On Tuesday night, Dec. 14, Rosie O’Donnell and I will be conducting a public conversation in Englewood about families and kids, the celebrity culture and the effects of fame, balancing work and career, and learning how to inspire our children.
It’s a subject Rosie is eminently qualified to address. This is, after all, the woman who walked away from one of television’s most successful programs and tens of millions of dollars per year in order to raise her children. The conversation will be followed by a fund-raiser for Turn Friday Night Into Family Night, my national campaign to create weekly family dinners for all Americans so that children are prioritized in the lives of their parents.
When I told a religious friend about being inspired by Rosie adopting four children, he said to me, “How sad that these kids are never going to have a father.” Lost on him was the irony that without Rosie they would not have a mother either.
Truth regardless of consequences Now, Rosie has a media microphone and can fend for herself. But I think about all the other gay adoptive parents who are under assault as being ill-equipped to adopt. We’ve heard all the arguments. Gay parents who adopt will make their children gay (offensive and stupid). Every child deserves a mother and a father (I addressed this above). Being gay is an abomination, to which I would respond that leaving a child to grow up in an orphanage where nobody wants him or her might be an even greater act of sacrilege.
But to my fellow heterosexuals I offer the following challenge. You have every right to oppose gay marriage. It’s a free country. We don’t suppress opinions. But aren’t you under a moral obligation to adopt the children in gay people’s stead? Surely leaving kids to drown without love is deeply immoral. But to stop others from rescuing them is an abomination.
I am the father of nine children, thank God. I have at times discussed with my wife the possibility of adopting a child. Every child is a child of God, not only our biological children. They should have a home and we should offer it. But my conversations have never gone past just that, conversations. I stand in awe of all those who actually do it. In Judaism there are few higher mitzvahs than raising a child with no parents as your own. This is God’s child, and really, He should have made provisions for him. But the Creator chooses, for reasons unknown to us, to hide behind the veil of nature, and it is we humans who must fill in the seemingly empty spaces. Those who give love to an unwanted child are society’s and religion’s greatest heroes.
We all agree that every orphaned child is of infinite value. Some of us, however, pay mere lip service to the ideal. Others dress, feed, and hug these children every day of their lives. They wake up in the middle of the night and nurse crying babies back to sleep. They embrace their troubled teenagers and counsel them through life’s disappointments. They go to work every day to pay for college and weddings. Gay or straight, they make us all look small by comparison. And it would seem to me that it takes one heck of a lot of chutzpah to tell gay men or women not to adopt when we refuse to do so ourselves.
The same rule would apply to those who insist on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” No problem; oppose people who are openly gay serving in the military. It’s your right. You believe that compromises military morale and combat readiness. I get it. But surely you’re going to sign up yourself, right? You’re not just going to deny a gay man or woman the right to fight terrorists who want to blow up innocent children and then spend your nights as a couch potato watching Monday night football. Surely you’re not going to prevent gays from protecting democracy and then run off to Best Buy to find a new 3D HD TV. Someone’s got to sacrifice for this country. And if you want to prevent gay people from doing so, you have to grab a rifle and dodge the bullets yourself.
A few years ago, on my radio show, I interviewed two gay men who were in court fighting the government of Florida – my home state, where gay adoption is prohibited – to adopt a 5-year-old African-American child who was mentally-handicapped. They had been picking the boy up from an orphanage every Sunday for about a year and now wanted to adopt him. One of the men said, “Nobody wants him. But we want him.” I choked up. The show went to dead air. I could not speak or respond. “Nobody wants him. But we want him.” Here was a child whose skin color for some was all wrong and whose intelligence did not always match up. But to these two men the boy was perfect.
I believe their love for him was also perfect, and I believe that God loves these men for their dedication to this child, irrespective of how we view the morality of their relationship.
I am an Orthodox Jew. Judaism and the Bible have been the center of my life for all my 44 years. But if religion has not taught me to respect all men and women who adopt an unloved orphan and be inspired by their example, then it has failed to bring out my humanity or change my heart. That some would prefer that unwanted children remain in orphanages rather than in warm and welcoming homes, that some would prefer that these children cry themselves to sleep at night rather than being read a story by a loving parent, is a sad commentary on the self-appointed morality police of our time.