In the run-up to the same-sex-marriage arguments at the Supreme Court today, April 28, several letters have been published by children of same-sex parents unhappy with their upbringing -- and now advocating against marriage equality. Though the pain behind these letters is quite apparent, the damage was not caused by having parents of the same sex. These writers are pointing their anger in the wrong direction -- which could have very dangerous consequences.
I have my own unique story. My mom and dad got divorced when I was 4 when my dad came out of the closet. My mother remarried the following year, and Dad met Mark a few years later and had a house blessing ceremony (this was in 1989, when "civil unions" were a far-off dream, let alone marriage). My sister and I spent the weekends at Dad and Mark's and lived the rest of the time with Mom and our stepdad Mac. Our story got a bit more public when my dad became the first openly gay Episcopal bishop in 2003, threatening a schism in the church that would never come.
So yes, I was blessed to have my mother and my father in my life growing up, and I do understand the sadness and yearning that a divorce leaves behind. Did I want my mom and dad under the same roof and not to have to schlep back and forth on holidays? Of course! Reading the letters by Katy Faust and Heather Barwick, I can hear the love for their parents. Faust recalls in her open letter to Justice Kennedy that her mother was an "exceptional parent" and continues, "[M]uch of what I do well as a mother is a reflection of how she loved and nurtured me." Yet Faust goes on to ask the question, "Have we really arrived at a time when we are considering institutionalizing the stripping of a child's natural right to a mother and a father in order to validate the emotions of adults?" My answer to that is no. What we are trying to do is validate -- and protect -- families that do exist.
In her letter in entitled "Dear Gay Community: Your Kids Are Hurting," Barwick also points out that her mom was "one of the best." It's hard to read about how her dad left the family when she was young. And she is right: No one could have replaced her father. But the same would have been true if her mom had partnered with another man instead of a woman. Barwick is a hurting child of divorce, not a suffering product of same-sex parents.
The responsibility was on her mother and her mother's partner to raise this child in a well-rounded world with all sorts of influences. Unfortunately, Barwick believes that didn't happen and feels she was deprived of a male influence or role model in her life. But that should not entitle her -- or anyone, for that matter -- to deny same-sex couples the protections that marriage affords them and their children. It is treacherous to tout personal, unfortunate parenting decisions as a reason to deny rights to an entire community of deserving citizens.
In my unique structure growing up, Mom and Mac had every protection and right afforded to them, whereas Dad and Mark had very few basic rights. If my sister or I had gotten in an accident and gone to the hospital, Mark couldn't have come to see us. He had zero legal ties to us, as opposed to Mac, who, because he was married to our mom, had certain legal rights as our stepdad and could march right in. Mark and Mac both loved us the same way, cared for our well-being and desperately wanted to be by our side when we were hurt. So why was one valued above the other? How was Mac's love for me more important, respected or righteous than Mark's?
There is no doubt that the children need to be considered in this debate. That is why I've been so involved with Family Equality Council's "Outspoken Generation" program. We're building up a community for children of LGBT parents and same-sex couples who share stories of love, commitment and perseverance through intolerance and obstructed rights.
These hurtful letters proclaim to have the children's best interests at heart, but a loving home that is recognized, respected and well-protected by our government is all kids really need. We all know that heterosexual marriages do not automatically lead to happy households and well-balanced children. Parents are parents -- and all can make bad decisions, learn as they go, or not be perfect. It doesn't matter if they are gay, straight, single or otherwise. But to deny protections to parents already raising children isn't right, and the only purpose it serves is to hurt those children.
So to the gay community: As a proud daughter of extremely loving gay dads, I'm here to tell you I'm confident that deserved rights and protections are coming our way -- and that your kids are just fine.