Karin Mitchell's books on Goodreads
Between Families Between Families
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ratings: 8 (avg rating 4.75)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

National Equality March

For those of you who don't know, my dad's gay.

When I was 14, days before beginning my freshman year of high school, my dad came out. We were all sitting in the basement of our house in St. Louis having a family discussion. You see, my dad was moving out. He was moving to Chicago and what my brother and I knew, was that my parents were divorcing. Things just weren't working out. We thought my mom was acting crazy. She frequently flew into rages which seemed unreasonable given the circumstances we were aware of. So my mom finally said "You have to talk to them." And to the basement we went.

"A few years ago, when you're mother and I split up, I had an affair."
"And it wasn't with a woman."

It was the most unexpected thing he could have said. We were utterly stunned. No one said anything for an interminable series of moments. Tears streamed down my father's cheeks. Finally, he couldn't take the fear of us hating him anymore.

"SAY SOMETHING. Tell me you love me, tell me you hate me, but say something!"
"Of course we still love you. But really, you cheated on MOM?!!!??"

In this moment, my attitudes and understanding of relationships was forever changed or shaped.

I realize now, that even at 14, I knew that it isn't about who you have a relationship with, its about how you treat the person you're with. I didn't care that my father wanted to be with men. Well, ok, I cared. It was unexpected. He was a football watching dad who made fun of gay men mocking their lispy stereotypes. (Mind you, he still does both of those things from time to time.) But not as much as I cared about the promises he'd broken to my mother. What I saw to be important was that he'd broken the sanctity of his marriage.

My parents marriage was a religious one. They are both very christian people who believe that the way to live is to follow in Jesus path. Which for them, does NOT mean deciding how other's should behave. It simply means to care for the least of us. It means, if you're car breaks down and you have no money, it is likely that my mother would have you over for dinner, even if its the first time you've ever met. It means, if you're in jail and drugs and alcohol got you there, there's a good chance my dad will talk to you about working an AA program and share his story with you.

They were married in a church and my mom had a recognition of her divorce in a church.

But they don't expect everyone to be them. They didn't care when Rob and I got married in front of a Cherokee priestess in a secular ceremony. Mine is not a religious marriage.

And I don't expect everyone's marriage to be mine.

What I do expect is that everyone have the right to commit to whomever they wish. In whatever format.

I remember going to get our marriage license at the state courthouse. It was anticlimactic if you really want to know. They search you to see if you're already married, you pay your $22, sign a paper and that's that. It takes less time than renewing your license plates. Its less intense than suing in small claims court.

And yet, its up for all this judgment. As though we could hold religious court with our marriages. And we can, AT CHURCH!

At court though, we are equal. And how this is even a discussion is beyond me. How our leadership could have failed us for so long on standing up for this issue is asinine. Its simple. Everyone. Should. Have. Equal. Rights. Period.

We don't question whether a rapist gets to marry. Or murderers for that matter. We don't ask if we should revoke the rights of KKK members to marry. Though both these groups have violated BOTH religious and state law. No, if you've killed someone driving your car while drunk, you're husband will still be notified that you're in the hospital. His insurance will cover your treatment. And your estate will go to him if you don't make it out of that hospital.

Yet, if you are a law abiding, gay citizen, the same right is not afforded you.

My parents are in their 60s. I'd like to pretend they're not, but its true. My mom's husband died just over two years ago. It was awful. He withered away from cancer. He's ex military, as is my father. His insurance covered hospice and my mother cared for him until the end. His children are vermin. They'd eat through your walls if they could. But my mom was protected. Why? Because they were married.

If the same issues of death and aging strike my father, heaven forbid, why should my father have any less? He has no legal history. He served his country in the air force translating Russian for years. Why should he not be allowed to marry and have who he chooses care for him in his aging?

Legal marriage is an issue of property and of rights. It is not a place for religion. And whether you belong to the KKK or to LGBT, you should be able to get a license to marry whom you chose regardless of gender or affiliation.


Anonymous said...

"Legal marriage is an issue of property and of rights. It is not a place for religion." Yes! Your post is VERY well said!

Judith said...

I'm not sure why gender is written into the law at all. To me it's as silly as putting race or ethnicity into the law. Legal marriage is a contract between two consenting unrelated adults. Or it should be.

Lora said...

Mine is not a religious marriage either.
Mine is not a religious parenthood as well. We are not hypocrites. We don't practice one thing and then tell our child to do another just because it is easier.

This is a wonderful post.

I hope when it is your dad's time, things will be different.

Marriage is, above all, a legal contract. Not a moral one.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Before we reconciled, he said he had not been with anyone and never recanted that statement to me. Strange, but even after all these years, it still hurts that he lied to me. Not that he had the affair, but that he lied to me. MOM