Testimony of Kathleen Moltz, M.D., F.A.A.P. Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University School of Medicine

Testimony of Kathleen Moltz, M.D., F.A.A.P. Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University School of Medicine[1]
 Before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights
""Less Faith in Judicial Credit: Are Federal and State Marriage Protection Initiatives Vulnerable to Judicial Activism?""

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this Subcommittee about my family. I am here as the mother of two beautiful children whose welfare I am trying desperately to protect, as the partner of the wonderful woman with whom I share my life, and as a pediatrician who has taken an oath ""to first, do no harm.""

My family's story began in October 1990, when my partner Dahlia Schwartz and I became a couple. After several years together, we were married in a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony in 1996. We recited the seven blessings, broke a wine glass, and signed a ""ketubah,"" the Jewish marriage contract that sets forth, before G-d, community and family, our responsibilities to each other. This was years before any state recognized marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Dahlia and I were together for several more years before we decided to have children. We are now proud parents to our daughter Aliana, who will tell you that she is four and three-quarters, and our son Itamar, who is two years old. Dahlia carried Itamar through a difficult pregnancy, a precipitous labor and an emergency C-section. At several times during the delivery, I was asked to leave the room-something that a different-sex spouse would not have to go through. I cannot put into the words the agonizing emotions of not being able to be present when my partner and child were in medical distress.

Immediately after he was born, Itamar experienced temperature regulation problems, rapid breathing and hypoglycemia. Dahlia was recovering from general anesthesia and a major surgery. The pediatrician on staff refused to discuss Itamar's condition with me because I was not his ""real mother."" What is a ""real mother"" if not the person who would lay down her life for her child? I am a real mother to my children, and so is Dahlia. Fortunately, since then I have adopted Itamar through second-parent adoption, and Dahlia has adopted Aliana. Both children now have the benefit of a legal relationship with two parents.

On May 21, 2004, Dahlia and I were legally married in Massachusetts, where we had lived for fifteen years. It was a small ceremony because in our hearts, if not under law, we were already married.

In June 2004 we moved to Michigan, where I took a job as a pediatric endocrinologist at Wayne State University. My job lets me care for children with diabetes and other illnesses, particularly children living in underserved communities. I moved my family to Michigan so that I could take a job that would allow Dahlia to stay home with the kids. The domestic partner health benefits that Wayne State provided made this possible, particularly because Dahlia has a continuing medical condition that makes health insurance a necessity. I would not have taken the job without the domestic partnership benefits. The move also allowed me to be near my parents-our children's grandparents-who live eight houses down from us and who are here supporting us today.

Not long after we moved to Michigan, the state became embroiled in a campaign to pass Proposal 2, an amendment to the state constitution that would ban marriage rights for same-sex couples. When our daughter asked what it was all about, we told her that there were people who believed that we couldn't really be a family. We told her that we thought this was silly because, obviously, we are a family-we share love, children and a commitment to raising healthy, happy kids. When the results of the election came in, Aliana asked about the outcome. We told her that the amendment had passed. With tears in her eyes, she asked ""does this mean our family has to split up?"" Like children do, our four-year-old went straight to the heart of the issue. The voters had sent us a message that day: you are not a family.

We were dismayed and stunned by the results of the Michigan election and spent days wondering which of our neighbors and colleagues thought that our family should not have equal rights. We never wanted to get involved in a legal action, much less in national politics (no offense intended). But things got even worse shortly after the amendment passed. When anti-gay groups from outside our state tried to use the amendment to take away the health benefits insurance I obtain through my work, I could not sit idly by.

Throughout the campaign, the supporters of the amendment insisted that they were not threatening the health benefits that families like mine receive. In fact, their brochure even claimed that it was ""only about marriage."" But as soon as the amendment passed, it became a weapon to take away the health insurance upon which many families-including my own- rely.

In March, the Michigan Attorney General issued a non-binding opinion that the anti-marriage constitutional amendment prohibits state and local governments from providing domestic partnership benefits-including health insurance-to their employees. Two weeks ago, Dahlia and I joined with other families across Michigan to ask the Michigan state court for nothing more than a declaration that the state constitutional amendment will not take away our family's health care.

I am here today because I am concerned that the Federal Marriage Amendment, which is very similar to Michigan's amendment, will be used to deny equal benefits nationwide. The American people should not be fooled by the type of bait-and-switch tactic used by the supporters of the Michigan amendment, who sold the amendment as so-called protection of marriage, but then targeted my domestic partnership benefits for elimination.

My children have benefited enormously from their time with Dahlia at home. They are more relaxed, gentle, curious, and happy. Ironically, the same people who promoted this amendment favor policies that permit or encourage one parent to stay at home with children. But under the false pretense of protecting marriage, this law might force us either to move again or to deprive our kids of precious time with their parents and grandparents. No one has been able to explain to me how even one marriage is protected by this unfair, discriminatory law.

I have also heard that the Michigan amendment - and the federal amendment that this body wisely rejected last year-is necessary to ""protect"" marriage as a sacred institution. As an observant Jew who believes that G-d blessed my marriage long before any state did so, I find this hard to understand. As an American with great respect for our Constitution, I don't understand why federal law should play a role in defining for the various religions which marriages are 'sacred.'"" And given that this is the Constitution Subcommittee, you are all aware that no religious denomination can ever be forced to perform marriages that don't meet its standards. For instance, rabbis cannot be compelled to perform interfaith marriages even though the laws of every state allow them.

We are an observant Jewish family, and every day, we give thanks to G-d for the health of our children and the blessings we've been given. Our faith informs our beliefs on this issue. We teach our children that it is a miraculous thing to have so many people in the world, each different, each created by and loved by G-d. We teach our children that America was founded on this same ethic: the value of each person and the respect for different beliefs.

Finally, I have heard that marriage must be ""protected"" from families like mine for the good of children. As a pediatrician, I know that this is completely unsupported by any scientific fact. Every piece of creditable medical evidence I can find, every study, indicates that children with lesbian and gay parents do just as well as their peers. Every major medical, psychiatric and psychological association that has issued an opinion on the subject endorses increasing, not removing, legal protection of gay and lesbian families. Their endorsement is based on a commitment to protecting the health and welfare of children and their families. In short, the medical evidence, the research, and my clinical experience as a pediatrician observing what children and families need in their day-to-day lives and in times of crisis all indicate that it is of the utmost importance to extend, not to remove, legal protection to the children and to both parents in gay and lesbian families.

I will close with a Jewish folktale. A man went about saying hateful things about the Rabbi. One day, he saw the harm his words caused to the Rabbi's reputation. The man went to the Rabbi and begged forgiveness. The Rabbi said: ""You must do two things. First, get a feather pillow, cut a hole in it, and throw the feathers off the side of a cliff. Then, return here."" The man did as instructed. When he returned, the Rabbi said: ""Now, you must go and gather each and every feather."" The man said, ""but that is impossible, Rabbi."" The Rabbi replied, ""Yes. It is just as impossible to take back the harm done by the words you have scattered around town.""

I don't know what harm your words and actions as leaders advocating for a constitutional amendment might cause. I fear that families like mine, with young children, will lose health benefits; will be denied common decencies like hospital visitation when tragedy strikes; will lack the ability to provide support for one another in old-age. I fear that my loving, innocent children will face hatred and insults implicitly sanctioned by a law that brands their family as unequal. I know that these sweet children have already been shunned and excluded by people claiming to represent values of decency and compassion.

I also know what such an amendment will not do. It will not help couples who are struggling to stay married. It will not assist any impoverished families struggling to make ends meet or to obtain healthcare for sick children. It will not keep children with their parents when their parents see divorce as their only option. It will not help any single American citizen to live life with more decency, compassion or morality. In the coming months and debates, I urge you to consider both the medical evidence and the experiences of families like mine with an open heart and an open mind. Remember, the harm caused by actions and words can never be healed.

And I pray, and my family prays, that in dealing with our precious Constitution, you will follow the dictates of the oath that binds my profession: first, do no harm.


[1] Institutional affiliation is for identification purposes only.

Stay Informed