I think I’ve made it pretty clear from prior posts (like this one) that I am not shy or guarded when it comes to being an out gay parent. The news that hit from the Supreme Court this week is still sinking in. At first I wasn’t sure how much this would really impact me personally other than filing taxes as a married couple, but then it started really sinking in. I mean, THIS. IS. HUGE.
We now have a federally recognized family. While I find it silly that such recognition had to occur with lawyers and justices, here we are.
There will be countless articles and opinions about the decision, its impact, the future of gay rights, and even a lot of negative nay-saying commentary. But what I hope to show is what this really means to me, to my family and why, for me, it goes so much further beyond my little family unit.
I met my wife toward the end of 1999. We have always been pretty out and honest about our love for each other and what our relationship means. We have amazing family and friends plus we live in a gay-friendly area. But we’ve always had to endure the anti-gay opinions, the little bumps in the road along the way as we have to explain our relationship, the legalities of trying to protect our rights and our family. We’ve been able to handle it even though it always required more work, thought, patience and strength over others’ ignorance. It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t have to deal with it, but these little (and much bigger) things occur in our daily lives that straight people just don’t have to bother or deal with.
Now, DOMA has been ruled unconstitutional. This is about a major shift in how people will think of gay marriage, gay families and gay people in general. Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in the “DOMA Case” (and just an amazing, outstanding woman) said in her press conference yesterday that this was more than a court decision, this was “The beginning of the end of stigma, of lying of who we are…” And I truly believe that she’s right.
We got (not so quietly) “civilly united” under Connecticut law in 2005 to do everything we could to help our legal rights as we tried to have a child. When we decided to have children, we decided together that we would be proud of who we were. We promised each other and our (then future) children that we wouldn’t hide our relationship or lie about who we are to each other. When I sat in front of the Connecticut Judiciary Committee giving my testimony 6 years ago, I had faith in a state, even a country where there wouldn’t be separate categories of families, where we weren’t “different” under the law. I had hope in and contributing to a future world where no one would blink when our children explained they had two moms, a world where our family is just…a family.
This decision solidified that equality for gays is no longer a battle cry, it’s a legal reality. The meaning of equality was legally broadened and deepened by this decision.
This decision gave us something else, dignity. Justice Kennedy used the word “dignity” 9 times in his majority opinion. He wrote about how DOMA “instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others,” Kennedy wrote for the majority. “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.” Full story here
It’s not just our ability to file our taxes as “married” it’s really about the body politic, the judicial branch, the law of the land all saying “you are a true citizen, your family is a true family, and you are no lesser a person than anyone else.” My boys will grow up in an America where their federal government recognizes their moms as a legal married couple. To me, and Edie Windsor, this is the beginning. I know that there are still 36 states that ban gay marriage, but that will change.
By this ruling, I think our world will change in that people will be more alert and vigilant when hate rears its ugly head. I think that teenagers and young people will feel less of this stigma and isolation that so many gay youth feel. We are living in a world where more and more gay children, gay adults and gay families can feel some hope because it’s in writing from the Supreme Court that they deserve the same dignity as everyone else. I am not so naive that I don’t think hatred and ignorance will just float off into the sky, but I do think that the intolerance (not that we need to be “tolerated”), the ignorance, the “bashing”, the lack of understanding towards gays will dissipate and it will become less and less cool to be so discriminatory against gays.
My children may never know how big this decision is because they love their two mommies and they just see every family they encounter as just another family, no matter what the makeup. And I love that. I love to think they will not have to know the pre-DOMA world because they will be living in a post-DOMA world where things will continue to change for the better.
But I was overcome yesterday for reasons well above and beyond our recognition by the IRS and Social Security Administration, I felt for every gay person in our country who has to fight all of the little every day battles of paperwork, explaining, fighting for recognition, fighting for some better treatment, fighting their own battles alone. To hear that you are no less a citizen than everyone else gives so much hope to the battles ahead. I hope individuals and families are celebrating everywhere. I look forward to more celebrations as additional states continue to change their laws and tear down these walls that only hurt loving families.
I extend my Congratulations to all of the families who are only now legally recognized and I also send my hope and strength to the families in states where there are some battles still ahead. Keep the faith. You are not alone and you can hopefully find peace knowing that you are entitled to the same rights as everyone else and that day of recognition will come. And remember, Connecticut will always welcome you!