Dear Friend of NCLR,
Most of us have been through the experience of coming out to family. We approach it with some fear, worry, and trepidation. We hope for the best, expect the worst, and sometimes we get lucky, with our family embracing, accepting, and reaffirming their love for us. And sometimes we are not so lucky, and then we move on and hope for better moments as time passes.
Many of us only have to worry about our family’s judgment of us. But what if your family member was in a position to judge your entire community? So it is with Jean Podrasky. Tomorrow and Wednesday, Jean will sit in the United States Supreme Court courtroom with a most unusual perspective, which she shares publicly for the first time in the piece below. Jean has guts, courage, and grace. For her, this week’s oral argument in the Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act cases before the United States Supreme Court are very, very personal.
By Jean Podrasky
NCLR Guest Columnist
Everyone in this country has a family member who is part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. And that includes Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
You see, I am his first cousin. And I’m a lesbian.
For me, this family relationship is especially relevant now. Tomorrow, my cousin, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, will begin considering the fate of two of the most important cases impacting the rights of the LGBTQ community ever to go before the Court—the challenges to California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
As a Californian, I want nothing more than to marry my wonderful girlfriend. And as a tax-paying citizen, I seek basic fairness. In over 1,000 ways, the government penalizes our relationship because it is not recognized under federal law. There are obviously many more reasons I want to get married, but there’s nothing more important to me than being legally recognized as married to the person I love—just like heterosexual couples.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s recent “change of heart” got me thinking a little more about family relationships and the impact that living your life proudly, and honestly, may have on those who have yet to become allies.
Since Senator Portman’s son came out, the senator has shifted his beliefs, writing in an OpEd that he has “come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married.”
He also wrote in that piece that “the process of citizens persuading fellow citizens is how consensus is built and enduring change is forged.” That’s how people—and family members—evolve. That’s how our family, neighbors, and co-workers become allies.
I know that my cousin is a good man. I feel confident that John is wise enough to see that society is becoming more accepting of the humanity of same-sex couples and the simple truth that we deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and equality under the law. I believe he understands that ruling in favor of equality will not be out of step with where the majority of Americans now sit. I am hoping that the other justices (at least most of them) will share this view, because I am certain that I am not the only relative that will be directly affected by their rulings.
Jean Podrasky resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.