So much goes into the planning of a family, and I’m sure all parents would agree that your concerns change and focus more on what’s best for your children than anything else. What hospital has the best delivery unit? Which daycare will be best? Which school is best? The list of “bests” goes on and on, and it seems we all want to do what’s right for our families. But the majority of American families have one less thing to worry about — aside from the obvious — than gay couples do when planning their families: Where does my family have rights?
It’s a little something that’s actually not little at all. And while most of you have likely considered where you’re family is going to live, I think it’s safe to say you’ve done so for entirely different reasons than why gay families do. If you’re a straight parent, your rights abound (unless, of course, some legal battle has placed limits on those rights, but that’s another topic). Gay parents continuously face obstacles in the legal system and bureaucratic red tape that can force them to adopt their natural-born children — which is exactly what a friend of mine is currently doing. And countless gay parents aren’t even legally considered parents to their children.
While America remains to be one of the safest places in the world for gay people, 42 of our 50 states deny gay families full rights. Some of my fellow Americans say that we (gays) should be happy with what we’ve got, that civil unions are the same as marriage (they are not, by the way — not by a long shot), and even that we shouldn’t be raising children (which, of course, is also absurd.
I ask you to think about what’s best for your family. What would you do if you weren’t recognized as your children’s mother? What if — God forbid — you and your children were in an accident that left you incapable of making medical decisions for them, and your spouse — your children’s other parent — wasn’t legally allowed to? What would happen to your children? What if you suddenly died and the person with whom you’ve raised your children for the past 10 years had zero legal rights to them?
Rights are a serious thing. And it’s maddening when people fight so hard to deny others something they themselves lay claim to, especially when granting those rights would have zero effect on their own lives. So the next time you think or hear someone say that marriage equality doesn’t matter or shouldn’t be legal, remember that — just like you — we are parents who want what’s best for our children, and legal recognition of our family helps us get there. It matters.
While I comfortably live in a state that grants me full rights, it’s only one of eight places in America that does. And that scares me, because when my family and I travel across state borders, we have to keep our fingers crossed that nothing happens there that could threaten our family — and I’m not talking about hate crimes, though that is a very real threat. I’m talking about finding ourselves in a situation that denies Sara or myself of the rights to our child or children, like the accident scenario I mentioned earlier.
Some other states recognize my marriage (and will eventually recognize my wife’s parental rights just as soon as she becomes a mother), some states have had marriage equality only to see it taken away, and others are fighting hard to make and to not make equality a reality for all couples. But as I write this, there are only eight places in the U.S. that grant full equality to all families through legalized marriage equality. And no matter what other separate-but-equal laws might be on the books elsewhere, these are the only places my family’s legal safety is guaranteed.
Main-photo rights belong to author.
Read more of Aela’s writing at Two Moms Make A Right
More of Aela on Babble!
9 Conflicting Pregnancy Health Guidelines That Will Drive You Mad
12 Easy Tips To Limit Chemical Exposure In Your Daily Routine During Pregnancy
11 Reasons I Want to Breastfeed
7 Tips for First-time Moms to Have An Easier Pregnancy
Photos of My Acupuncture Experience & How It Helped With My Fertility Anxiety