Where are the so-called ‘family’ organizations on Black Friday?

Where are the alarm bells concerning Black Friday? Why have none of the self-described “family organizations” said that Thanksgiving is “under attack?” Where is the outrage that what precious little family time we have is being destroyed?

The organizations who make their living off of attacking the lives and relationships of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (who also happen to be among the loudest claiming that there’s a “War on Christmas”) have been utterly silent that Thanksgiving, perhaps the most family-oriented holiday on our American calendar, is becoming a holiday dedicated to fighting other shoppers for the lowest deals.

Black Friday shoppers.

As a gay Christian, I am also concerned with strengthening families. Often work, school, and social lives leave families precious little quality time together. Holidays like Thanksgiving offer a sanctuary for families from all the daily pressures and responsibilities that come in our modern life. I, for one, am thankful to have an opportunity to gather with those closest to me and offer thanks for what I have.

Thanksgiving, which is traditionally celebrated by gathering for a meal with loved ones, has spawned a secondary pseudo-holiday. “Black Friday” has become the official kick-off of the holiday shopping season. Over the past several years, retailers have turned the day after Thanksgiving into a day in which parents rise before dawn, stand outside in the cold, and fight other shoppers for heavy discounts on clothing, toys, and electronics.

But now we are seeing something else happening. Major retailers are no longer holding the shopping frenzy off until the day after Thanksgiving. Many stores, including Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Target, and Toys R Us are opening on the evening of Thanksgiving Day to offer discounts on their merchandise.

Now, shoppers may abandon, reschedule, or cut short the time spent giving thanks with the family to buy the latest and greatest products. Instead of quality time hearing family stories, visiting with distant relatives, or playing games with family or friends, many Americans will gird their loins to do battle over a steep discount on gadgets and toys.

As consumers, we can make a choice to not go shopping on Thanksgiving evening or Black Friday. However, when a sale opens at 8 p.m., the employees must be there even earlier to prepare. Retail employees, for whom the holiday shopping season is often a major part of their income, will have to leave their families even earlier to prepare for the onslaught. Their family time has also been reduced, often times not by their own choice.

This makes me wonder where the so-called “family organizations” are. What are they saying about this blatant attack on family? Where is the outrage that the family is being pushed to abandon each other in the name commerce?

In my work at GLAAD, we track, monitor, and respond to the anti-gay statements that come from these organizations. We show the media that often their so-called “pro-family” agenda is really just an anti-gay agenda. However, if they are going to be pro-family, then they should have something to say about family time versus shopping at Thanksgiving. I visited some of the organizations most represented on GLAAD’s Commentator Accountability Project to see what they had to say.

The website for the National Organization for Marriage says nothing. Perhaps, we can give them a pass. They claim to be about “marriage,” albeit only marriage between a man and a woman who are producing children. Not marriages that would protect and preserve families headed by gay and lesbian couples, single or adoptive parents, or anything else that varies from their view of the world. But since they don’t have “family” in their name, we can let them slide this time.

However, the American Family Association, Family Research Council and Focus on the Family are so-called “family” organizations. They have “family” in the title and claim to be “defending the family.” In reality, the bulk of their energy is spent opposing marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. But they do so under the guise of “strengthening the family.” How are these organizations responding to the reduction of family time this Thanksgiving?

The American Family Association is talking a lot about retailers by promoting their “Naughty or Nice” list. This list consists of which companies regularly use “Christmas” in describing their products or sales. The American Family Association is encouraging their members to shop, but only at stores that frequently (or perhaps exclusively) use the word “Christmas.” There is no opposition to families breaking apart to head to the mall on the evening of such a family-oriented holiday. But there is a major concern that certain stores which use the word “holiday” are to be avoided (no matter when they are open).

The Family Research Council has a Thanksgiving message on its home page, but it speaks very little about family and doesn’t address the crush of shopping at all. Focus on the Family is running its own Black Friday sale on its Web site. Instead of heading to the mall, parents are encouraged to escape into cyberspace to purchase books, CDs, DVDs, and other Christian tchotchkes, many of which carry anti-gay messages.

If these organizations believe that “strengthening a family” is done through working every day to make life harder for LGBT people, then it’s clear that these organizations have a lot to learn about what actually constitutes a family.

I believe that the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to gather with those who we love; friends and family. Unlike these so-called “family” groups, I encourage you to spend the day with those you care about, regardless of relation. Share quality time together. Eat a meal (turkey or otherwise). Play games. Tell stories. Be present with and for one another. For Thanksgiving, family is who you give thanks to be with.

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