Love and the law

Here’s one thing I think the anti-gays have right: love doesn’t really make a family.

Hearing that it does, especially from the LGBT community, enrages me. Sure, yes, rhetorically it sounds warm, and nice, and probably some market research somewhere shows that putting the words “love” and “family” together in a soundbite is easily digestible for the straight people responsible for passing laws in our favor.

And it would be dandy if all it took was love, but the more people use this phrase in campaigns, on bumper stickers, and in every-day language, the less reason there is for anyone to understand the fact that, guess what? “Love” just doesn’t hold up so well in court.

I’m pretty sure hospitals and insurance companies haven’t added the “love” checkbox to their forms yet either.

With less than a month until New Baby Boy comes into our lives, Jill and I finally saw a lawyer to help us do our best to, you know, become a “family” to those who matter most in our lives – the government, the court system, the health insurance company, and any of my relatives who, should I have an early demise, could argue their genetic connection to the baby trumps Jill’s love for him.

I’ve done my share of research on the laws in this state. I’ve read old legislation, news, and court decisions, joined listservs with other queer parents, connected with a state equal rights leader, and have followed dead-end leads to out-of-date, legal loopholes.

I thought, going into our initial meeting, I knew what to expect. Where we moved from, we were both able to adopt Otto, albeit through somewhat unconventional means. But with an adoption out of the question here, we would do the last resort: Jill would petition for guardianship. This meant that although I would be the only “legal mother,” she would at least be recognized by our daycare and doctors as a legal decision-making authority.

I literally lost my breath when our lawyer said even that isn’t possible here.

The best we could do? Leave the state for a gay-friendly one so I could give birth there. Yup. We somehow forget about our jobs and obligations here, find someone to watch our house, dog and cat, pack up our kid and our stuff, go to New Jersey, find a doctor (who, unfortunately will not take my now out-of-state health insurance), wait for me to give birth, pray for no complications as we will pay the hospital bills out of pocket. Then, we do a second-parent adoption.

And since it takes more than love to make a family, people actually do this.

I had a lot of emotions leaving that meeting, but more than anything, I had an extreme sense of guilt. I felt dirty, and I felt ashamed.

The whole idea of “equal parenting,” to me, isn’t necessarily realistic, at least in terms of my relationship with Jill. We’re lucky that although we’re different people, with different day-to-day roles, our life and parenting philosophies are similar. So, while we don’t equally divide up chores or responsibilities, we do find a way to balance them, and we do so naturally.

The thing about both carrying this baby, and being his genetic link is that it tips the scales 100% in my favor. As much as I want Jill to be biologically related, and therefore automatically legally related to him, she is not. We were able to legally balance the scales with Otto through adoption, but with our second son she will be a legal stranger. No matter how much I love her. No matter that he calls her mom. No matter that we call ourselves a family.

The guilt and shame I feel is that, through the sheer fault of the state and country we live in, I am leaving Jill on the outside looking in. She is the one who has to adopt. She is the one who needs whatever paperwork our lawyer can draft to protect her best interests. She is the one who has everything to lose.

And in a few days or weeks when our son is born, at least in terms of the law, at least until we can figure out how and where we will move to pay for an adoption, I will be a single parent. If this makes me feel sick to my core, I can only imagine how it feels to Jill.

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4 thoughts on “Love and the law

  1. As I started reading this, I found myself disagreeing with you. We are a family. That is true. The problem is that our family, like our marriage, is not supported with legal protections. But as I read on, I think your rejection of the term is out of rage and it reads like a slap, as it should. And I like that. My quibble is that– one could then argue– the conservative lawmakers who are working to make sure our family is not recognized legally, have some vindication here. By this logic, it works. Deny these rights, and you can stop queer families from existing, rather than recognizing that these families will exist whether they have legal protections or not. It just creates an awful hole for the children, for the parents, for the system (our daycare providers, our doctors, colleagues, etc. who believe in our family), and, I believe, for humanity.

    I love you, Gretchen. As angry as I am about all of this, I am supremely blessed to have a partner like you, who sees it as it is and works to change it for the better.

  2. Pingback: Obama administration comes down on right side of anti-gay marriage law « Regular Midwesterners

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