**UPDATE: Please click here to read our friend David Hornik's "no on 8" piece on Venture Blog.
Fundamentally, I am an honest person, so I'm going to actually put out there that I didn't always know what to make of gay rights issues. Growing up near the Bible Belt, no one I knew was openly gay, so the issue was something I occasionally heard of as a Hollywood thing... Liberace, Elton John, etc. Fortunately, my parents were hippies, and they taught us that bigotry toward anyone is fundamentally wrong. So I didn't ever think people who were gay were somehow defective, despite what I think the majority of our neighbors and their churches believed. That said, even after I attended "Diversity University," I thought: I don't really care if people or gay or straight, but for them to have children... won't that mess up the kid? Won't the kid have to endure endless hours of teasing (because they sure would've had they grown up where I grew up)? Won't the kid suffer?
And then two things happened that changed my mind -- or, as my graduate school professors would say, "liberalized my thinking" -- on the issue of gay rights overall, and on the issue of gay adoption especially.
First, I had my own child, and I realized how very lucky the Guv and I were to be able to have a child at all. We had friends who had been trying to conceive for years, and ours came quickly and in a perfect, easy little package. Sure, she was hard work but the joys -- oh, the joys! -- I can't imagine denying anyone that happiness. Would I have loved her any less if I had her as a single parent? Would I have loved her any less if she came not from my body but from someone else's? I can't definitively answer those questions, of course, but I feel like Petunia (and, later, Dash) was born as much from my heart as from my body. She, and Dash, rounded out my life. As much as they are the most demanding bosses I'll ever have, I can't remember my life before them, and I don't think I want to, for they have made my life great and complete by their very existence. Parents reading this will understand exactly what I mean.
Secondly, when Petunia was 2, I began attending graduate school, and I met my friend Ron (not his real name). Ron was one of the kindest, gentlest people I had ever met -- so thoughtful, so introspective, that just being around him gave me an inner peace. I soon learned that Ron was gay; he had known he was gay his whole life, and his family accepted and supported him regardless (something another friend I met in graduate school did not have; her family kicked her out of their home and disowned her when she came out to them). Before coming to our school, Ron was in a committed, long-term relationship with a partner. They had made a life commitment to each other at a time when gay marriage wasn't even on the table as a possibility. They had also reached the stage in their 30-something lives and relationship where they wanted to share the joy of raising children, and they began fostering kids. After fostering a child for a couple of years, they wanted to adopt her and came to learn that in their state, they could not adopt her as a couple. One dad could adopt her, but the other would have no rights. Worse, the state could -- and would -- challenge the suitability of a gay home for the very same reasons I pondered for years: could a gay home be suitable for a child?
Now -- warning, this is where I get on my soapbox -- is there really anybody, anywhere in America that thinks that the foster care system is better for a child than adoption into a stable home? In Ron's case, he and his partner had raised a child together for two years -- two years monitored, with no problems, with a supportive extended family around them -- and that child, in the span of a days, lost everything she had because she lived with two dads who loved her. The story doesn't end well, either. The girl was not a "perfect" child (she had some disabilities) and remained in foster care. So Ron and his partner weren't even trying to adopt a child that other families sought (sadly). I can't imagine how anyone "won" in that situation: not Ron and his partner, not the girl, and not the state and its overrun foster care system.
The point of telling this long story is to say that I came around on this issue myself because I met someone whose grief I felt as a mother. Had I enjoyed two years with Petunia before having her ripped out of my home, my heart would have been broken as Ron's was. At that point, we weren't so different. Even though his state never legitimized Ron as a parent, without question, he had been one, and he was living every parent's nightmare -- only his could never end. He and his partner could never legally have children as a couple in his state. I had my second within a year of our graduation.
When it comes to Prop 8, which would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California, I have some very strong feelings, brought about not only by knowing Ron but by my own marriage and parenthood. The courts of California have accorded gays the right to marry. The voters have California also have already voted in favor of gay marriage. I'm not sure why the hell the issue is even on the ballot except for the technicality of some folks raising enough signatures to put the question on the ballot yet again -- ensuring that even if Prop 8 fails, the question will keep coming up unless and until the Supreme Court rules on it. Needless to say, I will be voting "No" on Prop 8, because I believe that bigotry in any form is wrong, and, yes, I believe that denying gays marriage is bigotry. Some, like our Presidential candidates (shame on both of them), have a problem with the use of the word "marriage." After all, "it's a sacrament," someone told me, as if to say that sacraments are only for heterosexuals. Even if someone's Biblical interpretation is that the sacrament of marriage is a hetero-only institution, there's the history problem -- as in, a lot of time has passed since Jesus walked the Earth. The Bible also says things like women are subservient to men, and people can hold slaves, and men can beat their wives... No one believes in those things anymore! Why is it such a stretch to believe that times have changed enough that the definition of marriage can expand? And how does it really hurt anybody? Arguing over its definition, to me, is very Bill Clinton-esque, like arguing over the definition of what "is" is... It's the theory, not the word. And the theory is that people in our nation deserve fundamental equality. My gay friends deserve the same civil protections and rights that I enjoy in marriage. So call it marriage, call it whatever -- but call it fair. Prop 8 needs to be voted down on November 4, once and for all.