by Amy Dudley and Susan Eisman
Edited by Kristen Klever and Julie Stegman
On April 2, 2014 the board of Hawthorne Family Playschool (HFP) voted unanimously to endorse the ballot measure for marriage equality in order to oppose discrimination against lesbian and gay Oregonians and their families. HFP took this action with the enthusiastic support of our membership: the 28 families and one teacher who desire a more just society for our children.
About 6 weeks earlier at an open house for all the co-op preschools in Portland, a lesbian couple had asked what the environment was like for gay families at HFP. While we could talk about our history of welcoming all families and point to our statement of diversity, we felt this question should be an invitation to look for additional ways to put our values into action.
Historically, the opposition to civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people has been waged with emotionally charged, false arguments claiming children will be harmed, recruited, or otherwise damaged if LGBTQ people are accepted without bias – if they are legally protected against discrimination in housing and employment, allowed to adopt children, or marry. This fear mongering, directed at parents who want to protect their children, has worked over the years, including here in Oregon. For HFP, a community of parents who support same-sex marriage and equal rights for all people and families, a vote for fairness not only helps keep our commitment to our values active, but also clearly rejects the manipulative and politically motivated strategy that has assumed that our love for our children can be used to justify hate against LGBTQ families. It is part of aligning ourselves with the struggles of all families to realize true security.
Part of our decision to publicly endorse marriage equality was motivated by our belief that any group of people who collectively put their values into action can make a difference. This is something we want to teach and model for our children, enabling them in turn to notice injustice and speak up for fairness. We believe this is critical to their growth as healthy, vibrant people who love themselves and others, despite any differences they may have. Choosing to endorse the marriage equality ballot measure is one way to communicate to our children and to our community that we have the right to speak up for our values. It is an opportunity to take advantage of a powerful and completely legal and nonpartisan means for any 501c3 nonprofit organization to challenge discrimination and advocate for fairness.
We support marriage equality and oppose discrimination of LGBTQ people, believing in the full humanity of all people, including LGBTQ children, teens, and adults. Our children currently live in a society which gives the message that only some families are real families. Children of gay and lesbian parents are often not affirmed and their experiences are marginalized. Children with gay and lesbian parents face bias, prejudice, and sometimes hate. Sadly, these children can internalize the message that something is wrong with their family, and in turn they may come to believe that something is wrong with them. We want all children to have a clear appreciation and respect for their own family and their place within it.
The same society bombards our children with rigid rules on how to be a girl or boy – what to wear, what to play with, what colors to like, how short their hair can be, and yes, who it is acceptable to hold hands with or fall in love with. We want our children to know that they can be themselves and love anyone, and their parents will still love them. Some of our children will be LGBTQ and many, if not most of them, would not conform to our society’s strictly gendered norms if they were truly free to be themselves. Sadly, recent national studies show that LGBTQ youth are harassed and bullied at alarming rates and are more likely to experience verbal abuse and physical violence. Consequently, they are more likely to miss school, drop out, do drugs, become homeless, and attempt suicide. As more inclusive laws and practices affirming all gender and sexual identities come into place, children of gay and lesbian parents and LGBTQ youth will feel safer.
We can do better for our young people. We can affirm all of whom our children are, and model for our children — lesbian, gay, bi, trans, AND straight — that speaking up for fairness of all people matters to us.