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“These.Are.Your.Parents.” (A Few Observations from Last Night’s Signing of Civil Unions Bill in Delaware)

May 12th, 2011 No comments

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.

IMG_0821 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).

IMG_0823Here 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.”

Death-Defying! Equality-Denying!

July 9th, 2009 No comments

Today, as I was preparing for my gig on local TV (WHYY in Wilmington’s Delaware Tonight) to discuss the recently signed sexual orientation non-discrimination bill I discovered that the governor, Jack Markell, had delayed the signing by a week because the date originally chosen conflicted with a memorial service for a recently deceased state senator, Thurman Adams. Thus did Adams, who’d single-handedly prevented the bill’s passage for the past decade, reach back from the afterlife and delay the legislation one more time.

This oddity reminded me of a conversation with a friend years ago. We were discussing the efforts of reactionary forces to hold back the tide of equality for the LGBT community, even as most of them realized that their efforts were doomed to Canute-like failure. After a lifetime in opposition, what would they think, as they lay dying? Maybe something like: “I held them back…for a little…while….”

Well, why stop at death? Thurman Adams managed to delay the inevitable for another week even after he’d passed on. Might he have started something? Here are some irreverent suggestions, along the lines of an old Monty Python skit (scroll down to interview about a ‘new’ film starring Marilyn Monroe):

  • Rabid anti-marriage equality spokeswoman Maggie Gallagher can direct that her ashes be kept in a safe place until the next state permits same-sex marriages. Then, as the first couples make their way into City Hall, a high-speed fan can disperse¬† them into the crowd, temporarily (and fittingly, metaphorically speaking) blinding some couples, and ruining plenty of hair-dos and natty get-ups. Equality delayed!
  • James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” needn’t stop with his death. His body can be placed, at least for a few minutes, in the way of athletes trying to work out with their “predominantly gay” sports teams. Fun and fairness frustrated!
  • South Carolina Governor (and gay marriage opponent) Mark Sanford can direct that his rambling press conferences on the subject of his Argentine mistress/”soulmate” be recorded and played at ear-splitting levels whenever same-sex couples approach an adoption agency. On second thought, normal levels should do.