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PFLAG National submits amicus brief with family voice
Local Neubecker family represents PFLAG National
by Melissa Wasserman

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At a Respect for Marriage Coalition press conference, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National filed an amicus brief on Feb. 28.

Standing as one of the families profiled, the Neubeckers represented PFLAG National as part of a broad bipartisan coalition of organizations planning to submit amicus briefs.

The amicus brief resulted to support the plaintiffs in the landmark Perry v. Hollingsworth case, which disputes the constitutionality of the Proposition 8 legislation in California that prohibits same-sex couples from marrying. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on March 26 and 27.

The brief included PFLAG families sharing their first-hand perspectives and the impact they face due to the law's lack of equal protection toward same-sex couples as well as the entire family.

Three generations of Neubeckers participated in the national campaign. PFLAG members Mike and Janice Neubecker, their son Lee and Lee's partner, David Neubecker, and one of David and Lee's two children, Braiden, traveled to Washington, D.C., from Michigan and the near west suburbs of the Chicagoland area to speak on behalf of PFLAG families everywhere.

"This is really important because it's a message to the court of why my son and his partner should be allowed to get married," Mike said. "It's very personal and this is an important case. My wife and I have lived in foreign countries, we've lived in several states across the country, and we've never had to get remarried in another country or another state because of not recognizing our marriage. It's universally accepted and I want nothing less for my son and my son-in-law. They are not second-class people, they're not second-class citizens, and their love is not second class."

Mike calls David his son-in-law as he stands as an optimist on the future of same-sex marriage. Speaking at the press conference, Mike said he felt privileged to be part of the amicus brief for PFLAG.

More than the facing the issue of marriage equality as a couple, David and Lee are concerned about having their marriage recognized for the sake of their children, Braiden and Michael, whom they adopted from foster care three and a half years ago. The couple, who live in Chicago's west suburbs, married in California in 2004, explains they want to protect their family and be treated the same as any other family in America.

"It's been difficult for our family in some ways because we've spent so much time building up a feeling of trust and safety with our kids," said David. "Given our backgrounds, the public debate of the validity of our family has caused our children to feel somewhat insecure. They've questioned whether they were going to be removed from their home because they hear that the government doesn't support our marriage and when they're processing that in their minds, they're worried they're going to be taken away from us."

According to Lee and David, the family feels supported within the community they live in and they participate in all the same everyday activities such as baseball practices, Girl Scout meetings, volunteering at school, grocery shopping, and doctor's appointments. However, when it comes to filling out various school or government forms, they say they feel degraded as a couple and the children are confused with a feeling of insecurity as they are forced to select the "single" option.

"It forces us to answer the questions in a way that's legally valid, which is repudiation of our relationship," said Lee. "It's not lying; it's a misrepresentation in terms of how we feel."

Lee and David have been active in the fight for gay rights since they were teens. Now they are part of the Illinois marriage equality campaign. When watching president Obama's inauguration speech, they noticed 10-year-old Braiden comprehending and getting excited especially when she heard him say he supported gays and lesbians' ability to get married. She reacted with a fist pump and cheer.

"I was proud she was so excited about that, but it was also a wake-up call that she was really in tune to the issue and she was realizing we are treated differently," said David. "We've tried to protect them as much as possible from that, as any parent would. I think that's galvanized us more in just wanting to have our family treated the same as any other family and to provide that additional security for our child that any parent would want."

Braiden took action. She wrote a letter expressing her personal feelings about her family and the issue of marriage equality. Her grandfather presented the letter at the press conference. It has also been published and shared in various other forums, including Windy City Times. A shy child by nature, as her dads describe her, this letter was a significant step and they are proud to see her stand up for her beliefs with courage.

"I thought of things I felt and they [her dads] felt," said Braiden of the content in her letter. "It's changing people that think that gay rights shouldn't be right."

According to Lee and David she is learning she can stand up for not just herself, but she can stand up for her family and have a voice and that that voice can be heard and respected. Lee anticipates his children's' story is unique and may be just the type of story that can change an uncertain Republican or Democrat's perspective.

"Quite often the adults look at this issue from an adult perspective and they get very wrapped up in what it means from a historical perspective and what it means in different religious bodies, but when you look at it from the eyes of a 10-year-old, they really kind of bring it all into focus—treating families fairly, treating one another the way you would want to be treated," said David. "You could say it much more simply than that and have it make so much sense. I think Braiden's been able to bring some clarity to the issue that's gotten lost."

See Braiden's original essay here: .

See related story, VIEWPOINTS My family and marriage equality by Braiden Neubecker, age 10 1/2, here:

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