Text and photographs by Doris Molenaar
CNS Special Report
Chevy Chase — Terrance Heath and Richard Imirowicz have so many anniversaries, they don’t know which to celebrate anymore.
There is the day they first met after Heath answered Imirowicz’s online personal ad. There’s the day they exchanged rings in Hawaii. Or the day in 2010 when they were legally married in Washington’s all Souls’ Church.
Since the two men first met in 2001, they have adopted two boys, now 4 and 9. Since then, public opinion in the United States has been shifting in favor of gay rights. On March 9, 2010, the first day same-sex couples were legally allowed to marry in Washington, their two sons carried the rings at the fathers’ wedding.
Currently, same-sex marriage is not recognized by the federal government, but six states and the District of Columbia do recognize same-sex marriage, and 10 states recognize civil unions or domestic partnership that grant nearly all of the state-recognized rights of marriage.
Maryland recognizes certain legal protections that apply to domestic partners. In March, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. The law will likely have to be approved in a statewide referendum in November.
President Barack Obama made a statement of support for gay marriage last week, which Heath and Imirowicz hope will increase the chances of the law being passed.
“I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly,” Obama said in an interview that aired last Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” The President’s statement is considered a victory by the gay rights community, and is in stark contrast with North Carolina’s passage last week of a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman.
By the numbers, the Imirowicz family doesn’t stand out in their Washington suburb of Chevy Chase. Both parents work while the kids are at school. Every night they have a family dinner. The children, Parker and Dylan, play sports and video games and fight with each other in the car. The boys don’t mind not having a mother. When Parker’s friend once told him “I have a dad and a mom,” Parker replied, “well, I have a dad and a papa.”
Heath is confident that the president’s statement will make a positive change in his family’s life and increase the chances of Maryland voters approving a referendum on same-sex marriage this fall.
“I applaud and welcome the president’s statement,” Heath said. “He placed himself on the right side of history and showed true leadership.”
If Maryland’s same-sex marriage laws do go into effect, the legality of same-sex adoption, which is currently largely ambiguous, will be solidified. In Maryland local courts and judges decide to accept or deny petitions to adopt. The same-sex marriage law will permit all such petitions. Among the reasons given to be opposed against LGBT adoption are that the child may be confused, teased, and ridiculed for having two parents of the same gender, but research has shown that children of same-sex couples show no differences in self-esteem, gender identity, or emotional problems from children growing up in heterosexual parent homes.
Only 40 years ago the biracial marriage of the president’s parents was illegal in many states.
“If one of my sons gets elected 40 years from now, the same could be said about them,” Heath said.