In such a diverse nation, there is no such thing as a ‘traditional’ family

It’s the holidays again — a time to come together and express gratitude and love for the positive things in our lives and the people in them. But as much as the holidays may symbolize a great American tradition, this country is home to a diverse set of traditions and increasingly diverse families.

In such a diverse nation, there is no such thing as a “traditional” family. What connects all American families together is not having the same family traditions or the same types of families, but a shared belief in the American tradition of freedom.

family-holidayThat includes the freedom to practice and create your own traditions, and freedom from being forced to conform to someone else’s.

It’s unfortunate that some groups are using this week’s joyful occasion to propagate hate under the guise of “traditional family values.”

One Washington-based group in particular claimed that the “concept of the family” is one that “must withstand the trends of lifestyle and legislation,” or the children “not being raised in a traditional family unit” will suffer. These groups could not be more out of touch with reality.

The “traditional” family of the past – a church-going family with bread-winning husband, stay-at-home wife and three or more kids – is no longer representative of the typical American family.

Over 22 percent of the population now identifies as nonreligious. Women are taking on the role of bread-winner, more couples are having children out of wedlock, married couples are having fewer children and same-sex couples are raising families in increasing numbers.

According to an article in Tuesday’s New York Times, an estimated one out of 37 children under the age of 18 lives with same-sex parents.

When the Religious Right vilifies what they consider non-“traditional” families, they reinforce intolerance and harmful negative stereotypes.

A 2008 study found that 42 percent of children with LGBT parents were harassed at school over the past year because their parents were LGBT. The fact that these families do not fit within the so-called “traditional” mold does not make them any less strong or any less deserving of equal opportunities to provide for their children.

Yet in 33 states public policy continues to deny these parents the same rights as heterosexual parents, rights that would help partners support each other and their children.

For example, in these states same-sex couples are not eligible for the child care tax credit, cannot extend their health insurance to cover both partners and their children, and only one parent is able to provide medical consent on behalf of their children.

Religious groups who want to impose their definition of marriage on our country’s secular laws are negatively impacting both the secular and LGBT communities. The secular and LGBT movements are natural allies because they are both confronted with religious discrimination and religious privileging in government.

That is why the Secular Coalition for America fought strongly against the proposed religious exemption for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Religion is never an excuse to discriminate.

This year during National Family Week, the Secular Coalition is encouraging Americans to embrace their differences, rather than allow them to divide us. We all can do this by actively working to strengthen ties with family members who live a different lifestyle than us or have different religious views and tell your loved ones that they have your unconditional support.

We are also encouraging Americans to contact their legislators and let them know that they support equal rights for all families, on issues such as adoption, marriage, workplace discrimination and women’s choice.

In the true spirit of the holiday season, express your gratitude for the American tradition of freedom and diversity by celebrating the non-“traditional” aspects of your family.

There is no family quite like your own, and that is something to be thankful for.

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