The Nov. 7 election is a week away. Over the past month, I've gone door to door to talk to voters about the proposed constitutional ban on civil unions and same-sex marriage. As Fair Wisconsin volunteers, we canvassers are supposed to talk about the harm the ban would cause to real families, and we do.
I've talked to many voters about Lynn and Jean, a lesbian couple I've never met, but who were featured in an anti-amendment ad that was in heavy rotation on TV stations around the state. The story of Lynn and Jean, who adopted a baby girl less than a year before Jean was unexpectedly diagnosed with terminal cancer, illustrates the dramatic effects that anti-gay discrimination has in crisis situations.
The story I would tell about my family is much less dramatic (thank God), but it's one that's shared by most parenting couples around the state. My partner Tina and I have four children between us: three teenagers (a girl and two boys), an 11-year-old boy, and Tina's former foster son, almost 19, who calls us both "Ma" and drops in now and again to do laundry, celebrate holidays and borrow gas money.
You can imagine how much cereal we go through. Most nights one or both of us can be found at the local Pick 'n' Save picking up something that's suddenly become necessary to get us through the next 24 hours. Milk. Toilet paper. Alarm-clock batteries. Last-minute science project materials or wrapping paper for a birthday party someone forgot to tell us about.
Our life revolves around our kids. We make sure they're doing well in school, stay safe, treat others kindly, get regular medical care, have a healthy social life and plan for the future. Like many other couples, Tina and I share a checking account and a mortgage, utility bills and museum memberships. We take care of each other when we're sick. We fill in on childcare when the other has to work late. We offer each other a shoulder to cry on when the day's been tough, and a good laugh at ourselves afterward.
There you have it. Our alternative lifestyle. Children. Homework. Checkbooks. Grocery shopping. The proposed ban will hurt my family in many places in our perfectly mundane lives.
But right now, the worst hurt is in my children's faces when they hear one of the pro-amendment side's ads. Our kids are getting the message that our family -- as happy, healthy, and functional as it may be -- is somehow second-class. I don't have a good answer to their biggest question: "Why?"
Jennifer Morales is an elected member of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, the first person of Latino descent to hold that position. She was first elected in 2001 and was unopposed for re-election in 2005. In 2004, she ran for a seat in the Wisconsin state senate, earning 43% of the vote against a 12-year incumbent.
Previously, she served as the editorial assistant at the educational journal Rethinking Schools; as assistant director of two education policy research centers at UW-Milwaukee; and as the development director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women.
She became the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college, earning a B.A. in Modern Languages and Literatures from Beloit College in 1991.
In addition to her work on the school board, she is a freelance editorial consultant and a mother.