I've been thinking about Mary Cheney since the news broke that she and her lesbian partner are expecting a baby next year.
Just about the only thing that makes Vice President Dick Cheney seem like a human being to me is that he loves his openly gay daughter. The fact that she, too, is a neocon may be a mitigating factor. Nevertheless, when I think how, as a Christian, I am supposed to love my neighbor, and that it means Cheney, I cling to my recollection of the 2004 vice presidential debate when John Edwards brought Mary and her sexuality up and Cheney's dignified refusal to discuss her made Edwards look cheap. If only he comported himself in that manner about 100 percent of the time.
Anyway, I was reminded of the impending birth of Baby Cheney today as I watched a lesbian couple at my church have their second baby baptized. This is a family where both mommies have had a baby, serve on the altar guild, teach Sunday school classes, and attend church with their 4-year-old daughter more faithfully than I and Desinator Jr. do lately.
I don't know what they are teaching their kids to call them. I also don't know what legal arrangements they have been able to make, if any, to assure that their children will be secure in their two-parent household. Or to assure that the father(s?) of their kids can't decide to exert their paternal rights and seek custody of the kids.
When I think how much courage it must take (and will take over the years) for them to present themselves to their employers, to the kids' schools, at birthday parties, sports activities, ballet lessons, as the openly gay but otherwise completely traditional family they are, I realize how much I take for granted seeing them in the pew a few rows ahead of me. They pull it off with so much grace, this family thing, that no one pays any attention to the one tiny distinction that makes them different from almost all of the other intact nuclear families in church.
I thought today as I watched their newborn son being baptized: What will they tell the kids when they ask where they came from, or how do you get pregnant, or why do I have two mommies, or all manner of other questions that inevitably get asked by little kids and throw parents into a tizzy.
The media had a brief field day with Mary Cheney's announcement. People all across the political spectrum felt free to pontificate about her deciding to become a mother -- from conservative disgust at her violating the fundamentalist moral code regarding marriage between a man and a woman to liberal disgust at the hypocrisy of her working to elect and retain a president whose administration has callously used GLBT folks as a sacrificial lamb in order to get their folks to the polls.
Deciding to become a parent is one of the most irrational decisions a person can ever make. I think it's a mistake to make judgments about this situation based on logic and reason. Parenting, when not done in a materially pathological manner, is really the ultimate sacrifice (short of dying in battle). It is also the ultimate gift to yourself, since most children give parents way more love than they deserve (until they become teenagers, anyway).
So I say to Mary Cheney: You go, girlfriend.
I really can't imagine how she and her partner will navigate the ultraconservative world they live in. I doubt they will live around people like you find at Calvary Episcopal Church, who wouldn't bat an eye at their lifestyle and would love them just like any other family with little kids. But maybe embarking on this adventure of creating life and raising up a person they will call theirs (regardless of the legal truths) will help Mary and her family find the courage and grace that the two mommies at church display.
Desi Franklin is a lawyer with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, & Berkowitz. She is also a local Democratic activist.