Thursday, June 01, 2006
Make My Family Legal
This post is in honor of Blogging for LGBT Families Day.
Yesterday there was discussion, in a court, about granting same-sex marriage in the city where I live.
Since I began to realize (at the tender age of nine) that I was probably a lesbian, I took it for granted that I would never have the same rights or privileges as the other members of my immediate family. The domestic partnership I have is, frankly, more than I ever dreamed I would have. The privilege of adopting my own child is, in fact, more than I ever dreamed I would have.
It never occurred to me that in my lifetime I might be able to live where I want to live and have a family just like any other family. I have always known, grimly, that I would live a cobbled-together extra-legal existence and grit my teeth and smile when relatives have two weddings when "well you know, this one is the *legal* ceremony."
I was raised by two parents who lived through, believed in, and were a part of the civil rights movement of the 1950s/1960s. I sang the songs, I walked the talk, I dreamed the dreams. I knew from a very early age that Rosa Parks wasn't just tired, she was part of a movement, she was sitting down to change the world.
But like the children I now teach, I also grew up thinking that civil rights was something that happened in the past, something that great people (including my mommy and daddy) had taken care of so that the children (me and my sister) could grow up in a world without hate, or at least *with* fair laws.
Of course, I got older, and I realized that the fight for civil rights is not over, and the road towards true tolerance and diversity and the ability to all live together and appreciate each other....it's a long one.
As a Jew, I have a constantly evolving awareness of my own role in the dynamic equilibrium that is American cultural/racial/ethnic politics. I watch cultural/ethnic/racial/class diversity play itself out on the subway every day. I have long understood that as a (white) American Jew, my role (as my parents before me) would be as an ally, working to end the oppression of others.
But as it turns out, I am a member of a group that does not have the full spectrum of civil rights in the U.S.A. I am not sorry that I am "married" to the woman that I love, but I do not feel that I chose to love her any more than I chose to be born a female, or a Jew. And I find myself uncomfortable and even somewhat ashamed to be in a group (gay people) that is denied so much in this country. That surprises me because I do not think that any other group with civil rights problems should feel shame -- if anything, the lawmakers in this country should feel shame for not moving faster towards justice -- but there it is.
So the possibility of marriage in my city -- and in another pending case that could be decided any day, marriage on the statewide level in the next-door state where I work -- seems both like something I should have had long ago, and more than I should even hope for.
I may be mistaken about this, but as I understand the law based on marriages in Massachusetts, being married would mean that my wife and I would not have to adopt each other's biological children; we would be automatically included as a second parent on a birth certificate. The thought of that simple privilege actually brings tears to my eyes.
Here I sit, frustratedly checking the Internet daily (even hourly) for news that will make my family legal...and yet even that is a kind of hope.
Here's to all our families, the love that creates them, and the legal rights we need to keep them safe.
Blogging for LGBT Families