Op-ed: Why Marriage Matters to Our Kids
past weekend, my notoriously sassy 7-year-old turned to me and said “Uh- excuse
me, Poppy ‑ your partner just asked you a question.”
I looked up from my I-phone in time to see her roll her eyes at her 6-year-old
sister and then burst into laughter. Her Dad and I laughed too, but then I
stopped short. I felt a little cheated. Why didn’t she call him my
husband? Todd and I use that term enough around the kids. But then again, we
also sometimes refer to each other as partners.
The news last week that Brad and Angelina are finally engaged was more than
just celebrity gossip for me this past weekend. I found myself revisiting the
question of whether my “partner” and I should get married.
As a gay couple, we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that we’re just going to
have to wait for those thousand or more federal benefits that are rightfully
ours. But in the meantime, I want my children to understand that Daddy and
Poppy’s relationship is just as real as their friends’ parents. I want them to
be assured that our relationship matters and that our family matters.
You would think that after 10 years, two kids, three houses, the deaths of
close family members, changed jobs, health issues and all the joys and sorrows
that couples face together, that our “life partnership” would have the same
value to us as marriage.
It worked for Brad and Angelina. And it worked for us too - perhaps even
more so. We had our religious ceremony where friends and family witnessed our
commitment to one another and where we both bawled like babies. We signed up
for domestic partnership in New Jersey at a time when it felt like we were
winning something important. We purchased wedding bands, signed mortgages, drew
up wills and adopted our children, all without being legally married.
But now, something has changed. Like Pitt and Jolie — what matters now is not
how we think, but what our children think. Somehow they instinctively
understand that because we are not married, the world outside doesn’t view us
or treat us the same.
Sure, we can cobble together a life that provides them some of the legal and
economic security that marriage provides. But we cannot create the social
acknowledgement and the public recognition that comes with marriage and that
makes them feel insecure.
that feeling of insecurity is not just a feeling shared by the Pitt/Jolie clan
of Maddox, Pax, Zahara,
Shiloh, Knox and Vivienne, or by the Leavitt-Majors brood of Claudia and
It’s a sentiment felt in the hearts of many of the 2 million children being
raised by 1 million LGBT parents in our country today.
Children understand that marriage is the one way that society uses to
acknowledge the life-long commitment that a loving couple makes to one other
and to their children.
In the past, Pitt and Jolie had said they would not marry until all LGBT
Americans had that same freedom. But right now, it’s a freedom that LGBT people
have in only eight states and the District of Columbia.
This celeb-couple now recognize that they must put their personal feelings
aside and consider their children.
Because they are doing so, it doesn’t feel like they’re abandoning us LGBT
couples. In fact, it feels as if they are making an important statement that
will do much to advance our cause.
They are telling the world that marriage matters to children, all children.
It’s a persuasive argument that’s being used effectively in marriage campaigns
across the country.
Voters, especially those with children, are increasingly moved to support
marriage equality because they understand the legal, economic and social impact
of marriage on children. They believe - rightly so - that children need to feel
a sense of stability and security in their own families.
It’s always been my belief. Now my “partner” and I will make plans and
demonstrate that belief to our own children.
We’ll get married.
I’m not sure when it will happen. We won’t be issuing a press release or
sporting new diamond engagement bands to tell the world — like someone else we
know. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
In fact, I’m not even sure the folks at work, our friends or family will know
But there will be two people for whom it will make a world of difference.
And that’s really all that matters.
STEVE MAJORS is the director of communications for the Family Equality
Council. Learn more about the group at FamilyEquality.org.