Dear President-elect Biden: I’m writing you this open letter as you prepare to take office as president.
My son was just a few months too young to vote in the last election, but watched it with great concern, for its results would directly impact him and his family. Would the next administration be one that treated his family with equality? Would it view families like his as part of the rich fabric of American diversity or as aberrations?
I’d like to think he has a reason for hope. Since this is an open letter, I’ll recap one example, though I’m sure you remember: In 2012, you attended a fundraiser held at the Los Angeles home of husbands Michael Lombardo, an HBO executive, and Sonny Ward, an architect.
As reported by Jo Becker in the New York Times, political strategist Chad Griffin (later head of HRC) saw you talking with the men’s two young children and was motivated to ask you your stance on marriage equality.
According to Becker, you responded: “I look at those two beautiful kids. I wish everybody could see this. All you got to do is look in the eyes of those kids. And no one can wonder, no one can wonder whether or not they are cared for and nurtured and loved and reinforced. And folks, what’s happening is, everybody is beginning to see it.”
You said this at a time when the Obama administration was still officially opposed to marriage equality. Some thought your remarks were a planned “trial balloon” for the issue; Becker disagreed, but said that they “inadvertently set off a chain reaction.” Either way, within weeks, former President Obama announced his support for marriage equality, relating that his own daughters had friends with same-sex parents and “I know it wouldn’t dawn on them that their friends’ parents should be treated differently.”
Marriage equality didn’t hinge on these encounters alone — it was the work of thousands of people over many years — but your remarks were a turning point for the administration’s willingness to back it publicly. I hope that as president, you will continue to champion equality for all families.
I am encouraged that you have named two lesbian moms to your administration: Karine Jean-Pierre as principal deputy press secretary and Pili Tobar as deputy White House communications director. And Pete Buttigieg, whom you nominated as secretary of transportation, was asked during his own presidential run if he and his husband might start a family while in the White House. “I don’t see why not,” he replied. Perhaps this might happen even as he takes on a different role.
While their work will not revolve around LGBT issues, I hope that their presence will continue to remind you that all parents and our children deserve equality. Despite the progress made under former President Obama, that equality has been chipped away at during President Trump’s time in office.
Even now, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case about whether taxpayer-funded child service agencies can claim the right, on religious grounds, to discriminate against LGBT people, people of different faiths, and others. This would reduce the number of otherwise-eligible homes for children in need and could mean that LGBT youth get placed with families that don’t support their identities.
That case aside, 11 states now allow child service agencies to cite their religious or moral beliefs as a reason to discriminate against someone; nine of them permit it even if the agency receives taxpayer money.
Additionally, on Jan. 7, the day after insurrectionists stormed the capitol, the Trump administration finalized a rule that will allow foster care and adoption agencies, along with other public health and social service organizations receiving taxpayer funds, to discriminate against LGBT people and others. LGBT populations are among the most vulnerable here. LGBT organizations are already suing HHS for other recent discriminatory policies; you could save everyone time and money, while helping those in need, by changing these policies as soon as possible.
To guide you, the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, a coalition of LGBT, civil rights, and faith organizations, has released a set of policy recommendations to set us on a renewed path towards inclusive, affirming care for LGBT youth and families, People of Color, and people with disabilities within the child welfare system. I hope you will take these recommendations seriously.
Equity for LGBT families — and all families — goes beyond just child services and healthcare, however. It extends into educational policy, housing, employment practices, and even foreign policy, for we LGBT families exist around the world. There are no areas of your administration that will not touch us, for we are woven into the fabric of the American people.
I hope our voices (broadly speaking, not just those in your administration) are among the many you will listen to in order to guide our country forward. I am not asking you to prioritize LGBT families above any others, but rather to ensure that your policies include and protect us equally so that we have the same chance to thrive. The more Americans who thrive, the stronger and better our country will be as a whole.
I want the country in which my son reaches adulthood to be one of equality, justice, and compassion, not only for LGBT people and families, but for all. I’m sure that as a parent yourself, you know what it is like to want such good for your children.
Please be the president our country — and our country’s children — need.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.