Why Removing Gender From The Law Changes Nothing For Families

Recently, opponents of marriage equality have focused more on their objection that laws will no longer recognize the uniqueness of husbands and wives or mothers and fathers. Just this weekend the coalition opposed to Minnesota marriage equality used Mother’s Day to mourn that “Mother” will be removed from marriage laws, having previously warned not to “erase moms and dads.” Family Research Council senior fellow Cathy Ruse has attempted to make a similar argument, complaining about the Department of Education’s decision to recognize same-sex families when assessing need for financial aid:

I carried my children for 9 months in my womb, I endured the pain (and joy) of birth, I nursed them for many months after they were born, and every morning they jump into my bed screaming, “Mommy!”

But the federal government says I’m Mommy no more.

I am Parent 1.

Or maybe Parent 2.

Kind of like Thing One and Thing Two. But Dr. Seuss was being ironic.

Mr. President, I dare you to tell my daughters I’m not their mother.

Ruse’s quibble aptly reveals how little substance this argument has. No one is telling her she’s not her children’s mother. Likewise, lesbian moms are mothers too. The reason for the change is to recognize that not all families are alike, and thus should not face discrimination when simply filling out a form because it has gendered language.


The argument mirrors the rhetorical question asked by 11-year-old Grace Evans during a Minnesota House committee hearing: “Which parent do I not need, my mom or my dad?” This ruse ignores that children of same-sex couples could ask the very same question. For example, Eagle Scout and LGBT ally Zach Wahls could easily ask, “Which of my moms do I not need?” and thus highlight that marriage equality has nothing to do with taking a parent away.

Perhaps Ruse is Parent 1 some days and Parent 2 other days. She has the freedom to be whatever kind of parent she wants to be to her children, including a mother that hyper-conforms to gender norms. What guarantees that privilege is the protections she and her family have because she is legally recognized as one of her children’s parents — the same protections that same-sex couples are seeking for their families through marriage equality. If Ruse has been relying on the federal government to inform her of her gender and parenting role, perhaps she should simply take her kids’ word for it when they call her, “Mommy!”