I was born and raised in Arkansas. I come from a long line of farmers in the Mississippi River Delta. I am also the descendant of European immigrants who settled in New York. My life is a blend of two great American stories: The Southern farmers with cultural pride who believe in their responsibilities to feed America, and the Jewish businessmen and women who have driven American innovation and scientific discovery.
I am also the son of two women.
I define myself by the pride I hold in my parents, the joy I have when thinking back on my childhood, and the love I received from my two mothers. At my core, I am the son of two wonderful, loving parents, no different from anyone else with two wonderful, loving parents.
These women recently celebrated 34 years of partnership: Partnership in life, love, and a son. My family is one of the estimated 594,000 same-sex-partner households in our country. We are a unique, vibrant group. But these couples don't receive full benefits from the law of this great land. They are not considered to be fully legitimate by our own government and do not have freedom of liberty that we Americans hold so dear.
Growing up in Little Rock, Ark., as the son of successful social workers was far from difficult, but growing up in the heart of the Bible Belt as the son of two gay women wasn't easy.
I realized at an early age that the way I saw my family wasn't necessarily the way others saw us. I was 8 when I first fully recognized that sexuality played a role in making my parents different from all of my friends' parents. Suddenly, I was jaded. I was worried about how I would identify my parents. To me, they were my "mom" (the woman who birthed me) and my "meme" (the woman who may not have birthed me but has given me equally as much love and personality — even if not genetically). These titles would often get lost in translation. So I settled on "parents." For me, that is what they are. They love me, care for me, worry about me, and craft me into the man that I am — just like any other parents.
I grew more open about my family as I went through high school and college in Arkansas. Openness to friends, openness to colleagues, openness on social media. And it turned out my "coming out" to people in my life was pretty simple. The most common response I would receive when acknowledging for the first time that my parents were different? "Who cares? They're awesome, they love you, and that's all that matters." Hearing that always helped confirm what I had known growing up: My parents were no different from anyone else. If anything, they were special, and, as a result, I was special.
Living in Washington, D.C. — a more progressive place than where I came from — and talking about my parents with new friends, the reaction usually goes something like this: "Why didn't you tell me? This is so awesome!"
My answer is always the same: "Thanks. But it's not something I broadcast because for me it's not newsworthy; it's my reality. And they're just like any other parents."
Would you introduce yourself this way: "Hi, my name is _________ and I have a mom and a dad"? I don't either.
Three months ago, I took advantage of my location and went to the steps outside the Supreme Court during the arguments for the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 cases.
Amid the sea of rainbows and colorful signs, I found renewed pride in my parents. I held two of my own signs: "Proud Child of Two Women in Love (33 Years and Counting)" and "Success-Happiness-Love (All This Thanks to my Two Moms)." It was the first time I had so publicly identified myself as the son of gay parents.
Then I saw him. He looked to be between 8 and 10, and he was holding his own sign: "My Moms Are Awesome." I had a brief moment of shame that this kid was at least 15 years ahead of me, but it was quickly replaced with pride: Pride in my country and fellow Americans that we had come this far — that a young boy could openly proclaim his pride in himself, his family, and his gay parents.
(Courtesy Spencer F. Lucker)
I want you to know my story because it highlights similarity rather than difference.
Yes, I have two parents, neither of whom is a father. Beyond that, there's nothing different. When we transcend the social constructs of sexuality, the religious constructs of marriage, and the legal constructs of past social norms, we realize that homosexual men and women are just like heterosexual men and women, homosexual couples are just as loving and genuine as heterosexual couples, and homosexual parents are just as competent and caring as heterosexual parents.
So, in anticipation of your ruling, a judgment from our nation's highest court and most trusted defender of our rights in this country, I am sharing my hope.
May our gay mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, family and friends, finally be seen legally as they are realistically: Just like everyone else. I hope that my meme will be the same as every father in this country in holding equal parental rights over her son. I hope my parents will be given the same rights as those who can visit their ailing spouse or child in the hospital. I hope that my parents will be able to claim sick leave if one of them falls ill.
And most importantly, I hope that my parents can finally have full and equal rights as gay women — the same as each and every man and woman in this country.
For although we are all different, in the eyes of the law, we should all be the same.