Since Dabney and Amy Rice spent hours talking on their first date at Hamburger Mary’s in 2003, the two New Jersey transplants had moved from the District to the suburbs, bought a home, saved for fertility treatments and shared in the awe of childbirth. But when they left a delivery room in Montgomery County last year, after Rice had given birth to twin boys, they quickly fell into the legal bog of every lesbian couple with a child in Maryland. Because Rice was the one to give birth, she was, in the eyes of the state at least, the twins’ mother. Dabney was a legal stranger, her name not on the children’s birth certificates.
In the 14 months since the twins were born, the legal limbo had hung over their lives. Dabney had quit her job as a home decorator to care for the boys. She was the one who built the pirate-themed nursery and painted a mural of sea creatures.
But the simple task of taking them to a doctor’s appointment meant she had to go armed with a permission slip from Rice. Before too long, it could mean not being able to pick them up from school if they were sick, or even to sign them up to play T-ball. At worst, if Rice were to die, it could mean a monstrous legal battle to keep Dabney and the boys together.
“You think about it every day, not knowing what could happen, so you can’t wait for it to be over,” Dabney said near the end of a sprint on a recent Friday morning to get the boys changed, fed, through security and into the courtroom. “And yet, it’s been strange. I always felt like they were mine. It was odd to think I had to adopt what I perceived to be my children.”■
■As the clock struck 9 a.m., a silver-haired judge entered the room and called Dabney’s name. She rose, her eyes filled with tears.
If Maryland becomes the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by a popular vote next month, the victory would be built in part on a campaign message pushed by Gov. Martin O’Malley. Vote for gay marriage, he often says, “for the kids.”
“We cannot rightly conclude that the children of some parents should have lesser protections under the law than children of other parents,” O’Malley (D) recently told a group of deep-pocketed donors in the District, imploring them to open their checkbooks to fund an ad campaign defending the state’s same-sex marriage law. Petitioned to referendum by opponents, it appears as Question 6 on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Like the governor’s own long journey from opposition to support of same-sex marriage, his urging of voters to back the measure for the sake of suburban kids of gay parents is evolutions away from the gay-rights movement’s origins.