Focus on the Gay Family: A Strategy to Change Minds

By: Christopher Donaldson

In response to California’s passage of Proposition 8, the Leffew family used their YouTube channel, "Gay Family Values," to fight back against discrimination while showing the world what a gay family with two adopted children looks like — a message that stands invariably filled with love.

And now, with a little help from Jaye Bird Productions, those same videos and values will make their silver screen debut in a 2012 feature-length documentary, The Right To Love: An American Family.

“We hope the film can help people see the issue of marriage equality and same-sex families in a new light,” they wrote about the project in response to questions from The Advocate. “It’s so easy to only think of these issues as ideas or concepts that you agree or disagree with. It turns into something else when you know these are matters of life and love for real people who have names. You probably know many of them.”

The Leffew’s story began with a simple “yes”, when Jay Foxworthy and Bryan Leffew decided to register as civil partners in the state of California back in 1998. It was Leffew’s birthday that clear night, and Foxworthy took him out for a night on the town, under the starlight in San Francisco.

The following morning at breakfast, Foxworthy officially proposed with a birthday card slipped across a tiny table inside an IHOP restaurant. “I was not expecting it, so I cried, which made our waitress worry,” remember Leffew.

Right then and there, beside a wide selection of eggs and pancakes, they felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. The only thing that stood in their way was a quick trip to the city clerk’s office where they would sign a white paper. “I felt like I was married even before we signed,” Leffew said. “And I didn’t give a damn what anybode else thought about the legality of it.”

Two years after Foxworthy and Leffew took children Selena and David into their home, they decided to leave their civil union for more equal green pastures — marriage. Luckily, they decided just before a certain 2008 referendum would throw California’s marriage equality rights into the hands of voters who found it difficult to breathe the same legal air as the gay community.

“Literally the moment that President Obama was giving his victory speech about how the promise of the civil rights movement had come to fruition — with flags flying in the background and throngs of tearful onlookers— the ticker tape feed was announcing that Prop 8 had passed,” Leffew said.

Like most members of the LGBT community then, Foxworthy and Leffew were shocked. They couldn’t believe that their state, one of the most gay-friendly in the U.S., saw same-sex marriage unworthy of equal protection under California law. (It was also the first time that the California constitution was used to strip away rights.) They sighed. In truth, they cried those furious tears of defeat even though they were one of the 18,000 couples the California Supreme Court allowed to remain married.

The next morning, after the shoulders of California’s history drooped, they started to wonder about why the “Prop 8” side refused to show gay couples and gay families on television or in print. “We were the ones being impacted by the law and it seemed as if the Prop 8 proponents were scared to push away moderate voters by showing living, breathing LGBT people,” they wrote. “We had initially hoped that Californians would see through the scare tactics of groups like the National Organization for Marriage” and their “gays are coming for your kids” tripe.

But the majority of concerned, pro-traditional family proponents like NOM, the Mormon Church and Focus on the Family certainly didn’t. So in protest, Foxworthy and Leffew pulled out their digital camera and made a YouTube video that showed how ballot initiates impacted families like theirs. “We wanted to dispel myths and fears about the LGBT community by giving the world a window into our family, and now, three years and 269 videos later, we are still doing it,” says Leffew. “All of it was essentially done in response to the passage of Prop 8.”

Even now, in these delicate days, the couple still inherits those tough and terrified prophesies that come from the heterosexist voice and worldview. “But hopefully, by seeing our lives, those who hold homophobic views will gain a different and more informed perspective on same-sex families, marriage equality and gay rights in general”

Watch several of their videos below and read the full article over at The Advocate.