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This Thanksgiving, American kitchens and dining rooms are looking increasingly diverse. The American family is changing as more of us intermarry with people of other faiths and ethnicities, and same-sex couples take their vows in a growing number of states.
This diversity is something to be proud of—and it is certainly something to celebrate and give thanks for during our holiday, and during the annual National Family Week that accompanies it.
National Family Week is an annual celebration that has been observed during the week of Thanksgiving, for more than 40 years. Family Week is designed to build community connections and honor those who strengthen families.
Unfortunately, some religious right groups are using National Family Week as an excuse to promote a privileged status for their faith traditions, spread hate and impose their particular set of values on other Americans. One Washington-based group for example, claims that the “concept of the family” is one that “must withstand the trends of lifestyle and legislation,” or the children being raised in “non-traditional family units” will suffer.
The “traditional” family of the past –a church-going family with a bread-winning husband, stay-at-home wife and three or more kids –is no longer representative of the typical American family. Today 22 percent of Americans identify as religiously unaffiliated. More couples are having children out of wedlock, more women are taking on the role of bread-winner, and more married couples are having fewer children. Furthermore, same-sex couples are raising families in increasing numbers. According to an article in Monday’s “New York Times,” an estimated one out of 37 children under the age of 18 lives with same-sex parents.
The reality is that the changes in the American family—which center largely around diversity—are not harmful, they are the byproduct of a free and pluralistic America. Changes in lifestyle and legislation are what abolished slavery, granted women the right to vote, and brought civil rights for minorities to the forefront of American life. It is changes like these that help promote the forward march of humanity.
When the religious right vilifies what they consider non-“traditional” families, they reinforce intolerance and harmful negative stereotypes. It is a shame that such a joyous, inclusive holiday is being used to propagate hateful stereotypes in the interest of promoting a “traditional” family structure that is unrepresentative of today’s American families.
This year during Thanksgiving and National Family Week, the Secular Coalition is encouraging Americans to embrace their differences, rather than allow them to divide us. In the true spirit of Thanksgiving, express your gratitude for the American tradition of freedom and diversity by celebrating the non-“traditional” aspects of your family.
We encourage Americans to promote an expanded view of family to loved ones during the holidays and set aside time during Thanksgiving to give thanks for the diversity in your family. Strengthen ties with family members who live a different lifestyle, have a different family structure or hold different religious views, by letting them know they have your unconditional love and support.
National Family week is an opportunity for us to reflect on the importance of family—and also to make sure everyone in the family has an equal shot under our secular laws. As many lawmakers head home for the holidays, we encourage Americans to contact their legislators and let them know that they support equal rights for all families, on issues such as adoption, marriage, workplace discrimination and women’s choice.
And finally, this is a wonderful time of year to donate to organizations that support equality for all types of families.
With each Thanksgiving we are seeing the American family structure change and it is a wonderful time to reflect and give thanks for the many gifts that diversity brings.
There is no family quite like your own, and that is something to be thankful for.
Edwina Rogers is Executive Director Secular Coalition of America.
Image via Dikdriks.