So much has been said recently about my involvement in a family law case, and it’s about time to address the concerns from the LGBT community. First, I am a proud member of our community and I have worked tirelessly over the last two decades to fight for marriage equality, the right to adopt, and every other movement toward true equality. So what does equality mean? It means that we are treated the same under the law. Some people think that the law should simply stop existing because they find it inconvenient, and those of us who work to uphold the law are then seen as the enemy.
Am I a “bad lesbian” for representing a member of the LGBT community in a family law case to ensure her rights are upheld? I would hope that people would believe that all people deserve an attorney to represent their interests, LGBT or not. There are at least two parties to every case, and if you are on one side or the other, I bet you want representation. Let’s go back to equality. If a heterosexual couple wants to get married, they have to follow the steps on their local Clerk of Court’s website, which generally consists of getting a marriage license and participating in a ceremony to effectuate the marriage. A marriage is a contract with the court’s stamp of approval that grants additional, affirmative rights to a couple because they took the necessary steps to gain legal recognition for their relationship. Equality means that a homosexual couple would need to do the exact same steps and if they do so, they would then gain the exact same rights. That’s equality.
If we’re talking about adoption, equality means that if two people take necessary, affirmative steps, those two people, regardless of sexual orientation, can both become legal parents to a child regardless of any biological connection. The process is now the same whether a couple is straight or LGBT. That’s equality.
You know what the law doesn’t do? The law doesn’t perform the steps for you. If you want to become married, you can’t just look at the pretty girl across the street and decide you’re married to her. You have to win her affection and then take the necessary, affirmative steps required to be married. Just because someone wants to be married does not mean that the object of her affection has to marry her, nor would our society want that. That’s creepy and violates our constitutional right to privacy.
The same goes for adoption. You can’t just look at a kid and decide, “That kid is mine. I claim him.” This is the same for straight people and LGBT people alike.
Our community didn’t always have the right to marry or adopt children, and I fought like hell to help secure those rights for our community. Now that we have those rights, you must take affirmative steps to take advantage of those rights. The court does not have the authority to force marriage or adoption on us, nor should it. For those who didn’t attend law school, you may be surprised to know that there have been debates for many years about whether marriage should be something you have to affirmatively pursue, or whether the act of living together should force you into a marriage unless you take affirmative action with the court to say, “We don’t want to be married.” It makes more sense to require people to pursue it if they want it.
There are some rights that are immediately granted to us by virtue of our existence as American citizens. One of those is the right to privacy. That right spans across all areas of the law, and in family law, that right means that we get to decide how to raise our children, choose who our children associate with, and make decisions generally about the health, welfare, and education of our children. For a woman, unless there is a surrogacy agreement in place, if a child is born from her body, she automatically gains rights as a mother due to the biological connection between that mother and child. If a heterosexual man wants rights to that same child, and he did not marry the mother prior to the child’s birth, that man has to petition the court to determine paternity and award him rights. By virtue of not being married to the mother, he does not have rights until he is determined to be a parent. Equality means that the exact same holds true for a lesbian partner of a biological mother. If you want rights, you have to seek them out. You have to marry the mother prior to the child’s birth or you have to take affirmative steps to adopt that child. That also means you have to have the consent of the mother who has the natural, biological rights to that child. You don’t get rights to the child simply because you want them or because you showed up to one or two doctor’s appointments. You don’t get rights because you paid for the child to have milk. You have to petition a court to grant you parental rights. That’s equality. A heterosexual male who is not the biological parent to a child goes through the exact same steps to become a legal parent to that child. That’s equality.
Equality is not getting something more than everyone else or getting to avoid the legal processes altogether. That, by definition, is inequality. If you don’t like the situation you have created in your life, the only person you have to blame is yourself. Attacking other people does not prove that you will be a good parent. Belittling someone for doing her job does not make you a good person. Inciting people to be hateful does not gain you legal rights. Some legal rights have to be requested from a court, and when that court is blind regarding your sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, and religion, and makes a determination that you have or have not followed the necessary, affirmative steps to gain those rights, that is equality. You either did what you needed to do and you get rights, LGBT or straight, or you did not and you do not get rights, LGBT or straight. That is equality. If you want more than that, perhaps you should look in the mirror and ask what you are really asking for.