By Elizabeth Tenety
Image published with permission of @jennhudd
What’s offensive about a photo of two beaming parents cradling their newborn son? Plenty, according to the store manager of Harps grocery store in Mountain Home, Ark.
Music legend Elton John and his longtime partner David Furnish recently had a son via surrogate — an experience that John called “the most wonderful thing that’s probably ever happened to me.” US Weekly magazine featured the new parents on its cover, and, according to Harps Food Stores President Kim Eskew, an Arkansas store manager used his “discretion” to place a shield over the image after receiving complaints from customers. Eskew says the company’s policy is to allow managers to place shields over images deemed “sexually provocative” or “too revealing.” The shield has since been removed, after the corporate offices received complaints (and the scorn of gay activists and offended bloggers).
(Photograph by Greg Gorman/ US Weekly)
Are gay parents “sexually provocative”? The Harps store manager is not the only person to have problems with John’s lifestyle choice.
Just after the birth of their child, the Telegraph’s Richard Eden reported, one of the Church of England’s most prominent leaders, the Right Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said John and his partner had endangered their son by their choice to have a child via surrogate.
“I believe that surrogacy, inevitably, introduces a ‘third’ party to the legal parents. This will affect the welfare of the child, psychologically and in other ways.”
” … all the evidence shows that children are best brought up in the context of a stable marriage where they can relate to a mother and a father, so that they can develop healthy relationships with people of both genders.”
John told the AP that he was “disappointed that members of the Church of England questioned his parenthood in the days following his son’s birth.”
“Everyone is entitled to have their own beliefs and their own spirituality,” said John. “The big difference is that the dogma of the church can be so hateful and divisive. It’s stuck in the stone age. We don’t live in the stone age anymore. The church is losing people left, right and center because people are fed up with the rhetoric that they’re giving them,” John said.
Religious organizations and people are some of the most vocal opponents of gay rights. (See: the Mormon influence on Prop. 8 in California, Catholic opposition to overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.) But is it possible that gay dads are perhaps the best ambassadors for gay progress?
Gay celebrities Neil Patrick Harris, Ricky Martin and Clay Aiken have all recently had children via surrogates. Dennis Ayers, managing editor for the Web site After Elton, speculates that images of these loving gay dads doting on their children may play a crucial role in public acceptance of homosexuality:
“[Gay dads] are symbolically tearing down a barrier between gay men and family, and that has to be galling to Maggie Gallagher, James Dobson, Ralph Reed and the like, who wish to paint gays as a threat to the traditional family unit,” Ayers wrote.
What did you make of Harps censorship — and then their reversal — of the US Weekly cover? Is Ayers right that gay parents “are symbolically tearing down a barrier between gay men and family”?