Photo Credit: Courtesy of Patty Onderko
As a woman married to another woman, raising two kids, I've been watching the two cases -- regarding the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) -- that are before the Supreme Court.
My first thought when I heard the news was, "yay!" and "exciting!" and "fingers crossed!" My Facebook profile photo has been updated to the red-and-pink equality sign from the Human Rights Campaign and I'm anxiously awaiting the SCOTUS's decisions. My family's equal rights hang in the balance. What more is there to say?
The truth is, I've been thinking about what these two cases mean to me -- or would mean to me -- for about 14 years, since I first met my wife, Emily, and fell in instant infatuation with her, despite never having liked a girl before. In fact, I've almost become tired of thinking about it. When it comes to grappling with the lack of equal rights for everyone -- no matter how you're born or what you call yourself or who you choose to love -- I feel like I’ve been through the stages of grief.
When Emily and I first got together, I was so overwhelmed with love and excitement that I thought surely everyone would see my glow and concede that the whole anti-gay thing was a terrible idea. I thought the purity of my love alone would somehow be contagious. How could anyone deny me the right to marry Emily when I was so darn happy?? I was in capital-D Denial, for sure.
As Emily and I melded our lives together more and more, the anger stage swept in and lasted much longer. Why the F does anyone get to tell me who I can love? Why the F do I have to call it a "commitment ceremony" when all I ever wanted was a wedding? Why the F did my dad tell me that the idea of Emily and I having any kind of ceremony/wedding at all was "rubbing it in people's face"? What the F is "it" anyway? Why the F do I have to be evaluated by a social worker in order for my wife to become a legal guardian to the children that we had together? Why the F do we have to pay more taxes and spend more on health insurance than opposite-sex married couples? Why the F do we pay taxes at all when our country denies us such a basic right (that carries with it more than 1,000 other rights afforded to opposite-sex marriages)?
Hundreds of Why the Fs.
But it's hard to be angry all the time, and I'm a positive person by nature. So even though not much had changed, my anger mellowed into a background sadness. Sadness that, as a country, we haven't gotten this right yet. Sadness that people exist who hate me, who believe I'm going to hell, who think my sons will be damaged for life by having two mothers.
By then, Emily and I had taken all the legal actions we could take to make up for some of the protections that weren’t afforded our relationship and family. We paid for dozens of documents that would (hopefully) ensure that we could visit each other in the hospital if something were to happen. Our long, expensive adoption process was over (Emily had to adopt the kids that I carried). We adjusted our budgets to absorb the extra costs. Nothing is foolproof, of course, but for the time being we felt fairly secure.
Our kids started school and the daily demands of raising kids, making money, and volunteering in the classroom and community took over. Our families, my dad included, have long since accepted and embraced us whole-heartedly. We live in an ultra-liberal town where we don't often run into those people who might hate us.
It's not that I forgot about the fight for equal rights. I was still angry and sad when I thought about it. I signed all the online petitions and "liked" all the efforts others were making to advance the cause for marriage equality. But I had reached a place of acceptance. And I felt happy about the strides forward that we had made. After all, same-sex marriage was legalized in New York, where Emily and I live. We had a second wedding in Brooklyn City Hall, with our sons as ring-bearers. There were other kids with two moms or two dads in the boys' classes. We watched Modern Family. Things seemed okay.
The two cases before the Supreme Court this week, however, have renewed a hope that, ironically, reignites all my anger and sadness. Yes, things for my family are fine -- if unequal -- but they are not fine for everyone. And no matter how accepted I feel in my immediate community, my country has made a concerted effort to let me know that I am most definitely NOT accepted. And that is something I'm ashamed to say that I came to accept. Inequality is NOT acceptable.
Reading about and listening to arguably the smartest people in the country debate about something that is black-and-white -- inequality is not acceptable -- feels farcical. Sometimes, I have to just laugh. I understand about due process and I want the outcomes to be legally air-tight, but it is difficult to watch and wait.
I hope that the SCOTUS hears these cases and makes the decisions that will give everyone the same constitutional rights. If they do, then, yes, "yay!" and "exciting!" But if they don't, I say, "I do not accept that." I hope you don't either.
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