I've been musing on the discussion over at FFB regarding gay marriage. I too think family is important. I just have no stake in assuming that Man + Woman + (kid)x = family. The argument that this is the ideal is far from universally true, and it's far from true even in the so-called western tradition. family can often be Crone + daughter-in-law + daughter-in-law + daughter-in-law + (auntie)x + (kids)x. Those several adults might (or will almost certainly) provide an even greater variety of role models than two people, usually from the same class background, often with slightly divergent but more or less similar value systems, who tend to kinda look the same too. the crone-daughter-in-laws are usually from the same cultural/class grouping as well, but at least there are more of them. and if you don't know a grandma that's tougher than nails, you don't know true masculinity. the fact that in our heterosexist and sexist society the only diversity valued is the gender one strikes me as extremely narrow-minded and short-sighted.
I think that even within the seemingly narrow western context we already have these families. they are networks of friends who support one another's kids. they are groups of single moms and their mothers who manage to work things out together. they are from different class and ethnic backgrounds than the 'ideal type' usually is. they are urban and rural. they are already happening. they are limited in producing stable families by both societal stricture and law.
the 'norm' is produced by tax law and other legislation that bars more than two, different-gender adults from living in the same house. why not three? why not four? especially with house-prices through the roof in some of our urban areas, wouldn't it be best to encourage group-arrangements that allow everyone to participate in property ownership and the privileges that accord to that in our culture?
when people ask me if I 'have a family' I say yes: my partner, my dog Luke, and my world-scattered friends and blood relatives are my family. it's not the answer they were looking for. marriage might be fine for some people. if you've got a religion that privileges it, for example. but shouldn't we be allowing people to make unions that produce stable families, so that we can all have some sort of foundation for our lives, not just to produce healthy children?