WASHINGTON -- Mother's Day and Father's Day might spark thoughts of the traditional family, but President Obama has commemorated both holidays this year by applauding homosexual parenting -- a first for a president.
Obama's Father's Day proclamation included words that both liberals and conservatives liked -- for instance, referencing how "government cannot fill" the role of an absent father -- but also included this sentence: "Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a step father, a grandfather, or caring guardian." His Mother's Day proclamation in May included nearly identical language and talked about how "nurturing families" can involve "two mothers."
Presidents have issued Mother's Day and Father's Day proclamations before, but it's the first time that a proclamation gave a nod to same-sex parenting. The proclamations are but the latest step Obama has taken to appease one of his most committed political bases. He was scheduled to host homosexual groups at the White House Tuesday evening in a "gay pride" event. On Wednesday, his Labor Department is expected to broaden the interpretation of the Family and Medical Leave Act to include same-sex families.
Bob Stith, the Southern Baptist Convention's national strategist for gender issues, said much of Obama's Father's Day proclamation was "right on target" and included words "our families desperately need to hear and heed."
"It is unfortunate that he then muddied the water by drifting into political correctness," said Stith, a representative of the SBC's Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals. "The real question is not whether a child can be lovingly nurtured in a variety of situations. Many single parents have unwillingly found themselves in that situation and have worked valiantly to provide the best environment for their children.
"The issue," Stith said, "is what is optimal for our children and whether we should as a society actively encourage anything less than the very best situations for the children."
Society, Stith said, is "paying a high price" for the breakdown of the family, and it is "abundantly clear" that children on average do best with a mother and a father.
"We should never sacrifice our children's futures on the altar of political correctness," Stith said. "Our focus should not be on redefining the family but on rebuilding the foundations of the family. For the sake of our children we must stop trying to convince ourselves that we can experiment with alternate definitions of the family. The optimum situation for children is a healthy father and a healthy mother."
Studies show that children, on average, do better when raised by a mother and a father. The nonpartisan research organization Child Trends released a study in 2002 that concluded, "An extensive body of research tells us that children do best when they grow up with both biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.... Thus, it is not simply the presence of two parents, as some have assumed, but the presence of two biological parents that seem to support child development."
Likewise, a 2003 study by the nonpartisan Center for Law and Social Policy concluded, "Over the past 20 years, a body of research has developed on how changes in patterns of family structure affect children. Most researchers now agree that together these studies support the notion that, on average, children do better when raised by two married, biological parents who have low-conflict relationships."
Obama also gave a speech the day after Father's Day that did not mention same-sex parenting. The speech was widely praised.
"Here's the key message I think all of us want to send today to fathers all across the country: Our children don't need us to be superheroes," he said in the speech. "They don't need us to be perfect. They do need us to be present. They need us to show up and give it our best shot, no matter what else is going on in our lives. They need us to show them -- not just with words, but with deeds -- that they, those kids, are always our first priority."
Obama, whose father left him at age 2, further said, "We know that children who grow up without a father are more likely to live in poverty. They're more likely to drop out of school. They're more likely to wind up in prison. They're more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. They're more likely to run away from home. They're more likely to become teenage parents themselves."
He said of his own childhood, "And while I was lucky to have a wonderful mother and loving grandparents who poured everything they had into me and my sister, I still felt the weight of that absence. It's something that leaves a hole in a child's life that no government can fill."
Read Obama's Father's Day proclamation at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/presidential-proclamation-fathers-day and his Mother's Day proclamation at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/presidential-proclamation-mothers-day.