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Equal in

Equal in


New York State recently upheld its ban on same-sex marriage. The author of the decision, Judge Robert S. Smith, argued that the limiting of marriage to opposite-sex couples was primarily for the protection and welfare of children. The cruelty and ignorance of this debate makes my head spin faster than Linda Blair's. Obviously, Judge Smith has never met my friend Jane Baker and her partner, Sharon Gentry.

Jane and Sharon live in Putney, an arts community nestled on the back roads of Vermont--where, although we can't marry, we can at least form civil unions. Putney boasts Shaker furniture, glassblowers, and perhaps New England's highest percentage of partnered lesbians with children--and, of course, the Putney School, which employs both Sharon and Jane, who are joined in civil union under Vermont law.

Jane and Sharon have two sons, a 1-year-old named Max and a 5-year-old named Sam. Their Green Mountain idyll was thrown into a tailspin earlier this year when Sam was diagnosed with stage III-B Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Having a child with a life-threatening illness has brought the debate of equality into heartbreaking focus for these two moms. "Cancer is an equalizer," according to Jane. "We went to Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families, and attended the support group for parents. Not for one split second did I feel I was a lesbian parent among straight parents. We just felt like all the other parents in that room, desperate for hope and willing to do anything in the world so our son would live. I felt, as we sat among that group of parents who shared our pain and fears, like I was among some of the only people who could understand our panic. Like all parents, Sharon and I have all the wonderful things that parenthood brings, but we have also felt pain unlike anything we could ever have imagined."

Sam is undergoing a seven-month treatment that includes chemo and radiation. This has required multiple trips to the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth, where he receives excellent care, but to adults and kids alike, the hospital means scary tests and needles. To ease his nervousness, Sam usually coerces his moms into competing in hours-long marathons of PlayStation or Xbox. Name the game and Sam probably holds the high score.

Jane says, "The ultimate point, I suppose, is that it doesn't matter who you are a parent with--same sex, different sex--all of that flies out the window when you are talking about the life of your child. There was absolutely nothing Sharon and I would not have given to trade places with Sam, and that is something that any parent with a child who has cancer would say. We are all parents with one wish: Make my child well. Never let me live to see a day without him in the world."

Sam's doctor has said that his response to treatment has been "tremendous." Jane and Sharon pray every day that Sam is headed toward a full recovery and a long and wonderful life. In the meantime, the law remains stricken with bigotry and pettiness. Jane and Sharon have no time for this. None of us should.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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