What Would The Founding Fathers Think Of DOMA?


We, the people, hold these truths to be self evident.

  • First truth. Last week, as many of you know, the Supreme Court of the United States overruled the Defense of Marriage Act. Outlawing gay marriage at the federal level has been found unconstitutional.
  • Second truth. Today is the Fourth of July, America’s national holiday.
  • Finally, a less important truth but germane to my point, I am directly descended from one of the Signers of the United States’ Declaration of Independence. His name was Lewis Morris. I am also descended, albeit secondarily, from Gouverneur Morris, who was in large part responsible for the drafting of our Constitution.

Here it is. I believe that both of these men, were they alive today, would approve of the Supreme Court’s recent decision. And as a parent, so do I.

Let’s back up.

First of all, there is a tendency in America for the Red (the conservative half that is), to claim the Founders of our country as their own. I cannot say that that’s incorrect. I do not know what the Founders might think of politics today; balanced budgets, credits for schools, single-payer healthcare, et. alia.

But I do believe that the Founders, or at least two of them, would approve of DOMA’s overthrow. Why? Several reasons.

If you look through the Pew Forum’s recent study on same sex marriage, statistical truths emerge.

  • A college education makes support of gay marriage more likely; Lewis and Guvvie were Yale and Columbia men, respectively.
  • New Yorkers like Lewis and Gouverneur favor gay marriage 51-41 percent.
  • Religious beliefs are the single strongest determinant of disapproval for gay marriage; both Lewis and Gouverneur advocated religious tolerance.

But most of all, America in its entirety is becoming more and more supportive of gay marriage. And, universally in this shift,  we are twice as likely to approve of gay marriage when we have a gay family member.

My son is gay. So Lewis and Gouverneur have a gay family member. That in and of itself is just a truth. It’s self-evident. Keep reading, please.

Let’s ignore the Founding Fathers for a moment. They won’t mind. What about the regular fathers, and the mothers? And most of all, our children? The overturn of DOMA matters beyond health care benefits, beyond consenting adults, and beyond law. It matters to our children in the first human task, constructing a self, and to us, the parents, in our scaffolding of their efforts.

Remember how the very young imagine their future. How they learn about the faraway land of grownups. They say, “When I grow up, I want to marry Harry. Or Courtney. Or Mason or Anju or Tsien or Fatima or Isabella.” They don’t have any ideas about marriage, or falling in love, or desire. But they do know that grownups seem to get married an awful lot. To help them grow up, we have to let them imagine marriage in a way that is true to their being.

One day when my son was little, 3 maybe 4, my ex-husband said to him, unknowing, “When you grow up, I hope your wife is as beautiful as Mommy.” “Me too,” he replied. What if we had said instead, “When you grow up, I hope you marry someone as beautiful as Mommy.” Gender-neutral. Open to all possibilities, just as we’re open to Radiologist, Lawyer, Optometrist, Cop.

Well now my son can marry someone as beautiful as me. However, that someone is going to be a man.

The Supreme Court’s DOMA decision gives our children more space, more words to understand themselves. “Mommy, when I grow up, I might marry a girl or a boy.” It gives us the adult words in response. “When you grow up, sweetie pie, you shall marry whoever you choose.”

Happy 4th everyone. I’m proud to be an American. With a wave to Lewis and Gouverneur, over the generations.


Note: Here, for the first time ever, I’m going to moderate the comments very carefully. In this case, because of the particular personal component, I do not want to entertain even civil comments of disagreement. Thank you in advance for understanding.We will revert to the usual discussion policies going forward. BTW,  I could not find attribution for the photo, if anyone knows where it’s from, please advise..

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  • Really beautiful post Lisa.

    7:26 am
    Flo said...

    Nothing less than a masterpiece.

    With much appreciation to your son for giving us the privilege of knowing him a little bit better.

  • Of course your relatives, and other signers of the Delaration of Independence, as well as the US Constitution, would pleased to see DOMA overruled. Our country was born out of a burning, unwavering desire for freedom. There was nothing in DOMA representing freedom.

    Now your son, and millions of others, have the freedom, to marry those who they choose. God bless America, your son, and all of those who have fought so long for this fundamental right to marry.

    Impressive lineage, by the way. I wonder if our founding fathers had your great sense of style, too!

  • There is always room for more love, more inclusion, more tolerance. Thank you for making some of that room here.

    9:46 am
    Bunny Williams said...

    I am a descendent of Lassie. When Corgi’s and German Shepherd’s are permitted the right to marry, then!, and only then!, will I be happy!

    SO, carry on celebrating your ”son’s” right to marry; but, never forget all the Corgi’s and German Shepherd’s out there who have been FORCED to live in, what our wicked society, refers to as SIN!

  • Beautiful and very well-said, as your posts always are.

    Happy 4th of July, Lisa.

  • Just back from the gym and you have me in tears.

    Thank you Lisa for your beautifully written post.

    Here’s to liberty and justice for all!

    Happy 4th.

    xo Jane

  • Your son is very, very lucky to have such a supportive mom. YOU are a special mom to accept your child the way he was born and not try and force him to be who he is not.

  • Thank you for your honest and realistic post.
    Honest as it is so personal, realistic because the truth is, that once there is a close ” gay ” or lesbian ” family member, we reconsider our beliefs over.
    A mother / father will always love the child. Always.

    7:40 am
    kathy said...

    Unfortunately not always the case. I have a male cousin who is gay and has been completely rejected by his parents. My mother is the one who gave his wedding, and is their surrogate parent.

    10:42 am
    The Advicist said...

    I’m afraid I must agree with Cathy. And also point out this incredibly moving article which shows that LOVE is not enough. It’s about acceptance. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-robertson/just-because-he-breathes-learning-to-truly-love-our-gay-son_b_3478971.html

    Lisa, beautiful piece. Much love and encouragement, as always.

    11:38 am
    mette said...

    I believe that whatever one´s child is / does, the band connecting the parents and the child will always be there.
    It WILL take time to adjust to the ” new ” situation.
    However there are unfortunate exceptions.
    My MIL had a strong stand against ” the sexually different people “.
    But – surprise – when se learned, that her granddaughter, the cousin of my older daughter ( both same age ), was lesbian, she immediately ” turned the wheel ” and said that it is totally normal. But she refused to give the girl an inherited ( ugly ) chest, which the girl would have wished to have.
    The MIL said, that the chest would not stay ” in THE family “.
    The mother of the girl said, that her greatest fear had come true.
    She tried to kill herself, but did not succeed.
    Well, she was mentally sick for starters, and finally died after her fifth suicide attempt.
    The family never discussed the matter.
    IMO, and this is just me, both reactions were odd, very much so.
    I believe that both women were mentally unbalanced.

    2:23 pm
    Lisa said...

    That link is such a terribly sad story. And my son, if you will remember from the video of him dancing, looked very like her son when he was young. My heart goes out to that family, and to all who realize too late what mistakes they have made.

  • Thank you for sharing your love and support of your son. And we all know the same love and support goes to your daughter. Fairness and equality, what an idea! Happy 4th of July!

  • Happy 4th to you, Lisa! And to your family.

    Thank you for this post.

  • Lisa, we are somehow related through marriage! My bother in law is a descendant of Lewis Morris, too. Olivier and his wife Alexandra live in Beaujolais and must be the French branch of the tree.
    Happy Forth of July!

    2:23 pm
    Lisa said...


  • Cheers to you and your dear family. You all are lucky to have each other…. I’m feeling lucky for having somehow found your website – grateful too, as I seem to have found a friend who writes from her heart.Many thanks.


  • So beautifully expressed. Your son is a very lucky man to have the support of such a wise and loving mother.
    I’m so happy they decided to turn over DOMA. There may be hope for our country yet.
    It should have been called the Defense Against Freedom Act! It’s a shame you felt the need to moderate comments on this wonderful post. It broke my heart to see, “keep reading, please”.
    This world is so full of angry bigots. Your readers are not likely among them, but this is a public forum and the public can have very bad breath.
    Happy 4th of July to you and your family.

    9:09 am
    Lisa said...

    Jennifer, thank you. I should make myself clearer though. The moderation, yes, it’s to fend off the bigots. So far so good. I do not expect many of my readers to be in that camp, but the headline is somewhat “Internet-catchy,” so random sorts may land here. As for the “keep reading,” there I meant only “Keep reading so as to hear my argument for early inclusion of growing up gay in your talks with your children.” I suspect you all would be your usual lovely selves, and I wanted to make a point that didn’t get lost in a rush to support. Not that I mind the rush to support, of course, not at all. Only that if we are move beyond the “It’s OK,” to the “It’s a regular part of life,” I think we parents need to start early and start with ourselves. As I now wish I had.

  • Informative,beautifully worded.Does that include all your individual states.or will they make their own choices?

    Happy 4th July,Lisa.

    9:06 am
    Lisa said...

    They make their own choices. We have a long way to go. But California is OK.

  • I am happy that we live in a world where your son doesn’t have to hide who is, and where he can (now) marry whom he chooses. And may I brag for a moment? I am the attorney of record on one of the amicus briefs in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases. I only wish that there had been as good a result in the Voting Rights Act case as there was for DOMA.

    9:10 am
    Lisa said...

    Honored to have you here, MJ.

  • Beautiful post.

    On a personal level, last summer, I married an absolutely fantastic man who I’m deeply in love with. My ex-girlfriend and her wife were in attendance. The idea that my marriage is more valid than hers due to the gender of the person I happened to fall in love with is utterly ludicrous, and I have no idea why both our countries took so long to come around to that idea.

  • Beautifully said. Happy Fourth to you and your family.

  • I cannot imagine anything more beautiful to read on the 4th of July than this.

    9:48 am
    Bunny Williams said...

    But about what about my Corgi?!

    Will she live to see the court turnover DOGMA?? Will she??

  • I hope your son does find–or has found–someone “as beautiful as mommy,” though it will take some looking to match your grace and wisdom.

    11:08 pm
    Materfamiliasknits said...

    Hear, hear! I must echo miss C . . .

  • I stand and applaud you for this post! At the very least, you deserve a fist bump and a “you go, girl!”. So good to hear a voice of reason. Thank you : ) Have a wonderful 4th.

  • Somehow you always know the perfect thing to say. Right on!

  • This is wonderful, just wonderful.

  • I think the Founding Father’s., who were in their own time political junkies, would be in awe of what their constitution has spawned. I doubt they’d all have the same opinion about DOMA but I think they’d be proud anyway.

  • I cried (in a good way) reading this post. Thank you for making the point about bringing up our children with the possibility of loving the same sex when they grow up. My daughters grew up knowing some of my ex-husband’s and my friends are gay and lesbian so it’s something they took for granted. They were surprised at the intolerance their peer group exhibited when they went to school.
    My youngest daughter graduated from high school last week and the hot topic of conversation at home the next day was the ‘hetero-normative’ (her words) speech delivered by the PAC male parent on behalf of the rest of us parents at the graduation ceremony. She was clear that he wasn’t speaking for me or her dad or extended family and was annoyed at how it excluded some of her friends. I’m proud of her and her sister for noticing and critiquing these kinds of attitudes. I hope they continue to develop the confidence to challenge them as well.

    Happy 4th of July Lisa. I have great memories of the exuberant 4th of July celebration I was included in when I lived in the US for a year.

  • Beautifully said.

  • Bravo. Equal rights is equal rights. And your son has a very wise Mom.

  • Love, love, and love again. Happy 4th of July to you all.

  • Such a post that resonates Lisa. I’m on your page and grateful for the recent Supreme Court decision.

  • When my friend Lee came out to his dad, he hoped for a immediate positive response. His dad (a judge), said, “It took you over 20 years to come to terms with who you are, give me at least a few days.” He did come around- and I think some Americans will need time to do come around, especially if they don’t have gay family members. So let’s be tolerant enough to give them some time, too.

  • What a wonderful happy post. Happy 4th of July. x

  • as a descendant of penniless german farmers, i in turn shall say Die Luft der Freiheit weht. and TEAM P.

  • My 88-year old Catholic mother would never have thought about supporting gay marriage… until she met the son of one of her best friends and his partner, and got to know them well. It wasn’t until personal experience came into the equation that it all changed – for the better. She loves these guys and has met a lot of their friends. She was happy to vote for the gay marriage bill in Maryland, which passed in November 2012.

    2:24 pm
    Lisa said...

    Go mom!

  • Canadian here – love this post! I hope that in my lifetime I live to see more progress, not just in the States but in the world, such that we are no longer judged by sexual orientation (among other equally arbitrary traits)

  • Beautifully expressed, Lisa!

    Happy Fourth!

  • Lovely post :)

  • Wonderful post, Lisa.

    I really appreciate what you said about how we talk to kids. I don’t have kids but hope to later and this is something that I think about.

    I grew up in an environment that was very open-minded, and I went to a very liberal high school with a lot of gay students. I consider myself lucky to have grown up with such openness, and to not have been brought up with ideas that I had to later overcome. I also grew up in Canada, which certainly has had a big influence on me in this department.

    That said, in the world I grew up in, even though nobody thought negatively if you were gay, you still had to come out.

    I read somewhere, I wish I could remember where, that we won’t have true equality until people are as willing to assume that somebody is gay as they are straight, and that parents don’t say things to their kids about their future possible heterosexual partnerships. In short, that our society moves beyond being hetero-normative. I think carefully now about what I say, especially to children.

    In the same vein of social norms, Sweden has some very progressive ideas about how to talk to children about gender – I also think about this a lot.

    I now live in a country that is very conservative on these topics, and it feels like going back in time, and I feel a lot of pain about this.

  • It seems to me the next step is a bit of consciousness raising about our heteronormative assumptions. When meeting someone for the first time, the follow up question to “Are you married?” should not be, “Do you have kids?”. Rather, if the answer is “yes” the next question should be “Do you have a husband or a wife?”

    2:25 pm
    Lisa said...


  • Love this. Amen.

  • While rejoicing about this decision, my sister, daughter and I spoke about my 10 year old nephews who will hopefully grow up in a country which views homosexual relationships as valid as their opposite sex parents’. Here’s to all those young children growing up in a better world!

    Well written, Lisa. Your kids are lucky to have you as their mom.

  • Beautifully put. Lots of love to you and your son. While I wish that we didn’t have to be concerned about supreme court rulings and state by state votes on marriage equality, it feels like a time full of potential to really change our society, and every victory for love just makes me happier and happier.

    There seems to be a shift in society too–I live in a large metropolitan community with blue collar roots that very frequently gets a bit too conservative for my tastes. And yet, our pop radio station is playing “Same Love” by Macklemore constantly. Sure, he’s a popular artist, and it’s a catchy song but it’s also a very powerful song that is much more about the message than the hook. Unlike a lot of rap songs, you can understand all of his lyrics, and, man, those lyrics are powerful. Every time I hear it on the radio, I get chills.

    9:24 am
    Abby said...

    That song gets me every time.

  • Dear Lisa,

    What a beautiful, intelligent, compassionate declaration of human rights.

    Every time I read something written by you I think how lucky I am to call you a friend. You are an extraordinary woman.


  • Thank you for this post.

    I could not be happier about this decision, and hope that the country is becoming more ashamed of unwarranted hate.

    Funny what you said about raising children aware of all possibilities. My “kids” are now 27 and 23. When they were born, I said to my husband, there should be a sign in the hospital nursery stating that “there is a 1 in x chance your child will be gay.” It should be mentioned in pediatric visits as relevant. Some would never be able to integrate this thinking into their parenting, though for others, it could prevent unintended problems. It matters so much to me that every kid have a home that is receptive to whoever arrives.

    Neither of my kids is gay. What I am extremely happy to see is how they stand up for human rights at every opportunity. It is our family’s ripple in the water. As parents, we owe not only our children, but the world, that.

    Pardon me while I step off the soap box.

  • Lovely post, and I wish your son (and your daughter too) wonderful lives. They have a wise mother, that’s a help.

    I was very pleased to see DOMA go on grounds of decency to, and happiness for, humans, but very dismayed at my parents’ reactions and the silence on social media of several friends who loudly proclaim themselves ‘Christians.” My parents are not surprises, they come from families where personal pain (that has killed several already) is either mocked or ignored, so compassion to anyone outside of the family is a stretch. Enormously disappointing, but that’s nothing new. The “Christian” friends I’ll try not to rant about – so quick to say “God is good!” for things they like, so slow to deviate from their positions. Though the ones I know and am dismayed by all know each other and attend the same church – perhaps it or its minister is the fault here, as Christ’s teachings, unless distorted, are not.

    PS, I signed as MJS, three initials, rather than MJ as I am also a MJ and also a lawyer though not doing anything to save the world…. Hello MJ!

  • Gay people want all of these special rights. First they want the right to fight and die for their country.Then they want the right to marry the person they love. Where will it end? It wouldn’t surprise me if next they want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. ☺

  • I thank and applaud you for a cogent, heartfelt, courageous post.

    Your son must be very proud of you and grateful to you.

  • Thank you for this, Lisa. It brought tears to my eyes. It means so much to hear a parent love and accept their child unconditionally.

    So much has changed since I came out 15+ years ago.

    I’m so happy that your son is coming of age at a time when gay relationships are granted (almost) equal rights. And I’m even more excited for the babies who are being born now, who won’t even know of a time when same-sex relationships were unconstitutional.

    This is a wonderful moment to be an American. (VRA decision excluded, of course.)

    7:35 pm
    Danielle said...

    This video may provide some comic relief: “A Day in the Life of a Heterosexual — “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RufuBpmeqvU

    2:26 pm
    Lisa said...

    Ha! Thank you Danielle.

  • Writing from the shores of Massachusetts Bay, at the tip of Cape Cod, in the mighty little town of Provincetown, let me tell you that you and your son are not alone–people wept tears of joy in the streets, and knew that the 38 remaining states that do not allow gay marriage are on notice.

    Thank you for your beautiful and authentic post, as authentic as the brave men and women who have had the courage to come out and contribute to this movement.

  • I have a gay step daughter and I can honestly say that there is nobody in the family who has made any kind of fuss about it. What I do know is how hard it can be when there is no family support.

    I was delighted to read your open hearted and inclusive message of goodwill and hope.


  • A true victory. And more power to your son.

    Greetings from Europe!

  • Well said, but I must chime in here. I want to take the “gay” out of the talking. We love whom we love, period. I want the government out of my romantic ideas alltogether, be it whomever I am loving and want to establish a marriage with. I have always believed that it is NO ONES business to condone whom we love/make our lives with. Marriage is a legal entity as well as a religious one, therein lies the fight. These “laws” need to recognize marriage the institution with the morals and religions out of it. It is only fair that your spouse recieves all the benefits the legal rights that accompany “marriage”

  • Lisa dear, I was moved to tears reading this honest, beautifully written and reasoned post. Thank you for writing it, and sharing with us your fortunate readers your wisdom, compassion, and reflections of personal experience. We have made great strides here in these United States during our generation, on many issues, for which I am genuinely proud. That such a lively discussion amongst your readers here (which I read every word of) would be even possible would have been unfathomable to me when we were both undergraduates in college, only a few short years after the fateful police raid on the Stonewall Inn in NYC that set the wheels in motion that continue to turn and gain momentum still. Thank you, as a fellow High WASP (and direct descendant of other Signers himself), as a gay man who has found navigating such identity not to be without challenges during his lifetime, and as an admirer who is truly fortunate to count you as a friend. Reggie

    2:27 pm
    Lisa said...

    Much love to you Reggie my friend.

  • Thank you for a very beautiful post. One of my sons is gay.

    MJ: Thank you!

  • and one more thanks – to Reggie, and all the men and women who have lived their lives in such a way that my son’s path has been so much easier than theirs. Thank you so much.

    2:28 pm
    Lisa said...

    Hear, hear.

    8:00 pm
    Reggie Darling said...

    Thank you, alh, am humbled — Reggie

  • Your family circle is growing, what a lovely time for all of you. Best wishes to your son and his partner.

    2:28 pm
    Lisa said...

    Thank you! I should make clear, my son is not getting married yet. I’m looking forward to his future wedding with love.

  • Yes, yes, yes – on all counts. And I suspect if there had been founding mothers among those founding fathers (as no doubt there were, without any credit) – they would agree as well.

  • What a lovely post and such thoughtful comments by your readers! It brings to mind your beautiful posting about watching your son’s soccer games with eyes only for your son. (I’d love to read that one again!) Your posts about your children always strike a chord with me as they express so gracefully and succinctly, and with such warmth, the feelings I’m unable to articulate. I was surprised by the depth of my emotions following the supreme court’s rulings and was so happy to be able to share in my friends and neighbors’ celebration in the streets of West Hollywood.

    2:32 pm
    Lisa said...

    Vonse, here is that link.

    I make reference in the final sentence to what I discussed here. I didn’t always know.


  • Wonderful post!

  • I don’t know what the founding fathers would think, but it’s interesting to think about, and this is a lovely and loving piece. Thank you.

  • Applause! Wonderful piece; wonderful writing, as always.

  • Just published from Liberty Fund is a beautiful book on Gouverneur Morris, by Jack Barlow. To Secure the Blessings of Liberty: Selected Writings of Gouverneur Morris. The hard back is a real collector’s edition.

  • I often read your blog but seldom comment; however, this comment equals the best of your writing (which I love). Well said!

  • My mom says the hardest thing about having a gay child is that people hate her kid, my sister, without knowing a thing about her.

    That right should be reserved for family ;)

  • This is a great post Lisa. I do so agree with what you say and the sensitivity of your proposition. your post could not have come at a ore apt time…the American holiday. Here in England we feel the same…so important for all our childrens futures and as a grandmother may be even for their future …who knows?!
    Thank you for expressing this so well I will share your post with friends here.

  • Lisa, this is another one of your greatest posts.
    My opinions stand with the Founding Fathers, like your distant relatives.
    Living in liberty means being able to make your own decisions about your personal life without the interference or approval of the government.

  • Poor Bunny Williams. I’d be angry too if I was called Bunny. But it IS great name for a drag artist or a female impersonator, if anyone out there is looking for one.

    Nice thoughtful analytical post, Lisa.

  • Lisa, I am so sorry I missed this post. Kathy mentioned it in a recent conversation and I came looking. What a beautiful post. Your son is very lucky to have a loving and wise mother like you. I wish I could have been here sooner to send warm thoughts to you and your son. Bravo to you both!

    2:02 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Susan Partlan, Thank you Susan. I appreciate it.

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  1. […] First, the Supreme Court of the United States of America decided that gay marriage was legal all over the country. This is an issue near and dear to my heart. […]