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The Bush administration is about to roll the dice on a program that, given the other nonsense the government spends money on – tax cuts for the rich come to mind – just might be worth a look.

The bet is $100 million and the proposal, put forward by Dr. Wade F. Horn, the Bush administration’s point man on welfare, calls for education programs to promote marriage among the poor. The facts speak for themselves: children growing up in one-parent households are four times as likely to wind up poor, a majority of welfare families are single parent, and out-of-wedlock births (perhaps the biggest red flags of trouble ahead) was a third of all births in 2000 and 68.5 percent among African Americans. It doesn’t take genius to see that when it comes to raising kids, two heads are better than one.

Strange isn’t it? We spend all kinds of money trying to educate people about drugs, smoking, alcohol, safe sex, breast-feeding and exercise. Why not marriage?

Now here’s how to take a good idea and make it a great one: The government should include gays in its definition of “two parents.” If you think it’s strange that we spend billions educating people about substance abuse, and not one dime on something as important as the benefit of a two-parent household, consider this: Some governments used to outlaw marriages between whites and blacks, people of different religions or nationalities. These days, if anybody tried to put that over, they’d be violating the law. But while it’s OK to be color blind, it’s not OK to be sexual-orientation blind. We say we care about children, but then don’t give a damn while tens of thousands of orphans rot in state institutions or bounce around in often poorly supervised foster care.

Dr. Horn says, “My central overriding concern is not marriage, it is the well-being of children.” Well, Dr. Horn, here’s your chance to sound a note of true compassion – let’s do something real for children and recognize all two-parent families as families.

Dr. Horn also says, “the empirical evidence is quite clear that, on average, kids who grow up in stable, married, two-parent households do better than kids who grow up in some other kind of arrangement.” That’s music to my ears, Dr. Horn. So let’s include gay marriage along with straight marriage in these programs, and start promoting the family stability we say we all favor. It’s not special rights, it’s human rights – and it’s overdue.

Personally, I believe the Bushies when they profess their love of family. And I believe conservative Republican politicians like Wally Herger, who chairs the House committee with jurisdiction over this program, when he says, “I can’t think of a better way to spend the money.” Well, congressman, I agree. Now, what about including all families – including those who happen to be headed by gay parents?

I’m actually more in favor of kids than anything else, and anything that’ll help them helps me and helps this country. As a nation, we fight these silly culture wars and the children lose. Gays and straights alike are part of our human condition – always have been and always will be. Loving, stable relationships are also part of our human condition – they always have been and they always will be.

So apart from our own stubbornness about these things, what’s the problem?

So I say let’s educate both the rich and the poor about the benefits of marriage – all marriages between two loving adults. Lately, our country has been doing a lot of things right. Why not keep the list growing?

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