My Two Moms: How 12 awesome families are celebrating Mothers’ Day this year
May 09, 2013
This Sunday, May 12, families across the country will come together to celebrate their mothers and reflect on the importance of honoring the women who have served as caregivers, mentors, and guardians for thier children. Mothers' Day is a time to recognize the many varieties of families that come together to make our country so interesting. There is no one formulation for what makes a strong family, and there is no magic blueprint for what makes a good mother: The one thing that strong, dynamic families have in common is love, and the common denominator in amazing mothers is compassion for their children.
To celebrate Mothers' Day this year, we checked in with twelve awesome families with two moms. Some of these parents are married, but many live in states where same-sex couples do not have the freedom to marry; even those who are legally married face challenges because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which denies their marriage federal respect and over 1,100 responsibilities that would help to protect their families. These couples are already doing the work of marriage in their daily lives - and they need to be able to share in the freedom to marry and have the option of solidifying their union through the legal commitment of marriage under the law.
Here, these families speak out about what it means to be a mother, how life has changed with welcoming children into the world, and how having the freedom to marry would strengthen their relationships and their families.
Susan & Shannon
Susan and Shannon met eight years ago through professional contacts - and in the years that followed, they kept in touch and became close friends. Somewhere along the way, in 2010, they began feeling that their relationship transcended friendship, and they began dating. The women promised their lives to each other in a gorgeous ceremony in Kansas City, MO last year, and they were thrilled to have Shannon's children - 6-year-old Davis and 3-year-old Georgia - play a vital role in their ceremony. "The kids have known Susan since they were itty bitty," Shannon said, adding, "Both have accepted her fully into their lives. They call her their 'Bonus Mom.'"
Although Susan and Shannon make their lives together work in the Kansas City area, they know that each day, they are denied the respect and dignity of marriage by their state and by their country. They hope to see the Supreme Court overturn DOMA this year, and they look forward to a day when they can legally marry in their community. "We do everything in our power to teach our children to treat every single person with the same respect regardless of age, color, religious background or sexual orientation," the couple said. "We long for the day when our country will stand behind this principle and beside us as a family." Read more about Susan and Shannon.
Summer & Celeste
Junction City, KS
New mothers (and American Military Partner Association members) Summer and Celeste recently celebrated the first birthday of their baby girl, Ellie. "My daughter challenges me to be a better person," Summer said. "Just having the ability to nurture and impact the upbringing of a child is so special. She means everything to us both." The women currently live in Junction City, KS, where they are stationed at Fort Riley, since Celeste serves in Active Duty Army as a PFC. The couple has been together for nearly four years, and while they hope to marry legally in Iowa this summer - and host a ceremony at a later date in their home state of Ohio - they know that once they return to Kansas, where same-sex couples do not have the freedom to marry, their marriage will not be respected. "Having the freedom to marry would make my family feel safe and protected," Summer said. "We would know that no matter what, we would be recognized 'legally' as a family."
Even if Summer and Celeste were able to marry in Kansas, however, Celeste's employer, the U.S. military, would be restricted from recognizing Summer as Celeste's wife. That's because DOMA prohibits federal respect for marriages between same-sex couples and denies marriage protections to the spouses of gay and lesbian federal employees, including service members. Summer cannot share Celeste's health care plan, and because of adoption laws in Kansas that prohibit Celeste from legally adopting the child she is actively providing for, Ellie is similarly not recognized as Celeste's family. This Mothers' Day, Summer and Celeste will both be celebrating their important role as Ellie's mother - but as they do, they know that until DOMA is overturned, they will be denied the full respect and responsibility that their relationship deserves. Read more about Summer and Celeste.
Cathy & Catriona
Cathy and Catriona live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with their two daughters - 10-year-old Mardoche and 9-year old Angelina, both originally from Haiti - and 6-year-old son Cian, who was born in Guatemala. "Motherhood is the most wonderful blessing," Catriona said. "As challenging as parenting can be, there's nothing in the world that can compare to seeing your child's smile light up a room from the smallest accomplishment, or the intense wave of emotion when your child nestles into you as close as they can get and says, 'I love you, Mammy.' Those gems can't be found in any other aspect of life."
Cathy and Catrona married last year in Council Bluffs, Iowa, but because of DOMA, the women worry constantly about being separated by the federal government: Cathy is from Dublin, Ireland and is not a U.S. citizen, and so, since the federal government does not respect their marriage, Catriona is not permitted to sponsor Cathy for U.S. citizenship, as any married different-sex couple could do. For families like Cathy and Catriona, Mothers' Day is a time for the women to reflect on their love and happiness with their children, but all of that comes burdened with a fear of what could happen if DOMA is not overturned. To raise awareness about the plight of binational same-sex couples living in the United States under DOMA, the couple has been speaking out with Stop the Deportations. Check out their story HERE. "Having the freedom to marry and having our marriage recognized as equal would release our family from the constant fears of being split up," Catriona said. "It would allow us to plan for our future and our children's future. It would give us back control of our lives. It would allow us the simple pleasure of looking forward to signing up for the next children's soccer league knowing that our family is secured with the same rights as all other families - and that my spouse is entitled to a Green Card just like all spouses of U.S. Citizens." Read more about Cathy and Catriona.
Angela & Fernanda
This month, Angela and Fernanda are celebrating their second wedding anniversary; they married in May 2011 in their home city of Washington, D.C. The couple met in 2005, and they instantly hit it off; they fell in love and Fernanda quickly became close with Angela and her twin children, who were then 3 years old. "When we married in May, it wasn't Angela and I getting married, but rather a ceremony that merged the four of us into an 'official' family," Fernanda said. "I never saw James and Dakota as Angie's kids or as my step kids, but rather as my family," she added.
James and Dakota felt similarly. By the time the twins were four years old, they were well accustomed to having Fernanda in their lives. One day, James, clearly confused by Disney cartoons that cast stepmoms as villains, told her, "Step mothers are mean - and you're not mean! You are our Fernanmommy." Now, Angela and Fernanda are hopeful that couples across the country will be able to share in the joys of shared motherhood as they have been able to. "As we look to expand our family in the coming year, we hope that the freedom to marry becomes a reality," they said.
Corri & Dianne
Los Angeles, CA
Corri and Dianne have been mothers since 2006, when they adopted their two daughters, Tina and Raquel - and in the past seven years, they have each grown to understand what it means to be a mother to a child. "I've really started to see how universal parenthood is," Dianne said. "You share this overriding concern for another being and their development. Like so many parents, we want to make sure our kids have every opportunity, while protecting them and doing all we can to provide for them. Parenthood has made me realize how truly similar we are as human beings."
Corri and Dianne were fortunate enough to marry in California in 2008, during the five month window between the CA Supreme Court passing the freedom to marry and Proposition 8 taking that freedom away. Their marriage has helped them declare what they are to other members of their community: A family. "It's been empowering for us to be involved as room parents and soccer moms, and to be out and recognized as a couple, and as a family, in our school, church, and soccer league," Corri said.
"With full marriage equality, the daily routine of our lives won't change much," Corri said. "But with full marriage equality, a fundamental truth of our life will be irrefutable - that we are married. And that will mean we will be able to manage the day-to-day responsibilities of our family life with the security that married couples and families need - that we can provide health insurance and make health decisions for each other without question; that we can, like all other families, inherit from each other without unfair penalties; that we don't have to file as married on our state tax returns and unmarried on our federal ones, which is simply false. Ultimately, it's hard to rationalize denying any family the opportunity to be responsible for each other." Read more about Corri and Dianne.
Kershunda & Keyana
Havre de Grace, MD
When Kershunda and Keyana met, they were both serving as soldiers in the Army. "Keyana was helping me get my orderst taken care of, and I instantly fell in love," Kershunda said. They became friends, and each of their sons became friends, and in the next year, the women started dating - just weeks before Keyana was deployed to Iraq. During their time apart, Kershunda and Keyana fell in love over a long-distance relationship, and Kershunda ended her career as a soldier so that she and Keyana could be together. Thgey married in November 2011 in DC.
"Being a mother is love," said Kershunda, an active member of the American Military Partner Association. "It's such a blessing to be a mother - the most rewarding job in the world. Watching them grow from these little innocent, sweet boys to opinionated, smart, and respectful young men is more than I could ever ask." This Mothers' Day, while they are enjoying the blessings of motherhood, Kershunda and Keyana are also looking toward June, when the Supreme Court has the opportunity to overturn DOMA and end federal marriage discrimination for legally married same-sex couples. "I am not even legally authorized to travel with my wife - and because of DOMA, I'm not even recognized as her wife," Kershunda said. "My marriage matters because it says I am committed to the love of my life. It means being able to walk side by side and be recognized as a strong military couple that sacrifices just like other couples do."
Julie & Jenni
San Francisco, CA
Lifelong LGBT advocates Julie Dorf - the Treasurer of the Freedom to Marry Board, one of her many hats in addition to her work with the Council for Global Equality - and Jenni Olson, an LGBT filmmaker and film historian - have impressed a deep commitment to social justice and the importance of equality on their children, Hazel and Sylvie. The couple, who hosted a personal commitment ceremony in 1997 and later married in Canada in 2005 (their marriage is legally respected in California), have always made sure to explain to their children how important it is to stand up for your beliefs and constantly be working toward a better world.
"Often we like to say that our family is just like any other family - we have our ups and downs, we go to the dentist every six months, sometimes it's hard to get the kids to fold their laundry," Jenni and Julie explained. "But - like most other families - we also think we're really special. Our kids have deeply internalized a commitment to social justice over the course of their childhoods, and a very strong understanding that diversity is good for our society, including our family structures. As a family we're aware that we have a responsibility to make the world a better place for everyone -- and the marriage struggle has been a great learning tool." This Mothers' Day, as the freedom to marry continues to post gains around the world, Julie and Jenni are hopeful that their daughters will see the power of committing to what's right and never giving up.
Kim & Adaire
San Luis Obispo, CA
Because of Kim's service in the U.S. Navy, much of Kim and Adaire's relationship - and the relationship between Kim and Adaire's daughter 8-year-old daughter Zahara - takes place while the family is separated by over 100 miles. Because of DOMA, Adaire and Zahara cannot be command sponsored to move with Kim on base - or receive many of the other protections that different-sex military couples and families receive. Because of this, Kim returns to San Luis Obispo each weekend to spend time with her family. "Sharing time together reinforces our love for one another, our strength in building each other up, and raising our daughter to believe that true love is not just a fairy tale, but a journey we take one step at a time," Adaire said.
The women, who are members of the American Military Partner Association, have planned a wedding ceremony in California for July 2013, but because of Proposition 8 - the constitutional prohibition on same-sex couples marrying in California - their ceremony will hold no legal standing. That's why this Mothers' Day, the entire family is crossing their fingers that the Supreme Court will stand on the Right Side of History by overturning Propoisition 8 and restoring the freedom to marry to loving couples across the state of California. Read more about Kim and Adaire.
Leah & Natalie
New Orleans, LA
This Mothers' Day, Leah and Natalie are continuing the process of moving their lives from Mobile, AL, where they had previously been living since 2005. As Leah finishes up her position teaching at a university in Alabama, Natalie has begun work at Tulane University doing medical research, so they're looking forward to the summer, when they'll be all moved into their new home with their son Hayes, who turns two this July. The women have loved becoming mothers. "Since I've been very, very young, I have known that I wanted to be a mother," Leah explained. "It never entered my mind that I wouldn't have children becasue I'm gay. I feel more myself being a mother than I ever have in my life."
Despite their shared commitment and investment in Hayes, only Leah, the birth mother, is legally connected to Hayes. "I want more than anything to be a legal parent to my son," Natalie said. "I am one of his main caregivers, but on paper we are legal strangers - and that's why it was really important to me as the nonbiological parent, for Hayes to have my last name. It helped create some connection on paper to Hayes." Couples like Leah and Natalie need to see an end to DOMA, and they need the legal protections and dignity that marriage can provide for them. "We love each other. We take care of each other. We support each other financially, emotionally, intellectually. We sacrifice for each other. We live together. We eat breakfast and dinner together," Leah said. "We do all of the things that many families do, but we are not a family in so many people's eyes."
Michelle & Kali
Michelle and Kali promised their lives to each other in April 2013 in Illinois after being together for nearly six years, and now they live together in Troy, IL, just outside of St. Louis, MO with their 11-year-old daughter McKenzie. They have been hopefully anticipating the freedom to marry in their home state this year, cheering on their legislators and urging them to stand on the Right Side of History.
"How long is it going to take for our 11-year-old daughter to know there is absolutely nothing bad about us being able to marry each other?" Michelle said. "Instead, she comes home and says that someone told her two women can't marry each other. This is why it is important for our family that Illinois pass the freedom to marry so our daughter and the children of every gay or lesbian couple feel complete and the same as every other family."
Beth Anne & Jennifer
Beth Anne and Jennifer have been together since 1999, when they took a trip with their friends riding innertubes down the Chattahoochee River in Helen, GA, just outside of where they were working on their masters degrees at the University of Georgia. "We started holding hands on the river ride," Beth Anne said, laughing. "And we never let go." The women adopted their son Ezra in September 2006 and their daughter Jaden one month later. In June 2009, they had their wedding in Provincetown, MA, and two weeks later, they adopted their third child, Zion. "To say that we feel blessed is an understatement," Beth Anne said. "We have three beautiful children! Our lives are crazy busy with two six year olds and a three year old. There is never a dull moment."
This Mothers' Day, the couple is reflecting on the importance of the freedom to marry, and how being legally married would strengthen their family. "Being a mother is the best thing that has ever happened to us," Beth Anne said. "I am a changed person. I live and breathe for my kids, and I would do anything for them. My life is not about me anymore - it is about my family. We deserve to be treated like every other heterosexual family out there. We are no different. Our love for each other is no different." Read more about Jennifer and Beth Anne at Equally Wed. This Spring, EquallyWed.com will be launching EquallyFamily.com, an online resource, blog, and social community for LGBTQ and allied parents.
Anne & Jessica
Just a few days ago, Anne and Jessica celebrated one month with their newborn daughter Nora, and they couldn't be happier. "We wanted and waited so desperately for so long to be mothers, and now that Nora is here, everything just feels blissfully, wonderfully surreal," Jess said. "She is so perfect and beautiful, and our hearts are filled with so much love, and a new appreciation for the divine miracle of life."
The women met in 2006 while serving in the Peace Corps in Morocco - although Anne is originally from Atlanta, GA and Jessica is from Greentown, OH. After their terms of service, they attended graduate school in Washington, D.C., and Jess joined the USAID Foreign Service, which is how they arrived in Managua. They pledged their commitment to each other in Anne's hometown of Atlanta in August 2009, but because Georgia does not allow the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, they also married legally in Washington, D.C. in 2010. By the time they were preparing to leave for Nicaragua in August 2012, they learned that Jess was pregnant - and last month, they welcomed the adorable Nora Kathryn Morrison-Richardson into their lives. They're celebrating Mothers' Day by dealing with the hectic lives of living with a one-month old - and appreciating every minute they have with her.