Dana Rudolph

Dear President Obama: Tell That to My Child

Filed By Dana Rudolph | April 07, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, Easter egg roll, egg roll, marriage, marriage equality, president obama, White House

Dear President Obama:

In less than a week, the White House lawn will be swarming with children and their parents, gleeful participants in the White House Easter Egg Roll. Children of LGBT parents will be among them, as they have been for many years. Some of the children in attendance may be LGBT themselves, whether they are aware of it yet or not.

A few days ago, you released a statement in response to the historic Iowa Supreme Court decision that legalized marriage for same-sex couples in that state. Leaving aside the first version of the statement, which disappointingly used the weaker word "protection" instead of "equal rights," here is what you said:

The President respects the decision of the Iowa Supreme Court, and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage. Although President Obama supports civil unions rather than same-sex marriage, he believes that committed gay and lesbian couples should receive equal rights under the law.

That is both a groundbreaking statement and a disappointment. Groundbreaking because no other president has gone so far in support of same-sex couples. Disappointing because it still upholds the principle of "separate but equal." As history has shown, the water from a separate fountain never tastes as good.

I ask you then, President Obama: Would you, as our president and as a parent, be prepared to stand up in front of the many children of LGBT parents at the Egg Roll, and tell them the United States will not recognize their parents' relationships as marriages? Would you be prepared to tell the children who are themselves LGBT that you believe in keeping them out of the institution that has formed the basis of our society for centuries?

These children, like others, have grown up on a diet of fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and television cartoons that present "marriage," not "civil unions," as the state to which grown-ups aspire. Some have parents who are legally married in certain jurisdictions. Many believe their parents to be married because that is what their parents have told them. The parents feel themselves to be married, with all the weight of commitment and love that the term carries, regardless of their legal status.

Marriage should not be the only institution to recognize human relationships and give them benefits under the law. Our society is too diverse and complex for that. It is, however, one of them, the most established and honored one, and should be available to all couples, regardless of their genders.

Likewise, marriage is not the only arena that will help LGBT parents and children. Adoption rights, employment non-discrimination, and hate crimes laws will all protect the children who will gather on your lawn. Even the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will help LGBT servicemembers' children, many of whom who cannot avail themselves of the benefits and support offered to families of other servicemembers.

At the same time, the issue of marriage equality has a visibility, deserved or not, that gives it a special position in the public consciousness. What message about our nation's values are you conveying to all children, regardless of their family structures—if you continue to tell them that LGBT families are not worthy of the same respect as others, that LGBT people must still stand outside the institution that is infused into more children's stories than I can count?

I know that in reality you will not be speaking for or against marriage equality at the Egg Roll itself, nor do I believe such statements would be appropriate to the occasion. It is a time for fun and celebration, not politics. But by releasing a lukewarm statement about LGBT rights just as many families with LGBT members are making their travel plans for the Egg Roll, you do them a disservice and cause me to wonder how you would explain it to their children.

I voted for you because I thought you represented the best hope for positive change in this country. I do believe you are making progress in that regard. Please do not lose your courage on this matter that would mean so much for so many children.

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I do hope Obama finds his soul - the one that used to be a civil rights lawyer - so he wakes up from the stupor that is political life. He and Michelle may not yet realize that there is NO "Heterosexual Guarantee" bestowed upon birth, and Sasha or Malia, or both, could very well be a member of a minority that Obama has yet to recognize as UNEQUAL.

Would the Obamas feel differently about EQUALITY if their daughter were lesbian?

Oh, very good point, John--although I'll have to note that having a lesbian daughter didn't do much to affect the Cheneys' thinking, or at least their actions. The mayor of San Diego, whose name I forget now, did seem to change his mind when his daughter came out, though, so maybe you're right. There is hope, unless one is Dick Cheney.

But Dana, the big difference is that President Obama HAS a soul. Cheney - not so much.

Wyatt O'Brian Evans | April 7, 2009 12:29 PM

Right on, Dana! What an eloquently written post. I'm in total agreement.

President Obama needs to "marinate" in your post's measured and insightful message...and do the right thing. However, I think it'll take quite a few more states climbing on the gay marriage bandwagon before he contemplates making that move.

Bill Hanson | April 7, 2009 1:49 PM


Are you suggesting we toss out the "federalism" form of government that has worked so well in this country and switch to a "centralized" government" like they have in France?

This is a state level "constitutional amendment" issue. The feds have no business getting involved.

No, I'm just suggesting that this particular issue needs federal involvement. I'm tired of my marriage winking in and out of existence when I travel, and tired of still having to file my fed taxes as single, not being eligible for Social Security from my spouse, or having her be able to contribute to a spousal IRA for me while I'm taking time off to raise our son. Marriage has lots of federal benefits, and married people benefit from being able to remain married, wherever they go.

Wait, what's the problem with France? Working people have a much higher standard of living here.

Seriously, get a clue before you just pick a random country to bash.

Maybe an effective slap in Obama's face is for the GLBT families to draw a line and have their own egg contest right alongside everyone else. Of course, having fun and doing exactly as the rest of the kids and their parents.

Maybe cute little SUB-American shirts for all, since a child's rights are ONLY as good as her parent's rights. Perhaps the HETS at large would actually feel GUILTY about their coddling of "marriage" and their exclusive rights to this institution if they "see the signs":

Heterosexuals Only - No Homosexuals Allowed.

Bill Hanson | April 7, 2009 8:36 PM

It should be noted, that in In 2006 during the Bush administration, more than 100 gay parents attended the egg roll.

Children of LGBT parents will be among them, as they have been for many years.

It seems like Dana already acknowledged that!