Caught Off Guard

The Next Family

By: Shannon Ralph

“What does that sign say, momma?” I am piddling around on Facebook while Lucas is sitting in the chair next to me—both of us enjoying our usual nightly snuggle. Earlier in the day, I had changed my profile picture to a photo of a person holding a sign that read: Did I vote on your marriage? Lucas is curious.

“It says, Did I vote on your marriage?” I tell him.

“What does that mean?”

“Well….,” I begin. I knew the time was quickly approaching when I would have to explain it to my children. I would have to explain that our state legislators have voted to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to  ban gay marriage in Minnesota. I knew we needed to have the discussion. I just wasn’t quite ready to do it just yet. I hadn’t prepared. I was entirely caught off guard. “Well…,” I continue. I take a deep breath. “There is a vote coming up next year. People are going to vote on whether or not girls should be allowed to marry girls and boys should be allowed to marry boys. They want to make a law that says girls can never marry girls and boys can never marry boys.”

“Like you and mom?” he asks.

“Yea, like me and mom. And like Amy and Claudia. And Maya’s and Ben’s moms. We’re all going to vote ‘no’ because we think it’s an unfair law. It’s not American. And it’s not Minnesotan. People should be able to marry whoever they fall in love with. Right?”

“Right.” Lucas sits quietly for a moment, obviously pondering this foreign concept I am struggling to explain. “So,” he finally says apprehensively.  “If people vote ‘yes’ and girls can’t marry girls, does that mean you and mom will have to break up? Get divorced?” He asks this with a thinly-veiled hint of terror in his voice.

“Oh honey, no. Not at all,” I assure him. “Your mom and I are going to be together forever. I promise.” My anger about this ludicrous and unnecessary amendment grows tenfold when I hear the fear in my young son’s voice.

“But you’re already married, right?” Lucas has seen our wedding pictures. He knows we had a ceremony. He knows we got “married” before he was born.

“Yes, honey. Mom and I got married years ago. But it wasn’t a legal wedding. In Minnesota, girls can’t marry girls. So our wedding wasn’t legal.” I try find the right words, but I know I am flailing.

“You mean like running a red light? That’s not legal.” He is also flailing. Trying to understand this foreign concept in eight-year-old terms. As far as he has ever been concerned, his parents are married and his family is as normal as any other family.

“Yea, I guess,” I tell him.  “Running a red light is illegal because it is dangerous. No one should run a red light. Girls marrying girls is not dangerous. It is illegal because some people just don’t understand. Getting married should be legal. All people should be allowed to marry whoever they love. So we are going to vote ‘no’. And we’re going to talk to people about it and try to convince other people to vote ‘no’. We are going to get a sign to put in our yard so all of our neighbors know that we are going to vote ‘no’, too.”

He grins sheepishly. “We should get t-shirts, too.”

“Absolutely. We’ll definitely get t-shirts, too.” I smile back at him. “When you and your brother and sister grow up, I want you to be able to marry whoever you fall in love with. I want you to have the choice to marry whoever you want. That’s the way it should be in this country.”

“Cool,” he says. I think he is getting it. Then he announces, “When I grow up, I am going to marry Nicky.”

His younger brother, who had been listening quietly from the sidelines, suddenly grins from ear to ear. He jumps up and down and pipes in excitedly, “I’m going to marry Lucas, too!”

Hmmmm…better not let the evangelicals hear that one.

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