At Sunday night's Emmys, academy members once again honored Modern Family with a healthy cache of awards, including for Best Comedy Series, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Supporting Actor. In that last category, the academy specifically noted the performance of Eric Stonestreet, who of course plays Cameron, one of the two gay dads at the heart of the show. Stonestreet has added both humor and heart to the role, which is precisely why he's been honored multiple times for his efforts.
And it's not just Emmy voters, either. The sitcom's ratings are unwaveringly healthy and its fanbase ever-growing. Even prominent figures with questionable support for LGBT rights have voiced support for the show, its story lines, and its comedic portrait of family life circa 2012 America. The show is as embedded in the zeitgeist as Cosby, Roseanne, Brady (the orginal modern family?), or any of the family sitcom icons to come before.
But while the strong support in the powerful TV medium is encouragingly strong, it's important for us, the human embodiments of the modern family (which is to say, just about all of us), to remember the very real and very hurtful anti-accolades that certain individuals and groups (the "M-E" voters, if you will) continue to try to cram into the script. For a glimpse of that, we can turn to GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project.
Here are just a sampling of things that prominent GLAAD CAP figures from groups like the National Organization For Marriage and the American Family Association have recently said about parents like Mitchell and Cameron:
- Compared children losing their parents on 9/11 to children with gay parents: "Our President gave a speech a few days ago in which he said, ‘the tragedy of 9/11 was that it robbed so many children of having a mommy or a daddy.' Well, you know something Mr. President, your failure to defend marriage and to redefine marriage means that everybody who is under that redefined marriage will lack either a mommy or a daddy and that is morally wrong.”
Jim Garlow [CAP]
- Claims that children with gay parents will end up “behind bars for committing violent crimes.” (0:00 - 0:56)
Mat Staver [CAP]
- Says children of gay parents are in a "tragic situation" and equated having gay parents to having divorced or even dead parents (see second video down on webpage)
- Says gay couples who adopt “turn children into little teacup dogs -- it's an accessory to put in my purse" (see video from 4:35-5:16)
Chris Plante [CAP]
- Leant credence to a widely discredted study suggesting gay parents are not ideal: "What we should avoid at all costs is silencing such research and such discussion because it is seen by some as politically incorrect. Where optimizing the well-being of children is involved, no stone should be left unturned."
- Claimed lesbian parents need to be studied to see if they "turned" their child transgender: "We have two women raising a child. He's adopted. And he's come to believe that he too is female. That argues for a complete psychological evaluation, not just of the boy, but of his parents as well to see whether psychological forces are at play here to make him say such things"
Keith Albow [CAP]
- Said two loving gay parents add no value to parenting: "But the fatherhood ‘effect’ is not cumulative - two daddies are not better than one -- nor is a mother dispensable or replaceable. Instead of expending precious (and finite) energy and resources on selling the merits of two- father or two-mother families, the [Obama] administration would be wise to invest and encourage the loving presence of both a mom and a dad."
Jim Daly [CAP]
- Referring to President Obama’s Father’s Day recognition of gay parents: “[H]ere we have the leader of our nation and the Democrat [sic] Party celebrating sexual behavior which is contrary to nature and pushing a household structure that we know is harmful to children ... [O]ur President is so committed to normalizing homosexual conduct that he is putting the twisted sexual desires of adults ahead of the needs of children.”
Tim Wildmon [CAP]
- “That lifestyle [homosexuality] is outside of God’s design for the family.” (0:23-0:28)
Bob Vander Plaats [CAP]
- On multiple occasions, called for an “Underground Railroad to deliver innocent children from same-sex households”
- Says: "In the wake of what we've seen at Penn State, that alone out to be enough to say that, look: we are not going to put children in same-sex households—we are not going to adopt them into same-sex households. We are not going to give custody, if somebody goes into the homosexual lifestyle after siring children—bringing children into the world with an opposite-sex partner—they are not going to get custody of these children. If they have visits with those kids, they are going to be supervised visits. We cannot trust the sexual integrity and innocence and purity of those kids with those who have same-sex preferences. The risk is far, far too high.
Bryan Fischer [CAP]
- Warned: “We’re not going to allow gay people to adopt children, that’s against nature, it’s against nature’s God.” (1:24-1:28)
Bill Donohue [CAP]
When reading such fanciful farce, one's first reaction is to wonder why these folks didn't become sitcom writers instead. It's certainly true that the anti-LGBT far-right has a penchant for spinning phrases that are outrageous enough to be comical.
Only problem? We LGBT human beings do not live in TV studios. Mitch and Cam are not confined to a script. The above claims, from some of the most prominent and connected conservatives and directed at actual LGBT families, are designed to deny us of far more than just gold statues. The intention is as pointed as it is heated. Plain and simple: They want to, at the very least, take away legitimacy and acceptance from the millions of good and decent LGBT people who either have or who are planning to start families of their own. At worst, they want to completely stop us from even the possibility.
As we enter into a new season, television and otherwise, I would encourage all Americans to help close the disconnect between the respect shown to LGBT families in culture and the concern (or lack thereof) for the denigration that is still directed at LGBT families on a daily basis. Just as we honor accurate portrayals and increased visibility, we must also push back against rife inaccuracy like we see above. It's fantastic to embrace a show like Modern Family and highlight it as a positive change—but that is only a piece of the puzzle. We must also demand accountability from those who push these dangerous untruths for the sake of both access and profit, as well as insist on fair coverage from those media outlets who rely on their voices. We must protect good and decent families from such onslaught.
It's the modern thing to do.