The simple and profound right to call each other family

By Carol Schall
Plaintiff in the Bostic Case

Mary and I decided in August of 2013 to join Tim Bostic and Tony London in their legal fight for marriage equality in Virginia. When Virginia gained the freedom to marry fourteen months later – on October 6, 2014 – it was one of the happiest moments in our lives,  a moment we will be celebrating at this year’s Equality Virginia’s Commonwealth Dinner.
Honestly, we entered the fight for marriage equality much earlier than 2013. Our commitment to marriage equality began on a warm morning in January of 1998 when our now 17 year old daughter, Emily, was born. On that morning, we made one of the most important decisions of our life. We both decided to be moms. We decided that we could no longer hide or “fake” that we were just best friends or roommates. We decided that, on behalf of our baby, we were her family and would always present ourselves as both her moms. We decided that we could never pretend that one of us was anything less than her mom.

That single decision has made all the difference. There were times when we would get puzzled looks or stares from folks.  I remember there was a waitress who couldn’t figure us out. “How could you both be moms?” she asked.  Then there was the nurse at the doctor’s office who kept trying to figure out our family tree as she asked repeatedly, “Isn’t one of you a step mom?” and “Who is her dad?” And there was the kind lady who showed up two or three times in our hospital room after Emily was born  to ask if we “wanted to provide the name of the father.” When we said there was no father, she said, “I’ll just come back later.”

Another memory I’ll never forget was when Mary was pregnant with Emily, she had a complication that required emergency treatment. I rushed her to the hospital and checked her in. Then I had to move the car from the emergency room bay to the parking lot. As I left to park, I saw the hospital staff wheel Mary away, doubled over in pain, unable to speak. When I returned after parking the car, I asked the desk staff where Mary was and what her condition was. My heart sank when they asked: “are you a relative?” I answered that I was her partner. That wasn’t good enough. I was denied any information and was told to sit and wait. With tears in my eyes and worry in my heart, I strained my ears to hear her cries, her name, anything…

I walked past that same emergency room on October 15, 2014. I stopped and smiled. I breathed in the sweet air of equality. I realized that from now on I get to call Mary my wife and Emily my daughter. Never again will any of us have to wait for medical status while strangers decide if we are deserving of this precious information.

You see; names matter. Names like “mom” and “wife” make all the difference in the world. That is why we were a part of this case. That is what we won on October 6, 2014: the simple and profound right to call each other family; to call the loves of our life “husband” or “wife” and to hear our children legally call us “mom” or “dad”.

 

 

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