Ben, Lily and their two dads

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When Mark Friedman goes shopping at the Giant Eagle in Squirrel Hill with his young son Benjamin, he sometimes gets admiring comments about the child from a grandmother or two.

Annie O'Neill, Post-GazetteBen Yeo Friedman, 4, is the son of Marc Friedman, left, and Ray Yeo. His sister is Lily Yeo Friedman, back.

"And sometimes, they'll say something like, 'I bet your wife is very proud,' and that's when I say, 'Well, actually, Bennie has two dads.' "

There's a reason why Mr. Friedman offers that bit of intensely personal information to a stranger.

"The more people are educated about how normal we are, the less prejudiced they will be," he says. "Also, by being open, we're sending a message to our kids that we are proud of who we are. To not answer that way in front of my child is to hide, and I want him to be raised with pride."

Mr. Friedman, and his partner, Ray Yeo, both 45, have been together for 19 years. Their son, Ben, is 4 1/2, and their daughter, Lily, just turned 1. Both were adopted as babies from Vietnam.

Ben's preschool teacher, Mr. Friedman says proudly, "tells us that in 35 years as an early childhood educator that Ben is one of the happiest children she's ever seen. She's struck how much love and support comes from this family."

Mr. Friedman and his partner live in an eastern suburb of Pittsburgh. While it wouldn't qualify as a gay enclave, there are other couples with two fathers or two mothers who live nearby. "The kids have plenty of role models," he laughs.

So what will he tell his children when they ask, as they inevitably will, "Why do I have two daddies? I'll say that usually a man and a woman fall in love, and sometimes they have children, but sometimes two men or two women do, too."

Despite criticism from conservatives who dislike his domestic arrangements, he believes what he's doing is right. "Kids in foster care usually end up living in three, four or five homes before turning 18. All over the world, kids need a home. What would people have us do? Let those children waste away in orphanages all over the world?"

Still, Mr. Friedman doesn't necessarily hope his two youngsters follow in his footsteps or his partner's.

"I hope they turn out straight," he said. "It's easier."

A researcher at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, Mr. Friedman adds that if either of his children turn out to be gay, "no one would be more supportive than me. But today in America, it's just still easier to be a straight person."

-- Mackenzie Carpenter


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