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Gay Marriage's Biggest Supporters: Children of Gay Parents

5 years ago
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By now we've all seen (and, in my case, wept over) the images: couples long denied the right to marry swept up in the energy and excitement of a battle (temporarily) won.
With the majority of Americans now polling (for the first time!) in favor of gay marriage, today Judge Vaughn Walker indicated gay marriages will once again go forward, starting August 18, in California. The move came in the wake of last week's Proposition 8 decision, in which Judge Walker ruled the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. "Proposition 8 ," Walker wrote, "fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license."

Amid the celebration, the decision was understood by all parties not to be the final word on gay marriage in the state, and certainly not in the country, but nevertheless a cause for great optimism.
Those who are most optimistic may not be the couples themselves. A whole population is affected by this decision, a quieter,(sometimes physically) smaller population, and one that has become increasingly political over the last decade. Their stake in the marriage debate, whether they are gay or straight, is one much more fundamental than that of "allies" or friendly supporters.
I am speaking, of course, of the children of the gay men and lesbians who hope to marry, the children of those who hope to lift the discrimination levied on their families -- homes where two women love one another, or two men.
"As a person raised by lesbian moms and gay dads, I am thrilled that the Prop 8 decision recognizes the overwhelming evidence that LGBT parents are capable of making households just as loving, nurturing and stable as heterosexual parents," Danielle Silber, the New York City chapter president of COLAGE, e-mailed me Wednesday. COLAGE bills itself as "a national movement of children, youth, and adults with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer (LGBTQ) parent/s."
Danielle was in Provincetown, Mass., last week, with 300 COLAGE families, when the decision came down. Joy surely rippled up Commercial Street when California's judge announced it. (In the early part of this decade, for years, I spent a week each summer in that bastion of tolerance and wonder, traveling with my closest friend. To me, in that week, the world felt like a more just place.)
The executive director of COLAGE, Beth Teper, e-mailed me from her vacation to describe the scene.
"For many children of LGBTQ parents, having a family that's treated differently and discriminated against can be isolating or challenging. But when we meet others who can appreciate that experience because they've been there, we feel seen, heard, and understood -- often for the first time. Meeting other young people like ourselves, from families like our own, helps us understand that there are others who know what it's like, and that we're not the only ones and our difference is in fact our strength. For a federal judge to also see that families come in all shapes and sizes and to recognize the unfair impact of marriage discrimination on children's lives is very affirming. Only two hours after Proposition 8 was overturned, nearly two hundred COLAGE supporters gathered at a reception to celebrate both Judge Walker's decision and the organization's 20th anniversary. Jubilant cheers and joyous hoots and hollers were readily heard when the news was announced; hugs and hi-fives were exchanged among youth and parents alike in acknowledgment of this milestone moment in our families' march toward equality and justice."
Whether you've noticed them or not, the children of gay unions were in the picture all along. Opponents of same-sex marriage have long suggested that same-sex marriage will have negative consequences for children of gay parents. Yet, as Judge Walker pointed out, the presence of thriving children in such households provides a dramatic counterpoint.
"Proposition 8 singles out gays and lesbians and legitimates their unequal treatment. Proposition 8 perpetuates the stereotype that gays and lesbians are incapable of forming long-term loving relationships and that gays and lesbians are not good parents."
"The gender of a child's parent is not a factor in a child's adjustment. The sexual orientation of an individual does not determine whether that individual can be a good parent. Children raised by gay or lesbian parents are as likely as children raised by heterosexual parents to be healthy, successful and well-adjusted."
Back in December and January I interviewed a number of children and adult offspring of gay men and lesbians across the country – some had become increasingly outspoken advocates, loquacious and political. Some, the younger ones, especially, just saw the whole thing as clearly, patently, unfair.
The right to wed "means to me that two different people who are in love get to be married or be able to live together legally forever and have special protection rights for the family," McKinley BarbouRoske told me when I was reporting that story. McKinley, a middle-schooler, is a regular at gay marriage rallies. Her family was a part of the Iowa lawsuit that overturned that state's ban against same-sex marriage. Of her decision to speak out, McKinley told me: "I decided to do it because, of course, my family and [because] I know there are a lot of other people with families out there who need the freedom for this and I'm trying to do it so everyone has an equal right." In Iowa the children signed on to the case as co-plaintiffs. It was a strategy that worked well to combat those on the opposite side: claiming that "protecting" marriage was in behalf of the children. Lambda Legal, arguing for the gay and lesbian couples, argued that if the argument addressed the children – the real, live children should be involved.
Not just in Iowa, either. Across the country, children from lesbian- and gay-headed households have been catapulted from appendices in the conversation about gay marriage into increasingly visible, and key, roles as spokespersons in the debate. The civil rights organizations that support gay marriage have begun to recognize the next generation's potential for changing the terms of the debate.
That's what happened when 14-year-old Sam Putnam-Ripley, a Portland, Maine, high school freshman took the floor to testify before Maine's Statehouse last August (Watch it. I defy you not to tear up.) His five-minute political action, conceived around his kitchen table, immediately attracted the attention of the organizers of "No on 1," the Maine gay rights group that fought the anti-marriage ballot proposal there. Activists approached Putnam's telegenic family and put them in a soft-focus ad campaign. Sitting on a wood front porch surrounded by trees swaying in dappled sunlight, Sam, flanked by his moms, tells the camera, "We can't be seen as lesser." The hope was to have a repeat of the wildly successful Massachusetts Equality ad from 2003 highlighting a hockey star – Peter Hams – and his two hockey moms. Hams, muscular and handsome, looks at the camera and says, "I think it's wrong to vote on other people's rights." That television spot was credited by gay rights activists with helping to sway many in Massachusetts.
As Sam told me on the phone, "I hadn't comprehended the impact of my story. I have always loved having two moms. I always thought we were a normal family -- I thought there were a lot of families like mine." He hoped, he said, that his "story might be inspiring to other kids to come out and be more open."

Now that we know that kids from lesbian homes actually do better then their peers (or at least have fewer behavior problems), maybe we can all start to look to LGBTQ families as inspirational rather than controversial.
Filed Under: Woman Up, Gay Rights, Culture

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Love cannot be defined as only a woman and a man in a heterogeneous relationship. Love is something that comes from the heart. It's not something that can be taken away by people or their views. People should be (and should feel) free to date/love/marry whoever they want. This is America. The land of the free? The home of the brave? Prejudice comes from ignorance. Many people would not agree that the LGBT community would make good parents. Who are they to say that? Who are they to say we can't love who we want to? This is an easy answer. They AREN'T. Calling someone out on being a homo/bisexual is saying the same thing as calling someone out for being straight. Is there a difference? I certainly don't see one. Bigotry is not the solution to the problem. Equality is deserved by ALL.

September 08 2010 at 11:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You know whats really sad here. I cant even begin to count how many of you morally straight people actually know gay people. U all think u can spot them out of a crowd. Well think again. Everyone of u work with gay people and I am certain most of you have a gay friend or two which u have no clue about. Funny thing is, as soon as u would find out, you want nothing to do with them. Whats funnier is they wouldnt treat u that way. Fact is, it wont be long before about 50% of this country is gay. When that happens, I cant wait to see the look on all you morally upstanding peoples faces when u find out most of who you know is gay.

August 13 2010 at 9:52 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Diane's comment

"most of who you know is gay"? Please explain that, and also explain how "it won't be long before about 50% of this country is gay." Being gay is nothing new. Indoctrination in elementary school and societal encouragement of sexual experimentation is, and that's the only way 50% of people could be gay all of a sudden. I know teenage girls frustrated because they couldn't get a boyfriend who announced they were gay. That lasted about a month, then they were straight again. A social pass to experiment only added to their confusion. I'm Baby Boomer age and usually we could spot who was gay. We had gay teachers but didn't care; a good teacher was a good teacher. We had gay classmates and knew they were gay even though they were "in the closet." If they couldn't be open, that was wrong, but it doesn't make being gay a special, wonderful thing either. Hey, maybe I'd like to have 2 husbands. That's OK too, right?

August 14 2010 at 2:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Even GLSEN and Lambda Legal admit that no more than 2% of the population of this country is homosexual, so to say that is won't be long before 50% of the country is gay is to say that the homosexual groups are wrong about themselves. Are you willing to say that?

August 14 2010 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

For those of who who quote the bible about gay relationships, please people, just because u go to church on sunday and are forgiven of your sins, so you can start fresh with them on monday, doesnt give u the right to decide who someone should love. Some of your religions think birth control is voodoo. Well is your church helping raise the million kids your having. Can you provide what each child needs because u are forbidden to use birth control. The bible speaks of love and happiness, whatever form we can find it in is our business. Dont go to church and forgive your sins and think you are free and clear to start them over again. Your never free of sin.

August 13 2010 at 9:48 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

If you all think about it, what kind of rules does this country have. Do you realize that before ANYONE can get married, u have to get a license which means the state u live in has to give you PERMISSION to marry. Who are these people. You also have to get the states permission to GET DIVORCED. You have to get a blood test to get married. The STATE makes u do this. So in other words, if something is wrong with you medically, u think the state has a right to reject your application for MARRIAGE???Why dont they butt in with couples who have children they dont want or take care of. Isnt that Child and Youth Services? Well we all know they are doing a bang up job. If you get butt in on whether people can get married or divorced, why not butt in on who should have kids or not. No paper in the world is going to keep u together, only the love and commitment in your heart can do that. Keep the state out of your business, live together and commit together.

August 13 2010 at 9:44 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I can tell u that many friends of mine are in gay relationships and from my experience, they are truly loving relationships with unbelieveable commitment. Given this world hasnt accepted this type of relationship, they work harder than anyone to have a "normal" life together because of all the crap thrown their way. They live their lives exactly like anyone else. They are more committed than any straight relationship I have ever seen. Let them be happy, this IS suppose to be a free country isnt it?

August 13 2010 at 9:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Listen, we were all put on this earth to find love and happiness. Wherever that happens, it happens. If two woman find love, so be it, two men, so be it. Who are any of us to tell someone who to fall in love with. Be happy people are finding love, the way this country is going, were like to still have the opportunity to.

August 13 2010 at 9:38 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I am a woman who was married to a wonderful man who passed away 8 years ago from cancer, I had a great marriage and I have 11 grandchildren and 3 children. I can not express my feeling that wheather it is a woman and a man, a woman and a woman, a man and a man that are raising children these people have a right just like the rest of who work, pay taxes, who pay for home owners taxes and do all the things the rest of us do have every right to be treated just the same way as we are. A oh one more thing how dare anyone say they are different from any of us, shame shame shame.

August 13 2010 at 8:59 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

With the divorce rate out of control among heterosexuals, they will need to rethink marriage. Apparently a marruage between a man and a woman is not thought of as a permanent thing. If it was, there would be no divorce. Let's get real. Marriage is the union of two people. It is that simple. As far as the children are concerned, the real issue is how they are brought up. CHildren from many hetersexual unions are ill mannered, poorly behaved and do poorly in school. On the other hand, those from good homes, heterosexual, bisexual or gay are good children. The good child is the product of a good environment.

August 13 2010 at 8:56 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Every since I woke up and saw on the T.V that after we had our first woman and black man where running for office Wow Ground Breaking with prop 8 equal rights for gays never has history been so exciting! So I wake up with our first black President darn I wanted Hillary but I thought great it's an equal playing field
for all because Prop 8 had to pass NO...It felt so odd to have a black man in office and prop8 did not pass. THIS IS GREAT COME ON AMERICIA COME ON STOP THE GANGS ITS WE HAVE A CHANCE TO HAVE AN EQUAL PLAYINF FEILD.

August 13 2010 at 8:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Live and let live folks. Try to put your hatred and bigotry behind you: love and let love.

August 13 2010 at 8:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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