A few weekends ago, my notoriously sassy 7-year-old turned to me and said “Uh- excuse me, Poppy- your partner just asked you a question.”
I looked up from I-phone in time to see her roll her eyes at her 6-year-old sister and then burst into laughter. Her Dad and I laughed too, but then I stopped short. I felt a little cheated. Why didn’t she call him my husband? Todd and I use that term enough around the kids. But then again, we also sometimes refer to each other as partners.
After that exchange, I found myself revisiting the question of whether my “partner” and I should get married.
As a gay couple, we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that we’re just going to have to wait for those thousand or more federal benefits that are rightfully ours. But in the meantime, I want my children to understand that Daddy and Poppy’s relationship is just as real as their friends. I want them to be assured that our relationship matters and that our family matters as well.
You would think that after 10 years, two kids, three houses, the deaths of close family members, changed jobs, health issues and all the joys and sorrows that couples face together, that our “life partnership” would have the same value to us as marriage.
We had our religious ceremony where friends and family witnessed our commitment to one another and where we both bawled like babies. We signed up for domestic partnership in New Jersey at a time when it felt like we were winning something important. We purchased wedding bands, signed mortgages, drew up wills and adopted our children, all without being legally married.
But now, something has changed. What matters now is not how we think, but what our children think. Somehow they instinctively understand that because we are not married, the world outside doesn’t view us or treat us the same.
Sure, we can cobble together a life that provides them some of the legal and economic security that marriage provides. But we cannot create the social acknowledgement and the public recognition that comes with marriage and that makes them feel insecure.
My children and all children understand that marriage is the one way that society uses to acknowledge the life-long commitment that a loving couple makes to one other and to their children.
To put it simply – marriage matters to children, all children.
It’s a persuasive argument that’s being used effectively in marriage campaigns across the country.
Voters, especially those with children, are increasingly moved to support marriage equality because they understand the legal, economic and social impact of marriage on children. They believe – rightly so – that children need to feel a sense of stability and security in their own families.
It’s always been my belief. Now my “partner” and I will make plans and demonstrate that belief to our own children.
We’ll get married.
I’m not sure when it will happen. In fact, I’m not even sure the folks at work, our friends or family will know the difference.
But there will be two people for whom it will make a world of difference.
And that’s really all that matters.