Where are so-called ‘family’ organizations on Black Friday?

Michael S. Williamson THE WASHINGTON POST The table offering stocked with brightly colored ladies jeans created a small frenzy as … Continued

Michael S. Williamson


The table offering stocked with brightly colored ladies jeans created a small frenzy as the popular pants were going for only $15.00. The J.C. Penney store opened at 6:00 a.m. on Nov. 23, 2012, in hopes that a Black Friday rush will help sales that have been sluggish of late.

Where are the alarm bells concerning Black Friday? Why have none of the self-described “family organizations” said that Thanksgiving is “under attack?” Where is the outrage that what precious little family time we have is being destroyed?

The organizations who make their living off of attacking the lives and relationships of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (who also happen to be among the loudest claiming that there’s a “War on Christmas”) have been utterly silent that Thanksgiving, perhaps the most family-oriented holiday on our American calendar, is becoming a holiday dedicated to fighting other shoppers for the lowest deals.

As a gay Christian, I am also concerned with strengthening families. Often work, school, and social lives leave families precious little quality time together. Holidays like Thanksgiving offer a sanctuary for families from all the daily pressures and responsibilities that come in our modern life. I, for one, am thankful to have an opportunity to gather with those closest to me and offer thanks for what I have.

View Photo Gallery: Retailers expect more people to shop between Thanksgiving and Sunday, but retail chains such as Toys R Us and Gap are opening earlier and offering more markdowns, which could mean lower profits for most retailers.

Thanksgiving, which is traditionally celebrated by gathering for a meal with loved ones, has spawned a secondary pseudo-holiday. “Black Friday” has become the official kick-off of the holiday shopping season. Over the past several years, retailers have turned the day after Thanksgiving into a day in which parents rise before dawn, stand outside in the cold, and fight other shoppers for heavy discounts on clothing, toys, and electronics.

But now we are seeing something else happening. Major retailers are no longer holding the shopping frenzy off until the day after Thanksgiving. Many stores, including Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Target, and Toys R Us are opening on the evening of Thanksgiving Day to offer discounts on their merchandise.

Now, shoppers may abandon, reschedule, or cut short the time spent giving thanks with the family to buy the latest and greatest products. Instead of quality time hearing family stories, visiting with distant relatives, or playing games with family or friends, many Americans will gird their loins to do battle over a steep discount on gadgets and toys.

As consumers, we can make a choice to not go shopping on Thanksgiving evening or Black Friday. However, when a sale opens at 8 p.m., the employees must be there even earlier to prepare. Retail employees, for whom the holiday shopping season is often a major part of their income, will have to leave their families even earlier to prepare for the onslaught. Their family time has also been reduced, often times not by their own choice.

This makes me wonder where the so-called “family organizations” are. What are they saying about this blatant attack on family? Where is the outrage that the family is being pushed to abandon each other in the name commerce?

In my work at GLAAD, we track, monitor, and respond to the anti-gay statements that come from these organizations. We show the media that often their so-called “pro-family” agenda is really just an anti-gay agenda. However, if they are going to be pro-family, then they should have something to say about family time versus shopping at Thanksgiving. I visited some of the organizations most represented on GLAAD’s Commentator Accountability Project to see what they had to say.

The Web site for the National Organization for Marriage says nothing. Perhaps, we can give them a pass. They claim to be about “marriage,” albeit only marriage between a man and a woman who are producing children. Not marriages that would protect and preserve families headed by gay and lesbian couples, single or adoptive parents, or anything else that varies from their view of the world. But since they don’t have “family” in their name, we can let them slide this time.

However, the American Family Association, Family Research Council and Focus on the Family are so-called “family” organizations. They have “family” in the title and claim to be “defending the family.” In reality, the bulk of their energy is spent opposing marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. But they do so under the guise of “strengthening the family.” How are these organizations responding to the reduction of family time this Thanksgiving?

The American Family Association is talking a lot about retailers by promoting their “Naughty or Nice” list. This list consists of which companies regularly use “Christmas” in describing their products or sales. The American Family Association is encouraging their members to shop, but only at stores that frequently (or perhaps exclusively) use the word “Christmas.” There is no opposition to families breaking apart to head to the mall on the evening of such a family-oriented holiday. But there is a major concern that certain stores which use the word “holiday” are to be avoided (no matter when they are open).

The Family Research Council has a Thanksgiving message on its home page, but it speaks very little about family and doesn’t address the crush of shopping at all. Focus on the Family is running its own Black Friday sale on its Web site. Instead of heading to the mall, parents are encouraged to escape into cyberspace to purchase books, CDs, DVDs, and other Christian tchotchkes, many of which carry anti-gay messages.

If these organizations believe that “strengthening a family” is done through working every day to make life harder for LGBT people, then it’s clear that these organizations have a lot to learn about what actually constitutes a family.

I believe that the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to gather with those who we love; friends and family. Unlike these so-called “family” groups, I encourage you to spend the day with those you care about, regardless of relation. Share quality time together. Eat a meal (turkey or otherwise). Play games. Tell stories. Be present with and for one another. For Thanksgiving, family is who you give thanks to be with.

Ross Murray is the director of religion, faith and values at GLAAD. He is also a founder and director of The Naming Project, a faith-based camp for LGBT youth and their allies.

Ross Murray
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  • WmarkW

    Ignoring the gay angle, I agree that there’s a curious lack of objection from the “family” community when the enemy is unfettered capitalism.

    Like when Bill Bennett used to (correctly) point out how youth crime and violence to acquire expensive sneakers and clothing represented a moral deficiency in our society. But he didn’t also condemn the manufacturers, advertisors and licensors, who creat demand for their over-priced products by marketing to people who can’t afford them.

  • cutelittlepuppy

    Thanksgiving isn’t a religious holiday, although many have made it into one. You are just as repressive as the intolerant people you object to by proscribing the proper way in which ALL Americans should act and ‘celebrate’ a ‘family’ holiday. Nobody is controlling your manner of celebration. Stay at home if you wish. It’s your choice.

  • It wasn’t me

    Where are so-called ‘family’ organizations on Black Friday? Not where they should be.
    By Ross Murray

    “As a gay Christian, I am also concerned with strengthening families. ”

    They are waiting on some pavement to wave their Bibles at you and shout about marriage being between man and woman and rest of their usual stuff

  • Catken1

    OTOH, by going out shopping, you’re controlling some store or stores’ workers ability to stay home and have a nice Thanksgiving. Your actions have consequences for them.
    And why is a religious holiday more important than a secular one?

  • nancydancer

    Well, if you are forced to work thanksgiving night especially for the giant retailers – does not seem to be too much choice involved, tat I can see

  • Secular1

    Bill Bennett and ilk are just plain bigots. These guys are good and adept at hiding their bigotry by verbalizing their message in terms of generally accepted christian moral terms, which gave them a tremendous cover to their bigotry. What spoke out o me in deafeningly loud voices, was what they left out from their critiques.

    All these x’tian fundies non-stop berate abortions, family planning by citing their filthy scriptural tomes. What undrcuts their arguments are those small & big pieces in their bible which gloats over teh killings of babies and people at whims and fancies of the mythical DOG (my apologies for my typing dyslexia).

  • cutelittlepuppy

    1. I’m not anti gay
    2. I don’t go shopping on Thanksgiving or “black Friday”, but I did go grocery shopping, is that alright with youse?

  • Realist7598462

    These so called “family” organizations are a joke. If they were pro-family they would support laws that enforce workers rights, such as living wages, safe workplaces and freedom from retaliation and intimidation. They would also be pro union because only when people stand together will they be able to stand up to and change the inequities that so plague us. They also would have been in the front line of the protests against walmart, and others that deserve it, because walmart is as anti family as it gets.

    Increased financial security within a family is the leading way to keep families together. Increasing wages, and removing the fear of arbitrary abuse by employers, of the most vulnerable would be a HUGE step to achieving this. If they had health insurance they would have access to birth control and all of the benefits it provides, too. If they were pro family they would be for this, too.

    Otherwise, they are just right wing con artists spewing their venom to distract from and obfuscate the truth.

  • Centsorsense

    They are at the mall trying to get 40% off of a jacket of course!

  • ftsudo

    What should these “family organizations” support? Government regulations to businesses restricting their hours and sales prices, or a government mandate for people to stay at home with their family on Thanksgiving?

  • TwoTooth

    Last I looked, I’m not being forced to go shopping on Thanksgiving or the day after. Nor is anyone else. Yes, I think it’s reprehensible that retail workers are required to work on Thanksgiving or any holiday. That lumps them in with all the other people required to work on holidays–hospital staff, police and fire people, public transportation workers, gas station attendants, media people, movie theater staff, ministers, athletes and coaches… The list is long, and only about half the jobs are really necessary (assuming that we could live without tv, radio, newspapers, and other media for a day, for example). These stores that have decided to start their ridiculous sales on Thanksgiving would stop real fast if the public didn’t patronize them. Baffled that people attend these silly sales and endure the long lines, parking problems, and so on, I’ve concluded that they do it largely for social reasons. Whatever. I’m not going to waste my time wringing my hands over it. Nor am I going to get soppy sentimental over depradations made on a “family” holiday that in fact began life as a COMMUNITY celebration with strong religious significance (the thanks were being offered to the pilgrims’ deity, after all). I do, however, concur that people who use religion to support their own bigotry are hypocrites of the highest order.

  • johnybgood49

    There were lots of families that stayed home to enjoy a good time with family and friends and give thanks to God for what they have. They don’t need to be reminded by “family” groups just how special family relations are. As for those who shopped on Thanksgiving, I imagine that they too had a nice Thanksgiving afterwards. Of course this is selfish, but then again, isn’t that a normal human condition? I would love to have all stores close on Thanksgiving and other holidays as well as every Sunday. It is Biblically axiomatic as to what happens when a nation or people withdraw from their Creator. I believe we are close to finding out just how bad it can get.

  • WmarkW


    Conservative Christian organizations frequently conduct boycotts of advertisers on tv programming of which they don’t approve. If some pro-family organization suggested that its members not shop at WalMart to protest their Thanksgiving opening, it would have an effect.

  • politicsandpie

    Why is everyone demonizing the retailers and saying nothing of the movie theaters open on Thanksgiving? How families choose to spend their time together is not subject to any group’s so-called standards.

  • ftsudo

    In a free society
    -businesses can choose their hours of operation
    -businesses can set their own prices
    -people can quit jobs they think are not fair
    -people can apply for jobs they want
    -people can shop at stores that are open

  • wilsongirl2

    Well…it looks like Rose has found something with which to criticize the “family” organizations, other than their stand on marriage being between one man and one woman. If she would have researched a bit deeper, she would have found out that Wal-Mart has been opening on Thanksgiving Day for eight years that I know of…possibly longer. So this is nothing new, except that more stores are now on the bandwagon. And if the “family” organizations would have put a statement against Black Friday starting on Thanksgiving, what would have have had to say Rose? Spending ONE day together over a family meal does not make you a family. A lifetime together makes you a familly; commitment to one another through thick and thin, makes you a family; regular contact with family members strengthens relationship…which is what family is…relationship. And the list goes on…Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t think stores should be open on Thanksgiving and certainly not start Black Friday on that day. However, the making of a family is so much more than spending one day together overeating and sharing old stories. How about celebrating Thanksgiving in the true spirit of what the day was created for? It was, in its origin, a day to thank God, Jehovah, for a free country and a full harvest…simply put. How about returning Thanksgiving to that root? It also included the fellowship of others (originally the American Indians) and coming together as a community. Can I get a witness?

  • wilsongirl2

    Sorry! Typo! “have have had to say…” Intended: “what would you have had to say”

  • Secular1

    Ftsudo, I personally do not give a crap, about shopping. People may shop at any time they want ornot. Retailers would not be opening if they thought they would not sell on those days. That said, these associations of bigotry, ignorance & superstition mouth of all the time against things not to their liking. But on this occasion they are indeed silent, in contradiction to their own stated goals & objectives.

  • jade_alpha

    All hail the mighty dollar.

  • james70

    Overall, good point on calling out some groups for limiting their advocacy in a way thats convenient with regard to their political views. However,in fairness, this is not representative of most faith communties who hold orthodox views on same sex marriage. Go to just about any church during this season and you are almost certain to hear a sermon or homily on the commercialization of the holiday season. However, the mainstream media would never cover anything like this. Instead, they prefer to focus their (fictional)narrative that all theological christians are narrow minded and only focused on two issues (abortion and gay marriage).

  • ftsudo

    Secular1, what do you want the “associations of bigotry” to say on this issue? Would you rather them speak against shoppers choosing to shop, or businesses being open on holidays? Honest question, meant with best intentions.
    Also, the author of the article is the one being hypocritical by telling others how they should be living, when he doesn’t want anyone telling him how to live.

  • theFSM

    …but homosexuals should be hiding in the shadows, cause that’s what god would want.

    What’s your point?

  • cricket44

    No, ftsudo, you’re missing the point. He’s pointing out that these so-called “family” organizations, if you watch what they do, are not about family at all.

  • Catken1

    ” A lifetime together makes you a familly; commitment to one another through thick and thin, makes you a family; regular contact with family members strengthens relationship…which is what family is…relationship. ”

    Funny, then, how the so-called “pro-family” organizations make it harder for gay folks to have all of that, and seek to define family not as “relationship,” but as “male bits + female bits = as many babies as they can breed, even if it’s more than they want or can care for. with everyone’s roles assigned not by talent or inclination or with consideration of their full human selves, but strictly by sex alone..”

  • ftsudo

    Homosexuals don’t need to hide in the shadows. And I don’t think the “family” organizations have an opinion on these people’s or businesses’ choice of how they want to spend their holiday.

  • ftsudo

    cricket44, he’s said that Black Friday is a “blatant attack on family.” It’s not, so there’s nothing to say about it, right?

  • Secular1

    ftsudo, sorry for the delay. What these associations of bigotry could easily rail about teh commercialization, blah blah dee blah – the usual blather.