My family hangs out regularly with neighbors who have become not only good friends but also family. We live in a very diverse neighborhood among others who support gay marriage, like Bill who officiated at the lesbian wedding of two of his friends. There's also Sherry and Ellen, whom I got to know better when they were expecting their son, Parker. They have become an extra pair of moms to my kids — an incredible family in every way — except they can't legally marry in our state.
The gay marriage chat
Thirteen states have legalized gay marriage, and recently it looked like Illinois may have become the fourteenth (at the last minute, the vote wasn't called). My husband and I were talking about how great it was when we lived in Massachusetts and they legalized gay marriage. I made a comment about how ridiculous it was that Sherry and Ellen couldn't legally marry. Joshua, our 11-year-old, was confused.
"I thought Sherry and Ellen were married," he said.
"Nope," I replied.
"Why? They have Parker."
"Only some states recognize gay marriage," I explained. My husband briefly mentioned some of the benefits he and I are entitled to that they don't have.
In typical tween fashion, Josh's response cut to the chase:
Same, but not equal
My husband and I have had gay and lesbian friends and family for as long as we can remember. When I became a childbirth educator, my first job was teaching classes to lesbian moms-to-be at an LGBT health center, including when I was pregnant with Joshua — he's literally been surrounded by lesbians since before he was born. My oldest, Justin, 15, goes to high school with plenty of classmates who are out and proud and recently marched in the Gay Pride parade to support them.
Yet, it never occurred to my kids until recently that at the end of the day, Sherry and Ellen — and the many other LGBT adults in committed relationships we know — don't have the legal right to marry — and how that's wrong.
My kids' thoughts about gay marriage in their own words
Justin says, "When you love someone, it doesn't matter — especially when they have kids — [not being married] ends up hurting the kids and society more than anything else."
As for Joshua, whose "That's dumb" reply to gay marriage not being legal inspired me to write this article?
He says, “My neighbors are cool — we're always hanging out with them. It’s messed up that they and everyone else can’t have equal rights. I believe that gay marriage should be allowed because everyone is equal."