When I was about five years old we had a dachshund named Ginger who wasn’t fixed and was always making puppies. For one of those batches of pups we went door to door searching for a new home for them. I guess the fact that a five year old could wander the streets in 1973 says a lot about what a different era it was, but we also lived in a friendly and quiet area where we knew most of the neighbors.
I ended up at one house about two blocks away, was directed by a sign to the back door, and there found two women having a late breakfast and chatting and excited to have a little boy and a puppy to brighten up their day. I got the feeling by the way they talked about adopting a new dog that they both lived there and shared their lives.
Can two women get married? I wondered. The idea did not seem to my child mind to be unlikely. In fact, it seemed likely — knowing how many men and women there were in the world, what were the chances that every man found a woman, every woman a man? It seemed like such long odds, like expecting every one of Ginger’s puppies to be a brown like her instead of black or white or spotted or whatever. (I didn’t know exactly how puppies were made; it was just part of puppy magic that they were all different.)
I figured on the walk home that there must be occasional wife-wife marriages and husband-husband marriages. As soon as I got home I asked my mother if sometimes married couples were two husbands or two wives. She said no. I said there was a couple nearby like that and she said I was mistaken. I argued with her a bit, knowing what I’d seen. She sent me to my room for a nap.
Four decades later same-sex marriage has become a reality, and now it’s about to be the law in my adopted home state of Minnesota. Among the arguments against it were the case that somehow children would be confused, upset, bewildered and even threatened by wife-wife and husband-husband marriages. And I remember being a little kid and feeling the opposite. I was more upset by the sheer irrationality of every body being expected to be the same, my mother’s brute insistence that the two women who’d taken our puppy couldn’t possibly be a family.
I’m proud that Minnesota is one of the first dozen states to champion marriage equality. And for the record, if my mother was still alive, she would be proud of us, too. She was only 27 years old when I was five, and she hadn’t made up her mind about everything.