Guest: Growing up in a society that questioned my gay dad’s parenting
Guest columnist Kevin Ranker writes about his own family experience in contrast to U.S. Supreme Court justice’s comparison of the newness of marriage equality to cellphones.
Special to The Times
FOR most of us, last week’s U.S. Supreme Court proceedings on cases related to same-sex marriage touch upon what we hold most dear — our sense of family and love.
As a son, a father, a husband and a state senator, I try to listen to opposing views and truly understand them. I recognize that for some, these proceedings symbolize a journey spanning decades and a struggle to reconcile internal differences. I recognize how long and difficult this journey may be for many to accept full marriage equality or to understand that children of gay parents can grow up healthy, happy and successful — one day becoming wonderful parents themselves.
But, I was outraged as I listened to the Supreme Court proceedings and heard Justice Samuel Alito say, “Traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years. Same-sex marriage is very new” and then proceed to compare that “newness” of marriage equality to cellphones and the Internet. I wanted to scream but instead, I posted to Facebook, “My dad was gay before you had a cellphone!”
For me, my struggle did not revolve around how to accept equality, but rather grappling with those in my community who did not. As the son of a gay man, my personal story is one of growing up in a society that questioned the value of my own family.
When my father came out, many in our community refused to accept it. Each day I saw my classmates, my friends, my educators and even family members questioning my father. Quietly questioning his ability — and even his right — to be a parent. But mostly, people dealt with my father’s life ... by ignoring it. This quiet shame, this silence, was worse for me than outspoken hatred.
My journey and my challenge was growing up knowing that society saw my father as unequal.
I, however, have always seen things very differently.
I grew up with a strong value system — one nurtured by a father who provided me with a foundation to succeed and who gave me unconditional love and support. I was taught that a family was not determined by the genders of the persons involved, but by the love and commitment that they shared. I was taught that every person is to be treated with respect and dignity. I was taught to continually strive to better myself through education and faith.
These are the values I have carried with me throughout my life and these are the values my wife and I now pass on to our beautiful little girl. There are tens of thousands like me, thousands of children of gay parents who grew up just fine. Some of us are successful professionally and some of us are not. Some of us have problems, some of us do not. Some of us raise families, some of us do not. Some of us are straight and some of us are gay. Exactly like the children of straight parents.
By continuing to differentiate between types of loving relationships, we separate and isolate families within our communities. We must recognize that separate can never be equal, domestic partnership can never be marriage and the genders of our parents do not matter.
What does matter is the love and total commitment we have to being good parents.
Two weeks ago I was in my father’s wedding to his partner of 16 years, Shan. My mother gave my father away and my 4-year-old daughter spread flower petals down the aisle. Different? Maybe. Beautiful? Absolutely. In fact, witnessing that incredible ceremony and the love my father and his husband share was one of the more powerful experiences of my life.
For decades our country has struggled with discrimination in many forms. While it takes time, education and sacrifice to conquer injustices, those on the side of promoting tolerance and equality have always prevailed. I will continue to do everything in my power to be the best possible parent I can be. Just as my father did for me.
Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, is a state senator representing the 40th Legislative District.