A Conversation with Christine Allen
Christine Allen and her wife Ann Brown have been a loving, committed couple and creating family together for over 27 years. The Sacramento, California couple, who were finally able to marry in 2008 after 22 years together, have five grown children, two grown “play-daughters,” three grandchildren, and a nephew who is an additional grandson in all but name.
“The most difficult things for Ann and I when we were younger were the issues involving our kids.”
“I can’t begin to describe the utter frustration when you are holding a feverish infant with whooping cough in the middle of the night, or your seven-year-old boy sobbing in pain from breaking his arm in a bicycle fall, or your four-year-old girl bleeding from accidentally putting her arm through a window, and emergency room staff are debating who the ‘real’ mother is and whether or not you have the ‘right’ to get the child treated. If you are married, you automatically have a legal right to that child and things proceed in a normal manner.
“The frustration of going to parent-teacher conferences and having the teacher only look at and speak to one of us.
“And living with the constant fear of losing custody of a child is absolutely grinding, even when it is a daily fact of your life and you are ‘used’ to it and under no immediate threat. We had five kids and the day our youngest turned 18, Ann and I felt like a boulder had been lifted from our shoulders. The relief was amazing! If we had been married nobody would be a single lesbian parent – we’d be a unit, we’d be legally and socially recognized. I’m not talking about being accepted or like, I’m talking merely about having a legal foot to stand on, a legal status.
“Now that we’re older, our concerns are different. They’re primarily related to healthcare decisions and finances. When one of us dies we don’t want the surviving partner to face any problems in making funeral arrangements. I don’t want either of us to have to go through anything like what our friend Marvin experienced when Bill died (See Marvin Burrows’s July 2011 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee)! If one of us dies, the other won’t get spousal social security benefits. When we were younger, we always grumbled about the extra expense we incurred by not being married, but we were busy raising kids and we just kept marching along. Now, we have so little money and these things matter more. And, we worry more.
“And, as a low-income older couple we’re hampered by not having the choice to move outside of California. We’d love to move to a state where we have relatives, but we don’t dare move where marriage equality doesn’t exist. It costs so much to live here [in California], but at least we are recognized at the state level as a couple. Our mobility is severely restricted because federal marriage equality doesn’t exist.
“I appreciate the steps we’ve made forward for equality, but some things, like doing our taxes, just seem to get harder and harder – more and more complicated and time-consuming. Maybe it’s just because I’m older…
“To tell the truth, I’m just really sick and tired of all the extra expense, the attendant mounds of extra paperwork in our lives, and the extra work involved! And, then I feel guilty because nobody is trying to kill us – in so much of the world and even in many places here in the U.S., gay people are at risk just for being who they were born to be – and I have to remind myself to be thankful.”