Well, J.C. Penney is at it again. They’re trying to destroy the very fabric of our society, causing social upheaval, widespread misery, and universal damnation. Yep, they’re running a father’s day ad with real-life dads in it. Two of ’em, to be exact. But how is that any different from the hordes of other advertisements we’ll be subjected to over the next couple of weeks as we work our way towards Dad’s day? It’s because the couple in question is just that — a couple.
The fact that JC Penney featured a gay couple in their ad has the pristine and oh-so-virtuous knickers of the One Million Moms in a twist once again. Or perhaps still. Actually, the One Million Moms project — perhaps best known these days for getting upset about JC Penney’s choice of Ellen DeGeneres as a spokeswoman — is just a marketing campaign organized by the American Family Association, a conservative Christian organization that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Given their past history of anti-LGBT actions, it’s really no surprise that they are trying to rally their 50,000 Facebook friends to join them in their hysteria over this latest ad.
But, really, is the ad so bad? It shows two dads sitting on the floor fooling around with their two kids. How terrible can it be? Who are these guys and where did those darling kids come from?
It turns out that Todd Koch and Cooper Smith, the dads in question, live in Dallas, Texas and have been together for more than a dozen years. Three years ago, the pair adopted two infants, one right after the other. Both had wanted kids and together examined their options. “We decided that adoption was the best option for us,” Smith told the Dallas Voice in 2009. “Surrogacy is extremely expensive and neither of us had strong feelings about having biological connections to our children. We asked ourselves, ‘Why go to such extremes to create a new life when there are so many kids in this world who need good homes?’” So they began the process and, in March, 2009, they became the proud parents of a baby girl. Three months later, they got another call and, just in time for Fathers’ Day, little Claire got a baby brother.
Now they’re stirring up trouble again by, well, being as cute as all get-out. They are parents who clearly love their kids and whose kids clearly love them.
The sad part of this story is not that JC Penney is somehow traumatizing all of America with an ad that will appeal to everyone but hardcore bigots, it’s that, for many LGBT folk, the desire to be a parent is not so easily sated. When my wife and I decided it was time to have kids, we simply did it. We had kids. For members of the LGBT community, however, it’s a little less straightforward. “For me, I have always wanted children and a family,” Koch told the Voice. “When I came out, in my mind that ‘want’ changed to ‘can’t,’ and I put it out of my mind for a while.” Hopefully, their photo in the JC Penney ad will help other members of the LGBT community see that parenthood is very much an option. Koch’s opinion changed in the same way. “Over the years as I started to meet very courageous gay people who were parenting children, my attitude of ‘can’t’ changed to ‘will.'” I’m sure his kids are very glad of that.
And what of all those frantic moms? On their website, they urge their followers to act, admonishing that “one day we will answer for our actions or lack of them.” They are correct, of course — they will be judged one day, just as we judge those who screamed hate at the Little Rock Nine, who treated women as chattel, who killed millions for being Jewish. Yes, indeed, time will cast judgment on their actions and their hatred. And JC Penney and the Smith-Koch family are helping make that day come sooner rather than later. Kudos to all.
This post is part of Blogging for LGBT Families Day.