Passports present gay parent trap

January 12, 2011|By TIM ROWLAND |
  • Tim Rowland
Tim Rowland

I have always been strongly in favor of gay marriage because, in the words of Moe Szyslak, "the laughter of small children cuts through me like a dentist drill."

I have also been a strong believer in the premise that if your parents didn't have any children, chances are that you will not have any children, either.

So gay marriage is fine with me from a noise-pollution stance, if nothing else.

But I may have to rethink all this logic, following a super-secret State Department decision to remove the words "Mother" and "Father" from passports and replace them with "Parent 1" and "Parent 2."

My first reaction was, "Oh sure, there they go over at Fox News again," but apparently it was really the case. According to journalist Ed O'Keefe at the Washington Post, "Amid the news reports and potential political backlash from conservatives, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pulled back Saturday, deciding that the forms required for first-time passport applicants younger than 16 will retain 'Mother' and 'Father,' but (add) 'Parent 1' and 'Father or Parent 2' — a more gender neutral reference sought by gay rights groups on behalf of same-sex parents."

I like it. It sounds so Dr. Suess. Like you open up your passport and Parent 1 and Parent 2 will jump out and start flying kites.

And please, I insist that we blow this thing all out of proportion like we always do and start teaching our kids in the schools about "Parent 1 Earth" and the "Parent 2 Time."  

No wonder, as the Post says, that "conservatives" are upset. Who wants to go around saying, "Our Parent 2 who art in heaven..." (Actually, my own dad, who was Very Conservative in these matters, would have preferred the Parent 1-2 option, because to him there was only one Father, and he had a stake and a pack of matches ready for anyone else who dared claim the title.)

Father Christmas will be a real can of worms. So if next December you get a visit from Parent 2 Winter Solstice, don't say I didn't warn you.

A gentleman from Washington County alerted me to this problem and took it a step further — what are we to do with multiples? Like, do the Founding Fathers become the Founding Numerals? You see the difficulties.

All right, if two guys have a kid, I do understand how it would be awkward. Short straw gets to be "Mother." And when the child is asked what his mother's name is, he'll have to say, "Gee, that's a good question, let me check my passport."

So how do we make it less awkward than mother/father for gay couples, while at the same time making it more personal than Parent 1/2 for traditionalists?

I know during the salad days of "Saturday Night Live," parents were often known as the "Units," a reference to the Coneheads' "parental units." And plain old "'Rents" was popular for a while, but that's a little informal for a document that will have to withstand Transportation Security Administration scrutiny.

Of course, the real solution here is so obvious that I am surprised that I have to point it out to Hillary Clinton: Two sets of passports. You can request the standard "passport" that asks you to name your Mother and Father, or you can request a "sassport" that documents Father Father or Mother Mother. It's as simple as that.

Or has the U.S. State Department not heard of Adobe InDesign?

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