Questions raised about definition of Louisiana families

Rev. Juan Huertas, St. John's United Methodist Church, Baton Rouge;
Rev. Juan Huertas, St. John's United Methodist Church, Baton Rouge;

A member of a commission tasked with studying ways to strengthen Louisiana families questioned Tuesday the state’s legal definition of families.

“If our duty is to improve Louisiana families, I wonder if we can do that if we narrow ourselves to families that fit a certain demographic,” the Rev. Juan Huertas told the Louisiana Commission on Marriage and Family.

He is the senior pastor at the St. John’s United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge and a member of the commission.

A large number of Louisiana families don’t fit the standard definition.

Some families are headed by single parents or parents of the same sex or include stepchildren or have children living in homes with aunts, uncles, grandparents or a multitude of other combinations, Huertas said.

“Not all families are a man and woman couple with 2.5 children,” Huerta said.

“It kind of shocks me that government would want to get so involved in defining family,” he said.

State law defines marriage and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive order is explicit in the duties of the commission, said Gene Mills, director of the Louisiana Family Forum and a member of the commission.

Mills said the 29-member commission’s role was not one of advocacy but advisory.

He volunteered his subcommittee on public media and public relations to summarize various federal challenges to state law and policies.

The commission agreed to give the subcommittee the task.

“It’s our responsibility to fulfill the executive order,” said state Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, and chairwoman of the commission.

The duties of the commission, according to Jindal’s August 2008 order, are to collect and analyze data on “the social and personal effects of marriage, two-parent childrearing, and single-parent childrearing” as well as review all laws and regulations to ensure “that marriage is not discouraged” and to support the institution of marriage.