Keep Your Laws Off My Family

As Proposition 8 in California threatens same sex marriage rights, Etheridge looks back on her own struggle to adopt her children with her now wife Tammy.

Melissa and Tammy Etheridge are separating, seven years after exchanging vows, a rep announced Thursday. In October 2008, just before California’s passage of the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8, Melissa wrote this piece on her emotional wedding to Tammy and her own struggle to adopt her children.

When my official sample ballot for the November 4th general election arrived I was in the kitchen, where my eldest son was practicing tricks on his yo-yo. As I thumbed through the pamphlet I turned to page 5, state measures. There it was, right between prop 7: The Renewable Energy Generation Initiative Statute, and prop 9:The Criminal Justice System Victims’ Rights Parole Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute:

Proposition 8: Eliminates Right of Same-Sex couples To Marry.

Let me stand before my creator and take any consequences there might be to living my life in truth and balance with my spirit.

I called my son over. I said “Read this, tell me what you think”. He, being 9 years old and very proud of his reading skills, read “Changes California Constitution to eliminate right of same sex couples to marry.” He looked at me, very matter-of-factly and said, “Wow, that’s lame.”

A rush of memories came over me. What a long strange trip it has been.

I remembered being a new mom in 1997. I followed the long trail of red tape to find a way to adopt my children so they could be covered by health insurance, or so I could see them in the hospital in case of some emergency, along with dozens of other reasons. I was fortunate enough to have the financial resources to find a lawyer that would help me through the heart breaking adoption system. The social worker would come to my house, numerous times, evaluate me, have me fill out all of the forms and then regretfully deny me my right to adopt my children because California law prohibited social workers from adoption approval of same sex couples. Then my lawyer would take my case to a judge that would read the social worker’s words “regretfully deny” and then the judge would say, “overruled, “allowing me to adopt my children within the legal system. I give thanks to these great people who truly believe in equal rights and risked so much for so many families.

There were the dark times, when proposition 22 was put on the ballot in 2000. It was a strange act, more like a true or false question: ”Marriage in the state of California is defined as being between a man and a woman.” Okay…? It passed.

Then I remembered my own wedding in 2003. I had found my true love, Tammy. It was a magical ceremony that started with my children walking with me down the aisle to meet my bride as the two aisles merged into one. I wanted to stand in front of my community of family and friends and declare my promise to be committed to my partner, now my wife, through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, something that would be tested with my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment later that next year. The day before the wedding Grey Davis gave same sex couples domestic partnership rights, one of his last moments as governor and we proudly hung our certificates on our wall. They were limited rights, but doggone it, it was a beginning.

I will never forget the day earlier this year when the news came down the wire that the Supreme Court of CA. had declared same sex marriage legal. We told our children about it and all danced around the room in family glee. I have four children now, my 11-year-old daughter, my 9-year-old son and boy and girl twins, aged two. We knew the only way our rights could be taken away was through a ballot measure and a constitutional amendment revoking the rights of same sex couples.

And now here it is.

Prop 8 is a blatantly hateful, and fearful proposition that I believe the great citizens of California can see through. The proponents of it have run the most fearful of television ads telling the people that if this doesn’t pass they will have to teach about homos to small grade school children. I can’t seem to recall any relationships ever being taught in school and I can’t find anything about that in this proposition. Now, I know my preference of life mate freaks some people out. Maybe it is just their fear of sex or intimacy. I know that they hold up the bible and say that it’s wrong. Fine, let me stand before my creator and take any consequences there might be to living my life in truth and balance with my spirit.

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I believe in our democracy. I believe in our constitution. I believe we live in the greatest country in the world. I believe that we are as strong as our weakest link and if we deny any of our citizens the right to “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” then we deny it to all of us.

I will be waking up with my children on November 5th and I will be fixing them breakfast as I usually do. I look forward to telling them that prop 8 was defeated. I am sure my son will say, “Good, that was lame.”

Yes, lame indeed.

Melissa Etheridge is an Oscar- and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter.