My day started as it often does — hitting snooze a few too many times, feeding the dogs, packing lunch for my 4-year-old son, Lucas, dropping him off at school before putting in my time at the office. Yet, here I sit on the evening of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage searching for the right word to describe the turn of events in an otherwise typical day.
Our evening activities likely were similar to many families — dinner together, a little playtime, watching a movie while snuggled on the couch. My son, without any prompting, chose one of his favorites, “Despicable Me.” What a fitting descriptor for how I feel about the court’s decision. How despicable that any loving family should feel forced to choose between living in fear and uncertainty, and living free from unjust laws that continue to cast them in the role of second-class citizen.
Until early this year, I was a lifelong resident of the Great Lakes State. I met my husband in Michigan, where we lived together near my immediate and extended family and close friends for more than a decade. We were homeowners, gainfully employed and civically engaged. When we expanded our family, we both were present in the delivery room as we welcomed our son into the world in Michigan. Yet, despite these similarities to thousands of other committed Michigan couples, the state considered us nothing more than roommates and only recognized one of us as our son’s legal parent. The other was relegated to the role of “other adult in household.”
My husband Diego and I, regrettably, felt forced to relocate to a more progressive state in order to protect ourselves and our son. We now reside in Minnesota, but Michigan still feels like home. I don't regret our decision to leave for more progressive pastures, but we are still homesick and heartsick at the news coming out of the Sixth Circuit.
The road to marriage equality for same-sex couples is often compared to the path blazed by interracial couples nearly 50 years ago. Once upon a time, Michigan was among progressive states in its early repeal of anti-miscegenation laws prohibiting mixed-race marriage. Whereas, even after the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v Virginia made such laws unenforceable, a handful of states such as Alabama remained on the wrong side of history.
Alabama retained a provision in its state constitution prohibiting mixed-race marriage until as recently as the year 2000. How backward that now seems, and Alabama’s image continues to pay the price.
Regrettably, Michigan now joins Alabama on the wrong side of history in the inevitably march toward marriage equality for same-sex couples. While touting itself as America’s Comeback State, once-progressive Michigan is now among the handful of America’s Backward States historically steeped in bigotry and hatred. What a despicable shame. What a dark blemish that likely will linger for years to come.
I stand firm in my belief and hope that, like in the movie “Despicable Me,” there will be a happy ending for all families, including ones like mine. Committed couples and their children should be valued and respected no matter the gender of those who choose to share a lifetime together. We who imagine an inclusive future for all families must continue the fight for equality and inclusion no matter where we live. The sting of bigotry knows no borders.
I pray that someday soon Michigan’s moniker of “America’s Comeback State” will ring true for families like mine, and we can truly “come back” without the fear and uncertainty we now face. Until that day, we will commit our time and treasure to organizations like the Family Equality Council and Equality Michigan, whose dedicated team of advocates are at the forefront of changing hearts and minds and policy.
Until that day, my heart remains in Michigan while my family resides in Minnesota.