Wednesday, September 15, 2010


In my new job one of the things I am getting accustomed to is all the different terms for things.  The software we use for adding new files refers to the people as the client and the pet as the patient.  When we refer to the pets and the people in person we tend to refer to them in terms of family - the people are the parents of the pet.  We will say "Fluffy's mom is here to pick her up."  No one seems to mind this label.

So it is not surprising that 30% of Americans actually count pets as part of the family when polled.  The very sad thing is that only 40% of Americans think a gay couple are a family.

New research on the topic how a family is defined is contained in a book-length study, "Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans' Definition of Family" and in a separate 2010 survey overseen by the book's lead author, Indiana University sociologist Brian Powell.

Only about one-third of those surveyed said they considered same-sex couples without children to be a family. And in 2006, when asked if gay couples and pets count as family, 30 percent said pets count but not gay couples.

"The sheer idea that gay couples are given less status than pets should give us pause," Powell said in an interview.  (At least the gays have come up in the polls by 10%  since 2006 - good job America...)

In the 2010 survey, 83 percent of the respondents said they perceived unmarried heterosexual couples with children as a family; only 40 percent extended that recognition to unmarried straight couples without children.

The problems with this isn't really just about bigotry - there are real life altering issues for people which flow from attitudes about what makes a family.  Among other matters, it affects  income tax filings, adoption and foster care practices, employee benefits and inheritance rights. 

I think of all those kids out there waiting for a good foster home; waiting for an adoptive mom or dad and the attitudes of people stuck in "Ozzie and Harriet"  mindsets which are denying them the warmth and safety of those family bonds. 

We really need to get over ourselves and let everyone open up their homes and hearts to the kids out there, just as we encourage people to open their homes and hearts to all the little animals out there.  There are all kinds of families and all kinds of family members.


knittergran said...

Well said! This ought to find its way to mainstream media.
And congratulations on your 300th post!

Wenderina said...

Wow. Not where I thought you were going in the first paragraph. I mean I totally thought I was going to get snarky in my response as a pet owner, who LOVES her animals, but REFUSES to be MOMMY to them. I am MASTER, or MISTRESS if you prefer, but not MOMMY.

But now, I have to bail on that and be all gushy and breathless and "You Go Girl" on your message about inequality of thinking. Well done MISTRESS.

Anonymous said...


Tricia said...

I'm mummy to my dogs and I like being called that. My dogs are an important part of my "family" and who I am. But interesting many laws view the dog as a "possession" kind of like a piece of furniture.
“The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.”
Pierre Elliott Trudeau quotes (Canadian Prime Minister, 1919-2000)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I think attitudes are changing very quickly--I hope that within the next few years that survey will get totally different results.

I really don't want to be called my dogs' "mommy." I love them wholeheartedly but they are NOT my children! Pet peeve of mine.