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Count Every Family 

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I attended the Sutherland Institute’s presentation for its “Sacred Ground Initiative” and found it to be most disturbing.

Their premise that the “natural family” is the basis for the success of our democracy is a fallacy. Our democracy and liberty succeed, not because of “natural” families, but because of the basic inherent right of individuals to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or in the Constitution is there mention of a “natural family.”

Evidently, my husband and I, who have no biological children but have adopted children, do not fit the definition of natural family—although we certainly are a family. And that leads me to ask what, exactly, constitutes a family? The July/August 2008 issue of Utne Reader has an excellent article, “It’s Not a Gay Thing” by Nancy D. Polikoff, taken from her book Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families Under the Law. I encourage everyone, especially our legislators, to read either the article or the book. Families can be defined as siblings who live together (of which there are several in my block), the single mom or dad caring for the children, the unmarried couple who have lived together for years (e.g., common-law spouses), the couple who are the same sex, the aged parent living with a widowed or single child, or the couple who decides to have no children.

The article details how frequently these families face discrimination in this country and do not have access to health-care protection, death benefits or the myriad other protections we assume everyone has. In one case, the family of the aged father living with a single child faced eviction because of the lack of medical coverage.

My conclusion is this country has a distorted view of family if a family is only defined as “one man and one woman with children.” It is for this reason that the Common Ground Initiative is so important, and why these initiatives for health-care benefits, fair housing and employment, inheritance and insurance benefits, for all families must be passed.

I encourage all of us who believe in an expanded definition of family do all we can to help these measures get passed next year.

Janice G. Ohlsson
Salt Lake City

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