June 21st, 2010
07:28 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama prods fathers, gives nod to gay dads

President Obama's Father's Day Proclamation openly acknowledges gay parents, noting that some children have two dads.

President Obama's Father's Day Proclamation openly acknowledges gay parents, noting that some children have two dads.

Washington (CNN) - One day after Father's Day, President Obama used his bully pulpit to stress the importance of fatherhood for the nation's youth. "Fathers are our first teachers and coaches…they're our mentors, our role models," the President told a gathering of local students, families and women's advocates.

But it was the President's message, in his official Father's Day Proclamation, that has generated controversy. In it the President openly acknowledges gay parents, noting that some children have two dads.

The proclamation states, "nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a step-father, a grandfather, or caring guardian."

Tony Perkins, from the conservative Family Research Council, called the President out. In a pointed statement he said "…proving that nothing is sacred - not even fatherhood - the President couldn't resist a shout-out to his homosexual base, marring what should have been a powerful acknowledgment of the family's importance in American life."

While not directly responding to Perkin's comments, White House Deputy Spokesman Bill Burton said the President was "just trying to be inclusive of all sorts of families, just like he was on the Mother's Day proclamation."

For Maryland State Sen. Rich Madaleno, the President's message is a welcome change. Madaleno, an openly gay white father who married his partner in 2001, adopted two African-American boys at birth.

"I think it shows his [President Obama's] commitment to celebrating all of America's families...Families come in all, shapes and sizes, instead of your standard mom and dad," Madaleno said. He was invited to the president's afternoon Father's Day Mentoring barbeque at the White House, thrown for about 150 high school kids and a group of prominent mentors.

Madaleno said the change in attitude has really made a difference. "This feels great...This is a President who doesn't just tolerate us but welcomes us. This is an amazing transformation over a very short time."

John Sowers, who attended the President's Friday morning speech, applauded the President for his leadership on the importance of fatherhood. Sowers - who runs a Christian mentoring group out of Portland, Oregon, that trains Christian youth mentors – said he didn't object to the inclusive proclamation. "We pretty much work with Christian churches. We pretty much have a conservative base. We engage in faith based Christian training, based on love. We don't discriminate. We focus on the kids. We stay clear of all that. It's controversy we don't need."

Sowers' focus on training mentors for kids comes from his personal experience as a child. His parents split when he was two years old, and his father moved away. Sowers, who wrote a book "Fatherless Generation," said he relates to President Obama, who was abandoned by his father. "I had a father-shaped hole in my heart. The Bible says God is father to the fatherless. Psalm 68:5. One of the main ways God fathered me is through mentors. That's why I applaud Obama. I'm thrilled he would take time in this wild landscape of DC to focus on this. Oil spill, economy, wars. He takes time to say this matters. I'm pumped, I'm celebrating. I'll advocate for him all day long, advocating for the fatherless."

President Obama told the audience the one key message they should remember is that "our children don't need us to be superheroes. They don't need us to be perfect. They do need us to be present. They need us to show up and give it our best shot, no matter what else is going on in our lives."

Filed under: President Obama • Same-sex marriage
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. But Obama is AGAINST gay marriage.....

    and all of the rights that go with it.......Obama should stop BSing and patronizing gays......and the media has to start pressing him on his anti gay marriage stance.....

    June 21, 2010 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  2. Chadwick

    I'm a gay dad, Mr. Perkins. Just because your religious ideals and philosophies don't match with mine doesn't make me any less of a father than you are. By undermining me, you are directly undermining my children as less than... which is the polar opposite of the truth.

    June 21, 2010 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  3. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Tony Perkins is saying "let the children suffer" because their parents are gay, now ain't that real Christian-like. No child should feel discrimination on Mothers or Fathers Day.

    June 21, 2010 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  4. Bill Bagwell

    Hardly surprised !!

    Bill B.

    June 21, 2010 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  5. Peter

    thats the problem with Republicans they can never acknowledge reality and thats why everyone thinks they still live in the 19th century, obama is just acknowledging the growing reality of American life...Obama is gonna destroy the REpublicans in 2012...America has moved forward and the republicans have a new American reality/civilization to catch up to......

    June 21, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  6. John

    The Family Research Council ought to remove the word Family from their title. To deny and lambaste something that is very much a case for many young children in this country is an outright abomination and is everything that is wrong with conservative ideology today. A child with two loving, committed fathers is better off than a child with one abusive, lousy father any day of the week.

    June 21, 2010 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  7. ib

    what do expect from a far left president who is only interested in "his agenda" and nothing else.

    June 21, 2010 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  8. Liz the First

    Tony Perkins is a bigot, pure and simple. he refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of any family that doesn't fit into his tiny mold. I applaud President Obama for caring about ALL American families. He is a realist who understands some people just are gay. Mr Perkins needs to get in touch with that simple reality and deal with it instead of spewing all his hate.

    June 21, 2010 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  9. Michael from Ventura

    That's a refreshing CHANGE I can believe in! Thanks Mr. President! Repeal DADT TODAY!

    June 21, 2010 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  10. Meka


    June 21, 2010 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  11. welches, oregon

    The conservatives just doesn't get it –

    Two gay mean raising two orphans IS A FAMILY!

    Good Job Obama!!

    June 21, 2010 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  12. Ron Thibodeau

    It's very sad that Tony Perkins, who "The Family Research Council" only feels that only one type of 'family' (ones with a mom and a dad) are the only ones worth mentioning.

    Perhaps he should do some 'family research' of his own, and come to grips with the fact that we are in the 21st Century, and that the definition of 'family' is a fluid thing.

    June 21, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  13. JLP

    I guess we know where the president stands on same sex marriage. It wa not that long ago that he stated that," marriage was between a man and a woman". It appears that now that he is president, that position is out the window.

    June 21, 2010 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  14. valwayne

    Gay fathers are just as important in the lives of their children as straight fathers, many of whom will find out in due time that their children are gay. The haters just can't ever stop, not even for Father's Day. As for Obama...the thought was nice, but "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is still the law of the land. Obama is still our Discriminator in Chief, and gay men and women risking their lives for us in Iraq and Afghanistan still are forced to live a lie or risk the ruin of the careers, and even their lifes work, because Obama and the Democrats have not kept their promise to end the discrimination for the last 20 years. Talk is cheap! Not one penny, not one vote for a democrat until the discrimination is ended!!!!!

    June 21, 2010 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  15. AJ

    But not enough a nod to push the repeal of DADT or support marriage equality. The guy is a total fraud. The sooner HE'S OUT OF OFFICE THE BETTER!! That from a lifelong Democrat.

    June 21, 2010 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  16. SusieTX

    I think the message is very powerful, positive and hopeful if people will pay attention to the message. We are a nation of many divorced families and unfortunately, in a lot of cases the father turns his back on his children. I know mine did – I haven't seen him in almost 40 years and yes, he is alive and well. Happy belated Father's Day, dad.

    June 21, 2010 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  17. Gerri Rivers

    Yes I said it and not ashamed. I do not approve of same sex relationships in any form. The president and others like him need to say what they mean and stop beating around the bush.

    I would not spend time, energy or money fighting for or against this issue because people are going to do whatever they want to.

    June 21, 2010 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  18. ThinkAgain

    Fatherhood isn't sacred – it's not a religious institution, it's a social institution.

    These religious fanatics are all alike. If you disagree with them, they call you anti-God.

    Last time I checked, God created us all, including gay people. And I believe God would rather see two men (or women) raise children in a loving family than a man and a woman raise children in a home full of hate.

    June 21, 2010 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  19. Doyle Wiley, MI

    As long as the President statements were true we shouldn't have a problem with it. The truth sometimes hurt but it is still the truth; and the truth should be told unedited.

    June 21, 2010 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  20. vegage

    Bravo for Obama, gay families are a reality of this country and people just need to get used to that reality, the same way the got used to see interracial families.

    June 21, 2010 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  21. Rob

    As a gay father, I commend the President.

    June 21, 2010 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  22. Cynthia

    yeah I forgot the only way we can be inclusive is by calling out all the "special groups". If you are GLBT and have a family why is that not enough to talk about the importance of dads or moms. Why does it need to be noted of the different family settings.

    June 21, 2010 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  23. Shaun

    Instead of fighting a culture of dead beat and absent fathers, Mr. Perkins turns his aim to loving fathers who happen to be gay. What a hypocrite.

    June 21, 2010 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  24. Francisco Cardenas

    So, does Tony Perkins think there are no gay dads? I am proud of President Obama for including everyone in his Father's Day message. God bless America and God bless our President!

    June 21, 2010 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  25. Ted

    Conservatives are a joke.
    ´´the President couldn't resist a shout-out to his homosexual base´´

    Seriously? Obama has not been a friend towards the gay community. And making it seem like he is, is insane.

    June 21, 2010 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
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