Pulling pieces, destroying whole structures

The Lego castle was almost done. It was a complicated thing, one of the most intricate constructions my then-preschooler had ever built. One piece wasn’t snapping in well, however, and it became too much for his hands to manage. With a sweep of his arm, he smashed the castle to bits.

Two organizations have shown similar behavior lately with respect to gay people. A Missouri high school canceled its entire prom rather than let student Constance McMillen attend with her girlfriend and wear a tux.

Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C., also announced recently that its employees would no longer be able to cover their spouses — even opposite-sex ones — under the employee medical-benefits program. To do so, the organization claimed, would be to risk being forced to cover same-sex spouses once such couples could marry in the district. They seem to be following the lead of Catholic Charities in Boston and San Francisco, which in 2006 shut down their adoption services to avoid having to place children with qualified same-sex couples.

In the D.C. case, though, Catholic Charities may be protesting too much. As lawyer Nancy Polikoff has pointed out on her blog, federal law says that no private employer can be forced to cover anyone. Catholic Charities could thus have refused to cover same-sex spouses, regardless of district law (beyondstraightandgaymarriage.blogspot.com). Instead, in a fit of pique, they knocked down the whole castle.

Some groups, however, are taking a more selective tack. The Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Boulder, Colo., for example, recently decided not to readmit two preschoolers because their parents are lesbians. The Denver archdiocese backed the move, saying, “Parents living in open discord with Catholic teaching in areas of faith and morals unfortunately choose by their actions to disqualify their children from enrollment.”

The sins of the mothers, apparently, are visited upon the next generation. Like Catholic Charities and the Mississippi high school, the archdiocese is using its animus against gay people in a way that is detrimental to those around them as well.

Here’s what I think the archdiocese is really afraid of, though. If there is a child with same-sex parents in the classroom, then of necessity the topic of same-sex parents will come up, no matter how “gay-free” the curriculum is. The child will talk about his or her parents. The parents will pick him or her up from school and attend school events. Teachers will need to field innocent but curious questions from other children. Other kids will soon see that same-sex parents exist and are pretty much the same as anyone else. Once that happens, the pointlessness of the church’s bias is evident. It’s easier for the archdiocese to adopt a policy of “out of sight, out of mind,” even if it means rejecting a child who would likely have benefited from its programs in many ways.

Whether groups attempt to excise LGBT people one by one or to jettison entire programs rather than be inclusive, their actions present very practical problems for the individuals affected. One can only hope that the bad will generated by the organizations’ actions is enough to keep other groups from following in their footsteps.

A question, too, for all fair-minded parents watching the above events unfold: How can we teach our children that even if something isn’t going well, wholesale destruction (and its frequent collateral damage) is rarely the best solution? Likewise, it rarely helps to avoid problems by pretending they don’t exist.

As with much of parenting, it comes down to setting a good example ourselves. We can also point out when inappropriate behavior has backfired. The Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition is organizing an inclusive prom for all students at her school, and many others have offered money or resources.

My son is now 6. When he builds with Legos these days, he is much less likely to get frustrated to the point of smashing things. It’s not that hard a lesson to learn. I’m hoping that long before he attends his high-school prom, no matter who he goes with, many others will have learned it as well.

Dana Rudolph is founder and publisher of Mombian (www.mombian.com), a blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.

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