“These.Are.Your.Parents.” (A Few Observations from Last Night’s Signing of Civil Unions Bill in Delaware)
Before anyone could blink, civil unions became law in Delaware last night, when Gov. Jack Markell took to the stage at the Queen Theater (insert own joke) in Wilmington, and — after suitable fanfare, comments, and song — signed the bill. I was there, along with about 600 others (or, roughly, most of the state’s population) for the party.
Here’s a picture of the Governor signing the law. His wife is the one in the sort of cool purple dress who’s bathing in angelic light. You can make out Equality Delaware’s Lisa Goodman (a Widener law alum, I’m proud to state) over on the left, behind the podium. She thanked basically every man, woman, and child in Delaware for their role in steering the bill through. The stage was crowded with legislators, singers, and — at the end — lots of the kids of the lesbian and gay-headed families who would soon be benefiting from this law.
I debated whether to attend. I don’t even live in Delaware, and — as I never tire of emphasizing — civil unions aren’t real equality, but a purposefully bestowed second-class citizenship. Indeed, there were times during the governor’s otherwise eloquent speech about freedom, liberty, and equality where I found myself saying: “Well, not exactly.”
Mostly, though, I managed to keep those thoughts at bay. The event was so joyous, so celebratory, that I put away my reservations — for a limited time only.
Two other observations:
First, Delaware really is small. I’ve made a (cheap) practice of ridiculing the size and insularity of the place (see above), but last night showed the upside. In a place where everyone knows everyone else, and where you really do have access to your legislators, it’s just harder to look your neighbor in the face and say: “I don’t care about you and your family.” And Delawarans didn’t: The bill passed easily.
Second, whatever its shortcomings, a civil union bill can make a real and practical difference in people’s lives. I was lucky enough to be standing near the stage and right next to a lesbian couple and their two kids. They’ve been foster-parenting for almost a year, and by now they should have been able to adopt their kids — except the judge who has control of the case wouldn’t let them. So they’ve been in foster-parent limbo (I’ve been exactly there).
Here they are, on the left, in the purple shirts that were created for the adoption but have been on ice because of the judge’s obstinacy.
Not anymore. Now the judge will have no choice but to recognize in law what anyone with a brain and a heart knows to be the case: This is a family. To paraphrase Gov. Markell, as he looked out over the sea of kids in attendance, parents are the ones who live as such: who are with the kids when they’re sick, who get them through the hard times, and so on. Looking at these happy kids, whose families now have validation in law, he said: “These.are.your.parents.”