On Saturday I took the kids with me to run some errands. After a week of being cooped up with colds, we all needed to get out of the house. Annie was keeping me occupied with question after question, so when I saw people waving signs on three corners of a busy intersection, I didn’t think much of it. This is suburbia, signs on corners are usually directing you to the nearest car wash fundraiser or lemonade stand. As we stopped at the red light, I hoped the signs were in fact for a car wash, because my car needed one. Then I read the signs:
“Honk 4 God’s Marriage”
“Marriage = 1 man + 1 woman”
A lot of emotions went through me because, well, I do not agree. I believe one man and one woman are just one-third of the possible combinations for a marriage. I didn’t like seeing those signs, but if those people wanted to spend a lovely Saturday getting people to honk at them, that’s their right. I sat in the driver’s seat and scowled behind my sunglasses, listening for honks from the cars stopped around me. I didn’t hear any.
And then, from the back seat came, “Mama, what do those signs say?”
I wanted to lie and say they were for a garage sale. She’s only four, and my instinct is to shield her from upsetting stuff. But this is way beyond that. I realized that she might see signs like this again, when I’m not there. She might read a sign like this in the not-so-distant future, and she might not ask what it means. That’s not okay with me.
I kept it simple. I told her that those people thought men and women should only be allowed to marry each other.
“Like you and Daddy?”
Yes. Do you know who is allowed to get married?
I told her that in California, men can marry women and also other men, and that women can marry other women. I told her that while Tia Leah and Ted are getting married this year, someday Uncle Kyle and Sebastian might get married.
“But those signs don’t want them to get married?”
I confirmed this, and watched her eyebrows scrunch together in the rearview mirror.
I said that when she’s a grown up, she’ll be able to marry whoever she wants.
“I’m going to marry Georgie.”
When we drove by a bit later, the sign-holders were still there. They’d been joined by a woman, waving a rainbow flag.
From the back seat came, “Mama, can we get a rainbow flag, too?”
Yes, I think we should.
It warms my heart to read how wonderfully you are raising your children. They will turn out to be compassionate, kind, and positive adults. I know this, because I raised my sweet Danielle the same way, and she became the most wonderful person. Heather, you have so many rewards coming to you. Your children will make you proud. xx
I agree with you 100%,Heather!!
I always feel like joining these groups with a sign that says “lean on your horn if you think people should mind their own business”.
Yes. Just yes.
I’ve had to have the same conversation with my daughter, sadly because we drive through Topeka sometimes and would accidentally run across the Phelps group. Nothing like having to explain to your toddler that God does NOT hate fags, or anyone, and it’s ok for her uncles to be married.
Just a trifling, petty detail: just because they don’t agree with you doesn’t mean they ‘hate’. Strong feelings and/or opinions about something does not necessarily mean intense loathing or execration. I am so sick of both sides and their ridiculous insanity.
When they carry signs that say: god hates fags. It does mean they hate. From your comment, I also bet you thought separate WAS equal all those years ago.
I never said that they did. Although frankly, I don’t see how anyone could actively try to take rights away from people they love or tolerate. As for the “ridiculous insanity,” I think that’s a sad statement that I hope most of the privileged majority does not share.
“Although frankly, I don’t see how anyone could actively try to take rights away from people they love or tolerate.”
My feelings exactly, to be honest.
Rachel W. says:
There is no “other side” to marriage equality.
Asking for equal rights under the law is “ridiculous insanity”? Must be nice to sit on that perch where society doesn’t see you as less than or unequal.
If it was your life, your family, you’d be fighting tooth and nail to see them treated equally. I’m not gay but I cannot even begin to imagine what it’s like to live in a country where people judge you based on the gender of the person you love and commit your life to.
I think standing on a street corner with a sign denotes HATE. Why else would you spend so much time trying to influence other people’s decisions?
Kids, they rule.
I believe marriage is between a man and a woman but guess what I don’t hate. I have friends and co-workers that are same sex. I raised 5 boys and they don’t hate, gasp, they actually think for themselves and share different views on the topic. We are able to openly discuss and not hate each other. (I actually raised my boys to view the word “hate” as strong as some cuss words). I also choose not to hang out on street corners with signs but if others do, so be it. Every other cause is allowed to stand out there and wave their signs. God does not hate nor spew hate and neither should we. And if you don’t believe in God and/or believe in the Bible, I get it. So even though my faith/beliefs are different doesn’t mean we hate or dictate who I can be friends with based on their sexual orientation or beliefs. Topeka nonsense is very sad. So we can agree to disagree and still not be labeled as haters. Unfortunately the haters seems to get more media time.
No, your religious beliefs don’t dictate who you can be friends with – just that you can dictate who other people can marry, evidently.
Hi Megan – eyeroll back at ya =) And for the record, I dictate to know one…ah maybe my husband has something different to say, not sure. Have a good day!!
I also agree with Susan. God gives us all free will – so people can choose what they want to do bottom line. However we are commissioned to point out what God instructs – out of love. What people do with that information is their decision.(Realize I will get flamed, charred, roasted etc but without going into rote and verse, you can do that yourself, God is pretty clear – it is mentionned in SEVERAL verses both old and new Testaments.)
Then might I point out the bible also instructs us to not wear any fabric blends, to not speak in church if you’re a woman, to not eat any shellfish, and all manner of other things. Unless you’re following by all those other rules, too, don’t you think it’s hypocritical to choose the anti-gay parts of the bible to follow to the letter while you ignore other parts? Although this discussion of the bible is totally irrelevant if we’re talking legal marriage. By all means, allow or deny whoever you like from being married in your church. That’s your right. But marriage today is also a legal construct, and your religion has no place dictating who “deserves” to receive the legal rights and protections that go along with it. That is, if you care about our founding fathers’ vision of this country, which was that it was NOT to be based on any particular belief or religion.
Why is it that the only argument against equality religious. This is not about religion. The institution of marriage is not just a religious right, it’s a legal right! I would never dream of getting married in the church of a faith that believes my lifestyle is wrong, straight or gay. Just like a Jew would never get married in a Christian church because according to them he’s destined for hell. When will the religious folk finally understand that. Stop trotting out the same old arguments and accept that all people are equal UNDER THE LAW!
I agree…well put
I agree with becki…well put
I hate it when people use GOD as a way to discrimate other people and think that it is ok because it is “in the bible”.
Just wanted to throw it out there that there are a lot of Christian, church-going folks like myself who celebrate and fight for marriage equality. Our church truly does mean ALL are welcome, and we have many same sex couples in our congregation. Our pastor happens to be a lesbian as well, and I love that taking our children to our church shows them God’s love for EVERYONE.
Great post, Heather. You are an amazing mommy.
I love how simple the conversation really is once you break it down. I’m glad you chose to have it with Annie.
I live in Topeka, Kansas, which means on a GOOD week, I only see the Westboro Baptist Church people once. (This is admittedly exacerbated by the fact hat I work right by one of their weekly repeat picket sites.) I can’t imagine having to explain those idiots to little kids. I know I have friends who’ve done it–kind of a must when you live in and around Topeka and your kid sees fun-colored signs out the car window–but just, ugh.
But the good thing is, the more that people stop hating, the more their kids won’t hate, and eventually, everyone will think it’s “crazy,” to quote Annie.
(In the meantime, I take solace in the fact that there is a rainbow-painted house with lots of happy flags riiiiiigth across the street from the WBC.)
Rainbow house for the win!
I was just reading about Fred Phelps’ death- super surprised to not see it popping up in news outlets (tv or online). I have plenty of words about the WBC, but I must retain my self-control and not get into it or I’d write a soliloquy on your comment. Kudos to those of you that live around it- life must be quite interesting with that hot mess in your town.
And the rainbow house is the best. thing. EVER!
I LOVE THIS! Annie is wise beyond her years, I just wish other people were like that!
We’ve had the same conversation with my 6 year old niece, with a similar response (“Wait – people can tell other people who they’re allowed to love?? How? That’s crazy!”). Sometimes I think the children should just be in charge.
Love this! You are an amazing mom and I love your explanation. My 18 year old son had recently begun the coming out process so this issue is definitely close to my heart.It absolutely breaks my heart to realize that just because of who he loves people will unfairly judge or think less of him. I mean, this is a young man who volunteers at the library, asked for donations to our local zoo instead of gifts on his birthday, patiently teaches his little sister all about Star Wars and Doctor Who, reads about string theory for fun, and gives amazing hugs. What’s so scary? I just don’t see it. All I know is I love him and I will stand proudly by his side no matter what. I wish I could say the same for everyone in his life and that’s just sad. Wave that rainbow flag proudly Annie!
Your son sounds like a wonderful young man. Good job, mama!
When both of my girls were about Annie’s age and began really questioning just WHO EXACTLY Uncle Bill was, I explained to them that just like mommy and daddy fell in love, sometimes two men like Uncle Jeff and Uncle Bill do, and sometimes two women do. And they were all, ok, and went about their business. Now…..we live smack in the middle of Bible Belt, Tennessee, so sadly, that was the beginning of many conversations we have had to have thanks to idiots preaching hate in the name of a loving God. (????) My oldest has now learned the art of screening friends just as I did….throw out there that you’re Catholic (Mary worshiper, non-Christian, statue worshiper, etc, etc) or that you are cool with “the gays” and watch the people you don’t want to associate with disappear. It’s kind of magic!
Melissa Lanier says:
LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Love that she knows this young what love is really about. Great Job!
Sad that in 2014 we still have to explain this. Sigh. I don’t get what is very Christ-like about telling people who they can and can’t marry.
You’re raising a good kid there, Mama. So smart and loving, it brings me hope. I hope one day Kyle and Sebastian have the most fabulous wedding ever.
You took the words right out of my mouth! Why does anyone care if my brother and his partner want to get married and share rights that straight couples are afforded. Marriage is more than just that piece of paper. My brother couldn’t visit his partner in the hospital recently in isolation because he wasn’t “Family”. Finally, he found a compassionate doctor who helped him out and gave him the sticker to visit.
Bravo to you!
I love the open hearts and minds of kids.
Good for you for letting her know what it was. I remember telling our girls just before their nana married her longtime partner. They were utterly chill about it, more hurt that they’d been excluded from the truth.
Came out of lurkdom to APPLAUD the hell out of this.
Nic Singleton says:
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!! My 3.5yo daughter asked about the HRC sticker on my car window this past weekend (funny, it’s been on my car her whole life, but she just now asked about it) and I think I muddled the explanation, making it too complex for her little mind. I need to take a lesson from your playbook on how to explain more simply. But 100 kudos to you for getting it right!!
Kids get it. They can break it down, and it’s just so simple. I’m hopeful all of this will seem antiquated to my son, someday. I am a strong believer in the power of people and Christianity. And, for me, that is a kind, loving, inclusive force. I refuse to accept otherwise.
Sad that in 2014 we are still having these convo’s. So glad my mother raised me and my siblings with an open heart… that we can fall in love with whoever…no matter the color of their skin or gender!
I hope some day Kyle and Sebastian have that fabulous wedding and that YOU Heather are their wedding planner!
Love love love!!!
It is sad that this is even an issue. As the mother of a gay daughter it breaks my heart that people think they can tell someone who they can and cannot love. How is that anyone’s business? Thank you for educating Annie to think for herself.
Is there a “love” button for this post?
Debbie A-H says:
Wish there was a love button for this post–and for so many of these comments.
This breaks my heart that you are teaching your children to be so tolerant of breaking God’s covenant. Marriage was intended for men and women ONLY. What’s next? Marrying pets? Marrying children? This is a dangerous road our society is heading down…
I believe marriage is between a man and a woman but I don’t hate because we are ALL sinners in need of God’s grace. There is no hatred in my heart… sadness at what’s occurring these days, but we are all God’s children and therefore, no hate. I pray constantly for my homosexual friends though… My prayer is that they seek Jesus and come to know Him and only though Him will their sins be forgiven.
* Marriage between 2 consenting adults has nothing to do with animals or children. And you might want to check that bible you’re thumping the definition of marriage has changed quite a bit since it was written.
*Edited to keep things civil. ~Heather
No one is asking to get married in your church. Just equality under the law.
This is what I agree with. Regardless of my or anyone else’s personal religious beliefs, there is a separation of church and state in this country. If you deny someone there civil rights under the law, you will always be on the losing side.
Khelly, many, MANY homosexual people already know and love God. *Because* of that fact (and other reasons), I — as a straight, bleeding-heart liberal Christian woman — cannot *wait* for the day that any homosexual Christian can get married to their partner in the church of their choice before The Lord who KNOWS and loves every part of them. The right to equal marriage laws, *including* the right to marry before the God you love, should not be restricted to heterosexual people.
You cannot pray away the gay; it will *never* work. You’d make better use of your time by praying that straight people would stop having gay children.
(And, by the way, men have been marrying child brides under the guise of religion for centuries.)
RzDrums: LOVE. You hit the nail on the head. *Hi-fives*
Marriage these days is both a religious and legal construct. You are free to marry whoever you like inside your church, and should that be only heterosexual couples, that is your right. But when it comes to legal marriage and all the civil rights that go along with it, your religion doesn’t get a say. I’m sorry your heart breaks over the idea of two people in love committing to one another, but we’re talking about equal rights and protections under the law here, not religion. Our founding fathers very purposefully founded this country on no specific set of beliefs or religion. Let’s not corrupt the vision they had for this country by continuing to deny equal rights to a large portion of our population based on religious beliefs that have no place in governance, at least if you care about preserving our constitution.
And Heather, good for you for speaking up about this issue, even though I’m sure you thought there might be some backlash. I look forward to the day your brother is free to commit his life to whomever he wants.
Your homosexual friends don’t want your prayers. They are happy being who they are! You are the one who has problems with their choices, not them! I hope you can understand this one day!
Suzanne L. says:
One of my only issues with your post is the title. I think it’s important to teach our children that disagreeing with someone does not mean hate. And it’s a slippery slope that further divides people. Hate is such a strong word…and I reserve it for the likes of Westboro. I didn’t see anything hateful in the signs held by these people, just what they believe about marriage. So as you are teaching Annie what you believe, I hope you also tell her that the majority of people who disagree with you don’t hate you, or hate people who are gay. They just have deeply held beliefs. As do you. And both of you can still get along and discuss the issues. And as for the TRUE haters out there…who spew vile and anger (and they are on both sides of this issue) I think we can all agree that they aren’t even worth listening to.
Absolutely! Just because I don’t agree with gay marriage doesn’t mean I HATE gays and lesbians!
But WHY don’t you agree with it? It has absolutely no bearing on your life if two gay women or gay men get married. Your life changes not in the least. Why does it matter so much to you that they not get married?
And before you add in what the Bible says, read ALL of Leviticus and tell me how many of its rules you follow.
Nowhere did I say that the people holding these particular signs hated gay people (I have no idea if they do or not). The title is saying exactly what you are advocating here – teaching love, not hate. Annie doesn’t even know what the word “hate” means.
I understand what you are saying, and I agree with the overall intent of your message.
Yet I would also understand someone if they had a hard time not feeling great that other people feel they should dictate whether or not they have the legal right to marry. I would understand if they feel somewhat ‘hated’ when their *entire life* can be significantly limited because someone decided that their love wasn’t real, marriage-appropriate love. I would understand if they felt upset that minors can get married with parental consent, barely legal adults can get married, people who are only doing so on a bet can get married, people who are BORED can get married, people not necessarily marrying for love can get married, and people can get divorced and married over and over again–but for some reason, legal barriers are being promoted so THEY cannot get married, because their gender isn’t the right one.
It might not stem from hatred, but it resembles it.
It may not be hate in the dictionary definition of the word but it certainly is discrimination. No different than having “coloured only” water fountains. There is no justification for barring people from a “legal” act. There is no religion in it, it’s simply about equal rights. Who I share my bed and life with are of no one else’s concern. Pray for my soul, that’s fine because it is none of my business what you pray for but you can’t dictate who gets to be beside me in the hospital when I’m dying.
Yes, yes, yes! I hope for the day a person will no longer have to come out, that the idea of being open about who they are and are attracted to will just be one facet of their whole package of humanity and that being honest about who one is would not subject them to hate, ridicule, violence, and divisive and destructive public and social policy. Won’t that be a great time? And until then, having to explain to our kids what degrading someone else means is just a damn sucky part of parenthood.
I oppose straight marriages! What with all the infidelities, divorces and child abuse. Down with straight marriages.
Another Amy says:
LOL!! This so reminds me of a conversation I had with my parents years ago when I was ‘living in sin’ (in their eyes). They would not let us sleep in the same room in their home so when they visited ours we pretended they could not sleep together as they were MARRIED Point taken!
It’s funny how people try to justify their intolerance by saying things like, “I don’t HATE them.”
You just believe they aren’t equal to you? That’s certainly not love or acceptance.
Yes, thank you. Exactly my thoughts.
Well said, Valeri.
TRUTH. I don’t understand the logic. “Sure, I don’t hate them, I just don’t think they deserve the same rights as everyone else.” Doesn’t that sound familiar?!? Sigh…
Familiar…hmm, kind of like “separate is inherently unequal,” yes that seems vaguely familiar…
history repeats itself. So sad…
Heather: GOOD ON YOU!! I have always held the belief to be honest and open with my children in age – appropriate discussions.
I wish every family taught their children the same – if they agree or not. Children should be allowed to grow up and believe what they want even if it doesn’t align with their parents’ belief(s).
One of my best female friends is married to a woman.
Another Amy says:
How wonderful this next generation are raised by open minded and honest parents like yourself!
Said it before and I will say it again. Heather Spohr you are a classy lady!
Yes, RAINBOW FLAGS all around, even for the close minded. Funny, Letterman is listing off the top 10 people going to hell as I type and no “fags” are on there. And # 10 was the people who list the ones that are going to hell, so I will obey and not comment on some of the negative comments I see here. Oh darn, I just did. Anywho, I have been telling our 6 y/o Ava since she was 4 that all people are equal. The ones in wheel chairs, the ones that are missing limbs, or blind or deaf, the ones that are a difft color than her, etc. I included women who marry/date other women, men that do the same- as I know that this is a part of our world. And that is what my husband and I believe.
I want her to accept all people for who they are, and not judge on other things (other than the mean, intolerable ones that is, she can go ahead and dislike those). She is an open minded little girl b/c that is what she learned from us. And that convo w/ her helped when we went to a little girls bday party from her VPK. I had only met her mom before going and when we got there, we were introduced to her other mom. Ava didn’t blink an eye as she knew this was normal. We watched Ellen today and Portia was mentioned, she asked who that was. I told her that is Ellen’s wife. And she started laughing and laughing and I asked her what was so funny? She said Portia, that name is SOOO funny. Love that kid, she is amazing, open, loving, and we have one great and accepting little girl. Great post Heather, keep em coming!
I nearly died laughing when I was reading how Frozen is basically just a pro gay movie. Crazy stuff. My girl is like Annie – you love someone, that’s cool. At 4 she has been to two weddings – one a man and woman, the other two women. She just wanted cake!
I think you are awesome for teaching Annie about these types of things. We have a 7 year old son and have always taught him that it doesn’t matter who you love.
A few weeks ago the subject came up at the dinner table and he said that the kids at school don’t think that boys can marry boys and so forth. (we live in Texas) We explained to him that in some states you can and some you can’t and that some families don’t think its okay and that it really doesn’t matter what other people do as long as we treat everyone the same. He did say he thinks its weird that boys will marry boys and again we explanied to him well he just wasn’t born that way, some people are and some aren’t and that is what makes the world so awesome, no one is the same!
I want him to know the world as it is and know that people come from all types of familes and religions, we do not allow the word ‘hate’ in our house because until you know what it really means it shouldn’t be used!
Amy C. says:
Interesting discussion. You know to be fair I pose the question of what if blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. would have been around in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s during the days of the Freedom Riders, Civil Rights, and colored vs. white drinking fountains, bathrooms, etc. I am sure many people felt the same way about interracial marriage. Perhaps a lot of people feel that way now and if given the opportunity would make signs to protest against this fact. That is just the way things were then and people felt justified in saying that they didn’t like interracial marriage or believe in it. Now many folks will say that these are two different things but are they really? I would like to think we have evolved from those civil rights days and are continuing to evolve now. Gay marriage is wanted by many many tax paying American citizens. People who patronize businesses, schools, religious institutions you name it. For me I believe that laws need to be changed to reflect that. To protest against it, to stand on the street corner carrying signs about it which in no way effects that person’s daily life in any way, I believe is wrong. Absolutely they have a legal right to protest just like we have the right to argue about it. However, regardless of those sign holders intentions does it breed hate? Yes. Does it breed intolerance? Yes. This is an easy issue that does not have any real argument against it other than the bible saying it’s wrong. The bible says a lot of things are wrong, including women having any sort of leadership position over men. We pick and choose what we want to use in the bible because we have evolved from those days, we can stand back and look at it logically now because the bible can be pretty brutal in it’s laws and rules. Over time I feel we will feel the same way about gay marriage that the majority of us do about interracial marriage. In other words, a non issue. Come on people, there are so many other things we could be thinking about now. I want to get back out into space and do Star Trek kind of stuff! We can argue this thing until we are blue in the face. However, when I look back on these days from a future when gay marriage is legal in every state and the history books are written, I know I can look back and tell my kids which side I was on. You are more than welcome to feel differently.
I agree wholeheartedly. You should hear my 9 year old go off on people who think they can tell people who they should love and marry. She’s passionate for all love, all people. Innocence and acceptance personified. As it should be.
I’m genuinely asking: Since laws regarding the definition of marriage only cover the *LEGALITIES* of marriage, why is it restricted to heterosexual couples? Seriously, why? Why, if we’re only discussing the legal aspects as it relates to the *government’s* decisions on the matter?
Kelley Legler says:
Love conquers all. Thank you for teaching Annie that acceptance begins with personal choices.
Thank you for this awesome post. My god loves all people and wants to love each other. I can’t believe we are still fighting over who gets to marry who! Ugh.
I love this post Heather, I love so many of the thoughtful choices, and I love you for having this discussion so clearly with your kids. We’ve done the same and I’m always so proud when my own girls scrunch up their faces and try to understand the “crazy” logic of hate, racism, discrimination of any kind. It gives me hope that we have indeed made progress.
Sunday we were walking through the West Village in NYC and my 8yo was so happy to see so many rainbow flags. I explained the symbolism to her, and I’m fairly sure she supports same-sex marital equality even more now, knowing that it’s in some way about RAINBOWS.
This world needs more love and less hate. Thank you Heather for spreading love to all! xoxo