Joined by the children of same-sex parents, tonight Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and the "Hearty Boys" Chicago restaurateurs and Food Network Stars Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith welcomed moms, dads, and even grandparents to an evening saluting "Families Valued". In all, there were more than fifty family members in attendance.
The dinner, held at McDonagh and Smith's Hearty Restaurant in Chicago's Boystown neighborhood, was inspired by disparaging comments on gay adoption made by former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR). In April, Huckabee dismissed support of gay adoption saying "children are not puppies".
Following the inflammatory statement, McDonagh and Smith publicly reached out to the right, inviting Huckabee to their home to personally observe the love and support same-sex couples can provide to a child. The Hearty Boys are proud fathers to an adopted son, Nate.
"After we sent the letter to Mike Huckabee, we received hundreds of responses. These emails – touching, warm, and sometimes shocking – have made us come to realize that there is a large population of American families who feel unrepresented, disenfranchised, and threatened," said McDonagh. "Dan and I see that a need exists in our community to ensure the well being of families like ours, and we are thankful to Mr. Huckabee for being a catalyst in helping us to focus our voices. We continue to hope that he will consider joining us because as food people, we understand that it becomes a lot more difficult to fear someone after you've broken bread with them."
Following Huckabee's rejection of the Hearty Boys invitation, Congressman Quigley formally invited the former governor to join in tonight's festivities. Huckabee's PAC (Political Action Committee) responded with polite regrets.
Quigley, a die hard Chicago Blackhawks fan, was donned in the hockey team's cap and spoke emotionally to the crowd, telling of how his own father had been abandoned as a baby: "The (his grandparent's adoption) application was two pages long", Quigley read from copy of the original form, which asked simple questions such as what gender of child they wanted. The response was plain and simple: "We just want a child we can love."
A following question of the application asked what the parent's plan for the child's future? Quigley's grandfather wrote: "The very best available. I can assure while I'm alive he shall never want."
"In the end, I don't know what parenthood is, you do the best you can" said Quigley, the father two daughters. "It's about how much you care for them, so with the with greatest respect to the governor (Huckabee) I would suggest that he remember that, and that our policy leaders in this country recognize that family's come in all shapes, sizes and functional, dysfunction, probably dysfunctional at least part of the time, but it's all about love and I appreciate everyone in this room for being the parents and the families that they are and God bless them." Quigley concluded.
The Families Valued Dinner takes place at the beginning of Pride month, when Chicago hosts a month of awareness activities and one of the country's largest LGBT parades. Before and throughout the dinner, kids drew pictures of their families in crayon while guests watched a slide show of family photos provided by attendees in advance.