Sunday, August 1, 2010

A letter to my family


I wanted to write to you to share with you about my day today. Today I went to my first Jewish wedding. My boss, D married her lifetime partner M. It is important for me to share this with you for a number of reasons, so i hope you'll take the time to read my email.

The story of D and M is quite simple. They met about 28 years ago in New York City - D working as a union organizer and M completing her studies at NYU as well as serving as a Humanities professor. Their initial meeting - the trains were running on an odd schedule, not stopping st D's normal stop, so she walked to the next stop where she ran into M, little did they know the life they would share together.

D made a career working in the union before coming to the XXX as the Program Director (my boss), M finished her studies and has spent a lifetime teaching at NYU in the Humanities department. She teaches literature, art history and classics. both women are active in their temple and their faith is important to them both. 19 years ago they decided to start a family. M carried their child after going through the process of artificial insemination. R was born and raised in the temple, there is a Jewish blessing and the Rabbi bestowed it on the family upon R's birth.

Having R taught both D and M just a little more about how the law discriminated against gay and lesbian couples. Doing what they could to ensure that both of them would have legal rights over R, they gave R a hypentated last name and began a long, long process of a second parent adoption (which varies from state to state). When Ruth was 8 she begged her moms to get married, she wanted to be their flower girl. As best they could, D and M tried to explain to Ruth why they could not get married. Well, today R got her wish, except she traded flower girl for wedding planner.

After marriage equality failed to pass the state Senate here in NY, D and M made a tough choice to stop waiting for NY to pass gay marriage and go to Connecticut to get married. This was a heart breaking decision for both D and M, particularly D given her work to advance gay and lesbian rights. But you see, D's mom is 81 and she wanted to get married before her mother passed away. In NY, we do recognize gay and lesbian marriages from other states, so, next year D and M can file their state taxes jointly and have access to some of the rights that come with marriage. But being religious people it was important for them to get married in the temple as well. Remember that civil and religious marriage are different - not a single right comes from a priest or rabbi saying "i know pronounce you..." Long ago they started the conversation in their temple about the importance of marriage equality, and today, the temple celebrated its first same sex marriage.

R, who took time from her summer internship (she is studying to be an elementary ed teacher) planned a beautiful ceremony and reception, she spoke beautifully of the love and life that her moms have shared over the years. Other friends and family too shared their witness to the life and love that D and M have built together over the past 28 years.

I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but in New York state there are 1, 324 rights and responsibilities that come with a marriage license in NY (some as mundane as the right to transfer a fishing license to your spouse to important things like medical decision making), add to that the 1, 138 federal rights and responsibilities. No same sex couple in this country enjoys those 1, 138 federal rights and responsibilities. Same sex marriage is recognized in 5 of our 50 states and Washington, D.C.: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont. (NY, RI and Maryland recognize them, but do not perform them). The following countries have legal same sex marriage:


South Africa

There is no reason that I can think of that the United States shouldn't be on that list, but we aren't. People will argue that same-sex marriage will say that same-sex marriage will do something to ruin heterosexual marriage, but I ask you to re-read the story above and tell me how D and M's partnership over the last 28 years ruins or lessens your unions? I mean, we have tv shows called the Bachelor where a gaggle of women can go on dates and try to "win" a proposal from a Bachelor. We have people who get married only to divorce. The divorce rate in this country is astronomical. Yet, D and M can still only share some of the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage.

Others will argue a religious argument - if same sex marriage were legal in this country, churches, temples and mosques would still be able to "discriminate" - just like today, my brother cannot bring a nice Jewish girl home to St. John's and expect a Catholic mass. But other religious institutions will choose to marry same sex couples - here in NY my organization has a list of over 1, 000 clergy and lay leaders who support marriage equality.

One day, I hope to marry the woman of my dreams and it would mean the world to me to know that my family supports me and my partner 100%. That you will stand with me as we exchange vows and be pillars of strength and support as we build a life and family together. We don't ever really talk about my being gay, but it is who I am and I am proud of who I am. One day I will come to you wanting to start the next chapter of my life with someone and I hope that you will support us. I can't imagine having a wedding and you all not being there.

Every day people have conversations about gay and lesbian rights (as well as plenty of other issues), I believe having these conversations and being open-minded is what changes hearts and minds and will make this world a better place. That, and knowing people like D and M who share a beautiful life together and after 28 years of a long, long "engagement" were able to say 'I do." I hope that you will keep an open mind as you read this, I know I'm not the only gay person you each know.

As your daughter, I hope that you can support me and that some day I can come to you and ask for you to extend that love and support to someone I chose to spend the rest of my life with and raise a family with.

Love you all.


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