteria for determining who their family members are. It is not up to me to tell other people whether they are or aren’t a family.
For humanity there has never been an era with all (or even majority of) children growing up in “the perfect family” aka a married straight couple with their biological children. There were always single parents. There were children raised by their grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings. Long before conservatives realized that it is horrible for children to be raised by two women who are lesbians, many children were raised by two women who were their mother and grandmother (or mother and aunt or whatever else). And yes, lesbians, gays, and bisexual people have always existed and they have always raised children. And they have families. Moreover, it is wrong to classify families as either “good” or “bad” bases on superficial criteria like paperwork or parents’ sexual orientation.
Since I have a degree in philology, I cannot help but think about prescriptive vs. descriptive mindsets among linguists, a topic I have discussed earlier in my webpage. A century ago linguistics was mostly prescriptive. Bigoted linguists came up with “the correct way” how some language should be spoken, and bemoaned the fact that majority of people didn’t speak the way they wanted. Entire languages, dialects, and sociolects were classified as “inferior.” Passionate crusades against words and grammatical constructions of foreign origin were waged. Linguists wanted to freeze languages in time, halt any changes in them, prevent the influence of several languages mixing and lending new words to each other in the process.
Even though only a small minority of human population spoke “correctly,” linguistic discrimination was promoted and all those rubes who spoke “incorrectly” had to be reeducated. It took linguists a while to shift towards a descriptive approach instead and accept that whatever people spoke was just fine. Instead of asking, for example, “What should English be like?” linguists now ask a different question, namely, “What is English?” Modern grammarians aim to describe rather than prescribe linguistic forms and their uses. Dictionary makers strive for descriptive accuracy in reporting which words are in use and what meanings they have.
With families we have basically the same issue. Instead of telling people what kind of family they ought to have, politicians should accept that gay and lesbian families already exist and aren’t going to disappear. Trans people also exist, and we will always be there. Attempting to outlaw us won’t work. Once you look at what is actually happening, you have to ask how laws can help improve people’s lives. For example, parental leave is beneficial for both newborn babies and also for people who raise these babies. Thus state should make sure that people tasked with changing dirty diapers can get parental leave regardless of their sex, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, etc. insignificant criteria.
Social practices are fascinating in their flexibility. Sometimes changes are possible. For example, you can observe that “domestic abuse is happening, and it is harmful for the victim,” and you can enact laws and policies that reduce its prevalence and mitigate its harmful effects (education, crisis shelters, outlawing of marital rape).
It’s possible to promote various social changes. You can promote gender equality or oppose racism. For example, laws can make it either easier or harder for women and people of color to get good jobs. You can promote a laissez-faire capitalism or socialism. A lot of social changes are possible.
But you cannot change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity. You cannot promote heterosexuality or increase the number of cis people in some society. You cannot outlaw gays and lesbians or their families. LGBTQ+ people exist. We are here and we will remain a part of every society.
All that’s possible for politicians is to create laws that make our daily lives either easier or harder. And torturing us for no good reason is ultimately pointless, because discrimination won’t reduce our numbers.