Family Diversity
It's How  We Live


‘Family’ up for debate
Desert Sun / March 11, 2004

Lost amid the same-sex marriage debate dominating headlines these days is another fundamental, national institution facing a potential definition change: the family.

The traditional American family has long been defined as a married man and woman with a couple of children and maybe a dog or a cat.

But with the prevalence of divorce and go-it-alone parents -- not to mention the bevy of same-sex couples raising children -- the definition of what society constitutes as a "family" is in flux.

As in the marriage debate, many say a family can only exist with a man, a woman and, usually, children.

Others say that’s too rigid a definition. They say a family can consist of any number of combinations: same-sex couples with children, unmarried couples with children, couples with stepchildren, single parents and children.

We asked a few Coachella Valley residents about their definition of family. Here’s what they had to say:

Ricardo Gomez, 45, runs the Tortuga Del Sol hotel in Palm Springs with his partner of 16 years, Robert Petro. Gomez said the definition of family is different for each family.

"A family varies so much. For my brother, it means him and his wife and his children and my parents, because they all live under one roof. For me, it’s me and my partner," Gomez said. "For me, family is someone you can rely on in a time of need. … It doesn’t have to be a blood relative, just somebody who plays an important role in your life."

Howard Reynolds, 83, is a part-time Indio resident. He and his second wife -- his first having died a few years ago -- spend part of the year in Northern California. Both Reynolds and his wife raised children before they were married.

"My definition of a family is a married man and a woman, and in most cases, children, but not always," Reynolds said. "Certainly not two people with the same gender."

Marcy Rivers, 52, of Cathedral City, has been married for 32 years. She and her husband raised two daughters who are now adults.

"I don’t believe in gay relationships when children are involved," she said. "A child needs a mother and a father to help them grow up."

She also said she doesn’t believe in divorce.

"I believe in the old fashioned commitment," she said. I believe that you’re married for life."

Thomas Van Etten, 59, of Palm Springs said a family is whatever you make of it. Van Etten has been with his partner, Robert, for about 36 years.

"I believe that a family is defined as a nurturing unit, whether it be a man and a woman, two men, two women," he said.

"Where there is love and nurturing that takes place. Where people grow to their full potential as human beings."


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