Mary Cheney has been the subject of much scrutiny since she announced her pregnancy. In comments at Barnard College last week, she said, “This is a baby. This is a blessing from God. It is not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of an issue. It is my child.” Unfortunately, Cheney does not have the luxury of having a child without making a political statement.
Her father is learning this, too. In a recent CNN interview, the vice president said Wolf Blitzer crossed “over the line” when he asked Cheney to respond to conservatives such as James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, who have been critical of his daughter’s pregnancy.
I agree with Mary Cheney on at least one thing. My decision to become a parent was not a political one. Gay and lesbian people want to get married and raise children for the same reasons heterosexual people do – because we fall in love and want to share that love with a family. Anyone who has experienced the exhaustion of raising a newborn, chasing a toddler, or negotiating with a teen could not seriously suggest that one would take on the commitment of parenting for political reasons. Once gay and lesbian families make the personal commitments of forming a family, we want the laws to protect our families in the same way any other family is protected. All families should be equal under the law.
However, many people seem to believe that gays and lesbians want to marry and become families for “political” reasons – that gays and lesbians want to “redefine” marriage and families. If this were really the goal, wouldn’t it be easier for us to organize a march or a boycott, rather than take on the serious commitment of raising children?
Unfortunately, not everyone believes all families should be treated equally under the law. When gay and lesbian families seek equality through marriage or second-parent adoption, our families become politicized. Our children become pawns in arguments about the definition of marriage or family values. These arguments often fail to take into account the significant impact inequality has on individual gay and lesbian families.Mary Cheney and her family are experiencing this inequality right now. In her home state, Virginia, voters recently ratified an amendment to the Virginia Constitution banning marriage equality for gay and lesbian Virginians and denying legal relationship recognition for all unmarried couples. Furthermore, Virginia prohibits second-parent adoption for unmarried couples. Cheney’s child will be left without critical protections because of this law. Cheney’s partner of fifteen years, Heather Poe, will have no legal relationship with her own child. Mary Cheney’s family will be vulnerable because her family is not treated the same under the law as her heterosexual neighbor’s. Cheney and her father may view her pregnancy as private and personal, but their family is political, whether they like it or not. Daughter and father must speak out about the fundamental truth that all families should be equal under the law. They owe this to their soon-to-be newest family member.Mary Kilpatrick is an assistant professor of law and a reference librarian at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. She can be contacted at Kilpatrick@mslaw.edu.