By Elizabeth Tenety
The survey, “Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family,” polled 800 Americans in 2003 and 2006 on their definition of a family. When asked “Which living arrangements count as family?”, respondents then judged several categories, among them “husband and wife, with children,” “two men, with children” and “two women, with children.”
The study found that a majority define two women or two men with children to be a ‘family.’
Even though most Americans believe that a gay couple with children constitutes a family, those who say that the word family belongs to a married man and woman often are religious: “People commonly rely on religious themes in defending the boundaries they draw between families and nonfamilies,” the study’s authors wrote.
The researchers also found “a strong link between religious views and the exclusivity of family definitions,” a discovery that may reflect the ‘one man, one woman’ marriage advocacy undertaken by several major religious and cultural organizations in opposition to a political and cultural movement for gay rights, including gay marriage.
From the study:
“Respondents who relied on religious explanations were among the most steadfast opponents to enlarging the scope of family definitions and extending the rights and privileges of marriage to same-sex couples, frequently invoking ‘God’s will’ (‘It’s not in God’s will for it. God created man for woman and woman for man’).
“[A]n elderly woman answered the question thus: ‘Definitely a family consists of a man and a woman, not two people of the same sex. A family is consecrated in marriage. Usually consists of children, but not necessarily because a couple may not be able to have children.’ “
Religions teach their followers about the meaning of life and how to live it –from dictates on what to wear, what to eat, how to act charitably, yes, teachings on what makes a family.
And recently it’s been religious groups, including the Catholic and Mormon churches, and several Christian organizations, that have used their political advocacy to maintain that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman, only. Do religious organizations also have a future in fighting over the definition of a family?
How do you define ‘family’? Does your religion inform your understanding? Does your definition include gay couples? Do you find such labels helpful or harmful?