THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"THE RIGHT TO LOVE: AN AMERICAN FAMILY"
The Leffew family is like many other American families. They eat dinner together every night. They go to parks and playgrounds. They attend church weekly. They love one another. The primary difference is that the Leffew family has two fathers, and no mothers. Jay and Bryan are a gay couple who adopted two children, Daniel and Selena. When California's Proposition 8 (banning same-sex marriages) passed, they began posting videos of their daily lives on YouTube, in an effort to show the world that two gay dads could have just as normal a family as anyone else. The videos received a warm response, and also inspired the touching new documentary The Right to Love: An American Family.
Director Cassie Jaye intersperses the Leffew family's YouTube clips with news footage detailing the fight for/against Prop 8. There are also interviews with Jay and Bryan, who discuss their motivation for opening up their lives to the public. Deeply hurt by the suggestion that their marriage isn't as real or valid as anyone else's, they felt it was important to make a statement, to show that family values transcend sexuality. It is a powerful message, especially in light of the fact that some of our nation's greatest opponents of same-sex marriage fail to exhibit the kind of committed, caring values that the Leffews exemplify.
The film additionally takes time to talk to Bryan's father, brother, and grandmother – all of whom generally do not support gay marriage, yet voted against Prop 8 in support. (Well, two of them did, at least.) These sections are powerful because they illustrate a crucial point: when you actually know a married gay couple with a typical family, it doesn't seem any different from any other married couple with kids.
One of the most engrossing sections of the documentary is an interview with a religious scholar who challenges the oft-used assertion that gay marriage is wrong because it cannot produce children. He suggests that gay parents who adopt foster children are indeed filling the procreative function, and may, in fact, be looked upon by God with favor for giving these kids the loving homes they need. What a fascinating thought that is. Daniel Leffew was born with a condition that causes half his body to develop at a slower rate than the other. Because of this, he spent years in foster care and was considered “unadoptable.” Jay and Bryan saw what a great kid he was. They gave him the happy home he undoubtedly dreamed of, the one that no opposite-sex parents who came looking to adopt would offer. It would be hard for an opponent of same-sex marriage to argue that this is a bad thing for the boy. (They'd probably try, but they'd be wrong.)
The Right to Love: An American Family argues its point well. It follows the approach set forth by its subjects, who simply wanted to show that loving families are a good thing, no matter how they are comprised. The film is smart to give Jay and Bryan a lot of screen time. They are such charismatic, likeable men. You can't help but be drawn to their dedication to the kids, and to each other. This is a skillfully-made documentary with a point of view and a tender touch. If you already agree with the message, you'll come away with your beliefs confirmed. You'll also enjoy having spent time with the Leffews, who seem to be as fine an example of family values as you'll find anywhere. If, for some reason, you oppose gay marriage and/or families with two dads (or two moms), well...you might just find yourself questioning those beliefs. The Right to Love makes the case that love is love and family is family, regardless of one's sexuality.
( 1/2 out of four)
After a Feb. 11 screening at the Queer Film Festival in Eugene, Oregon, The Right to Love: An American Family is scheduled to receive a theatrical release in Los Angeles, tentatively scheduled for May or June. Cassie Jaye tells me that a church screening tour is also in development. A DVD release will be coming down the road, as well. For up-to-date information about where you can see the film, please visit the official website, or the Facebook page.
Buy a copy of my book, "Straight-Up Blatant: Musings From The Aisle Seat," on sale now at Lulu.com!