By Jenny Haigh
Jenny Haigh, St. Paul, is a Catholic mom in a committed, same-sex relationship.
In our state's conversation about the marriage amendment, much has been said about what's best for our children. As a mom, coupled with another mom, I'm compelled to inform the conversation with real-life experience and a plea to Minnesotans to support all of our kids.
The main child-centered arguments by amendment supporters hold that marriage should be one man and one woman, so when children are born, they'll be protected and loved in a structure that supports and promotes their family, in close connection to their biological parents. Vote Yes folks acknowledge that this arrangement isn't always possible, but they argue that Minnesotans should continue uphold and honor marriage.
Let's make this clear: Most Vote No supporters agree with this sentiment.
Vote No supporters also believe that marriage is the best way to make a loving commitment to another, and that it's a stabilizing force for our families. No one is trying to undo traditional marriage. Rather, Vote No supporters also want to strengthen our families, uphold marriage, and talk about expanding the eligibility of marriage. Families like mine want to be allowed to participate in the institution of marriage while adding value, not taking it away.
I've always loved kids and knew I wanted to have them even before I knew I wanted to partner with a woman. As a child, I remember being maternal the same way I see my 7-year-old son being paternal, and I know we both share a natural instinct to nurture. Though I couldn't articulate it as a child, I believe kids are the most worthy recipients of our best humanity. It is with great intention, love and purpose that many same-sex couples become parents. Like other couples, same-sex couples often select their partner based on common priorities: love and the ability to grow a family together.
In my family, like others, my partner and I each offer our own unique skills in communicating values, lessons and love. From my parents I learned the values of love and family, the value of having a soft side and how to be a fighter, of generosity, warmth, a spiritual life, assertiveness and unconditional support. The quality and mastery of each lesson I learned from my parents — as others learned from theirs — wasn't dependent on their sexual orientation, or on one parent being a man and one a woman.
Marriage supports and strengthens families because of the legal benefits and structure it provides, and because it's the most recognized and esteemed way to commit to another. Our state shares a collective recognition of how profound marriage is. However, no one grows up dreaming of being "civil unionized." As a parent I want my son to be eligible for those family-strengthening benefits, and for acknowledgement that his family is worthy of the dignity that only marriage offers. Since most of us agree that marriage has a stabilizing effect on families, why would we vote to limit that opportunity?
There is no compelling benefit to society that's gained by excluding my son, or other kids like him, from marriage. Should the amendment prevail, my son will still be taught to respect the people who didn't vote to protect his family. The question is: How will he be affected, knowing the majority of Minnesotans didn't think his family was worth their support?
Unfortunately, history shows us that people suffer when they are treated differently because of a membership or affiliation with a certain group. This is why we offer protections through the Civil Rights Act and other laws prohibiting unequal treatment. Minnesotans need to know that voting yes on the amendment does not, in any way, benefit our kids. It excludes kids and their families from marriage. This is shaming and hurtful to our kids.
We have enough information on child health and welfare that should absolutely compel the way we think about the amendment and our kids. Our most credible, mainstream professional organizations, such as the American Psychological Association, confirm there is no relationship between how kids turn out and the sexual orientation of their parents. The American Psychological Association, the Child Welfare League of America, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the North American Council on Adoptable Children all make unequivocal statements consistent with the APA.
As a parent who has undergone cancer treatment twice in the past four years, I have spent a lot of time contemplating how to best protect my family if I'm not here to do the protecting myself. Though I'm organized with a will and trust, power of attorney and health care directive, I know these each has major limitations. Only marriage offers the full range of legal benefits to my family and families like mine.
Sitting quietly with the thought of passing on, there's nothing more comforting than the hope that my loved ones will be OK. Minnesotans can help support my son by voting no, because a no vote says my son should get the same legal protections that all kids get. A "no" vote will help all of Minnesota's kids be a little more OK.
Minnesotans who want to protect and strengthen our families will vote no on the marriage amendment because we believe all kids deserve family dignity and equality, not just kids from traditional marriages. We believe in a stronger Minnesota made possible through marriage and family.