I'm a married, stay-at-home mom of two kids, a son and a daughter. I spend a great deal of time viewing the world through their eyes. My parenting decisions are informed by my obligation to prepare them for the complexities of adulthood, in which obvious answers are few. I may be able to fix a skinned knee, but I can't make sense of heartbreak. I aim for an attitude of flexibility, in hopes that they will too.
For example, I play John Coltrane records in the house, but I don't take it personally that the kids prefer Ke$ha. Friends tease that my liberalism will one day boomerang on me, that Elliott will become a junior Alex P. Keaton, the Reaganite spawn of hippies on the sitcom "Family Ties." They don't know that I've already decided to parent on the side of caution: In my house, conservatism is presented as a moral philosophy I don't happen to share, not a subject so taboo it gains allure by virtue of parental rejection (a win-win, I think).
Parenting this way is not easy, but I believe it will reap benefits in the long run. My children's adulthoods are not fixed in my imagination, so they will never hear me say, "But I always thought you were going to law school!" My children sometimes examine the photograph of their parents' wedding in our Minneapolis backyard, but it doesn't lead into an automatic discussion of their own wedding days. Maybe they'll decide to marry, maybe they won't.
Or maybe the state they live in won't allow them to marry the partner of their choice.
I care about children, my own and others in our community. But I don't agree that "protecting the legitimate interests of children" requires that we limit marriage to heterosexual unions, as does Jennifer Roback Morse, a writer and researcher affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage. She presented her testimony before the Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee last month, in support of a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. She said that "marriage exists to meet the social necessity of caring for helpless children, who are not, and cannot be, contracting parties. Children are protected parties."
As she opened her testimony, Morse identified herself as the parent of two, like me. I wonder if she ever considered the possibility that one or both of them could be gay. Nowhere in the transcript of her testimony does she mention how legal discrimination might affect the self-image of gay and lesbians themselves, preferring to focus her disapproval only on the children conceived by gay and lesbian parents, whom she rather coldly described as "partially purchased." This strikes me as an odd way to describe a family created out of love and significant emotional and financial commitment, which I would think Morse would find preferable to one formed in the aftermath of a drunken hookup.
Some LGBT citizens in Minnesota have children. Some LGBT citizens in Minnesota ARE children. As Sen. Scott Dibble asked in emotional testimony before the full Minnesota Senate May 11, "What family is this helping? Not a single family in Minnesota is helped by this effort."
The bitterness of the language is already affecting two children I love dearly, sisters who came to my daughter Miriam's sixth birthday party this month. Jennifer Roback Morse believes these two girls are doomed to ask "uncomfortable questions about their origins," but I think Mia and Margaret are more likely to ask why Morse (or anyone) would describe their family as evidence of "the brutality of the marriage 'equality' regime." The brutality will result from the culture war that threatens our state now that the Legislature has voted to put a constitutional amendment on our ballot.
And the damage this fight will inflict on my children, should one or both be gay, is absolutely intolerable. Morse may be confident that her kids don't land anywhere on the LGBT spectrum, but I'm not. I parent on the side of caution and assume nothing. To do otherwise would be brutal, indeed.
Shannon Drury, president of Minnesota NOW, is a writer, at-home parent and community activist. She writes a regular column for the Minnesota Women's Press, with additional work appearing in HipMama, Literary Mama and Skirt magazines. She blogs at www.theradicalhousewife.com and is a source in MPR's Public Insight Network.