The Meaning of Marriage
The ACLU of Missouri announced Feb. 12 that it would be filing a lawsuit against the state on behalf of eight legally married LGBT couples who are Missouri residents. Jim MacDonald and Andy Schuerman, one of the married couples in the lawsuit, are the only ones who are Kansas City area residents.
Schuerman spoke so eloquently at the news conference where the suit was announced that I asked him for a written copy of his speech. I am publishing it here in its entirety because in it, Schuerman truly sums up what marriage means for him, his husband and their family:
“Missouri has been my home for 13 years and Jim’s home for 25 years. Kansas City is a wonderful place to live. We have developed deep roots in this community and couldn’t imagine living anywhere but in this great state.
“After being together for nearly five years, we got married in Vancouver, British Columbia. Our hope is that the Missouri courts will see fit to recognize our marriage and grant the same legal and financial protections enjoyed by other Missouri families.
“Our daughter Grace was born in March of 2011. She turns 3 next month. From the first day we brought her home from the hospital, we have been blessed to experience nothing but kindness, respect and support from family, friends, neighbors and even strangers. Wherever we go, the acts and words of respect and kindness — some overt, others tacit but no less evident to us — have convinced us that the laws of our state are out of sync with the way that Missourians feel about our family.
“Someone occasionally asks why legal recognition of our marriage in our home state is so important to us. It’s a strange question in many ways, and not always easy to answer in a few words. Sometimes it is simpler to turn the question around and ask whether recognition of their marriage is important to them.
“But at the end of the day, for us, it comes down to Grace’s security — emotional, legal and financial.
“I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m the oldest child in my family or because I’m from a small, rural, farming community in Nebraska, but I’m often willing to settle for ‘good enough.’ Whether a restaurant is ‘good enough,’ a hotel ‘will do’ or a pair of gloves are ‘just fine,’ I’m not generally too picky.
“However, when it comes to protecting my family, I’m unwilling to settle for ‘good enough.’ I’m no longer willing to settle for a patchwork of protections that might be ‘good enough’ by the standards of others. Our daughter deserves to have her family recognized just like all her friends who happen to have two parents of different genders.
“When Grace was baptized, the pastor talked about the symbolism of the sacrament — it represented the moment a child becomes part of a community. In some ways, legal recognition of a marriage is similar. It is an open sign of the commitment two people have made. It provides a vehicle for forming community. While our family is no less a family in our minds without legal recognition, it is — perhaps understandably — less of a family in the minds of others. Hardly a week goes by when we’re not asked our marital status — on a form at the doctor’s office, by a colleague at work, on day care enrollment paperwork, by the car insurance agent over the phone.
“Truthfully, we’re tired of the ambiguity this brings into our lives. We want our marriage to be recognized in situations large and small. And we’re grateful for this opportunity to make the case in a court of law.”