my missteps

December 6, 2012

History happened at 12:01am in the State of Washington.  Not only did same-sex couples line up to get their legal marriage licenses all over the state BUT Washington State marked a wave of change in the fight for equality.  Washington along with Maine and Maryland broke the long running streak of 32 voter losses over the years when marriage equality was a ballot measure.  Minnesota also defeated an attempt to change their state constitution to define marriage between one man and one woman. National polls are also turning in the favor of marriage equality with percentages running just over 50% of the population who support marriage equality.  However, as my community celebrates these historic moments, there is still so much to do both Nationally and Internationally.

I have tried for weeks to think of what to say about this event and trying to update my blog, which as been silent for too long.  And I find myself incredibly stuck because of my personal loss as well as what also needs to be accomplished.  We still need to have ENDA (Employment Non Discrimination Act) to a pass congress.  Then there is DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) defining marriage between one man and one woman.  LGBT individuals still face housing discrimination in way too many states and jurisdictions.

Do not get me wrong – my heart is overjoyed as I see all the pictures of couples getting legal marriage licenses in Washington last night and from here on out.  I feel some amount of guilt because I didn’t fight hard for equality and sooner in my life.  Lisa and I had our Holy Union back in 1991.  We committed ourselves to one another in front of family, friends and God.  We took our vows as seriously as any committed legally married couple.  Maybe that was my mistake?  Lisa and I worked in jobs were we could be “out” beginning in 1994 and when she left her State Social Work job to stay home and raise our foster/adoptive kids we only had to pay one year of health benefits separately for her because WA state allowed for Domestic Partners to receive life/death/disability and health insurance as long as we signed a paper and provided our Holy Union certificate.  So since 1998, we felt “equal” to our straight friends and co-workers.  How could I be so damn naive?

Very early on in 1988 and 1989 when we went to buy a car together we drove up and down car row in Tacoma and dealer after dealer said they would not sell us a car “together” until we met Preston Glaude at South Tacoma Honda.  It was about our 8th dealership in two days and before we even got to the application – we both were blunt and said will you sell a car to two woman, both of us on the title?  I said I don’t even want to look, get our hopes up maybe even do a test drive and then get to the application and be told sorry only one or the other can be on the title.  Preston looked at us like we were aliens and said  ”why wouldn’t I sell you a car?” So since 1988 we have bought all our new and used cars at STH from Preston.  It never occurred to me until recently, that I let opportunities for bigger change slip through my hands.

Foster Parenting was a bit nerve-wracking also but only because we were only 22 and 23 when we applied for our license and what the heck did we know about raising kids.  We were more worried that the child’s room was suitable in our rental house than we would be turned down because we were gay.  Adoption was our next step and we made a calculated decision on two fronts to guarantee we could start a family – one we wanted a child with disabilities which we felt capable of handling and second a child who was considered hard to place.  We already knew a gay couple in Tacoma who adopted from WA state and besides I worked for the agency that did adoptions.  We literally picked Michael from a book of hundreds of kids just waiting for a forever family.  Once we adopted Michael and “proved” ourselves as very capable parents – well 3 more kids came without hesitation and truthfully we could have just as easily wound up with 6 kids and 4, being gay was not an obstacle in the adoption process.  Again, I feel   as if I did a huge misstep with my community – this was back in 1996 to 1999, why didn’t we ever think to go and apply for a marriage license and push the issue socially.  I have no good answer and definitely feel I let our community down as I look back.

So here it is 16 years AFTER our first adoption and we have marriage equality in WA state.  I wonder if all my missed opportunities played into my decision to speak up when Lisa died.  As I try continually process my decision to go public – my guess is that I am trying very hard to make up for all the times Lisa and I could have stood up for our community.  We lived in such a bubble – besides being denied to buy a car together 24 years ago, we didn’t face direct discrimination for our relationship.  Our school district understood that we were mom and mom and when it came to Father’s day – to ask the kids which Uncle or Grandpa they were make a gift or card for.  Especially once David and Katie went to Waldorf and only had 12-14 kids in their class and they knew other kids with two moms it was an issue lost again because of who we surrounded ourselves with.  Both our families readily accepted our kids as their nieces, nephews and grandkids.

I admire anyone who is “before their time” on social justice issues.  I truly hope that the momentum for equality continues and the waves of change ripple out to all communities until everyone enjoys true freedom and equality for who they are as a person and that is all.  Happy Marriage Equality Day Washington State!

5 thoughts on “my missteps

  1. You didn’t let us down at all, and you shouldn’t feel guilty. Each of us takes our own path to activism and our own way within it. Yes, one can make the “First they came for the…” argument, but one can also drive oneself crazy thinking of all the many things one could have done. I would venture to say that every activist has a point in time when they realized they needed to take action, and that point is not the same for everyone. You stepped up when it was your moment, even in the midst of personal tragedy, and you made (and continue to make) a tremendous difference in many lives. Thank you.

  2. Pingback: Janice Langbehn Reflects on Washington Marriages, Her Own Activism – Mombian

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