Love and law: A child’s perspective on gay marriage

From left, Suzanne, Ella, Sandi and Maya Carver.

Sitting in their living room in Hampden, Sandi Carver asked one of her two daughters, Ella, 7, whether there was anything different about their family.

“We have two moms, that’s all,” Ella said.

Is our love different than any other family’s love? Sandi, 37, asked. Her partner, Suzanne, sat nearby.

“No,” Ella replied.

For Ella and her sister, Maya, 5, there was never a question during the ultimately successful, and historic, same-sex marriage campaign about why their mothers should be able to marry. They understand the issue in terms of fairness and love.

What did “yes on Question 1” mean?

“I love you,” Maya said.

Hearing a child speak about the legalization of same-sex marriage puts the matter in perspective. It’s simply about caring for each other. During the campaign, Ella wanted to know why people didn’t want her mothers to be able to marry.

It was a difficult question for Sandi and Suzanne — known respectively as Mommy and Momma to their girls — to answer. They explained that people don’t always agree with other people’s lives and that some people are opposed to gay marriage for religious reasons.

The campaign took an emotional toll on the Carver family, and many families, as they tried to convince voters of what their daughters inherently understood. Suzanne said she dreaded the thought of the initiative failing, not necessarily because she wouldn’t be able to marry her partner of 12 years, but because she would have to find a way to explain the decision to her daughters.

For Suzanne and Sandi, the vote was not only about being able to one day have a wedding ceremony. It was about the state’s recognition of their family’s equality and legitimacy.

“We have intentionally chosen to be together and be partners,” Suzanne said. “Marriage would just give us the rights to strengthen what we’ve built.”

With Sandi in graduate school, they don’t have time now to plan a wedding. But when they do get married, “it will be a huge celebration about love,” Sandi said.

Suzanne and Sandi are proud of their state for the very important step forward taken Tuesday.

Yet the situation is bittersweet. They will still lack full, federally given rights. The reality remains that 47 percent of the state does not support them. And they face the awkwardness of celebrating a vote they wish had not been required in the first place. The work isn’t done.

Ella is used to classmates being curious about her two moms. Does she think the vote will change anything at school?

“I don’t know. Maybe after a long time they’ll understand,” she said.

One thing won’t change: her loving family. In that way, the law is only catching up to the reality of families everywhere. “If we had a family value, it would be love,” Suzanne said. “We really knew, regardless of the vote, our family would not change at all.”

Erin Rhoda

About Erin Rhoda

Erin Rhoda is editor of Maine Focus, a journalism and community engagement initiative by the Bangor Daily News.