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February 7th, 2011
07:39 AM ET

Gay parenting takes off in the Bible Belt

By Rich Phillips, Senior Producer

Jacksonville, Florida (CNN) – Latisha Bines and Misty Gray cheered like any other parents at a recent middle school soccer game.

They're the two soccer moms in 13-year-old Darion Bines’ life. The women and all three of Latisha’s children operate as a family. And they've turned to their church for support, suggesting a changing face of the Bible Belt.

Data from the most recent U.S. Census shows that the South has the largest share of gay parents in the country.

“There are more of us coming out,” Bines said. “We’re feeling more comfortable about who we are. I guess it gives us more of a chance than back in the '80s, when you had to stay in the closet because you were ridiculed.”

Bines came out after having three children. She and Misty were joined as life partners in 2010 commitment ceremony. They live in part of the conservative Deep South, where many communities have not been receptive to so-called gay families.

“Gay and lesbian people tend to come out later in life, in those areas, which means they are more likely to have children from a previous relationship earlier in their lives,” said Gary Gates, a demographer with the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.

Gates analyzed the data from the American Community Survey from 2005-09, which is administered by the Census Bureau. His analysis also showed that across the country, gay parents are more likely to be black or Hispanic than they are to be white.

According to the survey, San Antonio, Texas, leads the country in gay parenting, with 34% of same-sex couples raising children. That's followed by Jacksonville, Florida at 32%.

Read more about gay adoption in Florida.

Bines and Gray have lived in Jacksonville all their lives.

They say they’ve found that their sexual orientation and spirituality can come together and be welcomed in gay-friendly Jacksonville area churches that were once off limits.

“It was welcome. It was comfortable,” Bines said. “We’re lesbian, but our God still loves us, no matter what.”

Bines sings in the choir at the nondenominational St. Luke’s Community Church, which was firebombed three times in the 1980s, apparently because of its policy of welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender congregants.

The church's pastor, Valerie Williams, is a gay activist. She says church policy all about family acceptance, especially for children.

The goal is “acceptance of their parents and being able to be around other children who have the same makeup of families that they have,” she said. "God is love and that’s the God that we serve here.”

Some local congregations challenge Williams' approach. When word of Jacksonville’s gay parent ranking in the census began to spread, one pastor asked for everyone to pray.

Pastor Vaughn McLaughlin, of the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship, told CNN that the Bible does not teach or encourage gay relationships, which he says confuse children.

“A lifestyle of open, same-sex relationships, that can’t regenerate, that can’t produce, that can’t do anything,"  said McLaughlin, who leads a megachurch. "I find it to be over and against what I actually have found the truth of the Bible to be.”

“Marriage is between a man and a woman," he continued. "That’s the biblical premise for what we believe, for what we teach, and we’re gonna hold on to that.”

But at St. Luke’s, Williams defended the rights of gay people and their families to worship.

“The children are able to serve God , with their families, and not being judged by the person sitting in the pew in front of them… snickering, like, ‘Why do they have kids? Why are they here?’”

Williams has started a support group for the children of gay parents. There, kids can talk about problems they're dealing with, including discrimination, over a hot dog or spaghetti dinner and review their report cards with Williams, who is known by congregants as Pastor Val.

And for Bines and Gray, the church has been a welcome addition to their lives.

“It’s brought us together, structurally as a family,” Gray said. “And because of the recent death rates, the suicide rates for kids being bullied, it’s extremely strong for the church to be a factor in the kids lives.”

Gates, the demographer, and Williams said they believe a cultural or religious support system might allow people to be more honest about their sexual orientation on a government survey.

“People are more willing to indicate on these government surveys that they are part of a same-sex couple, even in the more conservative parts of the country,” said Gates. “It’s a sign of progress.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Florida • Gay marriage • Homosexuality • Houses of worship • United States

soundoff (1,055 Responses)
  1. Chris

    What kind of church do these women attend that would give them support in maintaining their sinful lifestyle? I am glad they are in church, but the church should not dilute its message and change the definition of sin. These women would be welcome in my church but not their lifestyle. They would hear preaching that condemned their lifestyle. Their sins are not any worse than mine, but the difference is that I actually call my sins, sin. I also strive not to do them and repent when I do. This is a sad day for the church.

    February 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • maryLand

      Well, good thing nobody has to have your permission to worship God as they choose.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Observer

      Does your church tell all the members that are divorced and remarried that they are guilty of adultery and should end their new adulterous marriages?

      February 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • LJ

      There are many Churches, pastors and Christians that do not believe ho-mo-s3x-uality is a sin. The reason they reached this conclusion is they put the scriptures into historical context to get the true meaning. The other fact is that it has come to light that people of the past wrote reports based on personal bias and prejudice. The truth has come out that ho-mo-s3x-uality is not a mental disorder, it can't be voluntarily changed and it is not a choice. God gave us science to understand further his creations, we now know the truth about ho-mo-s3x-uality. It's too bad the bias translators that added the word ho-mo-s3x-ual to Cor. didn't understand that and didn't realize the lasting impact. It's even sadder is its impact for some who called themselves Christian to continue to use it to validate their personal prejudices.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  2. Everybody calm down

    Yes the bible teaches that you should honor those that have rule over you. whether it be teacher, boss, parent, world leader or yes even a slave master. Once again you don't have to believe it, but if you don't don't pretend to be a follower of Christ

    February 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Joel Weymouth

      Honor means respect. And it certainly does not mean you obey unconditionally – only in temporal matters (which happens 99.99999%) of the time. You only challenge them when the ruler invokes a decree that is so contrary to the Bible and impossible to "get around". At that point you try to work around and respectfully approach the ruler with your concerns hoping to appeal to his "better angel". But like with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,(and the Hebrew Midwives in Exodus- who were told to murder male children at birth) when there is no choice – you do the right thing and take your lumps.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  3. Patrick

    Shame on all of you who believe in the presence of God. You will not deeply regret it when you die, because there will be nothing more. There is no eternal life. There is no super power in the universe. There is no God. None of them exist. I feel sorry for you who think you know one of them. I pray one day you can shed the illusion and embrace yourself.

    February 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Joel Weymouth

      Shame on people for believing in an afterlife – and they will be sorry when they find out...? No according to your logic they won't feel anything – they will be dead.
      And as far as the evil of religion and all of the wars and people killed blah blah blah.... More people have died under communism (that is atheistic) than were killed in all other wars combined. And furthermore – name me ONE atheistic charity that does anything for the poor, needy or sick.. And please don't say the ACLU or Red Cross. The ACLU does nothing for the hungry and the Red Cross was established by a Swiss Evangelical who was a convert of DL Moody.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Patrick

      Thanks for your response, looks like you understood my point perfectly.
      I am interested in knowing why you think more people have died under communism than all other wars combined. Please provide your source.
      While it is rare nowadays, you are one of a few remaining who equate Communism with atheism. Understand that no political system has an inherent religious ideology. Communism is no more atheistic then Democracy. In fact, one of the long-held notions about Communism in the political spectrum is that it is well-enabled toward altruism that the Christian/Islam world embrace. Capitalism, unfortunately, is very Darwinian – dog-eat-dog, culling the herd, survival of the fittest – and does not work well with Christian ideology when compared to communally-oriented political systems like Communism.
      So, if you embrace the altruism of the Judeo-Christian-Islam faith, Communism may be the system for you. Jesus was a communist, you know.

      February 7, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • jocie

      lol (following your logic) who exactly are you praying to?

      February 7, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Lisa

      Woah, there Sparky if there is no God (which there is and he is almighty) then why at the end your statement you say you will pray?

      February 7, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Joel Weymouth

      Jesus was a capitalist – look at the parable of the vineyard, the parable of the talents. A communist will FORCE people to share their wealth. In the early Christian Church they held things in common, but it was voluntary. Stalin did not share allow the Khalaki to surrender their land voluntarily – he murdered them – about 10 million if I recall. – more than all who died in the Crusades and the Religious wars of the 1600's Peter told the disciples that their property was "theirs" to do so as they will. Sounds like capitalism to me.

      YOu are the typical atheist that does not study, but merely repeats cute little fables. I would suggest that you stay away from matters of Theology and just try to prove that you are a Monkey's Cousin.

      February 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Joel Weymouth

      BTW bright eyes – name me the altruistic atheistic charity. Communism is not altruistic – they take the property by force. Also – you can count all the dead in the Napoleonic wars to Atheism- they were directly caused by the atheistic hysteria brought about by the French Revolution that literally murdered thousands and killed hundred's of thousands in the later wars.

      An Atheistic is a bloody killer. And who is stopping him : fear of God?

      February 7, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • maryLand

      So Christians don't kill anyone? Ahahhahhahhahhahhaaaa!

      February 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  4. DLewis

    I wish Gays and Lesbians would leave the God Delusion to the straight folks.. seriously a Christian Lesbian is pretty much the same as a Jewish Nazi..

    February 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Joel Weymouth

      or a Catholic Protestant or a Muslim Christian – or a "cat dog" or a "monkey cow". I don't agree with your views on the God delusion, but your other logic is flawless.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  5. Scott

    If churches have an issue with gays, fine, they don't need to sanctify their marriages. However, I don't see why it's in our best interest as Americans, or human beings, to PREVENT a child's legal parents from being legally married.

    February 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  6. Everybody calm down

    God will settle this debate in the end. There's no need to get all riled up. If you believe and obey God, great. If you want to rationalize Gods' commandment to fit your lifestyle, you have that right too. The beautiful thing is that God dosen't force anyone to believe and obey him... we shouldn't either. Everybody should just calm down and play your hand.

    February 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Todd

      Amen to that one. I was never argued into the Christian faith, but I was loved into it.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Lisa

      That is the best written comment ever!!!!

      February 7, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Joel Weymouth

      But we are also commanded to diligently contend for the faith. That means we speak up. Twice (at the 2nd Admonition- reject- let them go). If Christians don't identify SIN – then we are accountable for the sinfulness found in this country. Just in my lifetime (1960-2011) – I have seen the United States turn from a relatively happy and moral country (1966)- "Green Acres, The Andy Griffith Show" to a BROTHEL – "Skins". Who do we blame? It is the Christian's fault listening messages that make God into "Room Service". If you are a Christian – look at how Christianity acted in the 1890's, 1930's, 1950's and compare that to the last 30 years. It is tragic. And when America becomes a "joke" and a tributary nation to another superpower, it will be the Christians who are at fault

      February 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  7. Todd

    As a Christian, I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. I cannot speak for every single situation in this world, but I believe children need MOM and DAD. I was raised by a single mother, and I saw her do so many things that she shouldn't have had to do and should have been the job of my father. As loving as these two women in the story can be for children, I believe that is not the BEST situation for a child. Those two women cannot teach their son what it means to be a grown man, no matter how much they may love this young man.

    February 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Vegas Jennifer

      I hate to break it to you, but men (the ones who actually stick around) these days aren't doing a stellar job of teaching thir sons to be "grown men" either... Their children are lucky to have 2 parents who love and support them, NO MATTER WHAT.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Maria

      I agree. My parents are still together and as a female it helped me see what kind of traits i needed to find in a MAN. My dad is a good man, not perfect, but a good man and it helped me not withstand crap some men dish out I knew there was better out there. I have a son and I know there are things i cna't teach him on beng a man...No mattter how much I preach it his dad will be the one to teach it and the two of those combos seem to make it work.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • maryLand

      So you morons think that because two women marry and raise children, there are no males anywhere around? No male friends or relatives? How dumb can anyone be? Lots of women are widowed and manage to raise their children without the father-they have uncles, grandparents, and friends who are male. Good grief.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Todd

      I can't disagree with you on that. There are a lot of men out there who have failed in doing the job they were born to do. If you read part of my story, I was raised by a single mother. She did a good job, but it wasnt fair to her who had to try to fill the role of a father, which she shouldn't have had to. It wasn't fair to me because I felt like I had to be a grown man during my childhood.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • dalis

      Wow, Todd managed to make his point in a patient, cogent manner and didn't have to call anyone a moron to do it. Take notice, maryLand.

      February 7, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Patrick

      I don't think that is enough. I think every child needs to be raised by a mom and two dads. One dad generally is not present enough and, given what kind of cold, abusive jerks we can be, best to hedge your bets.
      Seriously, is your child important enough to you not to risk having only one father?

      February 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • maryLand

      Oh, I notice. I call 'em like I see 'em. Too bad if it gripes your azz.

      February 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  8. rjz

    So if I say "rjz said: I the way the Truth the life. rjz is the only truth. And no matter what anyone else says, it will not change or alter the truth" does that make it so? Hey, to each his own, believe what you want, but please, stop being mean to people who don't share your life choices. In short, please don't hide your bigotry in your faith.

    February 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  9. Enjoy

    Even dogs don't do it......!

    February 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  10. BBQ

    If a religion telling its follower with bible in one hand and a knife in another, then leave it as far as you can!

    February 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  11. Everybody calm down > Observer

    It dosen't SUPPORT slavery, It recognizes it, and teaches all people how to serve God no matter what thier condition may be. The dosen't teach inferiority of Women it teaches the roles of men and women. You're not required to sacrifice for someone inferior. The bible teaches that a husband should be willing to give his life for his wife just as Christ died for his church.

    February 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Colin

      What garbage. What nauseating garbage. The Bible not only supports slavery, it lays down rules for how a person is to be compensated for an injury to his slaves. Second, it clearly regards women as inferior to men. This constant re-interpreting whenever the Bible is shown to be flawed is soo tiresome.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Observer

      The Bible "recognizes" slavery. Funny, it "recognizes" adultery, but it doesn't tell people to regard adulterers with honor.

      It's nonsense to avoid the discrimination against women. Being told to be quiet in church and only ask questions of your husband is obviously showing the inferiority of women. Pretending it's just "roles" is ignoring reality.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Vegas Jennifer

      It also states that if a woman loses her husband before she bears a son, she is to sleep with each of his brothers in turn until she does so... Spin THAT one.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Todd

      Colin, respectfully, slavery back in biblical times was much different than the slavery you and I may recall as a part of the horrible history of this country. Most scholars believe that slavery was much more like what we would consider in our minds indentured servants. Having said that, there are many times people have tried to take the Bible and use it to justify horrible human tragedies. To that there is no perfect human or perfect church, but there is a perfect God.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Joel Weymouth

      The slavery under the Jews was indentured servitude for debts – and it only lasted 7 years at most. And if you abused your servant – like slugged him and knocked out his teeth – then he was to be immediately freed. There were other things about giving them wives and such ... which I would not particularly want to be a part of – but there were guide lines. Slaves were taken in war (prisoners of war) – we did that with the Germans and Italians in World War 2 – made them work here – what is the differences.

      IN the New Testament – look at Philemon – who owned slaves – when Onesimus (Philemon's runaway slave) – Paul told him to go back to Philemon (Roman Law said that a run-way slave was to be immediately executed. Paul also to Philemon to accept him as a brother – essentially free him. Slavery was recognized in the NT and had one injunction for the Owner – BE GOOD TO YOUR SERVANTS AND TAKE CARE OF THEM KINDLY in Ephesians. The approach of Christianity toward the brutal slavery found in Rome was to convert the slaves and the masters – and therefore change the system. That is why the true abolitionists movements were found among the Christians. From an economic view point – as far as profit, it is easier to pay minimum wage (that is just about what a slave and their labor would be worth in today's market) and then let them worry about where they will live and where they will get their food. A slave owner had to take care of them – and with the injunctions of kindness – making them employees is cheaper.
      And BTW – before you criticize American for its part in Slavery – remember this – there were 2 routes in the slave trade – one to the West and one to the Ottoman Empire. Have you ever noticed the obvious absence of "African Turks"? Compare that with the number of African Americans. The explanation for the disparity is that they were all murdered by the Ottomans. 90% died on the slave trade route. All of the males were castrated. So yes America practices slavery and that was wrong. Start my liberal atheistic friends thinking about the Other part of the slave trade, though that under cuts the so-called religion of peace: which actually endorses slavery if I recall.

      February 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  12. DrFood

    Suicidal thoughts?

    February 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Chapstik Lez

      Are you asking if we have any or should you have them?

      February 8, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
      • Chapstik Lez

        Oops this was meant for DrFood's post

        February 8, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  13. KennyG

    I am wondering how the father of these children fit in this relationship. Children without both male and female relationship as parents invites normalization of the non normal.

    February 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • DrFood

      I suppose the millions of single parents worldwide are just a GIANT aberration then?

      February 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Vegas Jennifer

      "Normal" is subjective... You keep your normal, and I'll keep mine.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Sean

      DrFood: Just because there are millions of women raising children by themselves, does not mean that the children are not effected by not having a "father"... Im not saying its a good or bad thing either way, but your assertion that "there are millions" has no bearing on the point KennyG made..

      February 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  14. Brandno

    Churches are being turned into the MEDIUM and a place where people can come and not be blasphemed. Reminds me of a story that I read in the bible where Jesus came in and WRECKED a church.

    February 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • DrFood

      What exactly is your point?

      February 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • chris

      it was the temple, and he overturned the tables of those who were selling things within the temple...Using the temple for purposes that weren't of God....

      February 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  15. DrFood

    Instead of turning this into a big, pointless debate over ideology, can we at least be happy for these people that have managed to find peace and comfort?

    February 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  16. Elly P

    I agree with Pastor MacGlaughlin "I find it to be over and against what I actually have found the truth of the Bible to be.” The bottom line is what God's word says, not people's personal opinions and trying to justify their lifestyle. Sin is sin no matter how someone may want to sugar coat the issue. God offers forgiveness and love to all who truly seek Him. Yet to those who pick and choose from the Bible what they want to believe, God has strong warnings.

    February 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Vegas Jennifer

      Soooooo... you don't touch the skin of a pig, eat shellfish, or mix fabrics..?

      February 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Peggy

      When did you stone an adulterer last time?

      February 7, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  17. Anne

    I feel sorry for the kids, this is not normal and they pay for the women's selfishness. I wonder where their father – the real second parent is.

    My ex came out of the closet after our divorce and tried to make his gay lover into my kids "step-father". My kids totally shut them down and now have basically disowned him, . They are much happier without the whole gay lifestyle being shoved in their face, it is just a source of pain, humilitaion and dysfunction .

    February 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Angie

      It's not normal for you. Don't try to judge what is normal for the rest of the world.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • KennyG

      Thanks for your comments opposing such relationships as related to child bearing and raising...

      February 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • benbear

      And the kids are the ones suffering because their father's not in their lives, probably because of a bitter ex who's filled their heads with her own anger and bigotry. To quote: "Hate is not a family value."

      February 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Try Logic

      Perhaps it's a source of "pain, humiliation and dysfunction" because of their mother's intolerance and ignorance.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Vegas Jennifer

      Bitter much..? I'd venture to guess that you had nothing to do with your kids "disowning" their father, right..?

      February 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Amy

      Anne your obviously an example of God's love and you walk in integrity and love for all of God's children...NOT! Don't you ever ask yourself "What would Jesus do"? I'm sure it's not judge one of God's children...shame on you!

      February 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • MCArmstrong

      They probably shut them out because their close minded ignoramus of a mother indoctrinated them into hating their own father. Good job sweetheart.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • David

      Anne, I too am feeling the pain that your children must feel but it is not for having a father that was truthful to himself but is for having a mother filled with hate and ignorance.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Doug

      How sad for your kids.. But I bet as soon as they get away from their hater mother they will have a change of heart.. Shame on you lady, hate is not a good family value !

      February 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  18. Everybody Calm Down

    one more thing. If you don't understand the relevance and differences between old testament scripture which was for the Jews of old, and New Testament scripture which is to christians today, you should take a class before commenting.

    February 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Observer

      The New Testament supports slavery and the inferiority of women in case anyone wants to brag about it.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Wait a minute

      So...the Ten Commandments were old testament...does that mean we just ingore them since they are not the new testament? I agree the old testament was the Law that God gave to Moses (Jews) but it's valuable to live by. It still applies to our lives today!

      February 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Roger

      So you're saying this New Testament verse which refers to Old Testament scriptures is wrong?

      2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Wait a minute

      Roger....Amen!

      February 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  19. from the us.

    Please go and youtube Abdur Rahem Green. You will see the real truth.

    February 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  20. Gustavo

    What is truth?????
    JESUS said: I the way the Truth the life. Jesus is the only truth. And no matter what anyone else says, it will not change or alter the truth.

    February 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • maryLand

      Oh, right, it's true because Jesus said it was true. And because Jesus said it, it must be true. The Bible says so.

      @@

      February 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Apanda21

      I said the same thing the other day, and a friend wrote it down. So... even? I am the TRUTH.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Chris

      Sounds reasonable and logical......NOT

      February 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • David Frazier

      Jesus made man for women if you read in Genesis it shows you and for the lady to Say God loves her and her wife he does but he hates the sin. The bible also tells what people will go to hell and who would go to heaven.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.