The fate of California’s same-sex marriage hangs in the balance, as the Justices prepare their ruling on the challenges to the validity of Proposition 8. In my house of married two moms, we remain overtly safe. However if the result is not favorable, then I am faced with having to inform my children that gay and lesbians are no longer allowed to marry under the law of this State.
My children will undoubtedly suffer from the confusion engendered by this fight; first we could not marry, then we could, and now we cannot. Regardless of whether the prior 18,000 California marriages, including my own, are retroactively upheld or invalidated, the mere fact that L and G marriage is effectively ‘outlawed’ establishes for my children a communal disdain towards the marriage of their two moms and our status as “family.”
My twelve year old daughter is a well adjusted child; she has been around the world a few times and is quite worldly for her years; she enjoys a wonderful reputation with teachers and friends alike. She is kind and astute; loving and perceptive – and as a baby earned the name “little Buddha.” HC is a great student; she makes it a point to adore her teachers. She holds them in the highest esteem. She reveres their knowledge and they are “always right!” She is always described as a pleasure and delight in the classroom. This is a kid who never wants to miss school. She loves it!
When the California Court first ruled favorably for same-sex marriage we were the first lesbian couple to be married by our Rabbi at our congregation temple. My kids had a great time and together with twenty other kids all dressed in white walked down the aisle toward the ‘Chuppah’ in most traditional fashion. It was a big event for our community and family came from around the world.
Three months of gay marriage and then enter Proposition 8 together with the egregious advertisements facilitated by the millions of hateful dollars sent from Utah’s Mormon community to California, intent on promoting the proposition that would serve to outlaw same-sex marriage and serving to insult my family and our values. About two weeks before the Nov 2008 election and the impending prop 8 vote, HC and I were driving our route to school. Amidst our usual morning tussle between Stephanie Miller and Radio Disney, an advertisement popped on the radio. As I listened to the twisted misrepresentations, “……and your children will be forced to learn about homosexuality and gay relationships; ….. your churches will be forced to marry them… blah..” (I am relying on faded memory here,) I glanced at HC and saw an unusual expression on her usually placid face, one which I will not easily forget, and she asked, “Mom I don’t get what is wrong with other kids learning about my type of family?” I was stunned! The advertisement had placed a perspective calling for this very question by my child and those of us who have lived our lives so openly and most fortunate to have accepting communities, where our ‘same-sex-ness’ is the least of our day to day issues.
The advertisement had clearly hurt my child; its viciousness was not something she had been subjected to before. Now I had to come up with an answer to this ferocious fanaticism. I explained, “Hun, I do not know why our kind of family is a problem for other people. Maybe fear on the part of those who think things always have to be one way, their way. But, we do live in a world where people have differences of opinion. What you heard on that ad, was unfair and contorted, but that is how the people who are against the idea of same-sex marriage think they can get other people to join their way of thinking. Most smart people are not taken in by it.” I added with certainty. A few more questions and answers later we arrived at school, and went on with the next two weeks, during which time HC and my four year old accompanied me to various “NO ON 8” rallies, a battle cry still performed by the little one whenever she sees the number 8, including at school.
The “Yes” win was a shock and a huge upset; I had a lot more explaining to do; “mom is our marriage okay are we still married? (Our marriage is clearly viewed by my kids as a family event!) The day after the election, HC came home from school and told me that her class teacher had told the group she had voted for John McCain. Living in Marin County California, I do believe the kids found this quite odd. Then she said, “Mom its so weird Mrs. R. also told the class that she voted “yes” on Prop 8; and I think she must have been just joking!” Well long story short, she was not joking – and my child was completely devastated. For the next three weeks, being in that class and at school become a difficulty for HC and I realized that despite my promise to keep quiet, I needed to see the Principal. The Principal (who happens to be an “out” lesbian, was not surprised to see me show up on the issue; she explained that I was the fourth parent to show up complaining about this lack of discretion on the part of the teacher. The Principal decided to move HC to another home class and explained that it was not because of HC, but rather because of the teacher.
Fortunately, HC is back to being her happy self, but I am sure this has had a deep and profound effect on my child. If prop 8 is upheld by the pending judicial decision, I truly believe that my child will be further harmed, emotionally, by the perceived abnormality of her family. It is so unjust and so unfair. Our children do not deserve to be the political pawns of the divisive and fearful bigots and religious right in our country. We are family values and we are entitled to equality and this Mom will carry on fighting regardless of the outcome.
I have to show my child that our family is worth fighting for and that anything short of complete equality is simply not good enough. I think this story illustrates the far reaching effects of de jure disqualification and the de facto circumstances of inequality will never change until the law does. Until such time our children will be marginalized as my daughter was when her teacher basically told her –‘ You are not the same – you are not entitled.’
NOTES :-Proposition 8 amends the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. It is an attempt to fundamentally alter our state Constitution — to deny certain rights for certain citizens. No matter what one’s personal feelings on gay marriage, I believe the idea of institutionalizing any form of discrimination in a document that is supposed to protect us all equally under the law, is an affront the spirit of equality and justice and tantamount to apartheid.