Lawmaker’s Gay Son Challenges Dad’s Anti-Gay Politics

It’s tough not being accepted by your parents for being gay. It’s even tougher when your father is a lawmaker and he’s voicing his anti-gay opinions in a public forum in support of a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. That’s what’s happening to 43-year-old Chris Smith, son of Indiana Representative Milo Smith. While he’s been out to his father for the last 23 years, his sexual orientation isn’t a major topic of conversation in the family, and clearly, his father’s conservatism on the subject runs deep: despite living with a gay loved one in the family, he played a critical role in a vote that would deny people like his son one route to build a family of their own.

The situation is in a strange way reminiscent of the Cheney family feud taken public last year, with lesbian Mary Cheney supporting marriage equality, while her sister Liz doesn’t; again, despite having a lesbian in the family. Their father, notably, isn’t a strong proponent of marriage equality either, and has sided with Liz in public statements. These kinds of family tensions don’t just make for awkward holidays: they also highlight troubling social and political divisions in the United States, for the same kinds of arguments are happening on a smaller scale in households all over the country.

In the case of the Smiths, Chris released a tempered and fairly neutral statement in response to his father’s vote, noting that he knows his father loves him, but also believes that his father’s views are unlikely to change after decades of knowing his son and having an opportunity to change his mind on the subject of gay civil rights. His statement, he says, was aimed at gay Indianans who might appreciate some solidarity in a troubling time — while the state already has a law on the books banning marriage equality, constitutional amendments are much more difficult to challenge legally, and thus can become calcified in place.

He lives in California, where he hasn’t chosen to marry his partner — but it’s clear he felt conflicted and unhappy to see his father voting to take that choice away from other LGBQT couples who might want to marry now or in the future. Chris also noted that his father’s religious views have become more extreme in recent years, reflecting a resurgence in the religious right; undoubtedly, his vote was influenced by his associations with conservative Christianity. The religious right has played a significant role in initiatives to limit marriage equality and other civil rights for the LGBQT community, and this isn’t the first family that has split along political and religious lines on this issue thanks to religious pressures.

Both Smiths insist they have a strong relationship and love each other deeply, but their accidental public feud speaks to a deeper problem. Across the country, parents and children (as well as siblings) are disagreeing on basic human rights and civil rights issues like these; a decade ago, these kinds of discussions were unthinkable, and now, the conversation is being forced — and some people aren’t ready to have it.

How do you respond when a family member says you are loved, but your relationship isn’t sacred or of equal value to other kinds of relationships? A growing number of Americans are asking themselves that question.

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley.


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

Why is this any of our business? I am really getting tired of the rich and famous announcing they are gay. It is none of my business, keep it to your self!

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

He may be "loved" but he has never been accepted. That is what is truly sad.

Martha Ferris
Martha Ferris4 years ago

One has the right to believe what one wishes and even though others do not share the same beliefs our country insures our rights to believe as we so choose and conversely, not to. One is free to act on ones beliefs as one sees fit but not to dictate how others act based upon ones personal belief. Because ones beliefs are not proven fact that is why they are called beliefs. Ones beliefs should not be used to dictate the law.
No matter how strongly one holds ones beliefs they remain unproven therefore to argue ones point based upon ones beliefs is wasted effort. Without evidence to support ones position ones point is moot.
It is sad when beliefs differ within ones family. Hopefully the parties can respect each other enough to find common ground elsewhere and maintain a loving relationship. All too often that is not the case. Maturity and respect are sorely lacking.

Birgit W.
Birgit W4 years ago

Good for you Chris Smith, I love it.

Marianne R.
Marianne R4 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

David B.
David B4 years ago

why is it everytime there comes a topic that will require some real thought , some one has to screw things up with the religious crap? it's a lot of stuff written by men . no one has proof that a god wrote any of it. Christians are like muslims , if you don't believe it what they say your dammed .so you can not be an intelligent self thinking individual , you must be a sheep , and follow blindly everytime the bell rings . if you need that crutch and excuse then by all means believe in your what ever.but it doesn't make you any better than me if I don't . infact I really feel sorry for you religious ones . must be terrible not to be able to think for yourself . and to stomp all over a childs happiness just because of some book or idol. I really don't think you were much of a real parent were just going thru the motions.

Karen H.
Karen H4 years ago

Ron G, if people misconstrue what you say, perhaps you’re not as clear as you think you are, or you’re misconstruing questions. Some people are asking questions because they want an answer. For example, you say Gospel is “Good News”, but how can you reconcile that with the crimes God commanded his people to commit? How is genocide good news? I think that’s a valid question, and it’s one that many, many religious people sidestep. You’re doing what all the churches I’ve attended did each time I asked a question. In one church, the minister’s wife used to cross the street when she saw me so she wouldn’t even have to say hello.
As for deliberately misconstruing what the Bible says – I’ve seen that done by “people of faith” more times than I can count, so it’s not just those who don’t follow your teachings.

Jason Perry
Jason Perry4 years ago

My partner and I have heard this from his preacher grandpa and family. His mother has old me many many times over our 12 years together but she doesn't support our love.
But loves me she prays everyday her two sons will find the right straight way and myself and the other partner of his gay brother would just be friends

Timothy Wood
Timothy W4 years ago

You are actually one of the more offensive so called Christians I have experienced for some time.
You say atheism is a lie.... Atheism allows for a person to have free thought and will giving us the opportunity to look at facts and evidence that would otherwise be ignored if following your books teachings. Truly enlightened people know that science can help humanity when used properly. If we follow the teaching of extremists such as you would would still be dragging our women by their hair into our caves and beating our chests.

Mary B.
Mary B4 years ago

Ron G.... Any other faith denies YOUR truth..... you have at it and learn tolerance.