Heather Barwick, who has come out against gay marriage despite having a lesbian mom. Photo via Women of Grace.
A South Carolina woman’s new essay about being raised by her lesbian mom contains a surprising revelation: she opposes marriage equality.
“Gay community, I am your daughter. My mom raised me with her same-sex partner back in the ’80s and ’90s,” writes Heather Barwick, a 31-year-old mother of four, in The Federalist. “I’m writing to you because I’m letting myself out of the closet: I don’t support gay marriage. But it might not be for the reasons that you think. It’s not because you’re gay. I love you, so much. It’s because of the nature of the same-sex relationship itself.”
Barwick, who also recently shared her story with the Christian publication World — and who signed onto a letter of support to designers Dolce & Gabbana following their controversial statements regarding gay and lesbian parents — would not speak with Yahoo Parenting. She replied to an interview request with the following message: “At the moment I’m unable to do an interview or further commenting on my letter.”
In her essay, she explains that when she was 2 or 3, her mother, who already knew that she was gay, left Barwick’s father to have a relationship with a woman. “Her partner treated me as if I was her own daughter,” she writes. “Along with my mom’s partner, I also inherited her tight-knit community of gay and lesbian friends.” Her father, meanwhile, “wasn’t a great guy,” and “didn’t bother coming around anymore.”
As she grew up with her loving mom and stepmom, Barwick writes, her family taught her “how to be brave,” have “empathy,” “how to listen,” and “how to stand up for myself, even if that means I stand alone.” And for a while — into her 20s — that meant being an advocate for gay marriage. But now she’s had a change of heart.
“Same-sex marriage and parenting withholds either a mother or father from a child while telling him or her that it doesn’t matter. That it’s all the same. But it’s not,” she writes. “A lot of us, a lot of your kids, are hurting. My father’s absence created a huge hole in me, and I ached every day for a dad. I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost.”
But while her argument is heartfelt, note some gay-parenting supporters, it’s also full of holes.
“There’s nothing wrong with her sharing her experience — it’s an important conversation, and one that we have, and should have, all the time,” Gabriel Blau, executive director of the Family Equality Council, tells Yahoo Parenting. “But denying a huge swath of American citizens our civil rights is not an answer.”
Blau, who is raising a 7-year-old son with his husband, adds, “I think it’s disingenuous to say you don’t support LGBT rights and that your concern is children. Supporting marriage equality does not create our families — it creates support for families that already exist.” He adds that Barwick’s pain over the absence of a father “who chose not to be in the picture” and her conclusion to not support gay marriage represent two distinct issues, and that her connection of the two is “such a non-sequitur.”
Abigail Garner, an LGBT family-rights educator and author of the book “Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is,” who was raised by two dads, is also confused by Barwick’s essay.
“Heather Barwick’s commentary mixes up several personal issues to offer a confusing argument that lacks logic,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “It is true that some children of gay parents feel like they need to present their best public persona in order for their parents to be spared criticism, and I have written rather critically about the factors that create what I’ve referred to as ‘the pressure to be perfect.’”
But, Garner adds, “The next logical step in addressing that pressure, however, is certainly not to promote leaving these families in legal limbo by denying same-sex parents the right to marry. While I sympathize with Heather’s pain caused by being abandoned by her heterosexual father, her pain has nothing to do with same-sex marriage. We are all entitled to our personal narratives, but I strongly disagree with Heather’s contrived attempt to offer her personal story as a case for blocking other families’ access to marriage rights.”