The following is an open letter by Heather Barwick, a happily married mother of four. I’m writing to you because I’m letting myself out of the closet: I don’t support gay marriage. But it might not be for the reasons that you think.

My mom raised me with her same-sex partner back in the ’80s and ’90s. She and my dad were married for a little while. She knew she was gay before they got married. She left him when I was two or three because she wanted a chance to be happy with someone she really loved: a woman.

Growing up, and even into my 20s, I supported and advocated for gay marriage. It’s only with some time and distance from my childhood that I’m able to reflect on my experiences and recognize the long-term consequences that same-sex parenting had on me. And it’s only now, as I watch my children loving and being loved by their father each day, that I can see the beauty and wisdom in traditional marriage and parenting.

Same-sex marriage and parenting withholds either a mother or father from a child while telling him or her that it doesn’t matter. That it’s all the same. But it’s not. A lot of us, a lot of your kids, are hurting. My father’s absence created a huge hole in me, and I ached every day for a dad. I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost. The best and most successful family structure is one in which kids are being raised by both their mother and father.

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