On “Freedom to Marry Day” (Feb 14th) Berkeley Celebrates All Families with
Children’s Picture Book Operation Marriage
Berkeley, CA – When a school child is asked to draw a picture of her family, what will it look like? A lot has changed since the 1950's. Recently, a groundbreaking report revealed that there are two million children in the U.S. living in homes led by GLBTQ parents. It also documents the harm done to those families by discriminatory laws, policies, and attitudes. Candidates in the 2012 elections have made same-sex marriage a key campaign issue, putting two million children in the crossfire of a national debate. In California on January 1st, the FAIR Education Act went into effect, requiring accurate and representative depictions of all people in textbooks and K-12 classrooms, including GLBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. On February 7th 2012, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Proposition 8, a ballot measure that banned gay marriage in California, was unconstitutional, setting the state for an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
Into all this comes the story of one family, brought to life in a new children's picture book, called Operation Marriage. On February 14th 2012, which marks both Valentine's Day and Freedom to Marry Day, a special event will be held at 4pm at Books Inc. in Berkeley (1760 4th Street in Berkeley) to celebrate this new book, celebrate ALL families, and continue the march toward marriage and family equality on a road well trod by the likes of Mildred and Richard Loving (Loving v Virginia). Operation Marriage is based on a real family with gay moms. It is written by award-winning Palo Alto children’s author Cynthia Chin-Lee, and chronicles the experiences of a family challenged by peer pressure, homophobia, and the denial of the right of two adults to marry legally in California, while also highlighting the family’s love. The book tells the story through the eyes of two elementary school-aged children.
"Many people understand the effort to legalize gay marriage, but I don’t think we understand how kids in gay families feel when their right to be a family is rejected by friends or neighbors,” says author Cynthia Chin-Lee. “I wrote Operation Marriage for all children, for those who are being bullied or who feel like an outsider for any reason."
“Gay marriage strongly affirms family values,” says David Spiegel, M.D., Associate Chair of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University Medical Center and Director of the Center on Stress and Health. “Scapegoating gay Americans or their children for wanting to affirm their love for their families is wrong. This book addresses these issues from a child's-eye point of view in a constructive and useful way."
The publishers say Operation Marriage is a book intended for all families, gay and straight alike. Co-founder Craig Wiesner says that “it offers a teachable moment” between parent and child. “Straight couples looking for guidance to explain marriage equality will welcome this book as much as gay families will appreciate seeing their own experience valued and reflected.” The book can also help prevent or deal with bullying. “Children in the United States are more likely to be bullied and teased because they have gay parents than children in countries that allow gay marriage. We want to help children deal with these issues, as well as assist families and schools at a time when more gay parents are having children.”
A report by All Children Matter (childrenmatter.org) released at the end of 2011 shows that “two million children in America live with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents. They’re happy and healthy, but face challenges from unfair laws designed to hurt LGBT people.” For example, GLBTQ couples pay thousands of dollars more in federal taxes than heterosexual couples, face families being dismantled due to health issues or the death of one partner, and are denied access to federal, state and local programs to which heterosexual married couples are automatically entitled.
"Children need a permanent and secure nurturing family to help them thrive,” says Ellen C. Perrin, M.D., Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Floating Hospital for Children Tufts Medical Center in Boston. “Decades of research have shown that children's social, academic, and emotional development are similar whether they have two mothers or a mother and a father. Their parents' marriage gives children the security and the legitimacy they need to dispel stereotypes and to thrive in school and society.”
Many compare the struggle for marriage equality to other historic civil rights issues: “I have been involved in civil rights issues since college days when I served a 30-day jail sentence for sitting at a lunch counter with three other whites and two African-Americans, just having a cup of coffee,” says Mary Bentley Abu-Saba, Ph.D. “Here we are now, having to dig through the weeds of another civil rights issue: marriage equality. The beauty and emotion of this book flows from its presentation through children’s eyes. The simplicity of children’s thinking can effectively pierce the rough hewn edges of adult logic!! Every school library should have this book and be proud!”
A growing number of progressive religious leaders believe that what politicians and pundits claim to be religious attitudes towards GLBTQ people don't reflect their beliefs. Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine, chair of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in Berkeley, said "It's about time the world acknowledged that every person, created in the image of God, deserves the same rights as everyone else, regardless of sexual orientation, religious beliefs, gender, or race. Homophobia is a sin against God and against humanity and it is time to confine it to the dustbin of history." Bishop Roy Sano (United Methodist Church), recently called Operation Marriage, “A beautiful book worth sharing.” adding "It's been said, 'a little child shall lead them.' That could not be contained. Now, we read here, 'little children shall lead them.'”
Rev. Wendy Taylor (UCC, Retired), author of the book No Longer Strangers, said "As an ordained clergy in the United Church of Christ serving for 20 years in the Northern CA Nevada Conference, my wife and I were married in CA three times. First, a covenant ceremony on Feb.9, 1991 at our UCC congregation. After CA declared our Feb.16, 2006 marriage invalid, we married again when CA state declared same gender marriage legal August 2, 2008. In all of our 28 years, we prayed for this marriage of legal equality beyond the church consecration of our love like all people who give their lives to each other. We retired to my home state WA and registered as domestic partners with cards from the state's clerk's office. With only an 'everything but marriage' law, we wondered if our church vows were all that we would ever be allowed. Now the state of my birth has passed a law that has finally awakened to the reality and dignity of our full humanity and the truth of our love. Now blessed be we are granted equal protection under the law. Many churches have married us all for years in good faith, the state will now grant us justice."
Derrick Kikuchi, Reach And Teach co-founder explained the significance of February 14th. “Back in February 2004, Mayor Gavin Newsom in San Francisco directed the city and county clerks to start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples who wanted them. This was an historic decision which we celebrate along with Valentines Day each year as Freedom to Marry Day. What a great date to share this book with families in Berkeley!”
Members of the Berkeley City Council also plan attend the event. "Operation Marriage is a beautiful and sweet way in which to breech a subject that is sometimes difficult to approach in a child-friendly way. I am really excited about this new children's picture book about marriage equality!" said Councilmember Darryl Moore (2nd District).
The book, available nationwide, is illustrated by Lea Lyon, a Richmond California-based award-winning children's book illustrator. “I am honored to be a part of this important project. I thank my amazing models for helping me bring this delightful, loving family to life.”
Cynthia Chin-Lee, Lea Lyon, the publishers, Rabbi Michael Lerner, and East Bay families who are members of Our Family Coalition (ourfamily.org) will be at the event in Books Inc., Berkeley on February 14th at 4pm. The book will be read aloud and Lyon will show paintings that were used to illustrate the book. Rabbi Lerner will introduce a “Defense of All Families” pledge.
About Reach And Teach: Reach And Teach is a Bay Area peace and social justice learning company dedicated to “transforming the world through teachable moments,” providing resources on peacemaking, gender equality and sustainable living. Previous books include Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon, an American Library Association nominee for the Rainbow Reading List, and Ivy Homeless in San Francisco, a winner of the 2011 Children’s Literary Classics Book Award and the Moonbeam Book Award. Reach And Teach is an imprint of PM Press with titles distributed internationally by Independent Publishers Group (IPG).