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Shari Johnson

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On Mother's Day, The Proud Mother of a Gay Daughter Celebrates a Presidential Stand for Equality

Posted: 05/13/2012 1:49 am

When I learned of President Obama's support of same sex-marriage this week, my emotions ran amok -- surprise, hope, excitement, joy -- joy because the marriage of my daughter and daughter-in-law was recognized as a good thing by the highest office in the land. His stand supersedes politics. It should be a standard for all of us to follow -- to lay down our opinions, prejudices, and judgments and do what is right.

I wasn't willing to do that in 2004, when I received word that my daughter, Cholene Espinoza, was marrying her partner, Ellen Ratner. I had finally reached a point of grudging acceptance, two years after Cholene first told me that she was gay. Cholene was 37 at the time, and I had not had a clue. I thought it was the end of the world then, and now this! I had a terrible attitude about it. I wasn't even sure I could attend the wedding; I just couldn't picture it. A dear friend told me that if I didn't straighten up, I was going to lose Cholene, and our relationship would never be the same. Imagine the position Cholene was in: She was risking our ruining the happiest day of her life by inviting us to the wedding, but if she hadn't invited us, I would have been hurt and upset. It was definitely a no-win situation for her.

One morning, while driving to work, I was "talking" to God, and I said out loud: "What event could a parent be asked to attend that could be worse than this?" The answer came to my mind quickly: "A funeral." I knew exactly where the answer had come from, and it shook me to my core. I related this to my son Chip during a telephone conversation. He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, "That's interesting, Mom, because she has always thought you and Dad would rather she be dead than know she was gay."

What kind of a parent would give their child that idea? I adjusted my attitude, and we went to Cambridge, Mass., for the wedding. I still had misgivings, but I was determined to make the best of it.

It was the December right after President Bush was elected to his second term. My husband and I are conservatives, and I was pretty sure there would be liberals there. I didn't know how we would be treated. I shouldn't have been worried. We were treated kindly and graciously. The whole weekend was magical. Ellen is the quintessential hostess and had a fantastic weekend planned for all the guests, but the one thing that absolutely astounded me was that God was there. Who knew that He showed up at gay weddings? One woman that weekend said to me, "I can't really describe it, but it all seems so 'spiritual.'" I knew exactly what she was talking about. There was such love there, the love that can only come from God.

On the night before the wedding, Ellen threw a birthday party for Cholene. At one point I looked around for my husband, James, and Mr. Conservative was sitting between two gay women discussing the history of the area. They had found their common ground. Isn't that what it is about, finding a common ground with others who may not think like us, look like us, or act like us?

I heard much later about an incident that took place that same weekend regarding my grandson Chandler. My son Chip, his wife Lisa, their three sons, and their daughter were all in Cambridge. Chip was to take part in the Jewish ceremony by reading scripture, the boys were to be ushers, and their daughter Charli was to be the flower girl. Chip was an ordained minister in a very conservative denomination, and I was proud of him for placing the love he has for his sister above the opinions of others. Because all of Chip's family was involved in the church, and there was no question of where it stood on homosexuality, there was a family meeting beforehand, and the decision to take part in the wedding was unanimous. However, as they were all getting ready in the hotel room the night of the wedding, out of the blue, 11-year-old Chandler said, "Well, this ought to be interesting." Chip and Lisa exchanged looks that said, "Oh, no, here it comes." Then Chandler said, "I've never been to a Jewish wedding before."

Don't you just love kids? What a great world this would be if we followed their example -- such as the example President Obama's daughters gave him that allowed him to see things differently.

 
 
 
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