Full equality for my son: the greatest Mother’s Day gift of all
By Danielle McCarthy
Today, millions of families around the country are coming together to celebrate Mother’s Day. Some children will make a card or have flowers sent. Others will pool their money with their siblings to buy a nice piece of jewelry. This Mother’s Day, however, I know one gift would top them all: full marriage equality for my son, Zach, and for all committed couples here in Colorado.
No magic blueprint tells us how to be a good mom, but we all share important core values: We are caregivers, mentors, and guardians for our children. Being a mother means protecting your child. Being a mother means nurturing your child — and providing all of the care, love and wisdom that you can.
So, as a mother, it pains and saddens me that my Zach is still denied the freedom to marry the person he loves and that thousands of gay and lesbian couples across our state face that same reality each and every day.
Our family — the McCarthy clan, as we like to call ourselves — is a sizeable one. Together, my husband and I have raised four wonderful, intelligent and compassionate sons. As parents, we want all of our sons to be happy, healthy and successful — with the ability to make a lifelong promise to the person they love, no matter what.
I have always practiced equal treatment among my children. But Zach being denied the freedom to marry sends a very confusing message to his brothers — why shouldn’t Zach be given the same freedoms they enjoy? The impact is very real. I can sense the discouragement in Zach’s voice when talking to him about his own state not being on his side. I see my other three sons reacting to this basic lack of fairness, as they come to grips with the fact that their brother is being treated differently under the law.
When I consider what all of this means for Zach, I think about my own marriage. My husband, David, is a disabled military veteran who sustained debilitating injuries as a result of his service. Knowing that marriage is about being there for each other for better or for worse, I retired four years ago to be David’s full-time caretaker. It’s unbelievable to me that if my own son were in a similar position right now — trying to take care of his partner and facing the same daily medical and financial challenges that I do — he would not have the same protections in place to make ends meet.
At the same time, my husband’s military service very much makes this issue personal for us. When David signed up to fight for his country, he did so with the understanding that in America, freedom means freedom for everyone — no exceptions. I want the same freedoms, responsibilities and liberties that my husband fought for to be extended to all of my sons, not just some of them.
But at the end of the day, as a mom, my biggest concern is Zach feeling like he is somehow less worthy simply for being who he is. I don’t want him to be dissuaded in any way from living his life truly and honestly, and I worry that he will experience unnecessary challenges until full equality is a reality here in Colorado.
Still, I am hopeful that we are moving in the right direction. The world Zach is living in is a very different place than the one I grew up in. As more and more people find the strength and the support to be open and honest about their lives, important conversations are happening about why marriage matters to all of us — gay or straight. Coloradans are learning that there is no substitute for marriage, which says plainly and clearly that two people will take responsibility for one other, and that when the going gets tough, they will be there for each other.
So, on this Mother’s Day in particular — with marriage equality resting on the soon-to-be announced decision of the Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Colorado — I believe our state is ready. Today, 61 percent of Coloradans now support the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples – a clear sign that most people in Colorado understand nothing compares to marriage in protecting couples and their families.
In the meantime, I try to remind myself that someday the time will come when Zach can walk down the aisle and marry the person he loves, just as my other sons are able to do. And for this proud mother, that will be a happy day indeed.
Danielle McCarthy lives in Montrose.