Marriage Equality, Through the Eyes of a 10-Year-Old

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With the Supreme Court hearing arguments in two cases related to same-sex marriage, much has been written – and said and thought – this week about marriage equality in the United States. No matter how these particular nine justices rule (and there is speculation that, unlike the Warren Court which in 1967 issued a sweeping ruling on the unconstitutionality of state bans on interracial marriage, this court might actually punt), I am convinced that it is only a matter of time before same-sex marriage is a recognized as a right in this country.

This week, I re-read Hockey Moms, a post I wrote last summer about my 10-year-old son and his discussions with his hockey team about marriage equality. It was a lesson to me at the time about the importance of engaging people in the conversation about same-sex marriage. In re-reading it, however, I am struck by how much forward movement there has been in just the past six months. Not only was the proposed amendment (which would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman in the Minnesota state constitution) that Simon was lobbying against defeated last November, but it was defeated handily. In fact, it went down in flames. Even my 98 year-old grandmother voted NO! In a huge reversal, this year there is a real chance that our Minnesota state legislature will pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. The number of states with same-sex marriage jumped on election day in November when three states – Maryland, Maine and Washington – legalized same-sex marriage through popular vote. Recently, it seems like politicians have been “coming out” in favor of marriage equality on a daily basis.

The momentum in favor of same-sex marriage appears to be increasingly rapidly and there are signs that the trend will not be reversed. I asked my 13-year-old what he thought about the recent ABC/Washington Post poll that found that 81% of Americans aged 18-29 supported legal same-sex marriage, he said, “Well ,that makes sense. Although I am disappointed in the 20%. At my school, there are only two kids who oppose same-sex marriage.” They didn’t poll Americans under the age of 18, but anecdotally at least, support for marriage equality may be even higher among his peer group.

My kids are part of a generation which, although it doesn’t have an official name yet, is already saying, “Of course same-sex marriage should be legal. Why was this even an issue?” They have grown up with favorite teachers, beloved camp counselors, trusted neighbors, friends and classmates who are openly LGBT. They go to school and church with kids from families with parents who are in same-sex relationships, some but not all legally sanctioned by state law. Men kissing men, men kissing women, women kissing women – my kids don’t care. Frankly, it is disgusting to them when ANY adults kiss!

I’m sharing an excerpt from Hockey Moms to illustrate my kids’ perspective on marriage equality, a peek into the future.

***

My 10-year-old son comes out of the ice arena, swaggering despite the heavy hockey bag that he carries like a giant backpack. His hockey stick and water bottle he wields before him like a rod and staff. I’m sitting on a picnic table in the sun and, yes, I am facebooking on my iPhone. His cheeks are flushed, his bright ginger hair is damp-dark with sweat. He has an announcement to make.

“I’ve got everyone but one kid on my team to be in favor of same-sex marriage.

AND two of the coaches.”

He beams at me. I can feel my jaw as it drops.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a terrible hockey mom. I hate almost everything about the sport. I’ve got two sons who play, so I did put a decent amount of effort into learning the basic rules and terminology. My biggest problem is that I grew up in the Deep South, so my natural impulse when winter strikes is to hibernate. The whole concept of driving (in the cold) to sit (in the cold) to watch a sport played (on ice, in the cold) boggles my mind.

Going inside to watch hockey on a cold winter day is one thing. Going inside to watch hockey on a beautiful summer day is completely inconceivable to me. But here in Minnesota, hockey is a year round sport. Serious players play AAA from March to September and, unlike the regular season, players are not required to play where they live. There are kids on my 10-year-old’s team from throughout the Twin Cities Metro and even some kids who travel here for the weekend practices and tournaments from as far away as Florida and Texas.

But my two sons are way, way into hockey. They LOVE this sport! I respect that, so I suck it up and wash their stinky gear and drive them to the rink.

Until last winter, I went into the locker room when I took my boys to hockey – even though I have been banned from years from tying their skates because I (quote, unquote) “don’t do it right.” When my oldest son moved up to PeeWees, however, there was an unfortunate incident. I burst into the locker room, my 6-year-old daughter (wearing a pink jacket and sparkle ballet flats) in tow, only to find a gaggle of 12 year-olds in their underwear listening to loud music and talking trash. “Mom!” my son hissed. “I’m good.”

Given my locker room banishment, I was completely floored to hear that the hockey team was having a discussion about same-sex marriage while putting on their pads and breezers. Here is the story, from the perspective of my 10 year old: “One kid brought it up. He said it was gross, a man with a man or a woman with a woman.” So I said,

“ARE YOU CRAZY? That’s their choice who they love. It doesn’t affect you. Why does it matter to you? No one can tell you who to love.”

That launched the discussion which later led to the purported locker room conversions. It is a timely discussion in Minnesota, where there is a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in Minnesota?” VOTE NO signs have sprouted throughout our neighborhood; they line the roads on the way to the hockey rink.

Simon had been late getting to practice (my fault – more evidence for the Worst Hockey Mom title). A coach came in to hurry along the stragglers and Simon asked, “You’re voting NO on the marriage amendment, right?” “I don’t know yet,” he admitted. Simon laid out his arguments again, to which the coach responded, “You make a good point. I think I probably will vote No. Now get out on the ice.”

My son can be like a dog with a bone, so he brought it up again at the next practice. This time he was on time, so when he brought it up in the locker room, everyone on the team was there. One kid, a player who Simon describes as a “tough guy” got really upset when the other kid described same-sex marriage as “gross”. He stood up, half his gear on, and said,

“That’s my family you are talking about! I have two moms and they are married. It hurts my feelings when you say that my family is gross!”

Well, that sure got the team’s attention. According to Simon, he was too emotional to say much more but Simon was able to pick up where he left off.

See? He’s got two moms. So what? Why should his family be treated any differently than yours?

***

The US Supreme Court justices, who appear to be gnashing their teeth about the appropriate timing of a ruling on marriage equality, could benefit from the point of view of my 10 year-old.

People are just people; we are all equal. People love each other and benefit from loving, committed relationships.

We should all be able to marry who we love. Families should all be treated the same.

Marriage equality, through the eyes of a 10-year-old, is just not complicated.

Love

As the United States Supreme Court considers cases related marriage equality, you can read more – including the Top 100 Marriage Equality Blogs – here.

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Hockey Moms

My 10 year old son comes out of the ice arena, swaggering despite the heavy hockey bag that he carries like a giant backpack. His hockey stick and waterbottle he wields before him like a rod and staff.  I’m sitting on a picnic table in the sun and, yes, I am facebooking on my iPhone. His cheeks are flushed, his bright ginger hair is damp-dark with sweat.  He has an announcement to make.

“I’ve got everyone but one kid on my team to be in favor of same-sex marriage.  AND two of the coaches.”

He beams at me. I can feel my jaw as it drops.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a terrible hockey mom.  I hate almost everything about the sport.  I’ve got two sons who play, so I did put a decent amount of effort into learning the basic rules and terminology.  I know what a “hat trick” is; I understand what it means when the refs call “icing” (and even the circumstances under which you would want to ice the puck).  But hockey is like an onion – and not just because the pungent smell of the hockey gear makes your eyes water. As you peel back the layers of hockey, you find kids shunted into the penalty box for obscure rules and quotes from Herb Brooks’  Miracle on Ice speech.

My biggest problem is that I grew up in the Deep South, so my natural impulse when winter strikes is to hibernate.  The whole concept of driving – in the cold – to sit – in the cold – to watch a sport played – on ice, in the cold – boggles my mind.  People always talk about the crazy ice times, but that has not been our experience so far. Checking is not allowed yet, and fighting is against the rules. Besides the expense, though, my biggest annoyance has been the hockey moms.

Let me be clear – I LIKE the hockey moms on my sons’ teams.  They are all urban Minneapolis moms like me who yell “Good job!” and “Nice try!” and “Better luck next time!”  My only problem with them is that they look more stylish than me in their cold weather attire, as I tend to focus more on function over style when it comes to winter.  It is the other teams’ hockey moms that bug me when, dressed from head to toe in team gear, they are yelling things like “Take him out!” and “Kill him!” or  applauding a player who sneaks in an illegal check. I see them almost always wrapped in team logo polarfleece blankets with one or more little shivering siblings clinging to them, each with their own garishly custom spray-painted cap that says “I don’t have a life! My brother plays hockey.”

Going inside to watch hockey on a cold winter day is one thing.  Going inside to watch hockey on a beautiful summer day is completely inconceivable to me.  But here in Minnesota, hockey is a year round sport.  Serious players play AAA from April to September and, unlike the regular season, players are not required to play where they live.  There are kids on my 10 year old’s team from throughout the Twin Cities Metro and  (more of the onion that is hockey culture) some kids who travel here for the weekend practices and games from Wisconsin (which isn’t so crazy) and Florida and Texas (which is absolutely nuts!)

But my two sons are way, way into hockey.  They LOVE this sport!  I respect that, so I suck it up and wash their stinky gear and drive them to the rink.

From Mini-Mites up until last winter, I went into the locker room when I took my boys to hockey – even though I have been banned from years from tying their skates because I “don’t do it right.”  I stopped when my oldest son moved up to PeeWees  – after the unfortunate incident when I burst into the locker room, my 6 year old daughter (with her pink jacket and sparkle ballet flats) in tow, only to find a gaggle of 12 year-olds in their underwear listening to loud music and talking trash.   “Mom!” my son hissed, “I’m good.”

I accidentally wandered into the locker room once this summer.  I was only there a moment, but I heard at least 6 of the 10 year old Squirts claim credit for the same goal.  Who needs that level of testosterone in their lives?

Given my locker room abdication, I was completely floored to hear that the hockey team was having a discussion about same-sex marriage. Here is the story, from the perspective of my 10 year old:  “One kid brought it up. He said it was gross, a man with a man or a woman with a woman.”  I said,

 “ARE YOU CRAZY?  That’s their choice who they love. It doesn’t affect you. Why does it matter to you? No one can tell you who to love.”

That launched the discussion which later led to the purported locker room conversions.  It is a timely discussion in Minnesota, where there is a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot:  “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in Minnesota?”   VOTE NO signs have sprouted throughout our neighborhood; they line the roads on the way to the hockey rink.

To be clear, there is already a Minnesota state law defining marriage as between one man and one woman.  Most of the lesbian and gay couples that we know have to go down to Iowa or another state that recognizes same-sex marriage if they want to get married.  But a law can be changed, hence the purported necessity of the proposed constitutional amendment.

Simon had been late getting to practice (my fault – more evidence for the Worst Hockey Mom title). A coach came in to hurry along the stragglers and Simon asked, “You’re voting no on the marriage amendment, right?”  “I don’t know yet,” he admitted.  Simon laid out his arguments again, to which the coach said, “You make a good point.  I think I probably will vote No.  Now get out on the ice.”

My son can be like a dog with a bone, so he brought it up again at the next practice.  This time he was on time and so when he brought it up in the locker room when everyone was there.  One kid, a player who Simon describes as a “tough guy” got really upset when the other kid described same-sex marriage as “gross”.  He stood up, half his gear on, and said,
“That’s my family you are talking about! I have two moms and they are married.  It hurts my feelings when you say that my family is gross!”
Well, that sure got the team’s attention. According to Simon, he was too emotional to say much more but Simon was able to pick up where he left off.
See?  He’s got two moms.  So what? Why should his family be treated any differently than yours?

Turns out that my 10 year old son is way smarter than I am.  It is all about having the conversation.  According to Minnesotans United for Families, sixty-seven percent of people with gay and lesbian friends VOTE NO if we talk to them about marriage.

This means that the single most important action you can take to defeat this hurtful amendment is to start conversations about the freedom to marry with your friends, family, and the people you see every day.

So maybe it is time that I reassess my thinking on hockey.  Maybe I should admit that I don’t know a thing about those other hockey moms. Maybe I should spend a little less time blogging during hockey practice

or running laps before hockey games while the other moms sit around and talk.

Maybe it is time that I dispense with my arrogance, overcome my disdain.  Maybe I need to step outside of my comfort zone and start engaging other parents in conversation.

I know there are at least a couple of hockey moms in the ice arena who would probably appreciate it if their marriage were legally recognized in the state of Minnesota.