Looking out my kitchen window each morning, I watch my neighbors load their three sons into the car, each boy bundled in a jacket, school bag packed, lunch packed, shoes on—no small miracle, this daily ritual. They are kind, good-natured boys, full of smiles.
Lately, however, there is a pang in my heart when I see them. The passage of Proposition 8 in California is a reminder that their parents do not have the right to marry. The mothers of those boys have spent tens of thousands of dollars on legal documents to try to form some patchwork of legal protections, yet they still have only a fraction of the rights marriage or civil unions would ensure—rights my husband and I were granted for a small fee at the county courthouse.
We go to sleep at night knowing the law protects our right to pick our children up from school, to sit at their bedside in the hospital, to take care of them if our spouse dies. They pay the same taxes, knowing the government doesn't consider them full citizens.
With Change in the air, it would be nice to think that it's only a matter of time before this family becomes legally recognized. But Election Day was a reality check.
My neighbors sometimes joke about their "gay lifestyle" of soccer matches and karate lessons, laundry and homework. Like parents everywhere, they clean Cheerios out of the car seat and retrieve stray wet socks off the sidewalk after a rain.
One afternoon, a mother of those three boys showed up at my front door with bags full of clothes. As she folded the winter coat her youngest son had outgrown and put it in a pile for me to keep until my own child can wear it, I could see in her expression what she was thinking: They grow up so fast.
Her family strengthens my family. Her love for her partner, and for their kids, strengthens the love I feel for my husband and son.
The boys down the street are part of a generation of children who will eventually demonstrate what scientific research already tells us—that there are no developmental differences between kids raised by same-sex couples and those raised by straight parents, and the children of gay and lesbian parents are no more likely to identify as gay themselves.
For now, though, they are the children, and we are the adults. Gay people spend enough time living on the front lines. It's time to us, the straight allies, to speak up.
All couples, gay and straight, deserve equal protection under the law whether or not they have children. But marriage as a legal institution offers protections and basic stability children both need and deserve. It is the children who suffer most when there is any legal ambiguity—in terms of property, custody or power of attorney.
Some of those who voted for Prop 8 did so not out of hatred or ideology, but out of fear.
I wish those people could see the view from my kitchen window.