Elton John cover controversy: Is a gay dad ‘sexually provocative’?

By Elizabeth Tenety Image published with permission of @jennhudd What’s offensive about a photo of two beaming parents cradling their … Continued

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.”

And

” … 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”?

About

Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • WmarkW

    Some parents might have trouble with their children’s questions about the birds and the birds.

  • elwoll

    And who is Jesus’ daddy? A virgin and the holy spirit (a bird, no less). God the father? An archangel? Don’t want to go there! Jesus, Mary and poor Joseph. Now THERE is a traditional family.

  • garoth

    The great change in attitude toward gays over just a few years is mostly due to people actually being exposed to gays, and understanding that they are normal people. When they interact with them, particularly as members of their family or friends, they understand that they do not have two heads – or one that spins around,and are no threat to heterosexual marriage. Furthermore, their children are as normal as any others – there are no studies that indicate otherwise. Yes – it is helpful for there to be two parents in the home, but that is a matter of income and stability, and can be provided by gay parents as well as heterosexual ones. As for the matter of role models, there are many ways to find role models – single parents have to deal with that all the time, and having models of both sexes is no guarantee that they will be good models. Regarding the shielding of the magazine – I don’t see anything hanging out, other than two guys with a baby – so what’s the problem? Should we be shielding people from the magazines that show two hunters on the cover who happen to both be men, too?

  • lepidopteryx

    I would much rather see a magazine cover of the Elton John, David Furniish, and their son than another cover of Lindsay Lohan in yet another drunken escapade.

  • Jakarta

    Let’s just leave aside for the moment the implications of rich men using poor women as rent-a-wombs. Let’s leave aside the Orwellian abuse of language of “baby has two daddies.” Here’s the question no one asks: What about the child? Does the narcissistic desire of two sextagenarian gay men to have “their” child trump a child’s right to know and be raised by his two biological parents? A right that even the UN Commission on the Rights of the Child has recognized? Apparently, yes it does! The kid will be fine, at least in terms of the stuff that money can buy, which is, as we all know, the only stuff that matters. So let’s all focus on the important thing here: What’s best for the adults.

  • LyndaLBD

    1. The store can do as it sees fit according to its own policies. So be it!2. I would worry about why 2 men need to have a baby.3. Elton John insults Americans left and right,(“I’ve been treated like a second rate citizen in the US!”) and the Americans don’t see it and they are blinded by John’s music suave act.He’s not been treated like a second rate citizen, because he’s NEVER been a citizen in the US. Have to be a citizen in the US to be treated anything like a second rate citizen. He’s a VISITOR on an VISA! He’s been treated like royalty with kid gloves because he’s loaded with lots and lots of money. He’s a British Subject, and has sworn fealty (oath of loyalty) to the Queen, who is also DEFENDER OF THE FAITH, CROWN, and COUNTRY. He’s even insulted her time and time again. She could strip him of his knighthood (I recommend it).He’s never been treated like a second rate citizen in the US, not when there have actually been REAL people treated less than human in America – the Native Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Blacks, Mexicans – and women – who were all denied rights until the REAL Women of the US stood up and demanded rights and the vote.Elton John is a flippant BRITISH queen, who has made billions off blinded batty American customers. He insults them, and they give him money. I want my money back.

  • rj2008

    What gives all these religious leaders the right to judge anyone and how they conduct their lives? Do they really think some ancient doctrines, that have been altered time after time by the church to suit their needs, should be the standard for everyone in the world to live their lives by forever and always. The church needs to come out of the Dark Ages and encourage all people to live their lives the best they can and be glad that gay people can love their families just as much as any bishop or politician. Elton Johns little baby will have a happy a life as long as he doesn’t listen to narrow minded people who hate to much.

  • EricFutterman

    Anyone who is against two people giving love, time, security and kindness to a child is an idiot. I say Mazel Tov to the proud parents and thanks Elton for giving me the music of my life. PS I’m a heterosexual single dad.

  • lepidopteryx

    JAKARTA: Let’s just leave aside for the moment the implications of rich men using poor women as rent-a-wombs.JAKARTA: Let’s leave aside the Orwellian abuse of language of “baby has two daddies.” JAKARTA: Does the narcissistic desire of two sextagenarian gay men to have “their” child trump a child’s right to know and be raised by his two biological parents?

  • jckdoors

    More intolerance from the army of Jesus.

  • Capn0ok1

    We know a couple of Lesbian ladies, one of whom had a daughter by AI. Since the mother had never “known” a man, does this make it an immaculate conception?

  • karlmarx2

    It’s easy to become intolerant of homophobes. After all, this is one the less revolting things they’ve done lately, but it’s still pretty ugly.We should try to remember that homophobes are very sick people. It’s like an addiction. They need to have somebody to hate so that they can avoid contemplating their own inner rottenness.

  • snowbucks

    “1. The store can do as it sees fit according to its own policies. So be it!”Absloutly RIGHT…they don’t want none’them black or jews in the store either…

  • CHAOTICIAN101

    The real obscenities are the likes of Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Time, and Newsweek with their covers of criminal Banksters, Wall Street gamblers, political opportunists, Congress criminals, and Fox liars! If we removed these miscreants and their fellow travelers ranting from the Christian pulpits, America would be a far better place!

  • dragondancer1814

    I’d rather see a cover featuring a couple like Elton John and his partner showing off their new son than a cover featuring the latest spoiled-brat celebrity screwing up his or her life (e.g. Lindsay Lohan) or magazines like Maxim showing tarted-up nymphets wearing next to nothing or magazines that show pencil-thin models and article titles about “How to Catch a Man” or “Improving Your Sex Life” or something like that. Yecch!There is nothing wrong with a loving couple who finally had a child that they had wanted for years being shown on the cover of a magazine, no matter what their genders! Their son was very much wanted from the get-go (unlike many hetero offspring of parents who aren’t together and were the result of a contraception failure or failure to use contraception in the first place-look at the moms on Maury who don’t even know who their baby’s daddy is!), and will be taught well that it’s not just gender that makes a family-it’s love and the effort taken to raise their children well!

  • maggots

    The store can do as it sees fit according to its own policies. So be it!##########################################If the store can do what is sees fit, then so can Elton John and his partner.

  • potaboc

    As to the comment that there are no studies showing having same-sex parents is harmful to children, there are no studies showing that it is not. It is not being hateful to worry about the effects of a situation completely outside of all human experience.

  • chatard

    What a shame, indeed what a tragedy, that this child will never know…will never know….will never know…..a mother’s love.

  • hohandy1

    the store responded to complaints by some its customers. What on earth does this have to do with either faith or religion?

  • fluxgirl

    Never heard of the store. I now see why, though. As for the church, it needs to mind it’s own business. Whatever that is.

  • chatard

    My comment was at first posted and then when I came back later it had been deleted, so I am going to post it again. It is as follows: What a shame, indeed what a tragedy, that this child will never know…..will never know …..will never know…..a mother’s love.

  • larryclyons

    POSTED BY: POTABOCI guess in your so-called infinite wisdom you’ve read all those studies and still are able to come up with the wrong conclusion. What these studies have shown (and yes I’ve read most of them btw), is that there are no statistically significant differences in terms of mental or physical well being for children raised by same sex or heterosexual couples. In other words these kids are as well adjusted or not despite their parents being gay or straight.

  • lepidopteryx

    CHATARD,Babies whose mothers die in childbirth never know their mother’s love.

  • stevie7

    Chatard,So would you be fine with a female gay couple having a child?

  • stevie7

    POSTED BY: POTABOC

  • holien1

    Your right Stevie7Just because you’ve never killed someone or married your mother or sister or stolen doesn’t mean you have the right to judge someone who has.Just because you haven’t done it doesn’t doesn’t mean you can speak for all humanity who has.Oh wait…maybe there are absolutes of right and wrong..Good and evil.Or maybe one could just make it up as you go along…I don’t think so.

  • holien1

    Your right Stevie7Just because you’ve never killed someone or married your mother or sister or stolen doesn’t mean you have the right to judge someone who has.Just because you haven’t done it doesn’t doesn’t mean you can speak for all humanity who has.Oh wait…maybe there are absolutes of right and wrong..Good and evil.Or maybe one could just make it up as you go along…I don’t think so.

  • stevie7

    Just because you’ve never killed someone or married your mother or sister or stolen doesn’t mean you have the right to judge someone who has.Just because you haven’t done it doesn’t doesn’t mean you can speak for all humanity who has.Oh wait…maybe there are absolutes of right and wrong..Good and evil.Or maybe one could just make it up as you go along…I don’t think so.POSTED BY: HOLIEN1My whole point was that the claim ‘completely outside of all human experience’ was extremely narrow-minded, but that’s for twisting that around for your own purpose.

  • ThomasBaum

    Capn0ok1 You asked, “We know a couple of Lesbian ladies, one of whom had a daughter by AI. Since the mother had never “known” a man, does this make it an immaculate conception?”No, the term “Immaculate conception” does not refer to Jesus’s conception but to Mary’s conception.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • blasmaic

    If you don’t like it, don’t buy it and don’t sell it. Stores don’t sell Playboy or Penthouse anymore. Walmart won’t sell Maxim or other similar publications. But some store manager in a rural Arkansas town becomes the focus of all the attention. We seem to accept that publications featuring beautiful looking naked women can be shielded from consumers. Maybe we are not supposed to be conditioned into accepting gorgeous, voluptuous, healthy, sexy, and inviting women as normal.

  • onthejourney

    Get a grip!

  • lsigalov1

    Conservative Christian bigotry is a thousand times more dangerous than two stable loving men having a baby. How any more gay men have to be killed or commit suicide before people learn tolerance? Come out of the middle ages, people.

  • BlueTwo1

    The people who think two men with a baby makes a sexually provocative photograph state their case for the one man, one woman, one baby traditional family and all the benefits that arrangement supposedly brings to the exclusion of other possible arrangements. Study after study show that kids develop normally in any caring relationship with adults. The real issue is Leviticus and its supposed scowl at homosexual behavior. One man, one woman, and one baby, where the man is an alcoholic who beats his wife and child is Traditional and dysfunctional, but somehow preferable to the gay couple. If I were the child in the relationship, I’d prefer two unintoxicated caring gay fathers over the beatings.

  • EdgewoodVA

    What DRAGONDANCER1814 said (which echoes others, including LEPIDOPTERYX) deserves to be repeated: “I’d rather see a cover featuring a couple like Elton John and his partner showing off their new son than a cover featuring the latest spoiled-brat celebrity screwing up his or her life (e.g. Lindsay Lohan) or magazines like Maxim showing tarted-up nymphets wearing next to nothing or magazines that show pencil-thin models and article titles about “How to Catch a Man” or “Improving Your Sex Life” or something like that. Yecch!”I have taught young children for 20 years, and I have plenty to say about hetero couples (and singles) who became parents by accident and some who continued having kids despite their obvious desire to live a life without such responsibilities or their undeniably abhorrent parenting “skills.” Some other heterosexual parents began with good intentions but ended up divorced and bitter towards each other and neglectful of their children nevertheless. I have come to know all sorts of families, and though only some of the parents have been same-sex, they stand out as mindful, affectionate, informed mothers and fathers. Gay/lesbian families are not perfect–none are–but they are *intentional* families that are not created just because it’s expected of them or because Grandma wants to perpetuate her DNA or the family name.If a child is being beaten or verbally abused, or her/his parents are shooting up and pimping themselves out, then by all means, step in. Otherwise, look after your own children and move on.

  • rbarry531

    That’s why they call it “the Bible Belt”

  • holien1

    I see … bigotry and ignorance hiding behind religion – typical. What gives you the right to decide was is Right or Wrong or Good or Evil? And equating a child haivng two fathers with murder or incense? Nice. I guess that whole “judge not lest ye be judged” thing is only a suggestion.POSTED BY stevie7 4:51 pmPlaybook for intolerance.#2.Make sure you put make all truth subjetive to change by general consensus.That way one day anything we do can be legal day by reason of agreement of the social majority.#3.Be hipocrital you have to be sooo mad about intolerance that you no longer tolerate and fester hatrid towards anyone who opposes your behaviorAnd when you quote Jesus don’t use just whatever suites your adgenda but keep things in context.Jesus said JN 7:24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”So maybe thats a suggestion also.You have to take everything as a whole.Not just parts that suites you.You(and people in your realm of belief)have no tolerance and absolutely hate anyone who has opposes your deviant behavior..As a matter of fact.Your a Theofob in your heart and can’t wait until the generation that stands in your way dies.Just admitt it.Your soo hateful it’s practially coming out of your mouth.

  • chatard

    And once more, for any who may have missed it: What a shame, indeed what a tragedy, that this child will never know….will never know…..will never know ….a mother’s love.

  • LeighOats

    Says “Jakarta” (“January 27, 2011 2:11 PM”):”Let’s leave aside the [. . .] abuse of language [. . .]. Does the narcissistic desire of two sextagenarian gay men [. . .].”Sextagenarian? Not even Webster recognises that word. Who’s abusing language?

  • kuato

    congrats to the new family. I hope parenthood makes the two gentlemen as happy as it has made my wife and me.

  • papafritz571

    There are thousands of horror stories about child abuse by the heterosexual parents through physical, mental and sexual deviance. We read about them everyday throughout the world and in America. To date, I have never been aware of any of these stories that specifically relate to homosexual parents.

  • qqbDEyZW

    Well those of faith might have a problem with this topic after hearing of decades of child molestation covered up and the Priest who were found to be gay or having sex with female members of the church. We see those who attack others are covering their own sin. When Senator Ensign invited his mistress and her family to his home with his wife and kids to explain his affair. Later both couples attended the same church while the Senator continued his affair. How sick is that, as Senator Ensign calls himself a man of God.

  • carlaclaws

    What a shame, indeed what a tragedy, that this child will never know…will never know….will never know…..a mother’s love.Posted by: chatard

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