Montana HB481: A Mom’s Perspective

On Friday morning, the House Judiciary Committee with hear HB 481. This bill adds “sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression” to the Montana Human Rights Act.

#128 (from me and the cigar store)

(Photo credit: romana klee)

Let me tell you a little bit about who I am and why this is important to me.

I am a 3rd generation Montanan, a business owner for 30 years, a taxpayer, a community volunteer and most importantly a mom.  I am very much like a lot of Montanans, I suppose. There is one difference, however; I have a wonderful son who happens to be gay.

Like any parent, I want my son to have the same opportunities, protections and rights that his brother and his dad and I take for granted every single day. These rights are not something that we have to think about; they are always there and we know that. My son has a lot of the same opportunities as well. He goes to school, he works, and he pays taxes like the rest of us. Yet he can be denied housing, a job and other rights simply because of who he loves.

It really is that simple.

When I hear people criticize this bill, they often do so citing their religious beliefs. I respect peoples’ rights to practice whatever religion they choose, just as my family does. What I don’t understand, however, is how my son’s rights to equal treatment under the law can be seen as less important to a society than the religious beliefs of some of that society’s members. Where in the bible does it say that we should treat some of our own as second-class citizens because of who they are? And why should anyone else’s interpretation of the bible be more valuable than my own?  Our country was founded on the idea of religious freedom.  That does not mean the freedom for me to practice your beliefs but instead to follow my own.

This bill is about peoples’ basic human rights and what allows them to be safe, giving, productive citizens of this great state.  Sometimes it is pretty easy to be against something that doesn’t really affect you personally. I ask you to please think about that carefully .  Equal rights are not special rights and special rights are not equal rights.  I hope the House will consider this important bill and not be led by unjustified fear. As we move forward in Montana with couples recognition and city non-discrimination ordinances, I hope that all Montanans will educate themselves and advocate for fairness for all people.

Thank you for hearing this Montana Mom out.

Mother’s Day, 2011

After considering this for a while, I have decided that I am going to partake of some shameless self-indulgent sentimentality.

I miss my Mom.

We all went to Lydia’s in Butte last night for dinner in her honor- it was one of her favorite places. Dad, my brother and sister, their spouses and their parents, me and Ken and his mom. We celebrated all the mothers in our families- including the absent ones. And I noticed something last night that I haven’t been able to shake.

I love being around this family.

I loved watching my Dad enjoy his children. I loved watching Ken gently pull the chair out for his mom before she sat. I loved how we all told stories and laughed and listened and ate delicious food- sharing tastes across the table. I loved the subtle teasing, the secret shared smiles, the knowing nods and the conversation that was all over the table. I loved how we drank wine and water and Manhattans and Diet Coke and shamelessly ordered dessert. I loved how we all treated each other like, well, like we loved each other.

Which we do.

And I wanted my Mom there- because she was always such an uncompromisingly real presence at all of our family gatherings. You never had to wonder what she thought, or who she was talking to- or about. She loved nothing more than to sit next to my Dad and tell stories and laugh, remind us of details- or have us remind her, and generally just be with her kids and have a good time. I’m not sure how, but she taught us how to enjoy each other.

I remember watching them watch us last Christmas. They were sitting together on a couch, and we (me, brother, sister and all our respective spouses) were all talking to each other, telling stories and teasing each other a little, laughing and just having a great time. I happened to look up at my parents and I saw my Mom look at my Dad, smile, and put her head on his shoulder. That moment is one of the most precious memories I have. In my mind, I hear that smile and that gesture say “We done good, Dave.”

They sure did.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. We miss you lots.

We’re Homo wners!

NOT our furniture

With all of the emotional upheaval of the last 10 days, I neglected to mention that Ken and I signed the papers on a beautiful house on the West Side of Bozeman. We’ll be moving in slowly- over the next 3 weeks, but it’s the first house I’ve ever (half) owned and we’re exhausted and excited and nervous.

I had a little moment with my Dad yesterday as we were moving in the dining room table- my Mom never got to see the house- and I missed being able to share that moment with them both.

But I’m sure we’ll feel her around….

My Mother’s Son

First, I want to thank everyone for the marvelous messages of support during the last week. Losing my mom was/is pretty rough. If you knew her at all, you knew she was a survivor, a character who didn’t like to be bored, wouldn’t take any shit- but dished it out beautifully- and loved to eat, to laugh and tell stories with the best of them. She and my Dad loved it when we were all home, or all together somewhere. We all like being around each other- and that says a lot.  You probably know that the apples didn’t fall far from the tree- her children are all like that in one way or another….

Dad and Mom

I loved my mother in ways that are complicated and extremely simple at the same time.

She was my best friend- and the biggest gadfly I endured. She cheered me on when I needed it, cheered me up when I felt like shit and told me exactly what she thought if she felt I was making a mistake- well, she told me what she thought no matter what I did, said or thought myself. And as she got older, she did it so much more gracefully. She didn’t intrude as much as she simply reminded- and after 45 years of knowing her style, I really came to depend on her perspective in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible 20 years ago.

She was a gentle woman with babies and old people. She simply loved them, and they loved her. I’m not sure why. But there were a few times I was at my wits’ end with my mother and then I saw her interact with Sars or a baby- and it reminded me that deep inside, she had an immense capacity for love that her manner sometimes became a smokescreen to protect. She endured pain in a way that I was amazed by. That smokescreen also helped shield us from the hurt and the painful physical issues she navigated daily.

I never doubted her love for me. I don’t think any of us did-even when it was not so easy. We mostly saw through the smokescreen- as did all those close to her. She loved fiercely- she was often deeply offended at injustice in the world- and she did what she could to help out. If you were a friend, or family, or a stranger in need, she always did what she could- it was her at her best.

I like to think I got some of that.

As I bless her presence in my life- now changed a bit- I am so grateful for the many things I have been given by my family. My brother, sister, father and mother have all left indelible marks on my heart and in my life- good ones, fantastic ones. And I will always be grateful. As I grow older, those marks become lines that intertwine with my own loves and ways of seeing the world- being there for others and letting them be there for me. That’s just the way it works. For you, too, I imagine.

But for me, it mostly started with Mom. The love I felt as a child didn’t diminish over time- it just changed a bit. She always did the best she could in my best interest. And it was important to her that I knew she was interested in my life. And accepting- even of the things she didn’t quite understand. She loved Ken like she loved the people my siblings married- they were family and that was that. She trusted me because she raised me to be a conscientious person- someone who acted out of compassion, not spite. We fought sometimes, because she taught me not to give up, ever- even with her, especially if I felt I needed to make my case. She gave me more gifts that I’m sure I’ll notice as life goes on. Thet’s what I’m looking forward to.

This firstborn son had a unique relationship with his mother. It’s like that with almost every mother and child, but no two are ever alike. That woman, my mother, will be forever intertwined in every relationship I have- just as she always has been.

I’ll just notice it more now.