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Letter to the Editor: Defending Our Children

"When you are filling out your ballot, please remember our family and the children in Maple Grove and Minnesota raised by same-sex couples. Please vote no."

Editor's note: The following was submitted as a letter to the editor by two Maple Grove residents.

Our family moved to Maple Grove in 2010 for the same reasons many families move to our community. We wanted to live in a vibrant city that has great schools, values family, and exudes hospitality. We have found all of these things here. As neighbors we support one another and work collectively for the best interest of our children. As same-sex parents of a precious four-year-old girl, we ask you to consider how the marriage amendment will affect our daughter and the over 2,842 Minnesota families with children led by same-sex couples like us.

We agree with marriage amendment supporters that marriage serves the interests of children. Marriage provides children with stability, legal protections, and economic security. Marriage helps children understand how their parents relate to one another and helps define what it means to be a family. Doesn’t our daughter also deserve these things? 

This amendment would make permanent the real harm marriage inequality has meant for our daughter and family. Financially we have to pay thousands of dollars each year for health care coverage that we wouldn’t have to pay if our marriage were recognized. This is money we could be saving for our daughter’s college education. If our relationship were ever to fail, our daughter would not receive the same legal protections as children of married couples. There are thousands of state and federal benefits of civil marriage that are denied to us, and these inequalities hurt our daughter as well. Our daughter should not be forever penalized simply because her parents are in a same-sex relationship that the state does not recognize. 

Worst of all, permanently denying us the right to marry sends our daughter the clear message that her family is less important than other families. We worry about how we will explain to her that her state does not value her family as much as the other families in our neighborhood. We worry about the effect this amendment will have on her classmates. No child should grow up thinking that her community does not support her family. 

Amendment supporters argue that children of same-sex couples are somehow disadvantaged because they have parents of only one sex. All unbiased experts have unequivocally found that same-sex couples raise children who are as healthy, happy, and emotionally secure as all other children. We have also ensured that our daughter has many positive female role models in her life.  While we face the same fears, struggles, and insecurities as all parents, our little girl is remarkable and this unfounded argument is an insult to her and the millions of children raised by same-sex couples.

Regardless of whether you believe same-sex couples make good parents, thousands of Minnesota same-sex couples just like us will continue to form families and raise children even if this amendment passes. We adopted our daughter in our late 20s and are part of a younger generation of gays and lesbians who have the expectation that we will raise children if we choose, an option that unfortunately was not available to prior generations. From 2000 to 2010, the percentage of same-sex couples raising children more than doubled, and this trend will only continue. Why? We want to raise children for the same reasons all parents want to raise children. We want to share our love, we want to give our lives greater meaning, and we want to pass along the values and lessons we were taught. This harmful amendment would do nothing to stop this trend, but it would permanently exclude our children from the protections they deserve. 

If our perspective is new to you, why must we act now to permanently end the discussion about what marriage means?  Voting no does not grant marriage equality to couples like us, it merely maintains the status quo so our state can continue to have this important conversation. If you are uncertain on how to vote, simply leave the box blank. 

This amendment is a direct attack on our daughter and our family. As any parents would, we want to protect and defend her at all costs. As you consider how you will vote on the amendment, imagine if the Minnesota Constitution singled out your children and said that they are never entitled to the benefits and stabilizing force that marriage brings to families.  Imagine if the state sent your children the clear message that their family is less worthy, valued, and supported than other families.  When you are filling out your ballot, please remember our family and the children in Maple Grove and Minnesota raised by same-sex couples.  Please vote no. 

Chris and Ryan Dolan

Maple Grove, MN

 

Sources:

2010 Census summary file counts available at http://www.census.gov/hhes/samesex/files/supp-table-AFF.xls (add up total numbers for different forms of same-sex couples); http://www.apa.org/about/policy/parenting.aspx; http://abcnews.go.com/Health/children-sex-parents-harmed-anti-gay-laws-study/story?id=14862339 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/10/us/gay-couples-face-pressure-to-have-children.html

Christy Smith November 02, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Your love, commitment, and devotion to each other and your daughter would put many couples, gay or straight, to shame. I count myself fortunate to know your family. You can count on me to Vote No.
Jathen Glommen November 02, 2012 at 11:37 PM
I have known both of you for many many years. I have had the opportunity to see your daughter grow up with two loving parents, who happen to be papa and dad. There is no doubt that your family shows each other just as much love as a family with opposite sex parents. I will be Voting NO on Tuesday, November 6th.
Jessica Wuornos November 03, 2012 at 02:15 AM
As someone who stood with you at your ceremony and wrote a letter of recommendation during the adoption of your precious little girl, I stood with you then and I stand with you now. Your family deserves no less than my family. I will Vote NO with pride on Tuesday.
Tami November 03, 2012 at 12:09 PM
I don't know you or your partner, but I have to say, this is very well stated. Thank you for that because I am also a part of a gay couple living here in Maple Grove. Granted, we don't have children, but still would like to have the same rights as other married couples in our community. For us, the issue is more about possibly being banned from one anothers bedside in the hospital. The time we are at our most needing of our loved one to be there, to hold our hand and help make decisions. Heard to many "horror" stories of one partner being ostracized from the family because they were gay and haven't heard from in decades, but when that person is hospitalized it is the family that ostrasized him/her that are called to make decisions and can also inform the hospital who and who cannot be at that persons bedside. Voting No with no hesitation and asking all of my love ones here in MN to do the same so all same sex couples can start down the road of one day being "legal" to marry here in MN.
Olene Bigelow November 03, 2012 at 02:45 PM
The above comments say it all. I wonder how many who will vote for this hateful amendment have thought about the chdren. I will be voting a resounding NO. Let's keep talking about this with open minds.
Liz Phelan November 03, 2012 at 05:29 PM
The Dolans obviously care deeply for their daughter and want the best for her. The purpose of the marriage amendment is simply to put the decision about marriage in the hands of the people, rather than allow courts and legislators to decide. Marriage existed prior to gov't - so gov't has no right to "define" or "redefine" it. By a strong margin, Minnesotans support the idea of civil unions for same sex or other non-married partners who have custody of children. This is a no-brainer solution to many of the Dolan's concerns. On the other hand, tinkering with "marriage" brings about a whole host of differing views and acrimony. Why don't we focus on finding simple solutions to the legal and protection issues? Finally, regarding their concerns regarding importance of different family structures and support from the community, are they somehow implying that their situation is unique? What about children raised by a grandparent? Or a father and blood uncle? Or one who has a single or widowed parent? There are many different family stuctures here in MN, and children in all of them are entitled to equal dignity. Perhaps we should focus more on treating our neighbors as we would like to be treated rather than expending our efforts to have gov't dictate how we do so. The gov't should NOT be in the business of regulating love, relationships or families.
Clay Meydell November 05, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Liz, I am very glad to hear you and many Minnesotans support the idea of a civil union. The type of marriage that is on the amendment is a civil marriage. The term our government uses to define the legal civil union between two people is marriage. Well this may be a poor choice of words as it is the same world we use for the religious union of two people, it is the term that is used. So well I was married to my husband in our church in front of God, family and friends; this was a religious marriage and not recognized as a civil marriage by our government. SO I would encourage you and all other Minnesotans who support the idea of civil unions to vote NO on Tuesday.
Liz Phelan November 05, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Thank you Clay for your response. Let's be clear on a few things: 1) Civil unions are legal contracts between partners that are recognized by a state or government as conferring all or some of the rights conferred by marriage, but without the implicit historical and religious meaning associated with the word "marriage." (source: About.com). The MN Marriage Amendment wording is very simple: ". . . only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota". It does not even mention, and certainly does not preclude, legal contracts OTHER THAN MARRIAGE between partners. A YES vote will NOT prevent civil unions from being a viable alternative for non-married families. 2) While marriage is certainly a type of civil union, not all civil unions are marriages. We are voting to keep the definition of "marriage" to one man and one woman as has been historically and religiously recognized. 3) Surely you did not mean that the government "defines marriage . . . " as anything. You must have meant that the government RECOGNIZES marriage as a legal contract. Big difference. Also, the purpose of an amendment is to protect the citizens of MN from government meddling - in this case thinking that it has the right to "define" or "redefine" marriage. As I mentioned earlier, the MN marriage amendment ballot question keeps the discussion of marriage exactly where it belongs: with the people of MN - NOT the gov't.
Karen H November 06, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Wonderful letter, valid points. I don't know either of you, but I know of other families like yours, none of whose children show any ill effects of being the child of a same-sex couple, that some of the scare tactic ads present. I'm also not sure why anyone in an opposite sex marriage thinks that this affects them. I also will be voting NO on Tuesday.

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