Dear President Obama:
In less than a week, the White House lawn will be swarming with children and their parents, gleeful participants in the White House Easter Egg Roll. Children of LGBT parents will be among them, as they have been for many years. Some of the children in attendance may be LGBT themselves, whether they are aware of it yet or not.
A few days ago, you released a statement in response to the historic Iowa Supreme Court decision that legalized marriage for same-sex couples in that state. Leaving aside the first version of the statement, which disappointingly used the weaker word "protection" instead of "equal rights," here is what you said:
The President respects the decision of the Iowa Supreme Court, and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage. Although President Obama supports civil unions rather than same-sex marriage, he believes that committed gay and lesbian couples should receive equal rights under the law.
That is both a groundbreaking statement and a disappointment. Groundbreaking because no other president has gone so far in support of same-sex couples. Disappointing because it still upholds the principle of "separate but equal." As history has shown, the water from a separate fountain never tastes as good.
I ask you then, President Obama: Would you, as our president and as a parent, be prepared to stand up in front of the many children of LGBT parents at the Egg Roll, and tell them the United States will not recognize their parents' relationships as marriages? Would you be prepared to tell the children who are themselves LGBT that you believe in keeping them out of the institution that has formed the basis of our society for centuries?
These children, like others, have grown up on a diet of fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and television cartoons that present "marriage," not "civil unions," as the state to which grown-ups aspire. Some have parents who are legally married in certain jurisdictions. Many believe their parents to be married because that is what their parents have told them. The parents feel themselves to be married, with all the weight of commitment and love that the term carries, regardless of their legal status.
Marriage should not be the only institution to recognize human relationships and give them benefits under the law. Our society is too diverse and complex for that. It is, however, one of them, the most established and honored one, and should be available to all couples, regardless of their genders.
Likewise, marriage is not the only arena that will help LGBT parents and children. Adoption rights, employment non-discrimination, and hate crimes laws will all protect the children who will gather on your lawn. Even the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will help LGBT servicemembers' children, many of whom who cannot avail themselves of the benefits and support offered to families of other servicemembers.
At the same time, the issue of marriage equality has a visibility, deserved or not, that gives it a special position in the public consciousness. What message about our nation's values are you conveying to all children, regardless of their family structures—if you continue to tell them that LGBT families are not worthy of the same respect as others, that LGBT people must still stand outside the institution that is infused into more children's stories than I can count?
I know that in reality you will not be speaking for or against marriage equality at the Egg Roll itself, nor do I believe such statements would be appropriate to the occasion. It is a time for fun and celebration, not politics. But by releasing a lukewarm statement about LGBT rights just as many families with LGBT members are making their travel plans for the Egg Roll, you do them a disservice and cause me to wonder how you would explain it to their children.
I voted for you because I thought you represented the best hope for positive change in this country. I do believe you are making progress in that regard. Please do not lose your courage on this matter that would mean so much for so many children.