McKinley’s Family Story

Leading up to the March 26-27 Supreme Court hearings on DOMA and Propositon 8, Family Equality will feature some of the young people and families who helped create the Children’s Voices amicus brief. McKinley BarbouRoske, age 14, is quoted in this brief, which describes LGBT families across the nation.

When McKinley BarbouRoske introduces her high school classmates to her two moms, she says the typical reaction is, “‘Hi McKinley’s moms!’ My friends all think my parents are awesome.” Considering, she adds, “I think a couple of them want to move in with us.”

And McKinley herself? She couldn’t agree more. “My parents are amazing. They love me, and I’m very comfortable with them.” McKinley and her sister Breanna, age 10, are both black belts, and take Tae Kwon Do classes together. They have also enjoyed taking classes with their parents, as a family. McKinley, who plays violin, describes in the Children’s Voices brief how her moms “have gone to every single one of my music concerts and my sister’s sport games without exception.”

A simple yet important tradition for the BarbouRoskes is making time to sit down for dinner together. McKinley reports they manage it “almost every night.” When McKinley reflects on her family, she says what matters the most is, “we’re always there for each other. We have good times, we have bad times, and we have insane times… But we stick up for each other.”

Even at a young age, McKinley has experienced a lack of representation for her family in school. Despite attending what her parents call “a fairly progressive Iowa high school,” she often has to confront assumptions about her family structure. McKinley describes the absence of families like hers from both textbooks and class discussions as “frustrating.” She concludes, however, that having two moms has helped her grow stronger as a person: “I’ve learned the importance of not giving up, of standing up for yourself and what you believe in.”

If McKinley were to give some advice to another young person with two moms or two dads, she would remind them to “be proud of who they are, and their family.” McKinley and her family were plaintiffs in the historic Varnum v. Brian case, which led to Iowa becoming the third US state to enact marriage equality in 2009. As she remembers the hard work her community and her family have done for marriage equality, McKinley hopes the rest of the country will soon treat families like hers equally. “It would mean a lot to me,” she says, if her parents had the same protections and benefits “wherever they went.” 

I asked McKinley what she would say to someone who opposed her parents having all the protections, benefits, and commitments of marriage. She immediately replied, “I’d tell them, come over and spend some time at our house. They’d see, we’re like any other family.”