Friday, December 30, 2005

All in the family

Manassas, Virginia, deep in the heart of the "family values" South, has redefined what a "family" is, and is using that definition against immigrants, according to the Washington Post. The law allowed an officer to tell a Hispanic woman who shares her five-bedroom home with her husband, two sons, a nephew, and a renting couple: "Your nephew, under our law, is considered unrelated" and had to leave. The officer had responded to some kind of overcrowding complaint, but seven people in a five-bedroom house is not overcrowding. The law essentially restricts households to "immediate relatives."

While I doubt this idiocy will hold up in court--could you even have an unrelated roommate?--this is another example of how "family values" are used to ensure that only one, very narrow vision of family (middle class heterosexual married couple, 1.8 kids) has any protection. In many cultures--including traditionally Catholic ones--family responsibility extends far beyond a married couple and their children. Beyond that, how would society cope if aunts and uncles didn't take in their nephews and nieces when parents died or were abusive?

Now public Catholics and the U.S. bishops have decried gay marriage and other non-traditional family arrangements as "attacks on the family," but where are they when real attacks on families--often motivated by racism--take place? Why are they still silent on the $40 billion in cuts for Medicare and Medicaid and for those with disabilities? Those are real threats against real families.


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