Terrance Heath

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then...

Filed By Terrance Heath | June 18, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: California, California State Supreme Court, marriage, marriage equality, parenting, parents, same-sex marriage

Trigger Warning: I've never used a "trigger warning" before but there are some descriptions of severe abuse after the jump. I wanted to warn anyone whose memories of past trauma might be triggered by the descriptions.

As I write this, it's getting late, and I'm tired. It's the day after Father's Day, the end of the day after Father's Day. Aside from Parker's usual swimming lessons, we had Capital Pride.

We marched with the Rainbow Families contingency, after spending the afternoon decorating bicycles, strollers, and wagons, meeting other families, and watching the kids play with together. We walked with Parker on his bicycle and Dylan in his stroller. It was great, being together as a family, walking with other families, and hearing the cheers of support from the people watching the parade.

I should be asleep now, especially since it will be just a few hours before Dylan wakes up, and it'll be my turn to get up and get him back to sleep. But there's something I've been wanting to write about since the California marriage decision came down, something that's been on my mind since I read the decision. Something that changed in a way that overwhelmed me so much that I had to walk away from my computer for a few minutes. Something changed, or didn't change, because its something I've always known is true. But just hearing it validated in a way it hasn't been before... did something to me...

I think it was the New York ruling that got the ball rolling. In my own take, I think I was so stunned that I couldn't bring myself to comment on the fact that the procreative imperative was in full effect.

In a 4-2 decision, the Court of Appeals found that the state's definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, enacted more than a century ago, could have a rational basis, and that it was up to the State Legislature, not the courts, to decide whether it should be changed.

The majority decision, written by Judge Robert S. Smith, who was appointed by Gov. George Pataki, found that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples could be based on rational social goals, primarily the protection and welfare of children.

"Plaintiffs have not persuaded us that this long-accepted restriction is a wholly irrational one, based solely on ignorance and prejudice against homosexuals," Judge Smith wrote in his 22-page opinion. For example, he wrote, it could be argued that children benefit from being raised by two natural parents, a mother and a father, rather than by gay or lesbian couples.

...On the issue of child-rearing, the majority wrote: "Despite the advances of science, it remains true that the vast majority of children are born as a result of a sexual relationship between a man and a woman. Intuition and experience suggest that a child benefits from having before his or her eyes, every day, living models of what both a man and a woman are like."

It took Kenji Yoshi -- a Yale Law School Professor -- to highlight that the New York Supreme Court actually ruled that same-sex couples were too good for marriage.

The more traditional argument stated that the Legislature could reasonably suppose that children would fare better under the care of a mother and father. Like most arguments against gay marriage, this "role model" argument assumes straight couples are better guides to life than gay couples.

And like other blatantly anti-gay arguments, it falls apart under examination. In a decision last month in a case concerning gay foster parents, the Arkansas Supreme Court found no evidence that children raised by gay couples were disadvantaged compared with children raised by straight couples.

But the New York court also put forth another argument, sometimes called the "reckless procreation" rationale. "Heterosexual intercourse," the plurality opinion stated, "has a natural tendency to lead to the birth of children; homosexual intercourse does not." Gays become parents, the opinion said, in a variety of ways, including adoption and artificial insemination, "but they do not become parents as a result of accident or impulse."

Consequently, "the Legislature could find that unstable relationships between people of the opposite sex present a greater danger that children will be born into or grow up in unstable homes than is the case with same-sex couples."

To shore up those rickety heterosexual arrangements, "the Legislature could rationally offer the benefits of marriage to opposite-sex couples only." Lest we miss the inversion of stereotypes about gay relationships here, the opinion lamented that straight relationships are "all too often casual or temporary."

When an Indiana court introduced this seemingly heterophobic logic last year in upholding a state ban on same-sex marriage, I thought it was a cockeyed aberration. But after both New York City and New York State presented similar logic in oral arguments, and the court followed suit, I began to understand the argument's appeal: it sounds nicer to gays.

It wasn't an aberration. It wasn't particularly "nice to gays" either, since in the end it was employed to deny marriage equality and the benefits and protections of marriage to same-sex couples. But it wasn't an aberration, because we saw it again in Washington State.

The state Supreme Court today upheld Washington's law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, rejecting the argument of 19 same-sex couples that they've been unfairly denied the right to wed.

In a splintered decision, Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that the state's marriage law was enacted to "promote procreation and to encourage stable families."

"The legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers the State's legitimate interests in procreation and the well-being of children."


That, of course, led to some rather inspired -- at least I thought so -- introduced-just-to-make-a-point legislation.

Proponents of same-sex marriage have introduced a ballot measure that would require heterosexual couples to have a child within three years or have their marriages annulled.

The Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance acknowledged on its Web site that the initiative was "absurd" but hoped the idea prompts "discussion about the many misguided assumptions" underlying a state Supreme Court ruling that upheld a ban on same-sex marriage.

The measure would require couples to prove they can have children to get a marriage license. Couples who do not have children within three years could have their marriages annulled.

All other marriages would be defined as "unrecognized," making those couples ineligible for marriage benefits.

But it's any more far-fetched than Indiana Republican's attempt to criminalize reproduction between unmarried heterosexuals.

Via Feministe comes yet another nightmare the religious right is cooking up. Indiana Republicans are cooking up a bill to make "unauthorized reproduction" illegal. In other words, only married women may legally reproduce.

Republican lawmakers are drafting new legislation that will make marriage a requirement for motherhood in the state of Indiana, including specific criminal penalties for unmarried women who do become pregnant "by means other than sexual intercourse."

According to a draft of the recommended change in state law, every woman in Indiana seeking to become a mother through assisted reproduction therapy such as in vitro fertilization, sperm donation, and egg donation, must first file for a "petition for parentage" in their local county probate court.

Only women who are married will be considered for the "gestational certificate" that must be presented to any doctor who facilitates the pregnancy. Further, the "gestational certificate" will only be given to married couples that successfully complete the same screening process currently required by law of adoptive parents.


But don't just take my word for it. You can read the law for yourself.

It was one thing to read about such strange rulings in states like New York and Washington state. It was something else entirely to face a similar ruling right here in Maryland.

"Looking beyond the fact that any inquiry into the ability or willingness of a couple actually to bear a child during marriage would violate the fundamental right to marital privacy recognized in Griswold, 381 U.S. at 484-86, 493, 85 S. Ct. at 1681, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510, the fundamental right to marriage and its ensuing benefits are conferred on opposite-sex couples not because of a distinction between whether various opposite-sex couples actually procreate, but rather because of the possibility of procreation."
-Judge Glenn Harrell, Jr.

That set me off on an entire series of blog posts, that were as much a prolonged, frustrated rant as they were an attempt to show how primitive and how flawed an argument these rulings are based upon.

And then the California Supreme Court issued a ruling that knocked the legs out from under the opposition's case against marriage equality, including a very important one.

The Proposition 22 Legal Defense Fund and the Campaign agree that the constitutional right to marry is integrally related to the right of two persons to join together to establish an officially recognized family, but they contend that the only family that possibly can be encompassed by the constitutional right to marry is a family headed by a man and a woman. Pointing out that past cases often have linked marriage and procreation, these parties argue that because only a man and a woman can produce children biologically with one another, the constitutional right to marry necessarily is limited to opposite-sex couples.

This contention is fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons. To begin with, although the legal institution of civil marriage may well have originated in large part to promote a stable relationship for the procreation and raising of children (see, e.g., Baker v. Baker, supra, 13 Cal. 87, 103 ["the first purpose of matrimony, by the laws of nature and society, is procreation"]; see generally Blankenhorn, The Future of Marriage (2007) pp. 23-125), and although the right to marry and to procreate often are treated as closely related aspects of the privacy and liberty interests protected by the state and federal Constitutions (see, e.g., Valerie N., supra, 40 Cal.3d 143, 161; Skinner v. Oklahoma (1942) 316 U.S. 527, 541), the constitutional right to marry never has been viewed as the sole preserve of individuals who are physically capable of having children. Men and women who desire to raise children with a loved one in a recognized family but who are physically unable to conceive a child with their loved one never have been excluded from the right to marry. Although the Proposition 22 Legal Defense Fund and the Campaign assert that the circumstance that marriage has not been limited to those who can bear children can be explained and justified by reference to the state's reluctance to intrude upon the privacy of individuals by inquiring into their fertility, if that were an accurate and adequate explanation for the absence of such a limitation it would follow that in instances in which the state is able to make a determination of an individual's fertility without such an inquiry, it would be constitutionally permissible for the state to preclude an individual who is incapable of bearing children from entering into marriage. There is, however, no authority whatsoever to support the proposition that an individual who is physically incapable of bearing children does not possess a fundamental constitutional right to marry. Such a proposition clearly is untenable. A person who is physically incapable of bearing children still has the potential to become a parent and raise a child through adoption or through means of assisted reproduction, and the constitutional right to marry ensures the individual the opportunity to raise children in an officially recognized family with the person with whom the individual has chosen to share his or her life. Thus, although an important purpose underlying marriage may be to channel procreation into a stable family relationship, that purpose cannot be viewed as limiting the constitutional right to marry to couples who are capable of biologically producing a child together.

A variant of the contention that the right to marry is limited to couples who are capable of procreation is that the purpose of marriage is to promote "responsible procreation" and that a restriction limiting this right exclusively to opposite-sex couples follows from this purpose. A number of recent state court decisions, applying the rational basis equal protection standard, have relied upon this purpose as a reasonably conceivable justification for a statutory limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples. These decisions have explained that although same-sex couples can have or obtain children through assisted reproduction or adoption, resort to such methods demonstrates, in the case of a same-sex couple, that parenthood necessarily is an intended consequence because each of these two methods requires considerable planning and expense, whereas in the case of an opposite-sex couple a child often is the unintended consequence of the couple's sexual intercourse. These courts reason that a state plausibly could conclude that although affording the benefits of marriage to opposite-sex couples is an incentive needed to ensure that accidental procreation is channeled into a stable family relationship, a similar incentive is not required for same-sex couples because they cannot produce children accidentally. (See, e.g., Morrison v. Sadler, supra, 821 N.E.2d 15, 23-29; Hernandez v. Robles, supra, 855 N.E.2d 1, 7.)

Whether or not the state's interest in encouraging responsible procreation properly can be viewed as a reasonably conceivable justification for the statutory limitation of marriage to a man and a woman for purposes of the rational basis equal protection standard, this interest clearly does not provide an appropriate basis for defining or limiting the scope of the constitutional right to marry. None of the past cases discussing the right to marry -- and identifying this right as one of the fundamental elements of personal autonomy and liberty protected by our Constitution -- contains any suggestion that the constitutional right to marry is possessed only by individuals who are at risk of producing children accidentally, or implies that this constitutional right is not equally important for and guaranteed to responsible individuals who can be counted upon to take appropriate precautions in planning for parenthood. Thus, although the state undeniably has a legitimate interest in promoting "responsible procreation," that interest cannot be viewed as a valid basis for defining or limiting the class of persons who may claim the protection of the fundamental constitutional right to marry.

Furthermore, although promoting and facilitating a stable environment for the procreation and raising of children is unquestionably one of the vitally important purposes underlying the institution of marriage and the constitutional right to marry, past cases make clear that this right is not confined to, or restrictively defined by, that purpose alone. (See, e.g., Baker v. Baker, supra, 13 Cal. 87, 103 ["[t]he second purpose of matrimony is the promotion of the happiness of the parties by the society of each other"].) As noted above, our past cases have recognized that the right to marry is the right to enter into a relationship that is "the center of the personal affections that ennoble and enrich human life" (DeBurgh v. DeBurgh, supra, 39 Cal.2d 858, 863-864) -- a relationship that is "at once the most socially productive and individually fulfilling relationship that one can enjoy in the course of a lifetime." (Marvin v. Marvin, supra, 18 Cal.3d 660, 684; see also Elden v. Sheldon, supra, 46 Cal.3d 267, 274.) The personal enrichment afforded by the right to marry may be obtained by a couple whether or not they choose to have children, and the right to marry never has been limited to those who plan or desire to have children. Indeed, in Griswold v. Connecticut, supra, 381 U.S. 479 -- one of the seminal federal cases striking down a state law as violative of the federal constitutional right of privacy -- the high court upheld a married couple's right to use contraception to prevent procreation, demonstrating quite clearly that the promotion of procreation is not the sole or defining purpose of marriage. Similarly, in Turner v. Safley, supra, 482 U.S. 78, the court held that the constitutional right to marry extends to an individual confined in state prison -- even a prisoner who has no right to conjugal visits with his would-be spouse -- emphasizing that "[m]any important attributes of marriage remain . . . after taking into account the limitations imposed by prison life . . . [including the] expressions of emotional support and public commitment [that] are an important and significant aspect of the marital relationship." (482 U.S. at pp. 95?96.) Although Griswold and Turner relate to the right to marry under the federal Constitution, they accurately reflect the scope of the state constitutional right to marry as well. Accordingly, this right cannot properly be defined by or limited to the state's interest in fostering a favorable environment for the procreation and raising of children.

The Proposition 22 Legal Defense Fund and the Campaign also rely upon several academic commentators who maintain that the constitutional right to marry should be viewed as inapplicable to same-sex couples because a contrary interpretation assertedly would sever the link that marriage provides between procreation and child rearing and would "send a message" to the public that it is immaterial to the state whether children are raised by their biological mother and father. (See, e.g., Blankenhorn, The Future of Marriage, supra, at pp. 201-212; Wardle, "Multiply and Replenish": Considering Same-Sex Marriage in Light of State Interests in Marital Procreation (2001) 24 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 771, 797-799; Gallaher, What Is Marriage For? The Public Purposes of Marriage Law (2002) 62 La. L.Rev. 773, 779-780, 790-791.) Although we appreciate the genuine concern for the well-being of children underlying that position, we conclude this claim lacks merit. Our recognition that the core substantive rights encompassed by the constitutional right to marry apply to same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples does not imply in any way that it is unimportant or immaterial to the state whether a child is raised by his or her biological mother and father. By recognizing this circumstance we do not alter or diminish either the legal responsibilities that biological parents owe to their children or the substantial incentives that the state provides to a child's biological parents to enter into and raise their child in a stable, long-term committed relationship. Instead, such an interpretation of the constitutional right to marry simply confirms that a stable two-parent family relationship, supported by the state's official recognition and protection, is equally as important for the numerous children in California who are being raised by same-sex couples as for those children being raised by opposite-sex couples (whether they are biological parents or adoptive parents). This interpretation also guarantees individuals who are in a same-sex relationship, and who are raising children, the opportunity to obtain from the state the official recognition and support accorded a family by agreeing to take on the substantial and long-term mutual obligations and responsibilities that are an essential and inseparable part of a family relationship.

Accordingly, we conclude that the right to marry, as embodied in article I, sections 1 and 7 of the California Constitution, guarantees same-sex couples the same substantive constitutional rights as opposite?sex couples to choose one's life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized, and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.

In so many words, the California Supreme Court -- unlike the New York, Washington State, and Maryland courts -- ruled that the fact that my husband and I did not create the children we are raising, makes us no less parents than heterosexual couples who "make their own," and no less worthy of marriage. It was a kind of recognition, of personhood and citizenship that -- though it merely confirmed what we know to be true in our hearts -- served as a response to the attitude reflected in some of the comments I've received on this blog.

Comments like this one.

Did you and your partner create your son? As an American you have a right to love as you please, but in the eyes of humanity and God you do not have a right to confuse an innocent child. Humanity exists because of the union that creates life. When that un ion is in love, it deserves the recognition of marriage because of it's fundamental difference. All other love IS second-class to that type of love. That's why it should be honored with the word marriage. And as dysfunctional as the world is, there has a l ways been hope in the natural family. It's something we all want to have as youngsters. It's not your right to attempt to steal the glory of the natural order from your son (or to humanity itself) in order to prove a gay point. Marriage is holy. Those w ho use it for a personal agenda is wrong ... and love itself isn't enough of a requirement to warrant marriage. The bodies of a man and woman are ultimately designed to procreate even if they choose not to do so. That union has the holy right to be called m arriage above all other. I'm very sad this fundamental point has escaped you, and you deny your own ability to create true life and love with a woman. You can pass this off as hate mail to deny this if you don't want to hear the truth, but truth doesn't m ake room for your denial of God's order (whether it be homosexuality or some other issue). I pray you will see the light one day before it's too late. God loves you (and so do I). He will forgive and heal. But you and your partner must look to your own upbringings to get the true answer to these feelings that go against His order. There are answers, if you really want to know the truth.
Respectfully and with great compassion .... r

And comments like this one.

Just curious:

How did you get to be a "father" if you are gay? I thought they compared being gay to being black. You're born that way and that's it. I don't know too many black people that changed their color except for Michael Jackson. Any relation?

Just two comments, but reflecting the attitude that because we did not "create" our children we are merely parents in quotation marks, doing little more than playing house. Thus we are undeserving of the right to marry, and of the benefits and protections provided families through legal marriage. (By extension, neither are our children. And the "logic" expressed in the quotes holds that -- even though our sons' birth parents chose us to be their adoptive parents -- that we are somehow actively harming them by parenting them, and if we really cared about them we would not have adopted them.)

Of course, the headlines are full of people who are better parents and more deserving of the right to marry than we are, because they made babies. What they did to their children after birth notwithstanding, of course.

Of course, the headlines are full of people that my commenters would deem "real" parents because they "created" their children, and parents whom the New York, Washington state, and Maryland courts would deem more worthy of the benefits and protections of marriage than me and my husband, because they achieved ovulation, ejaculation, and thus procreation together. Assuming, of course, that the bar is set no higher.

The New York, Washington state, and Maryland courts would probably give Donald Rici Jr. a spot in line way ahead of me at any one of their marriage license offices.

A Monroe, North Carolina man faces child abuse charges for allegedly using a Taser on his 10-year-old son.

Deputies say 30-year-old Donald Ricci, Jr., used the Taser at least three times.

The boy was visiting his grandparents in Georgia when they noticed burns on his bottom, neck and chest and took him to a hospital.

"I was shocked and sickened," said Detective Kevin Rogers. "(Tasers) are very, very painful."

Ricci did not answer the door at his apartment in Monroe on Thursday.

"How could anybody do that to a child?" neighbor David Andreano said.


And my commenters would certainly agree that Ricci meets the base requirements for "real" fatherhood, since he "created" his son with a heterosexual partner -- the boy's mother, who spoke about why Ricci tasered their son.

Donald Ricci, Jr. is accused of using a Taser on his 10-year-old son whom he shares with Sondra Rorie.

"The pain that's inside of me, there's no describing it," said Rorie.

Rorie said she saw the marks on her son that police say Ricci caused.

"The ones on his neck, his chest and his back were pretty healed up. But the ones on his bottom, there was still blood, red and bleeding," said Rorie. "I just didn't ever think he would do things to him or to any of his kids."

She said her son told her why Ricci allegedly punished him with a Taser.

"[He] said that daddy did this to him because he wanted to see what it would do to somebody," said Rorie.

No word on whether Ricci and Rorie are married, but my guess is they're not because the news report would almost certainly refer to him as his wife. But they can get married. Even if Ricci ends up going to jail, they can have a jailhouse wedding and be legally married. We've never used tasers on our kids. In fact, I apologize to Parker if I accidently give him a shock when I go to hug him after walking across the carpet. But we didn't "create" him, thus we're not "real" parents -- according to my commenters, and thus not deserving of marriage equality.

Brenda Sullivan may have kept her 17-year-old son in a cage, but New York, Washington state, Maryland, and plenty of other states would issue her a marriage license before they'd give one to my husband and me.

Brenda Sullivan pleaded guilty in January to three counts of aggravated child abuse. Prosecutors agreed to drop lesser child neglect charges.

The teen weighed 49 pounds when child welfare workers found him in 2005 in what appeared to be a cage. Sullivan told a judge at the time that Ohio authorities told her to keep the boy, who had severe medical and emotional problems, in a crib.

"There's only one conclusion when you look at the medical evidence in this case, and that is that she literally starved him," prosecutor Julie Schlax said.

Two other children, 13-year-old twins the Sullivans adopted as infants, both testified they were kept in similar cages.

Sullivan's husband was also arrested, but died in January 2007 while awaiting trial.

She qualified for one before, after all, and she shouldn't have a problem getting one now that she's single again. She meets the basic requirements. She's apparently heterosexual, and even though she and her husband adopted their children the possibility of procreation still existed in their marriage. Even if she's convicted, there's no crime that I'm aware of that can cause one to lose the right to marry.

Serial killers can get married, after all (even those who don't have the right to conjugal visits), provided they're marrying someone of the opposite sex. (Again, Maryland's "possibility" reasoning is in effect, since procreation would be possible if conjugal visits were allowed, or the inmate in question were released, or escaped long enough to get home for a quickie.) Sullivan is, apparently, heterosexual. That's enough to get her a marriage license ahead of me and my husband, and we don't even have cages in our house.

And the German couple who put their baby up for auction on Ebay?

Authorities in southern Germany said Saturday that they have taken custody of a 7-month-old boy after his parents posted an ad on eBay offering to sell him for one euro, the equivalent of $1.57.

Peter Hieber, a spokesman for police in the Bavarian town of Krumbach, said the baby was placed in the care of youth services in the southwestern Allgaeu region, although the child's 23-year-old mother insisted that the ad was only a joke.

Authorities have launched an investigation into possible child trafficking against the baby's mother and 24-year-old father, neither of whom was identified.

They're not American, no. But they live in a country that legalized same-sex marriage back in 2001. This couple could move to the U.S., and be just as married here as they are in Germany. My husband and I could fly to California and get married, but we wouldn't be married by the time we left California's airspace, let alone when we land in Maryland. (We could be married in Germany, though.) After all, they may have put their baby up for auction on Ebay as a joke, but they made a baby. They "created" a baby, therefore they're "real" parents, deserving of the benefits and protections of marriage. Not so with the hubby and me, and we've never auctioned anything -- or anyone-- on Ebay. Let alone our kids.

Jeanine Blackwell, from my owe state, meets the base qualifications to be a "real" parent, and to get married

A warrant has been issued charging a West Baltimore woman with the death of her newborn son, police said.

The woman, Jeanine Alice Blackwell, 34, of the 300 block of S. Monroe St. is serving time at Maryland Correctional Institute for Women at Jessup for a parole violation, police said. City homicide detectives are expected to charge her formally with the newborn's death, said Officer Nicole Monroe, a city police spokeswoman.

Monroe said that about 4 p.m. March 8, Blackwell was experiencing pain when she sat on her home toilet and gave birth. Monroe said the woman told police she didn't know she was pregnant, though she had given birth 12 years ago.

Monroe said a friend of Blackwell's removed the newborn from the toilet and wrapped him in a towel before calling 911. Medics pronounced the child, estimated to be 28 to 32 weeks' gestation, dead and notified police.

Blackwell is apparently heterosexual and obviously fertile. She meets the base qualifications of the New York, Washington state, and Maryland courts, where the hubby and I don't

The New York, Washington state, and Maryland courts would probably give the nod to Juan and Myra Rodriquez, too.

Two LaRue County parents are in police custody, accused of torturing and abusing their four children for more than a year.

Child Protective Services caught wind of this case after doctors at Kosair Children's Hospital noticed unusual injuries to a 3-year-old girl.

Last year, Juan and Myra Rodriguez adopted three young children to join the daughter they already had.

LaRue County Deputy Matt Darst said the truth is that Myra and Juan Rodriguez abused their children -- a 3-year-old, two 7-year-olds and a 10-year-old for the better part of a year.

..."According to the statements from the children, they had all suffered from some type of abuse, and this was occurring sometime between February '07 until they were removed from the home, a couple weeks ago," he said.

Darst said the Rodriguezes broke their 3-year-old daughter's arm and leg, and two of the children accused them of pushing them down the stairs as punishment.

Darst said doctors also found adult bite marks on the 10-year-old daughter.

"The other children disclosed some information about some torture-type stuff as far as making them spread their legs all the way, touching them out to the bases of the wall on each side," Darst said.

Even if they weren't married, there's nothing to stop the Rodriguezes from marrying each other. The New York, Washington state, and Maryland courts probably wouldn't try to stop them either. The only bites on our kids are the occasional (and unavoidable, in the summer) mosquito bites, but my husband and I didn't "create" our children, and couldn't possibly have created them. So we aren't "real" parents in the way the Rodriguezes are, and we aren't deserving of the benefits and protections of marriage that they enjoy no matter what they did to their children after "creating" them.

I wonder what the courts would make of Mansa Musa Muhummed.

A polygamist was convicted Wednesday of charges that he starved, tortured and abused two of his wives and many of his 19 children and stepchildren.

A Riverside County jury found Mansa Musa Muhummed guilty on 25 counts, including torturing seven of the children, abusing 12 of them and falsely imprisoning the wives.

Muhummed, 55, shook his head as the verdict was read, prosecutor Julie Baldwin said.

Muhummed, whose birth name was Richard Boddie and is a convert to Islam, told authorities that his faith gave him the right to take multiple wives. He was arrested in 1999 after one of his wives, Laura Cowan, slipped a 13-page letter to a postal service worker describing the abuse.

His trial started last month after nine years of legal wrangling in which he changed lawyers four times and represented himself for more than two years.

Several of his children and stepchildren, now adults, took the stand, telling the jury that they had been beaten, starved, strung up by their feet and forced to eat vomit and feces.

Muhummed testified in his own defense. In sometimes tearful testimony, he denied the charges and blamed one of his wives for the alleged abuse.

Granted, he got married one too many times, at least, but he made 19 babies. What he allegedly did to them is a matter for the courts to decide, but nothing I've seen from the New York, Washington state, or Maryland rulings would stand between Muhummed and a marriage license, once he narrows it down to one wife. If he can do that, being apparently heterosexual and clearly capable of making babies, he meets the base requirements.

Brice and Sandra McMillan won't win any "Parents of the Year" trophies -- in New York, Washington state, or anywhere else -- given what they did to their son.

The 13-year-old boy who died while tied to a tree last week sustained multiple injuries while bound, according to arrest warrants released Monday.

Tyler Gene McMillan was tied to a tree at his family home in Macclesfield for 18 hours, resulting in his death, according to the warrants. During that time, the boy suffered bruising to the wrist and cuts to the entire body. He also was missing flesh from his buttock.

N.C. District Court Judge Joseph Harper Jr. in Edgecombe County read the warrants during the first court appearance of Tyler's father, Brice McMillan, and stepmother, Sandra McMillan.

The two have been charged with first-degree murder and felony child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury in the death of their son. If convicted, they could face life in prison or the death penalty.

...Brice McMillan, 41, told Edgecombe County deputies last week that he tied his son to a tree in the family's yard at 1110 Felton Farm Road and forced him to sleep outside Tuesday and Wednesday nights because he was misbehaving, the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office said.

Stepmother Sandra McMillan, 36, found Tyler unresponsive around 4:30 p.m. Thursday after being tied to the tree since Wednesday night. He was pronounced dead at Heritage Hospital in Tarboro.

Authorities have not announced the cause of death.

Do I even need to say it by now? The McMillan's, like all the rest, meet the base level qualifications for marriage according to the New York, Washington state, and Maryland courts. They're an opposite-sex couple, clearly capable of procreating. That not all of their offspring make it past puberty isn't necessarily considered by those courts. If marriage is about making babies -- one thing that same-sex couples cannot do with one another -- then they and all of the other parents above take a spot far in front of the hubby and me in the line to get a marriage license, which confers the benefits and protections of marriage.

Even though our kids don't sleep in cages, tied to trees, or anywhere else other than their beds. Even though they're not covered with, cuts bruises, bite-marks, or taser-marks. Even though they eat regular healthy meals. Even though to look at them is to plainly see how much they are loved and cared for. We did not "create" the, and it would have been impossible for us to "create" them. And that is what the New York, Washington state, and Maryland courts took into account.

So, yes, when I read the part of the California ruling that took apart the "logic" of the procreative imperative promoted by marriage equality opponents, I had to walk away from my computer to regain my composure. After so many rulings, to hear a court say that loving our children, caring for them, protecting them, and raising them in safe, supportive homes is enough to make us "real" parents and a "real" family -- regardless of the reality that we didn't and couldn't possibly conceive them together -- and deserving of all the protections other families enjoy, it was finally an acknowledgment of our humanity; of our membership in the human family.

That's not something any court can really give to us or deny us. No ruling can take away what we know in our hearts. We know we are a family. And with that ruling, the California Supreme Court gave us hope that we will be treated like one. Some day.

Crossposted from The Republic of T.


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Terrance, thanks for this post. It is obvious to me from the many posts that you have written about your family that your children are very loved.

While I agree that gay and lesbian couples have to try harder in order to be parents, I don't think it's fair to make a blanket statement that they are inherently better parents than straight couples. Just as we similarly don't like to admit that domestic violence can occur in same-sex partnerships, we often don't like to admit that lesbian and gay parents are just as capable of abusing their children as straight people are. As a maligned community, we understandably don't like to talk about things that could potentially be used against us. I'm not sure that anyone has collected statistics about how often gay and lesbian parents abuse their children. But the fact is that domestic violence occurs in 1 out of every 3 relationships, regardless of whether the couple is gay, lesbian or straight.

I am not saying that lesbian or gay couples do not deserve to be parents. In fact, I think more of us should be, especially if we adopt. There are so many kids in foster care who need good homes and so many kids waiting to be adopted who just need a loving family. But I think we also need to start providing more parenting classes for all couples. Because unfortunately, kids don't come with instruction manuals.

The last point that I want to make is this - straight people are no less capable of providing a loving, stable home for their children than couples are. My single mom did a great job of taking care of me and my brother after my asshole stepfather (thankfully) left us. My best friend is a single mother who struggles financially, but she provides a very nurturing home for her 7-year-old daughter. I don't think that it takes more than one parent to raise a healthy, well-adjusted child. Sure, it helps financially. But single people make good parents, too.

Thanks for another thought provoking piece, Terrance. I always appreciate reading your views.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 18, 2008 5:45 PM

Terrance, thank you for this excellent post! Although I have to confess, I skimmed through the accounts of child abuse. They powerfully prove your point, but I just couldnt' stomach them.

I found the excerpts from the legal rulings enlightening. I especially liked this from the California ruling:

such an interpretation of the constitutional right to marry simply confirms that a stable two-parent family relationship, supported by the state's official recognition and protection, is equally as important for the numerous children in California who are being raised by same-sex couples as for those children being raised by opposite-sex couples (whether they are biological parents or adoptive parents). [emphasis mine]

Kinda says it all, as far as I'm concerned.

As for the desperate arguments of the sticks-in-the-mud, reactionary Right, have you noticed that they're often circular? They argue that society--meaning them, we never seem to be included in "society"--consider two opposite-sex parents essential and two same-sex parents an aberration, therefore, children raised by gay parents would suffer a stigma. Well, duh! Rather than banning same-sex marriage how about getting a clue and letting go of your prejudice?! Then that self-fulfilling prophecy of stigma won't be a problem.

Terrance...

no words.

except thank you.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 19, 2008 4:27 AM

Terrance, I have to agree with Brynn, (child abuse and neglect just sicken me) but I fully see your point about the horrors a number of heterosexual parents inflict on their children. I would add that there are plenty of one parent homes that do wonderful jobs rearing children and there are plenty of persons who presently marry who are infertile or past child bearing years. The linkage of marriage to children, at all, is an invalid one. Thank You for making Merit!