Where are we now?

The holidays are behind us.  Danielle started her second quarter at EWU and is learning to adjust to the snow of Spokane.  David just returned from a school sponsored trip to DC watching the second inauguration of President Obama.  Katie is playing basketball and about to turn 16 and take her driving test (Yes, my 4th and final teen I taught to drive).  Michael is hoping to move in with a more able-bodied roommate so they can do outings together.  I am signed up to take the State Guardian Ad Litem program to expand on my volunteering CASA duties with Thurston County Superior Court.

I received an invitation from the White House, Office of Public Engagement to attend the inauguration of President Obama.  Unlike David who planned his trip to DC for over a year, I only received 9 days notice – apparently after an oversight it was assumed, as a Presidential Citizen Medal recipient, I already received my invitation.  Since I spent much of 2012, close to home and not engaged in public speaking, I didn’t want to ask for sponsorship from any of the LGBT groups.  However, once I posted on FB that I received an invitation – and my step-sister Teresa said “you better get your ass there” others jumped on the band wagon. Airline miles were donated, a “chip-in” account was started for expenses and best of all – Tom Sullivan, who since its inception on the Health Care Quality Index at HRC, offered up his sofa bed.  It seemed a hastily planned trip might be possible.  And then, GLAAD’s (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Charlie Wells called and generously offered two round-trip vouchers on Southwest Airlines a corporate sponsor of GLAAD.  I am blessed.  I asked Katie to come with me but she didn’t want to miss school or more importantly basketball.  So I asked Sarah Jane to come with me but she was just recovering from surgery and it didn’t seem like a wise idea.  So I asked my crazy bare-foot running friend Christine to come along.  I jokingly call Chris, “my straight ally who knows more gay people than me”.

Chris has never visited DC.  What an adventure we had.  Tom and his husband TJ were amazing hosts – feeding us great home cooked meals and driving us to Mt. Vernon and then to the Washington Mall.  The guys also made sure we had our metro cards all ready for the big day so we could get down to the Capitol.  We visited the Lincoln Memorial, and looked out at the mall were Martin Luther King Jr, gave his speech at the March on Washington 50 years ago.  Then hearing the President call for full equality for the country’s “gay brothers and sisters”.  It was a truly historic day with the Inaugural Address, the Poetry and the Benediction all call for full equality for all Americans.  It was electric to be among the crowd of 1 Million people there to witness history.

I am grateful that this trip to DC allowed me to finally see places I have missed because of only being in town 2 days at most and being caught up in meetings – I am not complaining, it was pleasant to experience DC in a different way this time.

Thank you to Tom, TJ, Chris and all the individual donors on the Chip-In account that help pay for food and expenses.  A huge thank you to Southwest Airlines and GLAAD for sponsoring my trip to DC and allowing Chris to come along to help me get physically get around with my MS.


2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

saying ‘goodbye’ to 2012

For over two years, Danielle was certain that the Mayan’s were right and the world was going to end on 12.21.12.  Now that it’s the 22nd, she breaths a sigh of relief and so do I – because I don’t have to present logical analysis against the illogical fear or a teenager.

We started out 2012 with a huge bang down in Pasadena for the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl (Oregon Ducks v Wisconsin).  Lisa’s portrait was placed on the float as an organ donor and I received the honor of riding on the “Donate Life Float” – with last year’s theme: “For one More Day”.  Very fitting.



Our springtime brought knew people into our lives – Fash and Susan the Director/Producer and Actress of the short film (31min) loosely based on our story.  It’s beautiful and wonderfully done.  Hopefully 2013 will see the feature film. Image

As David worked and worked at improving his golf game – he made it to Leagues and did outstanding.  He earned his Varsity Letter – and he never takes his Letterman coat off.  Then before we knew it – Danielle was graduating – with honors and with passing all the State required tests.Image



And in just five minutes, 15 years of worry, loss of sleep and nearly bribery was all washed away in those 5 minutes with Danielle receiving her honor cords, and her fresh Hawaiian Lei from above protecting her.  I had a lot of help in getting Dani to this momentous occasion and if I start to name some of you and leave others out – I’ll never hear the end of it – so you know who you really are.

I had great plan for the summer – take the kids to all the places we used to visit – the zoo, NW trek and on and on.  I hoped it would help all of us.  However, Danielle got her first job, David was referring soccer matches 2-4 a day on Saturday and Sunday while Katie played soccer and completed her Lifeguarding course.  So the summer slipped by me and I didn’t achieve nearly what I hoped.

As the summer wound down, David started his Junior Year, Katie her sophomore and decided to swim again for the Varsity team.  This year she made it all the way to one step below state. Image

Shortly after Katie’s swim season started, David began volunteering with YMCA K-1 outdoor soccer team as the assistant Coach.  And then of course there was driving to Spokane/Cheney to send Danielle off to college.


And here is Danielle with her Freshman class – she reports she is somewhere in the “W” of EWU.

Swimming ended with Katie adding more patches to her letterman jacket.  David referred 24 Youth Soccer Games as well as coaching the little ones from the YMCA.

We hope our end of year letter find you well in health and in life.  As I went through pictures there is one from our last family vacation in San Diego in 2006 that I have to share – because Lisa is never far from my thoughts.  Merry Christmas to all.


The Langbehn- Pond’s


My Family – complete.  How I am choosing to remember my life – for now

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!

The Dreaded “Holiday”

I know what you are thinking.  I am talking about Thanksgiving, since I can’t cook, or Christmas because of the memories.  Nope, I’m referring to the one with ghost, goblins and carved pumpkins.

You are saying to yourself – what a “kill joy”.  Yep I am.  I remember my first halloween vividly when Mrs. Sprague, my childhood friend Jill’s mom, sewed me the greatest witches cape and made a pointed hat.  I was in Kindergarten.  I love putting on the cape.  It hung carefully in my mom’s closet that ran the full length of a wall in her room.  It was a closet where I could walk in one side and creep along the slanted roof to the other door and come out the other side of the closet.  Great for hide and seek…. but I digress.

I don’t remember much about the first time I went treat or treating, my brother Gary, 7 years my senior was in charge of taking me.  The candy was great and all, I think but don’t really remember – what I do remember was the witches costume.

So what is there to hate about Halloween?  After Kindergarten, the celebration went down hill rapidly… In first grade, I again looked forward to what I would “be” for Halloween.  Kimmi and Kati from across the street were planning their costumes and as I queried my mom, I don’t remember a response.  What I do know is that the witches costume, hat and all, waited in her closet.  It would have been “ok” I suppose except that I grew enough that the cape that once hit me around my rear end now was up near my waste when I put it on.  But it a witch was all I had and so I obediently put on the costume.  Back in the 70’s kids wore their costumes to school and it was clear that my witch cape was much too small and I received stares from classmates.  I don’t even remember going door to door.  Gary may have taken me, my other brother and sisters were out of the house (9-12 years older), so taking “Janny” fell on Gary’s shoulders.

Now as second grade approached and the witch’s cape still hung in my mother’s closet, I already knew the answer to what I would be “if” I chose to go trick or treating and dressing up for school.  I feigned to my teacher that “I forgot” my costume.  So my disdain for Halloween began and only worsened from that year on.  As Kimmi and Kati went up and down the block with Donnely (and older boy from our neighborhood) with pillowcases full of candy, I sat at home.

In 4th grade, I received an invitation to a Halloween party.  I showed Gary who by now was a Sophomore in High School and very creative.  He decided he would dress me as a bum.  He had me put on one of his flannel shirts and stuffed it with a pillow.  He then used some twine as a belt and had me roll up my pants to make them look like I was “waiting for a flood” as Gary like to call it.  Then for added effect, Gary put Vaseline on face and took coffee grounds and gave me a 5 o’clock shadow.  I looked amazing for this party!  Gary took the invitation and drove me to the house where the party was happening.

I ran the doorbell in anticipation of finally not being in a costume way too small and seen by everyone at Jefferson Elementary.  The door opened and the mom said “well hello”.  I said proudly, “I’m here for the Halloween Party”.  A puzzled look came over her face and she said “honey, it’s next Saturday, I’m sorry”.   I apologized profusely and as she shut the door I walked back to Gary waiting in our blue Chevy.  As I opened the door he asked “what’s wrong”?

Flatly I said, “the party is next weekend”.  I swore off Halloween in 1977.

After the debacle of dressing up on the wrong day, when I did go with Kimmi and Kati – without the escort of Gary, my step father would inspect my candy for what I thought was razor blades.  In fact, my step-father took 3/4 of the candy and said that the rest was his and was throwing it out because I “didn’t need it”.  It was clear to me there was really no point in going door to door to only receive a few tootsie rolls.  Call me greedy but when you only go to about 15 homes – 25% of your candy didn’t amount to what everyone else treated as an early Christmas gift.

With my own children, Lisa was the Halloween fanatic and tradition make.  Sure I did the prep work.  I bought the costumes for fear my kids would be recognized in a costume from a prior year or God forbid it was too small.  I bought enough candy to hand out to an army of children.  We also went to the pumpkin farm and corn maze rain or shine – always with my niece and nephew – Justine and Alex (Gary’s children).   I even carved pumpkins with amazing skill.  Beyond that, while Lisa was alive, that was the extent of my involvment.  Lisa always brought the kids to the Governor’s mansion to wait in the 2 hr line to see how the Locke’s or Gregoire’s were decked out.  I did try the first Halloween after Lisa’s passing but after waiting for 45 minutes I couldn’t stand any longer because of my MS.

Halloween is just another day on the calendar.  I don’t even buy candy, make sure the porch lights are out and put up a note that “no one is home”.  I am a “kill joy” when it comes to Halloween and now you all know why.




The shooting at Family Research Council

The shooting yesterday at the Family Research Council is disgusting on every level. Violence is never a way to deal with discourse. What hit me as I read the immediate response from 25 LGBT groups condemning the shooting is when was the last time FRC or NOM and the rest sent an open letter condemning the beating or shooting of gays? What came to mind is the lesbian couple in Texas last month…. The condemnation from so many LGBT groups so quickly even BEFORE anything concrete is known about the shooter’s intentions leaves me wondering when the same will happen when more of my brothers and sisters are targeted for violence on a daily basis?

Quiet News



By PJ Maytag –

Filmmaker Lauren Fash and Producer/Actress/Writer Susan Graham heeded a call. No, not my phone call, but rather, one from a higher source on the evolutionary plane. It led to their collaboration on the powerful new short, Quiet, which Lauren directed and Susan produced/wrote, and starred in, opposite Jaclyn Betham. I’d rather not hedge your expectations by saddling it with expository spoilers – let’s just let it suffice to say this moving short explores a love story, twists of fate, and the meaning of family in a way that’ll resonate for anyone who’s ever been in love. I had the opportunity to chat with the ladies over the phone last week in preparation of it being shown at this year’s ShortFest.

TBL: Right before the credits roll, the film is dedicated to the memory of Lisa Pond. Who was she, and how did she inspire this film?

Lauren Fash: When we were coming up with the idea for Quiet we came across a story about a woman named Janice Langbehn, and she was actually denied the right to say goodbye to her partner, Lisa Pond, in the hospital in Miami in 2007. We read about the incident – basically they were on vacation with their small children and it was their 15-year anniversary. They were in Miami getting ready to leave on a cruise and Lisa collapsed. She was taken to the hospital in Miami.  When Janice went there, a social worker walked up to her and said, ‘You’re in an antigay city and you don’t have any rights here and if you don’t show me this, this and this, you’re not going to see her.’


LF: Yeah, So Janice said, ‘I do have those legal documents.’ She had the power or attorney and a living will; they had done everything because Janice was sick with MS. They had already gone through all these extremes that most straight couples don’t go through – you don’t think about that stuff until later in life. So they refused to let her see her. They refused to let her say goodbye. They only told her she was dying. They wouldn’t let the children in to see her or say goodbye to their mother. We read this article and we were horrified by it.

Janice actually got in touch with us right before we started filming and I talked to her for about 1½ hours. She told me the entire story. She’s the one who told me the social worker said it was an ‘antigay state.’ I tried to put it in the movie but I just couldn’t. It was so heavy-handed I wasn’t sure anybody would believe it.

So this project has morphed into much more. I see on IMDB that you are doing an actual documentary about their story now, correct?

LF: Right. So we’ve been in touch with Janice for over the past year and half. When the film was completed we flew to Washington to show her the film at her house, and we met her for the first time. We got a crew together to film Janice’s reaction to the film. I was so moved by just talking to her over the phone, and by her story and the way she told it and I just felt we needed to share it with people. We literally had her look into the camera and tell her story and we’ve made it into a short documentary.

We’re making a feature version of Quiet, as well.

OK, I was going to ask, because it seems like so many Shorts these days are shopping them to make a feature.

LF: A lot of filmmakers do this, it’s kind of like insurance. It’s like, ‘Hey, this is what I can do, this is my potential and the potential of the story.’ And that’s what we did with Quiet. As our relationship with Janice evolved and the project evolved, we realized the most powerful thing in Quiet was Janice herself. Quiet [the film at ShortFest] was inspired by her story, so it was fictional characters.

In the feature we’ve decided to tell her story and literally cast her and Lisa and their children as well. I mean these women were saints, you know? I think anyone watching this movie cannot argue the fact that what happened to them was wrong and this needs to change. It’s wrong in our country and it’s time to make it right.

Susan, how did you get involved in this?

Susan Graham: I worked on a couple of things [with Lauren] before and I think Lauren mentioned the article about Lisa. I always knew that I wanted to do a short film about patient medical rights in some way, because I thought it was powerful. I’m familiar with medicine in general coming from a medical family and I thought her story was so heartbreaking. At the time, I didn’t want to stick to it too exact because – our different artistic rights, and we were trying to do something a little different with this short film. But through time and getting to know Janice we want to do that for the feature.

And, in looking to create the short film I just wanted to have the best story teller I could, so I got with Lauren and we teamed up and co-wrote the short and co-produced it and she directed it and I’m in it.

In Quiet, the feature length film, you said it is actually going to be Janice’s story?

LF: Yes. It’ll basically be, the film will be about their relationship and also showcase that event so people can see who this happened to. [They were] not just your everyday couple. They literally raised 25 foster children – most of whom were either disabled or HIV positive. They legally adopted four children. Their first son suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. They are just lovely, caring people and for this to happen to them, of all people, it’s just heartbreaking!

Do you think with the feature film you are looking for a broader audience? I think there are a lot of people in the heterosexual community that don’t even realize these civil rights are being denied.

LF: This is going to educate people on a subject that a lot of people know nothing about. You know, there’s this argument going on around the country about gay marriage and well, “it’s a sacred act” and all that. At the heart of it, it’s a human right, and this film showcases the importance of having the same rights so everyone is protected.

You are bringing up the fact that we, as a society, have to look at a broader definition of “family.” How do you think this film is going to start that dialog?

SG: I think that’s a great question, we haven’t been asked that. One of things we focused on in the short film is we really wanted to show how for a lot of young people, (but for especially the homosexual community), our friends, our family, our families have not accepted them. But I think Janice and Lisa created a family in a nontraditional way – but it didn’t make them any less their kids, or their mothers.

I think it’s a really beautiful, wonderful and important story that everyone can identify with. We all relate to the themes of love and loss. And that’s why this film isn’t just for the LGBT community. It’s for people who may have not thought about this issue, in that way. A personal connection with something that changes your mind. And for Janice and Lisa there’s no way to get around the fact that there was a huge, huge injustice.

If You Go –

Quiet is part of the “Love, Lust and Other L Words” Program, Sunday , June 24th at 3 pm, at Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs.

I have Lisa to thank


100 Women We Love

June 15, 2012
by Shannon Leigh O’Neil with destiny DeJesus
Bookmark and Share
photo by Dmitrios Kambouris
Janice Langbehn
On October 12, 1991, Janice Langbehn and Lisa Marie Pond married and created a loving family dedicated to helping abused and neglected children. In 1992, they became the first openly gay foster parents in the country—and over the years, Langbehn and Pond (who shared a background in psychology and social work) raised 25 children and formally adopted four with special needs. As a 15th anniversary gift, Langbehn surprised Pond and the kids with a gay family cruise in February 2007—but before they left port, Pond suffered a brain aneurysm. The emergency room in Florida barred Langbehn from her partner’s room despite legal documents giving her the power of attorney. Pond passed away, tragically, alone. Though grieving, Langbehn spoke out against the injustice, prompting President Obama to issue a Memorandum allowing same-sex couples the same hospital visitation rights as other families. “Losing Lisa just five years ago was a defining moment in my life; being denied access to hold her hand during her final eight hours of life will haunt me forever,” Langbehn says. “With the loss of Lisa so suddenly and unexpectedly, it compelled me to speak up and make a difference.” In 2011 Obama awarded Langbehn the nation’s second-highest civilian distinction, the Presidential Citizens Medal, an honor that shares her mantel with awards from GLAAD, HRC, Lambda Legal and others. “I don’t believe, for a person to make difference, it needs to come from such a major life event,” she says. “All it takes is a passion and a desire to change something. One voice can make an impact.”

What Straight Allies Need to Understand About Gay Marriage and States’ Rights – The Atlantic

What Straight Allies Need to Understand About Gay Marriage and States’ Rights – The Atlantic.

The fight for gay marriage rights is not like the fight against anti-miscegenation laws. It’s more like the fight for divorce law liberalization, and that’s why it needs to stay a state issue.

I’m getting cranky about how many people have been criticizing President Obama’s breakthrough position on marriage equality without knowing what they are talking about.

He’s for it, Obama told Robin Roberts, as we’ve all heard by now: same-sex couples should be able to get married just like our heterosexual siblings. When the president of the United States said that my marriage should be treated as the equal of his own, I was moved far beyond what I might have expected. The announcement had tremendous cultural power. And he hit precisely the right political notes in his statement, too, talking about his emotional shift on the issue, offering others the same path.

But too many people whose marriages are not up for debate have been griping that his announcement was too little, too late. He’s endorsing federalism, argued Adam Serwer in Mother Jones. He’s championing state’s rights, complained left-of-center blogger Digby: “This is the essence of retrograde, reactionary politics and there’s a long history of these ‘sovereign’ states exercising their ‘rights’ to deny minorities their freedom.” Even House Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn was upset with the president’s approach. “I depart from the president on the state-by-state approach. If you consider this to be a civil right, and I do, I don’t think civil rights ought to be left up to a state-by-state approach,” he said Monday.

Such critics of Obama are wrong. They are wrong about what the administration has done and said, wrong on the politics of gay marriage, and — most important — they are wrong on the law.

To start with, here’s what Obama actually said. He talked about his Justice Department’s refusal to defend DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, against legal challenges, taking the position that it is unconstitutional. His administration was “no longer defending the Defense Against Marriage Act, which tried to federalize what is historically been state law,” Obama said in announcing his support for same-sex marriage on ABC News last week.

He went on to explain that he feared (accurately, in my view) that by taking a stand in favor of marriage equality he could actually set the cause back: “I have to tell you that part of my hesitation on this has also been I didn’t want to nationalize the issue. There’s a tendency when I weigh in to think suddenly it becomes political and it becomes polarized.”

And he accurately described the reality of American legal approaches toward same-sex couples — and reaffirmed that that’s precisely how marriage law works in this country:

And what you’re seeing is, I think, states working through this issue — in fits and starts, all across the country. Different communities are arriving at different conclusions, at different times. And I think that’s a healthy process and a healthy debate. And I continue to believe that this is an issue that is gonna be worked out at the local level, because historically, this has not been a federal issue, what’s recognized as a marriage.
Does that mean he’s supporting “states’ rights”? No, it does not. He’s taking a position that will help my Massachusetts marriage actually end up being recognized in every state in the country sooner rather than later.
Let me explain.

States have always written their own marriage laws — and if they didn’t, if we had national marriage laws, I would not be married right now, as I have explained in great detail over at The American Prospect. I’m married in my state of Massachusetts only because the states are the laboratory of marital change.

Here’s the technical caveat: the question of interstate recognition of another state’s marriage is a federal question, mostly. And there, Obama is in favor of knocking down the federal DOMA, which as he noted was a federal incursion into state territory. And that’s exactly what we need now: for the federal government to repeal its unprecedented incursion into marriage law — DOMA, which defines marriage for federal purposes as between one man and one woman — and to recognize all marriages that have already been made by the states.

What would de-federalizing marriage law do? It will make it possible for same-sex marrieds to be treated not just as married in their home states, but also in the United States. That’s what would happen if DOMA is either repealed by Congress — and Obama openly supports the Respect for Marriage Act, which would do just that — or is knocked down by the federal courts, as a number of lawsuits are seeking — and, again, which the Obama Justice Department also actively supports. Let us be 100 percent clear on this point: The administration is refusing to defend DOMA in court, and is filing briefs supporting the same-sex couples’ stands. When marriage law is de-federalized, returned to the states, then mixed-nationality couples will be free to marry in the six (and expanding) states that now marry same-sex couples — and the federal government will have to recognize that marriage for the purpose of the foreign-born partner’s immigration status.

Will other states have to recognize those marriages as well? That’s the open question: the lawyers tell me that full faith and credit doesn’t necessarily apply if another jurisdiction’s marriage law violates that state’s public policy. Would it be valid for a couple living in Texas to go to Connecticut or Iowa specifically to evade their home state’s marriage laws? Obama hasn’t weighed in on that yet. And thank God — if supporters of marriage equality want to win, it’s better to keep that question from being called up for public debate just yet, and better to keep Obama out of polarizing the debate. But given the administration’s record, my guess is that an Obama Department of Homeland Security and an Obama Justice Department would be on the right side of that legal question. It’s equally clear that a Romney administration would not. When Romney was my state’s governor, he put his administration to work unearthing and enforcing a 1913 law that refused Massachusetts marriage licenses to anyone from states where that particular marriage would not have been performed — a law written to prevent out-of-state mixed-race couples from marrying in Massachusetts if they couldn’t marry back home.

And yet anti-miscegenation laws are not a good parallel with state laws and constitutional amendments, like North Carolina’s, which ban recognition of same-sex marriages.

Anti-miscegenation laws were closer to anti-sodomy laws: they actually criminalized marriage between races. The famous case that brought down interracial marriage bans, Loving v. Virginia, was brought by Mildred and Richard Loving after they were arrested in their own bedroom, charged, prosecuted, and sentenced to a year in prison unless they left the state. If my aunt and uncle — an interracial couple — had visited Virginia in 1958, they could have been arrested and jailed for their marriage. If I visit Virginia or Florida today, no one will arrest me for being married to my wife, Michelle. No state has yet made it illegal for me to be married to another woman. The state just doesn’t have to treat me as married.

That refusal of recognition matters mainly at life’s extremes — in times of disease, disaster, divorce, or death — and when children, taxes, and public accomodations are involved. That refusal seared Janice Langbehn in 2009 when her wife sickened with an aneurysm on a cruise near Florida: the hospital refused to recognize their relationship, and kept Langbehn and their children from visiting her spouse and their mother as she died. Of course these stories are horrific. But they’re not the same as being thrown in jail for being married. Obama’s administration jumped in and wrote hospital visitation regulations requiring any hospital that takes Medicare or Medicaid — which means, effectively, all American hospitals — to offer equal visitation rights to all families. And that is precisely the right approach for a polarizing administration to take: a tightly targeted regulation that does not peep above the radar for the vast majority of people, and which avoids any mention of the M-word. No one with a heart wants someone to die without her beloved holding her hand. Popping the marriage question can come later after stories like that soften hearts. And we hear far fewer stories like that than we used to; those I do hear are reported not just subculturally, among LGBT folks, but nationally, like the Langbehn/Pond case.

There’s another reason the bans on interracial marriage are a poor parallel with same-sex marriage: same-sex marriage is a new idea, while interracial marriage was possible until states banned it as part of a comprehensive post-Civil War regime to impose slave-like status on blacks in every way but outright ownership. That post-Reconstruction moral panic — the attempt to enforce an ideology that black and white and yellow and brown were all separate species — was long, but historically temporary.

Same-sex marriage, on the other hand, hasn’t been tried before. It may seem obviously just to many of us today, but that’s only because the West’s marriage ideology has been transformed by capitalism and feminism, from an older ideology of a gendered distribution of labor to a newer ideology of an equal partnership based on affection. Same-sex couples fit in today’s definition — but getting acceptance for that requires changing hearts and minds, bit by bit, one by one. That can’t be accomplished by presidential fiat in a sharply divided country.

If interracial marriage bans aren’t a good parallel with the same-sex marriage debate, what is? Divorce laws. Indiana passed the first radical no-fault divorce law in 1850, which became a national scandal until it tightened its residence requirements. Other then-Western states quickly stepped up for the divorce trade, including Illinois, Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oklahome, Wyoming, and finally the state most clearly ensconced in cultural memory as a haven for would-be divorcees, Nevada. The question of whether states had to recognize each others’ divorces reached the Supreme Court — repeatedly.

Over and over, for more than 100 years, the Supreme Court returned 5-4 verdicts that sometimes favored the out-of-state divorce — and sometimes did not. By 1948, one Supreme Court Justice was so frustrated at once again facing the divorce question that he wrote, “If there is one thing that the people are entitled to expect from their lawmakers, it is rules of law that will enable individuals to tell whether they are married, and if so, to whom.”

But the question didn’t roil just the courts. No-fault divorce with remarriage rights divided the Protestant denominations for years: wasn’t this polygamy, and wouldn’t it lead quickly to legal incest and bestiality? (The Catholic church was against the divorce law changes; the Jews were largely for; only the Protestants were mixed.)

Is there a fundamental right to divorce and remarry? Not according to the definition of marriage that the Christian churches had promoted for centuries. But social attitudes changed, and so did the laws, eventually — even in the states of New York and South Carolina, the two notorious laggards — albeit with much pain for everyone involved.

State DOMAs and SuperDOMAs are not the equivalent of sodomy or anti-miscegenation laws. I don’t expect to be jailed anywhere. Do I have a fundamental right to be married to someone of my sex just because I love her? I think that’s pretty complicated. Transforming that from a new idea to a legal right will come only by changing individual hearts and minds. Given the obvious trend in rapidly shifting public opinion, I believe that all of the U.S. will recognize my marriage within ten years. But marriage equality advocates are only going to win if people keep changing their minds, learning from situations like the Langbehn/Pond family, not if there’s some federal fiat or grand bully pulpit declaration that makes Obama-haters start grinding their teeth and fighting back.

In my lifetime, nongay liberals’ great big sweeping gestures on behalf of LGBT rights have repeatedly backfired. President Bill Clinton raced out like a bull in a china shop on opening military service to lesbians and gay men, although activists closest to the issue could have told him it was a political loser that would cost gay folks, as well as the entire Democratic Party. As a result we got nearly two decades of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which was worse than the previous executive order. Then Clinton had nowhere to stand when the marriage issue came up and the U.S. ended up with DOMA, the federal law against recognizing my marriage. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom thought equality was a good and principled idea and started marrying same-sex couples without checking in with LGBT advocates, calling the question before the ground forces were ready. Those weddings were beautiful. But as a result, in 2004 state DOMAs began to be pushed all across the country, and the whole California LGBT advocacy infrastructure has had to spend the last eight years in court and fighting still more ballot questions.

I’m not saying that straight liberal political leaders should have been checking in with some grand LGBT central council; LGBT activists have all along been furiously disagreeing with each other on the marriage goal, and on strategy and tactics. No one can control mass movements like this one. But I am saying that Obama is going at precisely the right pace: first action, then language. He keeps real progress well below the radar. First he refuses to defend DOMA in court, and has his Justice Department argue in favor of strict scrutiny on sexual orientation. Who pays attention to legal fine points like that? Wonks and nerds. Nobody else. He did the same with hospital visitation regulations. Who reads HHS regulations? I’d rather have steady, small-bore progress than big soaring rhetoric that roils up our opposition.

Obama’s announcement changes the culture at just the right incremental pace. Later on, once more states have repealed their anti-marriage equality laws, it might be time to take the question of “fundamental marriage rights” to the Supreme Court or the nation’s top executive. The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t decide Loving v. Virginia until 1967, 19 years after California’s Supreme Court first knocked down its anti-miscegenation law, at a time when only 17 states still had anti-miscegenation laws left on the books — and when the South’s segregation ideology had been thoroughly and publicly discredited, and the U.S. Civil Rights Act had been passed.

Right now, 30 states have statutory or constitutional bans on recognizing same-sex marriages. We still don’t have ENDA, and DOMA is still on the books. Until some of those facts change — which is happening quickly — making progress state-by-state sounds just right to me.