Voices of Children

This post was first published here, on the Huffington Post Blog.

In connection with the DOMA and Proposition 8 cases, Family Equality Council and our coalition partners have filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court that reflects the voices of children.

Our purpose in filing this amicus brief is to amplify the words of children with LGBT parents, because these children are in a unique position to speak to two questions: 1) how marriage equality will benefit their families, and 2) how their parents’ exclusion from federal recognition causes very real harm.

While considering the DOMA and Proposition 8 cases later this month, the Supreme Court justices must consider the truths that these young Americans have to articulate. The first, most important one is that our families are real, and we are thriving. As the Children’s Voices brief puts it, “Families with same-sex parents are as ‘traditional’ as any other, sharing the joys, values, and concerns that countless parents experience.”

My family and I experience those same fundamental truths every day. My partner Todd and I have two daughters, ages 7 and 8. We juggle schedules filled with ballet classes, violin lessons, Girl Scout meetings and soccer practice. While we want them to enjoy their activities, we try to leave time to share the small but important things together, like hugs and help with homework, bedtime and books. Like other LGBT parents, we want our children to have the same opportunities and benefits in life as all children and not feel the sting of discrimination because of their family structure 

Brian Arsenault, featured in the Children’s Voices brief, echoes this thought.

My parents- my two moms- go to work every day, like other parents. They cook dinner and mow the yard. They take care of the house. Volunteer in the community. Pay their bills. Do the thousands of little things that keep a household running. And they love me, unconditionally. But it didn’t take me long to realize that my mom and her partner didn’t have the same rights as other people. They are treated differently by the law and can’t do many of the things that other families take for granted.

While anti-equality groups have a great deal to say about “nontraditional” families raising children, the children in question know that our families are traditional in every way that matters. We love each other as a family.

The Children’s Voices brief sums it up by saying, “[T]heir family relationships are ‘traditional’ family relationships, no different than anybody else’s and no less deserving of the marital protections afforded to families headed by opposite-sex couples.” Unfortunately, our families are currently excluded from institutional support and protections in a way that perpetuates prejudice and inequality.

As the Children’s Voices brief describes:

The major challenge most same-sex-parented families must surmount is nothing inherent in their family structure, but rather the societal and governmental disapproval that both Proposition 8 and DOMA represent and perpetuate. When children of same-sex couples have married parents, DOMA singles out their families for different treatment from all other married families.

The children raised by LGBT parents understand the effects of federal-level inequality very well.

Though my own children are too young to understand the effect of DOMA on our lives, they do know on some level that laws treat our family differently. Overhearing a conversation with our accountant, my daughter gave me a quizzical look after hearing me explain,”Since we’re not married, we file separately, and I always claim the children.” To the ears of a 7-year-old, it sounded to her as if I was claiming or accepting her as my child, but my partner Todd was not.

My hope is that one day, regardless of their family formation, all children in our country will know that their families are valued, respected and protected. Until the laws of this land change or are struck down, Proposition 8 and DOMA only serve to undermine that goal.

I take comfort in knowing that regardless of the law, my children and the children of other LGBT parents know that they have the love and support that they need from their family.