The Politics And Reality Of Same-Sex Marriage In Maryland (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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The Politics And Reality Of Same-Sex Marriage In Maryland

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:09
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir. And in honor of Valentine's Day, today we're talking about relationships. We touched on it earlier in the show, but a particular type of relationship has been all over the headlines of late, same-sex marriage. Last night, after several hours of debate, the Maryland House of Delegates voted in favor of the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which would legalize same-sex marriages in the state, though religious institutions would not be required to perform them. The measure now goes to the Senate, where its passage is said to be all but guaranteed, as that chamber passed same-sex marriage legislation last year.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:47
Earlier in the week, we saw Washington State become the eighth jurisdiction in the country to allow gays and lesbians to marry. And a few days later, New Jersey lawmakers approved a similar measure, though Governor Chris Christie vetoed it. Amidst all this politicking, one couple in Odenton, Md., just seventeen miles from the State house in Annapolis, has been watching the debate with mixed emotions.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:01:10
Jen and Michelle, they asked that we just use their first names, are among the 12,000 same-sex couples residing in Maryland. They're among the 2,500 raising children, and right now, their child, two year-old Gavin, is proudly celebrating a victory on the road to potty train town.

GAVIN

00:01:26
I did it, Mommy.

MICHELLE

00:01:27
You did? Tell Mama.

GAVIN

00:01:30
I did it.

JEN

00:01:30
You did it? Good job.

SHEIR

00:01:32
Mommy in this case is Michelle, Gavin's biological mother. Mama is Jen, Michelle's partner of 13 and a half years.

MICHELLE

00:01:39
We were just going to let him call us whatever he called us, but it was at the point where we were referring to each other in talking to him and not knowing what to call each other and we just kind of made a decision that we should distinguish ourselves, give ourselves names.

JEN

00:01:57
And he picked up really quickly on it, too, and he -- yeah, I mean, he's been verbalizing it probably since a year.

SHEIR

00:02:04
And these days, once he warms up a bit, Gavin is nothing if not verbal. Right now, he is clattering a toy mail truck around a plastic parking garage.

GAVIN

00:02:13
Is it go under?

JEN

00:02:14
It does. There you go.

SHEIR

00:02:19
When I met Jen and Michelle the week before state lawmakers voted, the couple was optimistic about Maryland green-lighting same-sex marriage this year, but the truth is, they're already married. As Jen explains, they tied the knot in the District in 2010 when D.C. legalized same-sex marriage.

JEN

00:02:34
Well, at the time, the Attorney General for Maryland had just come out with an opinion that they were going to do kind of everything that they could to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

MICHELLE

00:02:44
He was born in February and we went down to D.C. and got married in May.

JEN

00:02:48
And so we felt like it was really important for us and for him to have whatever protection that legal marriage could offer.

SHEIR

00:02:58
But like Michelle mentioned, when she gave birth to Gavin, after several rounds of in vitro fertilization, she and Jen weren't yet married. So as Jen vividly recalls, they encountered a bit of a glitch.

JEN

00:03:10
You know, we had just had this huge high of having this baby and we were so excited. And then, two hours afterwards, I'm filling out the paperwork to get a birth certificate and to register his birth and I wasn't able to put my name on the birth certificate.

SHEIR

00:03:24
Which, she says, was nothing short of heartbreaking.

JEN

00:03:27
But then, three months later, I was able to officially adopt him and now my name is on his birth certificate.

SHEIR

00:03:32
And when Michelle gives birth to a second child this May, Jen's name will be on all the paperwork from the get-go.

JEN

00:03:38
Even though we'll still go through the second parent adoption so that if, you know, we did move out of state or to a state where it doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, then we'll still have the legal protection of adoption.

SHEIR

00:03:47
Not that Jen and Michelle plan on moving anytime soon. They grew up in Maryland and met at college in Salisbury. And though they headed to Boston for graduate school, once they got their master's degrees...

MICHELLE

00:03:57
We ended up going ahead and moving back home because we knew we wanted to start a family and wanted to be close. Both of our families are in Maryland.

SHEIR

00:04:04
And both their families were at an event Michelle says she and Jen will remember forever, their 2005 commitment ceremony on the Eastern shore.

MICHELLE

00:04:12
I mean, we had already been together for seven years and we couldn't get legally married, and so I think even though they loved and supported us, they weren't quite sure why we were doing it or if it was going to change anything or make a difference.

GAVIN

00:04:23
I want to flip.

MICHELLE

00:04:24
You want to flip? Mama can help you. But I think after the event, you know, everyone sort of agreed something did feel like it changed. I mean, it was very validating.

GAVIN

00:04:37
I want you sit down on the couch.

MICHELLE

00:04:41
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, he wants me to sit on the couch and flip him over. Otherwise, you're never going to get the story. Flip.

SHEIR

00:04:49
While Michelle's flipping Gavin, here's what Jen has to say about the commitment ceremony.

JEN

00:04:54
It was the most picture perfect day in October and, you know, that's the anniversary that we celebrate. And the signing of a piece of paper making it legal was just, I mean, it kind of was the icing on the cake, but it really didn't affect how we felt. And I don't think, at this point, it really will affect how my family feels and her family feels about us.

SHEIR

00:05:15
But Jen does say she and Michelle will be first in line to get married again, that's assuming, of course, the state Senate approves the Civil Marriage Protection Act. Though as Michelle points out, same-sex married couples are still denied many rights, involving everything from Social Security to federal taxes to immigration.

MICHELLE

00:05:33
You know, being in a same-sex relationship, even though a lot of our day-to-day life just feels common, just like all of our other friends and neighbors and people that we know. But in reality...

GAVIN

00:05:44
(unintelligible) Mommy.

MICHELLE

00:05:46
Good job, honey. I'm proud of you.

SHEIR

00:05:50
Guess who just got one step closer to potty train town?

MICHELLE

00:05:53
In reality, our relationship may look very similar on the surface, but, you know, there are some things that are very different for us and it can be challenging.

SHEIR

00:06:01
But what's kept them together all these years, both Michelle and Jen agree, is what keeps any couple together, respect, communication...

MICHELLE

00:06:10
And just understanding what it means to be there for another person.

JEN

00:06:13
Because you're not always going, you know, you're going to love the person, but you're not always going to like the person. But, you know, if you have that respect, that is what will keep you together through very stressful times.

GAVIN

00:06:27
I want a kiss.

JEN

00:06:28
You want a kiss?

SHEIR

00:06:29
Jen and Michelle know stressful times may come regardless of their marital status in Maryland, but they say getting the stamp of approval from their home state would help them breathe a little easier. Not just for themselves, but for Gavin. And when the baby comes this spring, for the newest member of this growing Maryland family.
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