by Melanie Nathan, June 05, 2012
We are on the home stretch of Proposition 8’s wild ride through the Courts with a set of victories that will either reinstate same-sex marriage for Californians or result in the Supreme Court of the United States hearing the case.
I wrote a very personal article back in 2009 and am republishing lest we forget how the proposition 8 debacle impacted us as families here in California and nationwide. It has been an untenable journey – one that no family should be subjected to.
Since writing this article my daughter is now 15; she read Chely Wright’s book 4 times and has become a young activist in her own right. HC will be featured in the soon to be released LGBT rights documentary, GAY U.S.A. the Movie, which I am co-producing.
How the Hateful 8 Hurt my Child
First Published November, 2009, by Melanie Nathan
The fate of California’s same-sex marriage hangs in the balance, as the Justices prepare their ruling on the challenges to the validity of Proposition 8.
In my house of two married moms, we remain overtly safe from the Court’s decision- but we brace ourselves for our community. As long as our marriage is not declared invalid retroactively. How will I explain that to my children? If the result is not favorable, I am faced with having to inform my children that gay and lesbians are no longer allowed to marry under the law of this State. The unfairness of being placed in this bewildering wait triggers memories of the pre-Prop 8 fight and my quest to protect my daughters from the worst pain imaginable “your family is not a family!”
My daughter, HC, is as well adjusted; she has been around the world a few times, hence her sophistication belies her short twelve years. She is engaging and endearing and born to lead. Kind, loving and perceptive, when a toddler she earned the name “little Buddha.” A keen, astute student, each year she adores her assigned teachers and tends to hold them in the highest esteem. They are her heroes and in turn she is their delight. This is a kid who never wants to miss school. She loves it!
When the California Court first ruled favorably for same-sex marriage, we were the first lesbian couple to be married by our Rabbi, at our congregation. My kids were delighted at our wedding and together with twenty other kids, all dressed in white , walked down the aisle toward the ‘Chuppah’ in traditional fashion. It was a big event for our community and family came from around the world. For my children the wedding presented a validation and celebration of our little family of four.
Three months of gay marriage and then enter Proposition 8 together with the egregious advertisements facilitated by the millions of hateful dollars sent from Utah’s Mormon community to California, intent on promoting the proposition that would serve to outlaw same-sex marriage. The very idea of it, least of all a yes vote, served to insult our recently acknowledged family.
About two weeks before the November 2008 election and the impending prop 8 vote, HC and I were driving our route to school. We noticed that overnight what used to be one lone “No on Prop 8” on Central Avenue had morphed into a “NO on 8” at each and every home down our neighborhood’s main street. Later we found out that the lone sign outside the home a lesbian mom, kept getting torn down; day after day she would restore the sign until eventually overnight the entire neighborhood put up the NO sign in support of their neighbor. I remember remarking how amazing it was to see everyone in our midst against prop 8.
As we drove through the reassuring tunnel of “no on 8’s,” our comfort was short lived as we exited the micro and entered the macro – yes that nasty world at large reared its beastly head as amidst our usual morning tussle between Stephanie Miller and Radio Disney, an advertisement popped on the radio.
“……and your children will be forced to learn about homosexuality and gays it will be taught in the schools; ….. your churches will be forced to marry them… blah..”
I glanced at my child and noticed an odd expression on her usually placid face, one which I will not easily forget, and she asked, “Mom I don’t get what is wrong with other kids learning about my type of family?” I was stunned!
The advertisement had placed a perspective calling for this very question; but why my child? We have lived our lives so openly and relish the good fortune of our supportive community, where our ‘same-sex-ness’ is the least of our day to day issues.
It was as if HC had received a slap across her face. The advertisement had clearly hurt my child; its viciousness was not something she had been subjected to before. What could be worse than adults lashing out like that at children? It was direct and personal and having heard it before, was not personally outraged as when I realized the irresponsibility and how damaging those lies were to my babies. Now I had to come up with an answer to this ferocious fanaticism. I explained, “Hun, we live in a world where peoples are often the subject of fear on the art of others and so when they are afraid, usually because of ignorance, they lash out in this way. What you heard on that ad, was unfair and contorted, but that is how the people who are against the idea of same-sex marriage think they can get other people to join their way of thinking.” I provided more reassurance as best I could. A few more questions and answers later we arrived at school, and went on with the next two weeks, during which time HC and my four year old accompanied me to various “NO ON 8” rallies; “no on 8, no on 8,” a battle cry still performed by my 4 year old whenever she sees the number 8, whether in the market, at school or in the movies.
So came the vote: The “Yes” win for anti-gay proponents was a shock and a huge upset; I had a lot more explaining to do; “mom is our marriage okay are we still married? (Our marriage is clearly viewed by my kids as a family event!) Then came one of the saddest moments in my life, on the day after the election, HC came home from school in tears. She told me that her teacher had told the class that she had voted for John McCain and not Obama. Living in Marin County California, I do believe the kids found this quite odd, but I explained that we all have the right to vote as we choose.
But that was not what was truly the upset for HC.: “Mom it is sooo weird Mrs. Ray also told the class that she voted “yes” on Prop 8; but I think she must have been just joking!”
Well long story short, Mrs. Ray was not joking – and my child was completely and utterly shattered. Trying to hide her emotions for the next three weeks, I noticed a big change. She was not as keen about school. In fact after a week with a substitute teacher while Mrs. Ray was off, she came home devastated that the substitute was leaving. I realized it was less about the loss of the sub and more about Mrs. Ray’s return.
Despite my promise to HC to keep hush, I went to see the Principal, an “out” lesbian, who was not surprised to see me show up on the issue. She mentioned that I was the fourth parent to complain about this lack of discretion on the part of the teacher.
I explained that my child was extremely conflicted in trying to reconcile her respect and admiration for her teacher with her love and pride for her family. My child moved classroom and she adores her new teacher.
Fortunately, HC is back to being her happy self, but a deep and profound wound has been inflicted on her free and safe spirit. If proposition 8 is upheld by the pending judicial decision, I truly believe that my child will suffer more emotional harm, through the perceived aberration of her family. It is so unjust and so unfair. Our children do not deserve to be the political pawns of the divisive and fearful bigots and religious right in our country. We are family values and we are entitled to equality. My children are facts of life and they cannot be relegated to some second class category that diminishes us as a family. As a Mom I vow to carry on fighting for the sameness my babies, by virtue of their very existence deserve.
I have to show my child that our family is worth fighting for and that anything short of complete equality is simply not good enough. I think this story illustrates the far reaching effects of de jure disqualification and the de facto reality of inequality. Whether we receive equal rights or not, nothing will derogate from the fact that we are here; us, our wives and our kids and nothing can or will ever change that simple fact.
Until such time as DOMA is repealed, Prop 8 won, and every US State allows gay marriage -our children will be marginalized as my daughter was when her teacher told her –‘You are not the same – you are not entitled to family equality.
PLEASE CONSIDER DONATING TO the Production of GAY USA THE MOVIE – No Donation Too Small.