On Tuesday night, Dec. 14, Rosie O'Donnell and I will be conducting a public conversation in New Jersey about families and kids, the celebrity culture and the effects of fame, balancing work and career, and learning how to inspire our children.
It's a subject Rosie is eminently qualified to address. This is, after all, the woman who walked away from one of television's most successful programs and tens of millions dollars per year in order to raise her children. It will be followed by a fundraiser for Turn Friday Night Into Family Night, our national campaign to create weekly family dinners so that children are prioritized in the lives of their parents.
When I told a religious friend about being inspired by Rosie adopting four children, he said to me, "How sad that these kids are never going to have a father." Lost on him was the irony that without Rosie they would not have a mother either.
Now, Rosie has a media microphone and can fend for herself. But I think about all the other gay adoptive parents who are under assault as being ill-equipped to adopt. We've heard all the arguments. Gay parents who adopt will make their children gay (offensive and stupid). Every child deserves a mother and a father (I addressed this above). Gay is an abomination, to which I would respond that leaving a child to grow up in an orphanage where nobody wants them might be an even greater act of sacrilege.
But to my fellow straight people I offer the following challenge. You have every right to oppose gay marriage. It's a free country. We don't suppress opinions. But aren't you under a moral obligation to adopt the children in their stead? Surely leaving kids to drown without love is deeply immoral. But to stop others from rescuing them is an abomination.
I am the father of nine children, thank G-d. I have at times discussed with my wife the possibility of adopting a child. Every child is a child of G-d, not only our biological children. They should have a home, and we should offer it. But my conversations have never gone past just that, conversations. I stand in awe of all those who actually do it. In my religion, Judaism, there is no higher mitzvah, G-dly deed, than raising a child with no parents as your own. This is G-d's child, and really He should have made provisions for him. But the Creator chooses, for reasons unknown to us, to hide behind the veil of nature, and it is we humans who must fill in the seemingly empty spaces. Those who adopt are society's and religion's greatest heroes.
We all agree that every orphaned child is of infinite value. Some of us, however, pay mere lip service to the ideal. Others dress, feed, and hug these children every day of their lives. They wake up in the middle of the night and nurse crying babies back to sleep. They hug their troubled teenagers and counsel them through life's disappointments. They go to work every day to pay for college and weddings. Gay or straight, they make us all look small by comparison. And it would seem to me that it takes one heck of a lot of chutzpa to tell gay men or women not to adopt when we refuse to do so ourselves.
The same rule would apply to those who insist on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." No problem, oppose gays in the military. It's your right. You believe it compromises military morale and combat readiness. I get it. But surely you're going to sign up yourself, right? You're not just going to deny a gay man or woman the right to fight terrorists who want to blow up innocent children and then spend your nights as a couch potato watching football. Surely you're not going to prevent gays from protecting democracy and then run off to Best Buy to find a new 3D HD TV. Someone's got to sacrifice for this country. And if you want to prevent them from doing so, you have to grab a rifle and dodge the bullets yourself.
A few years ago on my radio show I interviewed two gay men who were in court fighting the government of Florida -- my home state, where gay adoption is prohibited -- to adopt a five-year-old African-American child who was mentally-handicapped. They had been picking the boy up from an orphanage every Sunday for about a year and now wanted to adopt him. One of the men said, "Nobody wants him. But we want him." I choked up. The show went to dead air. I could not speak or respond. "Nobody wants him. But we want him." Here was a child whose skin color for some was all wrong and whose intelligence did not always match up. But to these two men the boy was perfect.
I believe their love for him was also perfect, and I believe that G-d loves these men for their dedication to this child, irrespective of how we view the morality of their relationship.
I am an Orthodox Jew. Judaism and the Bible have been the center of my life for all my 44 years. But if religion has not taught me to respect all men and women who adopt an unloved orphan and be inspired by their example, then it has failed to bring out my humanity or change my heart.
That some would prefer that unwanted children remain in orphanages rather than in warm and welcoming homes is a sad commentary on the self-appointed morality police of our time.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is a world-renowned relationships expert, having authored 24 books on parenting and marriage, including the critically-acclaimed best-seller 'Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Your Children.' Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.