‘I’ve landed in my life.’

It’s June. Already the papers are full of ads for bridal shows and stories of storybook weddings. As a little girl, I put a pillowcase on my head and played bride with the rest of the girls. As a preteen, I’d look through brides magazines to find the perfect dress and dream of the day I would be Cinderella. As a teenager, that dream began to feel like someone else’s dream. I eventually knew it would not be part of my life. As an adult, I would attend weddings of friends and family, happy for the couple, but always the outsider playing along with an alien ritual, giving gifts that I knew would never be returned.

I don’t have the little girl’s dream of a fantasy wedding anymore. I would have outgrown that dream even if I were straight and able to get married. I’m just not the type of person who enjoys getting dolled up in a big poofy dress and being the center of the attention.

I no longer want a wedding, but lately I’ve begun to want marriage. My partner and I have reached that stage that same-sex couples reach if they’re lucky enough to find someone they want to spend the rest of their life with. Now we must ask ourselves: what is the next step? Do we continue living as we are, committed to each other but single and unrelated in the eyes of everyone else? Do we have some sort of ceremony in which we make our commitment public to our friends and family, but which will make us no more married than my pillowcase weddings as a child did? Do we go to Canada to have an official ceremony, even if it will be meaningless here?

I think a lot of people, including a lot of LGBT people, think the fight for marriage rights is a trivial battle to be fighting when there are so many other important issues (workplace discrimination, hate crimes legislation, etc.). They treat marriage the way the Sunday papers in June do – all about fancy clothes and cakes and fantasy. But marriage rights aren’t about rich gay men getting to throw fabulous weddings (although I’ll be thrilled to attend some fabulous weddings).

Marriage rights are about Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor, whose wedding announcement was in the New York Times last week:

May 27, 2007
Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor

Thea Spyer and Edith WindsorThea Clara Spyer and Edith Schlain Windsor were married in Toronto on Tuesday. Justice Harvey Brownstone of the North Toronto Family Court officiated at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel.

Dr. Spyer (above, left) is 75. She is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Manhattan. She graduated from the New School for Social Research and received a master’s degree in clinical psychology from City University of New York and a Ph.D. in that subject from Adelphi. Dr. Spyer is the daughter of the late Elisabeth Ketellapper and the late Willem Spyer, who lived in Amsterdam.

Ms. Windsor, 77, who is retired, worked in New York as a computer systems consultant for I.B.M. She was a board member of Social Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders, also known as SAGE, from 1985 to 1987 and from 2004 to 2006. She graduated from Temple University and received a master’s degree in mathematics from New York University. Ms. Windsor, whose previous marriage ended in divorce, is a daughter of the late Celia and James D. Schlain, who lived in Philadelphia.

Dr. Spyer and Ms. Windsor met in 1965 in New York at Portofino, a restaurant in the West Village.

“Everyone lived in the closet,” Ms. Windsor said of lesbian life in New York in the 1960s. “The only place to go was bars, and they were rough.”

Adjourning to a friend’s apartment that night, Dr. Spyer and Ms. Windsor danced until the impromptu party ended, finally “dancing with our coats on, and other people standing at the door, annoyed, waiting for us,” Ms. Windsor recalled, adding, “She was smarter than hell, beautiful — and sexy.”

Dr. Spyer recalled of Ms. Windsor that night, “We danced so much and so intensely that she danced a hole through her stockings.”

It was not until two years later, during a Memorial Day weekend in the Hamptons, that the two women again encountered each other, and both happened to be uninvolved.

“I heard she would be there, and called friends who had a house, and begged them, ‘Please can I come out,’ ” Ms. Windsor said. “Then I waited at a house where I knew she would drop by.”

Dr. Spyer, who has become a quadriplegic as a result of advanced multiple sclerosis, said of the weekend, and her time spent with Ms. Windsor: “It was a feeling of complete delight in being with her. I had a real sense of ‘I’ve landed in my life.’ ”

That was 40 years ago.

Dr. Spyer had the help of three aides who traveled with her to Canada to officially marry Ms. Windsor, ending an engagement that began in 1967.

40 years. 40 years of waiting. 40 years of being in love, of devoting themselves to each other despite all the obstacles. 40 years of being a family, and yet being denied that title by our government.

Why are 53% of Americans (the number against same-sex marriage in a very recent Gallup poll) so frightened of Dr. Spyer and Ms. Windsor? What possible reasons are there for denying the love of these two women?

I just don’t get it.

I cried when I read this, moved by the power of the love they described (“I’ve landed in my life”) and imagining what it must have meant to Dr. Spyer and Ms. Windsor to finally have their love officially recognized and validated by the law of the land.

I cried because it was not our land. Once they returned to their homes in the US, their marriage, as wonderful and meaningful as it must be for them, is meaningless. Unrecognized. Back home, they are once again two single people with no legal relation to each other.

According to the article, Dr. Spyer is suffering from MS. Because they are not legally married in the US, Ms. Windsor does not have the rights to be involved in Dr. Spyer’s care the way another wife would. She would not automatically count as “immediate family” for visitation purposes, the way another wife would.

Because they are not legally married in the US, one cannot carry the other on her health insurance, unless she’s lucky enough to work for a company that offers domestic partner benefits, and even if she is, those benefits will cost her thousands of dollars more than they would a married couple because employees pay tax on company contributions for these benefits, although married couples don’t.

When they retire, Social Security will consider them to be single and unrelated. When one dies, the other will not have the same rights to inherit that another wife would.

Hopefully, as two professional women, Spyer and Windsor have had the financial resources to set up as many legal protections for themselves as possible so that they can retain property they own jointly and inherit. Many couples do not have the resources to do that.

Hopefully, their families support them and won’t fight the right of one to visit the other in the hospital, or to inherit. Not all couples are so lucky.

—–

Marriage rights are also about Mary Cheney and Heather Poe, whose child’s birth was announced on the White House website last week:

Cheney birth announcement—–

Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, welcomed their sixth grandchild, Samuel David Cheney, Wednesday, May 23, 2007. He weighed 8 lbs., 6 oz and was born at 9:46 a.m. at Sibley Hospital in Washington, D.C. His parents are the Cheneys’ daughter Mary, and her partner, Heather Poe.

White House photo by David Bohrer

—–

Interesting birth announcement. The White House and/or the Cheneys didn’t have the courage to show a picture of Samuel with his parents, but they did refer to Mary and Heather as his “parents,” even though, according to Virginia law, Heather Poe is no such thing.

Now, I have no love for Mary Cheney and the way she has supported an administration that has worked to take away my rights, her rights, and the rights of her son. But she is a mother. She has been with her partner for 16 years. Together they conceived a baby (the same way that an infertile opposite-sex couple conceives a baby together), and now are going to parent that child together.

However I feel about her politics, her book, her selfishness, or her short-sightedness, I think Mary has the right to have her family.

Virginia law does not agree.

Virginia is one of the many states that does not allow co-parent adoption. What that means is that Heather Poe cannot adopt her own child unless Mary, as birth mother, were to give up all rights to the child. So, despite the White House calling them “parents,” by law they are not.

That should comfort the religious right who have been fuming about that photo caption and screeching that Heather is not the child’s parent. Legally, they are right. Legally, she is what they call her – just a woman who lives with the child’s mother, but has no legal rights as a parent. (So calm down, Concerned Women for America, Americans for Truth, and Fred Phelps. Be assured that our government agrees with you. Which should frighten the rest of us.)

Now, Mary and Heather have money, connections, and access to great lawyers. They’ll probably do what they can to establish some kind of shared legal custody. And since the Cheneys seem to be supportive of their daughter (even though they’re more than willing to screw over every other lesbian in the country), they probably won’t cause problems. But who knows. If Mary and Heather separated, who’s to say whether or not Heather would ever see her son again. If something were to happen to Mary, do we know that the Cheney’s wouldn’t fight for custody of the child over Heather? And, if precedent is any indication, have a good chance of winning since Heather is not the child’s legal parent?

What about the many couples who do not have the money, connections, and access to great lawyers that Mary and Heather do?

In some states, like California, a same-sex co-parent can have his or her name on the birth certificate. That makes sense. When an opposite-sex couple gets pregnant through artificial insemination, the state doesn’t insist that the sperm donor’s name be put on the birth certificate. The father, in that case, despite not being the biological father, is considered legally to be the parent. Not so for Heather Poe since Virginia does not allow this.

The right always claims that same-sex couples having children is “unnatural.” Is it “natural” when opposite-sex couples have in vitro to have children? Is it “natural” when they adopt? Same-sex couples have babies in the same ways that lots of couples do. It’s our laws who declare it unnatural, not God.

It’s so very, very natural, as we obvious in this touching post by one of my most favorite bloggers, Jeremy Hooper of Good As You:

Adopting a new set of plans

She is part of every last one of our life decisions, and we’ve never even met her. Hell, she’s likely not even born yet. But regardless of unborn and unknown status, she is as real as Santa Claus the Easter Bunny unicorns rain.

Or him. I guess it could be a him, as while we always say we want a girl, we’ve certainly placed no true limits on the gender. Either way, the child we will adopt already has a palpable presence in the life of my partner and myself.

We’ll get a bigger city apartment within two years.

A country house will hopefully happen within the next five (as we do want the child to know green grass and a backyard swing set).

Do we get a second dog now, or wait until after the child joins our fam?

Public school or private? Let the research and debate begin!
There is not a children’s shop wherein we don’t discuss our views on appropriate style of dress for the toddling set. There is not a car we look at without considering a car seat. We are mapping out not only our destinies, but also that of a third human life. And you know what? They are the most soul-satisfyingly joyous set of plans we have ever had to make!

Had you told this writer back at the turn of the millennium that his late 20’s self would be considering whether to use cloth or disposable diapers, I would have told you to “shut up and get me a Smirnoff Ice, for that new show ‘Queer as Folk’ is about to come home,” before making some joke about a “hanging chad.” At that time, the thought of fatherhood was simply inconceivable (pun absolutely intended).

Then I met Andrew. One of the first things he made known to me when we first met was that he absolutely wanted kids. To which I reacted — well, I didn’t know how to react. It was an idea that had simply never crossed this then-entertainment industry professional’s celeb and “fabulous party”-absorbed life! However, as it became apparent that Andrew was the one who would be in my life for all of our alloted time on this spinning orb, the idea of joint fatherhood was clearly something with which I was forced to contend.

Now don’t get me wrong — I’ve always adored children. I worked in my mother’s day care facilities as a teen, and have always been able to relate and form a bond with those under legal driving age. But my own? Someone calling me “dad”? That was a thought I crossed out of my mind on the day, at age 15, that I finally admitted to myself that this whole dude-attraction thing was not, in fact, a phase. But was it really a possibility?

I sat down to think about it. I thought of the love Andrew and I share, and the dedication we have to making the world a better place. I thought of our ability to provide. I thought of Manhattan, the other love in both of our lives, who will also be part of us as long as we’re still breathing. I thought of my own strained family bond. I thought of the amazing relationship we have with Andrew’s family (including young children, who have and will always know their uncles Andrew and Jeremy as simply part of the spectrum of normalcy). I thought of a Snickers bar, as all the thinking started to make me hungry. But then, after silencing the stomach rumblings, I thought of all of the kids in the world who deserve a good loving home with parents who will willingly put their selves aside to be there for every one of the little one’s needs.

It didn’t take long for it to become clear: I was going to be a parent! It also didn’t take long for any earlier apprehension to disappear, and for sheer excitement to set in. In fact, if I now have any regret about the decision, it is only that I spent so long denying myself of the possibility.

We soon decided on adoption, for the aforementioned reason that there are just so many kids worldwide who need a good home. Some sort of fate brought Andrew and I together, and while it sounds hippy-dippy, we put stock in the idea that the same fate will bring us to the child we were meant to love and raise. Our timeline for the process spans the next three to four years, with efforts to step up in earnest this fall. We are as nervous, excited, apprehensive, and happy as any pregnant woman during her own gestation period, except we will have to press forward with these feelings for far more than nine months. But that’s okay, as we will use the extra time to learn and plan, so that by the time we are fortunate enough to be blessed with a new addition, we will be flawless daddies who — oh who am I kidding? Extra time or not, we’ll surely still make loads and loads of mistakes, just like every other parent in the world. But that’s okay, as we will learn and grow from them as a family.

We hear social conservatives lambasting gay parenting all the time. Of all of the attacks they launch on our lives and loves, I truly feel that this is one of the most heartless. Whereas they may find legal or religious reasons to oppose things like marriage, their refusal to wrap their minds around the idea of two same-sex parents taking in and bringing up a new life in the way that they see fit, is a short-sighted view that is truly detrimental to the greater good. They define “normal” families by the method of conception, not the parental fitness and actual child welfare. They see the world not through the lens of actuality, wherein heterosexuals sometimes cannot raise their biological children and gay folks have the ability and desire to conceive, but rather through a more convenient looking glass, in which only fertile male/female pairings are in existence (and kids all have a home). There refusal to see the truth and accept ideas that don’t jibe with their world views is the root problem of all of their antipathy for the LGBT community. It’s just that when it comes to parenting, their attacks hurt far more than just adult gays. These particular stones also hurt the children that they claim to be so desperate to “protect.”

While I’m clearly biased, I find gay-headed homes to often be the most loving, happy, and peaceful among us (with the kids as well-adjusted as any others). So on this second annual Blogging For LGBT Families day, it is my great hope Andrew and I will get to realize our dream of becoming one of those joyous homes. Not for only ourselves, but also for our future valedictorian, cancer-curing scientist, and eventual leader of the free world (yea, we’ve made those plans too).

Now seriously, parents: Cloth diapers are better for a number of reasons, right? Help me out on this one, as Andrew is quite against the idea at this point!

My only wish is that by the time Jeremy and Andrew have to settle the diaper debate, their state and our country will recognize them both as parents and let them create the wonderful family I know they’ll be.

Thea and Edith, Mary and Heather, Jeremy and Andrew, me and my partner – that’s who the fight for marriage is about. It’s about equality for families everywhere, the right for people to love and support and protect one another, to share and to grow and to make a family. Who would be against that?

Other than our president, our federal laws, the laws and constitutions of 45 states, and 53% of American citizens.

The fight against marriage equality makes no sense. I’ll close with the song “Defenders of Marriage” from Roy Zimmerman, which sums up the nonsense perfectly:

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