MS. REBECCA SHEIR
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
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
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.
I did it, Mommy.
You did? Tell Mama.
You did it? Good job.
Mommy in this case is Michelle, Gavin's biological mother. Mama is Jen, Michelle's partner of 13 and a half years.
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.
And he picked up really quickly on it, too, and he -- yeah, I mean, he's been verbalizing it probably since a year.
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.
Is it go under?
It does. There you go.
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.
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.
He was born in February and we went down to D.C. and got married in May.
And so we felt like it was really important for us and for him to have whatever protection that legal marriage could offer.
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.
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.
Which, she says, was nothing short of heartbreaking.
But then, three months later, I was able to officially adopt him and now my name is on his birth certificate.
And when Michelle gives birth to a second child this May, Jen's name will be on all the paperwork from the get-go.
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.
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...
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.
And both their families were at an event Michelle says she and Jen will remember forever, their 2005 commitment ceremony on the Eastern shore.
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.
I want to flip.
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.
I want you sit down on the couch.
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.
While Michelle's flipping Gavin, here's what Jen has to say about the commitment ceremony.
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.
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.
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...
Good job, honey. I'm proud of you.
Guess who just got one step closer to potty train town?
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.
But what's kept them together all these years, both Michelle and Jen agree, is what keeps any couple together, respect, communication...
And just understanding what it means to be there for another person.
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.
I want a kiss.
You want a kiss?
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.
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and international law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.