Category: Readers Respond

SCOTUS 6.26.2015: Readers Respond

Hello Our Family Matters readers! Happy Pride! 

Below you will find letters Mom and I wrote regarding the Supreme Court’s historic decision on marriage equality.  Even though we were together on Friday to witness and celebrate, I left that afternoon for Long Island to visit Patrick’s family, so an exchange of letters was in order.  

We are interested in your reaction.  Please leave a comment below with your thoughts and feelings. As always, thanks for your continued support and interest!


Dear Christopher

What a day! I never dreamed we would reach this day in my lifetime. Marriage Equality across our United State!! Glad we were together. Through my tears we could celebrate.

I talked to Isabella about how long her parents have been married. She thought it was 20 years, but I told her it has been 14 years since that August day in Seattle. All of us East Coasters who saw you and Patrick grow up traveled west to celebrate your union. A moment of grace we all thought. I think that so many of us remember it fondly partly because we knew that the state would not recognize you two and we wanted to be sure we did. (Plus it was a darn good party.)

That does not make the fact of not being able to officially marry any easier. I see how legal standing makes such a difference. To say to the world you are a family is so important. As one of the commentators said today, this happened because you and thousands like you took the brave step to be honest with your family and every one else you know. Isn’t that what the President said, a series of small pebbles made huge change. I like to think about our family as being one of those pebbles that helped tear down the battlements of fear and ignorance.

Some years ago I was finishing up my semester at Buffalo State. The office was hot and stuffy. I was copying some last minute items for my classes. A colleague of mine, a man I had know for many years, came into the office. Before I could say hello he said,

“I saw your opinion piece in the paper about your gay son and the Catholic Church’s lack of acceptance.” I waited for what I thought would be compliment. So many people had given me positive feedback I admit I was becoming a bit used to it. Others said nothing, which was fine by me.

But this man raised his voice, “How can you believe that homosexuality is anything other than a grave sin according to our Church? What can I tell my grandchildren other than it is a mortal sin?”

Astounded, I answered, “Your grandchildren will be who they are.” He made me even angrier at the Church’s position.

But today I was almost proud to be Catholic. One of the plaintiffs gave thanks to God. He said he and his husband were loyal Catholics and he felt God surely had a hand in this decision. I am not such a faithful Catholic, but I do believe the “arc of freedom bends toward justice.” And I still hope the Holy Spirit is at work in the world. That bigoted colleague, I hope his grandchildren have bent him toward the light.

Love, Mom

Dear Mom,

Soon after the news of Friday’s decision was handed down, I received a text from my colleague Kim: “After Prop 8, I clearly remember telling my GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) students that I wouldn’t see this day in my lifetime but I had faith that they would see it. So happy I was wrong.”

A bit later my friend David wrote to say “This is a great day to be an American. Haven’t felt that way too often!”

In his statement to the media after the decision was handed down, James Obergefell, the lead plaintiff on the case, said “It’s my hope that the term ‘gay marriage’ will become a thing of the past. And our nation will be better off because of it.”

I couldn’t agree more with all of these sentiments. As I’ve said countless times, I never imagined I would see this day in our lifetime. It does make me immensely proud (Happy Pride Ya’ll!). And it is my sincere hope that our country can move past the division of “gay marriage” and “traditional marriage” and move towards marriage.

It was one other quote that I heard on Friday that resonated the most with me. You and I were listening to the coverage in your living room, while Jordan and Isabella were occupying themselves with screens and Legos. It was fantastic to be with you, celebrating this historic moment. Now here was our president speaking from the Rose Garden, celebrating along with us.

imageThe last section of his remarks struck a chord. Obama said the ruling was the “consequence of the countless small acts of courage of millions of people across decades who stood up, who came out, who talked to parents — parents who loved their children no matter what. Folks who were willing to endure bullying and taunts and stayed strong and came to believe in themselves and who they were, and slowly made an entire country realize that love is love.”

We—you, Dad, Patrick, Mark, Lillian, Aunt Judy and I—all contributed to this moment. I had enough faith in you all to share who I really was, knowing that you would “love (me) no matter what.” (I also had enough faith in my colleagues and students to come out at work.) All the members of my family embraced me, my spouse, and my children. You each have challenged colleagues, friends, and other family members to see the love that Patrick and I share is no different just because we are gay.

We uncovered as a family the power of truth, integrity, and love, and in a small way contributed to a seismic shift in the history of our nation. Our example was a pebble, and in our way we showed those in our world that love is love.

That is something to be truly proud of this June.

Much love,

Joining in Protest? Readers Respond

A country, united in grief, gathers to mourn the death of its citizens at the hands of terrorists, and proves to the world that they refuse to live in fear.

Black men and women, marching to draw attention to discriminatory voting laws, gather on a bridge and stare down white police officers armed with billy clubs and tear gas.

Hundreds of uniformed police officers, mourning the death of a fellow officer, turn their backs on an elected official they blame for inciting violence against one of their own.

Throughout history, we gather. From the Boston Tea party to the Arab spring, from sit-ins at lunch counters in the 1950s and 60s to the Occupy movement of today, from Stonewall, to Ferguson, to countless other protests big and small, men, women, and children join together—in protest, in solidarity, in mourning, in triumph—finding solace, strength, and solidarity in public union.

Mom’s last letter mentioned the importance of the Stonewall riots to the modern LGBT civil rights movement. In June of 1969, a group of gay men and women, led by several drag queens, decided that enough was enough after police carried out a routine raid on one of their favorite gay bars—the Stonewall Inn—in New York’s Greenwich Village. New York state law at the time required that citizens wear clothing “appropriate” to their gender, so after the couple hundred patrons were lined up and police checked their identification, several drag queens and women dressed in mens clothing were arrested and led outside to be taken away.

In his book The Gay Metropolis: 1940-1996, Charles Kaiser details the events of that night. Kaiser quotes Deputy Police Inspector Seymour Pine, who led the raid, as saying, “ The homosexuals were usually very docile, quiet people. But this night was different.”

According to Storme DeLaverie, a cross-dressing lesbian (whom some credit as starting the riot when “the cop hit [her] and [she] hit him back”), “The police got the shock of their lives when those queens came out of the bar and pulled off their wigs and went after them. I knew sooner or later people were going to get the same attitude I had. They had just pushed once too often.”


On Christopher Street in front of the bar, trouble erupted. Tired of the sporadic raids and humiliation, customers reached a breaking point. Impromptu chants rang out. Bricks, beer bottles, and garbage cans were hurled by the protestors, and garbage cans were lit on fire. Hundreds of onlookers joined in, having been awoken by the early morning ruckus in the streets. While waiting for reinforcements, the police conducting the raid and arrests were forced to retreat back into the bar, fearing for their safety.

Protestors gathered for two more nights of protest. The poet Allen Ginsberg, present for the second night, thrilled “Gay Power! Isn’t that great!” and remarked that, “The guys [inside the now re-opened Stonewall Inn] were so beautiful. They’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had ten years ago.”

After Stonewall, the LGBT community began to work together as a cohesive unit, forming new activist organizations, starting newspapers devoted exclusively to issues of the gay community, and commemorating the riots that started it all with annual gay pride parades, first in New York city, and then, over the years, around the world.

Clearly, the Stonewall protests have served the LGBT community well. As direct action, it sparked a drive to change discriminatory laws and social norms that is still thriving today. As a symbol, the riots have served as an important cultural landmark, providing inspiration to members of the community—used to living quietly and secretly in the closet—to come out into the light.

For all I owe to Stonewall as a member of the LGBT community, I have a hard time attending those yearly commemorative events. The Pride Parade makes me feel slightly uncomfortable and foolish. Perhaps it’s just my introverted nature, but my passion for LGBT rights doesn’t translate easily into public demonstrations, replete with banner carrying, speeches, and chants. Had I been in New York City in June of 1969 (and not in my crib in Buffalo), I’m not sure I would have joined the throngs in the streets demanding justice. But I am so thankful that many did just that.

While I’m conflicted about joining the crowds, I’m not conflicted about joining the fight. There are several aspects of my life that are, at least in part, about protest. Supporting gay and lesbian led families hoping to adopt, helping a group of students start a Gay-Straight Alliance, or even just being an out gay high school teacher all have political, public, demonstrative qualities to them. They are not the banner waiving kind of protest, for sure, but they are done in community with others and are motivated by injustice. That, I believe, is the very nature of protest.

So, I’m the quiet protest type. What about you? This week, we are asking readers to respond with their own stories of protest—big, small, loud or quiet. We want to hear from you about public demonstrations where you took the bullhorn and rallied the crowd, and singular moments when nothing needed to be said to make your point. Tell us about how you felt, what motivated you to act, and what the impact of your action was on others in your community.

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Should These People Get Out? Readers Respond

Mom sent a copy of my last post to our dear family friend (and my high school religion teacher) Kathy Heffern. Here is her response to what I wrote: I’m delighted to know that Christopher cares what I think. Needless to say, I am conflicted, but not about what he is saying regarding the recent […]