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Op-ed: As a teacher, I've seen good parents from all walks

Published February 22, 2014 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

By peter hayes

Spanning the course of 28 consecutive years, I taught science in both public and private schools in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. During that time, I taught nearly 3,000 students from all walks of life, including those who had billionaires for parents and those who lived in cars. I had students whose parents were single moms or dads, divorced, married (both happily and unhappily), unknown to them, same-sex and heterosexual.

Students came to my class with all sorts of emotional baggage from their home that manifested in their behavior. I had students who isolated themselves, those who lacked self-esteem, who were angry, who never did their homework and those who failed. Conversely, I also had students who added much to the class environment, those who were thrilled to learn, and those who were joyful and succeeded.

With increased experience in the classroom, I became adept at predicting the nature of the home based on how my students behaved in and out of class. Parent-teacher conferences often validated my initial impressions.

Though I got very good at predicting the home environment, I could never predict which of my students had same-sex or heterosexual parents. As a veteran educator I came to see this variable as inconsequential to whether the student was happy and successful. It simply did not matter.

Recently, I have read the rhetoric that claims "good" families are only possible if the married parents are heterosexual. If student happiness and success – both in the class and in their future lives — are any measure of whether a family is "good," then those who oppose or even fear same-sex parenting are laboring under impressions that my experience contradicts.

There are countless successful heterosexual parents, and without question, there are numerous successful same-sex parents. However, if we are honest, then we must admit that a heterosexual marriage is not the absolute model for a successful/happy family: half of heterosexual marriages in America end in divorce, often leaving a single parent struggling to make ends meet and raise their children.

Dreamy-eyed pundits who advocate the paradigm, "man + woman (only) marriage = best family," are wearing blinders. In my long teaching career, students who thrived came from homes where parents – regardless of sexual orientation – were supportive, loving and happy … period.

Peter Hayes had to leave teaching after he was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease. He is happily married to his wife of 21 years.