My husband and I have been married for over 40 years and have lived in California even longer. We have a transgender son who is getting ready to marry his best friend, Mary, on Nov. 8. So when the Supreme Court overturned DOMA and Prop 8, it didn't affect us in the same way that it affected many of our lesbian and gay friends, but we celebrated along with everyone, because we are part of the LGBT community, and they are a part of us.
I heard stories from parents who attend our PFLAG chapter. They called their sons or daughters to share in this historic decision. One mom and dad even planned to visit their gay son regardless of the outcome of the ruling. If the decision was positive, they wanted to look their son in the eye and share in the hope that became part of the day. If the decision was not positive, they wanted to be there to console their son, so that hope would not be lost. There was such an outpouring of love, joy and gratitude. My heart was filled with warmth for days.
One of my friends posted the following Facebook comment with the photo shown below:
To My Family and Friends,
Today the United States Supreme Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional and restored marriage equality in the great state of California. So...this only means one thing.
To my wonderful and amazing boyfriend Stephen ...in front of all my family and friends...WILL YOU MARRY ME?
I gasped with surprise and happiness when I read this post. It touched me in ways I can't describe. All I knew was that it made me feel so grateful for the day.
The following week I happened to meet up with this very same friend, also named Stephen, and as we talked, our conversation turned to the events of June 26. He shared with me what that day represented to him. "I didn't realize what being able to marry the person I loved really meant," he shared. "Of course, I hoped marriage equality would be restored in California, but I reasoned that if Prop 8 didn't get overturned, Stephen and I would still be boyfriend and boyfriend, and our relationship would just go on from there." What I understood from my friend was that, on the one hand, marriage equality would matter, but on the other, it wouldn't, because the Supreme Court announcement would not change their love for each other.
"But something happened that I didn't expect," Stephen continued. "When my boyfriend's 84-year-old father, who has not always been supportive of his son's 'lifestyle,' heard we were going to get married, he called his son to congratulate him, then asked to speak to me." Choking back tears, my friend stopped to gather himself. "When I got on the phone, my future father-in-law said to me, 'Welcome to the family.'" Brushing away the tears that were now spilling from his eyes, Stephen said in a quivering voice, "It was in those four words I understood how much the Supreme Court decision changed my life." My friend felt acceptance from his future family, and that meant more to him than even he realized it would mean.
I drove home from Stephen's house and continued to reflect on our conversation. I realized that marriage equality has far-reaching effects, bigger than I ever imagined. The Supreme Court gave parents who love their children and want them to have a good life more reason to accept their children and their partners. It showed parents that the world is changing, and that now their children can have the kind of lives that parents dream of for them. Parents could replace fear, shame and guilt with hope and love. Parents could open their hearts to their sons' and daughters' partners, embracing these potential spouses, knowing that their children had a more recognized place in society. Yes, there is more work to be done in many more states, but this is a great start.
I also became aware that these decisions offered the chance for children to get a blessing from their parents and future in-laws, which, even for 51-year-olds like my friend, strikes an emotional chord and says, "You are worthy, and you belong." As I think about what the Supreme Court has done for keeping families connected, and perhaps in some cases reconnected, I am even more grateful for what those five justices have done not only for the LGBT community but for families as well. This decision is not weakening the family structure; it has the ability to strengthen it. And I, for one, hope that this will now give parents inspiration to embrace their LGBT children and partners with their whole hearts and not just with part of it.