In March 2013, the Colorado General Assembly passed SB-11, the Colorado Civil Union Act, which provided thousands of committed couples with critical legal protections and responsibilities. The bill went into effect on May 1, 2013.
We interviewed Fran and Anna Simon to hopefully answer some of our questions about why this was important to Colorado parents. Our questions follow:
Anna: We feel as if the love and commitment we already had for each other is fortified, primarily because our expression of that will be supported by our state’s legal system. For example, I do not have to worry that I could be legally fired for taking time off to care for Fran if she gets seriously ill or injured. We had a religious wedding 8 years ago before having a child together; that statement of commitment was more important to us spiritually and emotionally, but the civil union is more important on a practical level.
DP: How has the legal partnership changed life for your son, or could potentially change life for him in the future?
Fran: Testifying as a family, being the first couple to receive a civil union, the honor of having the mayor officiate our ceremony, and the media surrounding all of that was exciting for Jeremy, but it was one brief period in his life. While he is proud that he helped make a law that recognizes his family, Jeremy, like most 5 ½ year olds, is focused on going to school, his friends, sports, etc., and the legal status of his parents’ relationship does not change that.
However, our son will benefit from being raised by parents who now have critical legal protections that allow us to take care of each other and him. Our legal status will become especially important should our family suffer from any significant health, legal, or financial problems in the future. This was a big reason why we testified for the passage of civil unions again and again.
DP: What is it like to legally adopt or have a child in a same sex relationship? Is it difficult? Would you recommend the process to others? What would you have done differently?
Anna: Having a child is the most important thing I have done in my life, and I am deeply grateful that I could become a parent in the context of a loving, committed relationship. Our lives are just like that of any other parent: a constant juggling act of work, meals, school, activities, family time, etc.
Fran: For me, raising a child is the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Like many families, our decision to become parents was very carefully made; we cannot have a child “by accident.”
But unlike most parents, before Jeremy was born, we had to petition a judge to place us both on his birth certificate and pay attorneys and other fees. Now with civil unions, couples don’t have to go through those legal hurdles and expenses, and if adopting a child, couples can now do that jointly. Sadly, many other states do not have such laws making it more difficult, if not impossible, for both parents to be legally recognized as such.
DP: How does your son feel about having two “mommies” – does he ever encounter people who disapprove or question him?
Anna: Our son’s generation seems to recognize that people are people, love is love, and there are all different kinds of families. I cannot say the same of some members of older generations. Jeremy has only ever experienced support and acceptance of his family, within our public school, neighborhood, and extended family. He is proud of his family; he is very comfortable explaining that he has two moms to new people he meets, and people generally respond well to that. I am grateful that he is too young to have read the horrible things some strangers have written about us on the Internet.
DP: What do you think needs to change in our society (Denver specifically) to really empower and change the nature of same sex marriage and parenting?
Fran: The more people have gotten to know the LGBT couples and families in their communities, the better it has become and the better it will continue to get. When you know someone and can see that his or her values, hopes and fears are the same as yours, it becomes clear that we all need the same things and should be treated the same. Full marriage equality will be an important next step, in Colorado and especially at the federal level where taxes, social security, and immigration among other things come into play. The less we have to worry about legal issues, the more we can focus on being good parents and contributing to the communities in which we raise our children.