I have fond memories of sitting around the kitchen table with my sons the night before their school parties. I remember watching them pick out their favorite Valentine’s Day cards, the teasing and, most of all, the laughter we shared. It was their first attempts of showing innocent affection to their peers.
So many years have passed. Now my sons have families of their own, and are keeping our Valentine’s traditions alive as their families select those special cards.
On this Valentine’s Day, I want to say to my oldest son Charlie, and to others in the LGBTQ community: You are loved. You deserve to receive and give love like anyone else. And you deserve to not live in fear of discrimination.
It’s a message that makes sense when you know who my Charlie is—he and his husband Dave are at the center of a case before the United States Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In that case, he is fighting so that others can’t be discriminated against because of who they love.
When Charlie found his forever love and announced they were getting married, I shed tears of happiness. I too loved Dave, and I welcomed him to the family with open arms. Their wedding was being planned when we encountered a negative hitch that has changed our lives forever.
I will never forget that day when we went to pick out the wedding cake—not just because I was excited, but also for a different and painful reason. It was the day I saw my son humiliated simply because of who he loved. That was five and a half years ago.
Charlie and Dave’s wedding planner had recommended a local bakery for the cake for their reception. They made an appointment to meet with the owner to talk about plans for the cake.
But we never had that conversation.
As soon as the owner asked who was getting married, it was over. The bakery owner did not view the pictures they had brought with them, or discuss flavors. Once he knew the cake was for Dave and Charlie, he declined their business—based on who they are and who they loved.
All Charlie wanted was to be like everyone else and purchase a cake that would have been sold to any other couple. Instead, we left the business and sat in the parking lot, shocked and embarrassed.
My son and his fiancé were turned away by a complete stranger. It was a painful experience, but a reality that too many couples endure on a daily basis.
My heart broke as I watched my son humiliated, refused service by a public business that is supposed to serve everyone. My heart broke more as I saw Charlie’s shoulders shaking in the car, and when he said felt like he was treated as if he wasn’t good enough. For him, it was all the worse that I was there, to have his mom watch him being turned away.
That experience changed Charlie and Dave in the days and years following. When Charlie’s car broke down, and my son-in-law Dave had to call a tow truck driver to assist Charlie, he worried that if the driver knew that Charlie was his husband, he might not show up, leaving him stranded.
Now I’m worried about my middle son, as he sets out to plan his own summer wedding. His fiancé, too, is a man. I don’t want him to go through what Charlie did and I don’t want to see him hurt, too, because of who he is and who he loves.
I was so proud of Charlie and Dave for going to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission after they were turned away by the bakery, to ensure that other same-sex couples wouldn’t have to go through the same experience.
I stood by my son in Colorado five ago, and I stood by his side in December at the Supreme Court. I continue to remind Charlie what I told him that day in the parking lot of the bakery: I love you with all of my heart, and I am proud of you for who you are. It is a message that I hope all parents of LGBTQ children will share with their kids on Valentine’s Day.
My hope is that the justices will affirm what I have affirmed for Charlie throughout his life: that he and other LGBTQ people are just as deserving of the same freedoms as everyone else, and that love is something that should never be penalized.
I hope that no mother or parent ever has to witness that humiliation and feel the pain we experienced that day.
This Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate love for everyone, and especially for the millions of LGBTQ people who, like my son Charlie, need to know that they do not need to justify who they are or who they love. They are just as deserving of receiving and giving love as everyone else.
My Valentine’s Day wish is that everyone in this country finds kindness, love, understanding, and acceptance of others who may be different from them. I am going to purchase my cards, select a special treat, and get them in the mail early.
I cannot remember the last time I sent a Valentine’s card to my sons, but it begins again today.