Every parent who has ever traveled with their children has heard the question, “Are we there yet?” LGBT parents, however, may feel the need to ask it themselves as they reflect on progress towards equality for our families.
Same-sex parents and our families have gained several nods of recognition from the Obama administration in recent weeks. But are they getting us closer to our destination of full equality?
First, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency announced March 27 that it was proposing a new regulation to allow any U.S. family, including same-sex couples and their children, to file a joint customs declaration when returning to the country. “CBP believes that this proposed change would more accurately reflect relationships between members of the public who are traveling together as a family,” the agency said in a press release.
The Family Equality Council (FEC), the national organization for LGBT parents and their children, led the drive for the rule, working with a coalition of partners.
FEC also announced April 3 that President Obama has for the fourth year invited its members to the White House Easter Egg Roll. Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of FEC, said, “At a time when some politicians, candidates and organizations are pretending our families are invisible, this administration has made it known that LGBT parents and their children are intricately woven into the rich fabric of American families.”
The Administration and Obama campaign have also made that known recently through two photos. First, the Administration posted on its Flickr photo site an image of Andrea Smith and her 10-month-old son Logan, meeting First Lady Michelle Obama at a February event held in celebration of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” children’s health initiative. Andrea is the executive director of Green Florida, a non-profit that organizes community gardens, and the wife of Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, the state’s LGBT organization.
There was nothing about the photo or caption that indicated Andrea was a lesbian, however. Then, several weeks later, the Obama campaign reached out to the Smiths and asked for a photo of Logan with both of his moms, Nadine told me in an e-mail. It then posted both photos on the campaign Web site, barackobama.com. Accompanying text said that Nadine and Andrea are “strong supporters” of the President and noted the President’s commitment to equality for LGBT Americans.
Nadine told me, “At a time when marriage equality is at the center of a national conversation, I’m pleased that they have chosen to spotlight us as a married couple raising a child.”
Smith was a little more explicit than the campaign on that point, though. The campaign said “the Smith family” and “Logan’s moms,” but did not refer to them as married. It did note, however, that “The President and First Lady have worked tirelessly to ensure that LGBT families are treated with the same dignity and respect as all American families.”
“Wait!” many of you may be saying. “Shouldn’t ‘the same dignity and respect’ include the dignity and respect adhering to that most respected institution, marriage?”
Yes, and we are right to wonder if the President’s supposed “evolution” on marriage equality will ever lead him to full support.
And will he issue an executive order requiring that federal contractors do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity? That would be a good stepping stone towards Congressional passage of a full Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), as 72 U.S. House members wrote in a letter to the President April 2.
Letting us fill out joint Customs forms, inviting LGBT families to the Egg Roll, and posting pictures of us with our cute babies may seem insignificant in comparison.
In comparison, perhaps—but that doesn’t mean those actions have no value. The fact is, visibility does matter, as clichéd as that may sound. By treating LGBT-headed families as equals in everyday things, even seemingly frivolous activities, and by including us among the images of American life, the Administration is sending a message of inclusion and acceptance.
It is a message they would be wise to follow to its logical conclusion—full equality under the law. But babies and egg rolls may be an important part of how they—and we as a society—get there.
Poll after poll across the country shows a majority of people in support of marriage equality. Much of this shift, I believe, comes from the visibility of same-sex couples and our children in local communities and in the media.
The administration does seem to be moving in the right direction. As the campaign noted when it posted the Smith family photos, the President has called for equal treatment of same-sex adoptive parents and LGBT foster children, has ensured that LGBT patients and their partners “have rights to hospital visitation and medical decision-making,” has promoted equal access to health care and housing, and has actively included LGBT youth in its anti-bullying efforts.
Those are significant efforts, even if they are not sufficient. They are milestones along the way to our ultimate destination of full equality. Egg rolls, customs forms, and family photos, while less critical than hospital and housing rights, nevertheless mark progress in our journey.
As with any family trip, we have to strike a balance between prudent patience and keeping our foot on the gas. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer—even if we have to honk our horns to keep the traffic moving.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (www.mombian.com), a blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.