One thing separates political science major Shannon Bullock and business marketing major Mandy Walker from other young married college students: they are females married to each other.
The couple, which has been together for two years, joined their lives in the exact same way young heterosexual couples do, by hopping on a plane and heading to Las Vegas.
Despite a ring and a lifelong commitment, Bullock and Walker’s same sex ceremony is not legally recognized in Colorado. Vermont is the only state that legally recognizes same sex marriages, but they are called “civil unions.”
“Sometimes I get a little jealous (of heterosexual couples) because we have to go through so many hoops other couples don’t even have to think about,” Bullock said.
One of those hoops heterosexual couples manage to avoid is that of child custody. If a child’s mother or father dies, custody of that child automatically goes to the remaining parent. However, when two women are the parents, legal custody only resides with the partner who gave birth to the child.
“If the baby (were) biologically mine, I carried it and something happened to me any of my family could claim the child and Mandy would have no rights in court,” Bullock said.
Walker and Bullock intend to utilize a sperm bank for assistance in conceiving their child.
“We don’t really want to know who the dad is, that would be kind of weird,” Walker said. “We just want to be the parents.”
The couple, which plans to start trying for children in February, plans to circumvent these legal restrictions by having one partner provide the egg, and the other carry the child to full term.
“That way it saves heartache and legal fees,” Bullock said. Both partners will legally be mothers of the child because in Colorado it is legal for two females to be listed on the birth certificate.
Bullock, who once worked at a child-care center for children of homosexual couples, said that children of same sex couples are pretty much just like any other children.
“All of the children I worked with were very well adjusted, some even more so than the average kid.” Bullock said.
Walker and Bullock, who both say they grew up in very loving, open and supportive homes, said that they hope to raise their own children in a similar fashion.
” We don’t want them to go to school and be afraid to say ‘I have two moms,'” the couple said. “We want to instill that sense of security.”
Other than legal restrictions, the two say a homosexual relationship isn’t really all that different from a heterosexual one.
” I don’t notice all that much of a difference,” said Walker, who dated men until coming out in high school. “It is all about being comfortable with who you are and who you are with.”
Homosexual relationships go through similar stages that heterosexual ones do. The first few dates are wrought with anxiety, followed by wild and crazy times of courtship and then settling down into a comfortable routine that can last a lifetime.
“When you’re married, its not all about going out to the bars anymore,” Bullock said. “There is not that excessive need to go to the meat market anymore,” Walker said. “We are comfortable just renting movies.”
Since Walker and Bullock are comfortable with one another, it doesn’t really matter to them whether or not society is comfortable with them.
“Once you find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, acceptance is not as important as it once was,” Walker said.
In a society that does not have equal rights for homosexuals, the two are used to having to deal with the injustice. According to Walker, she was fired from her secretarial position at a local law firm, because they felt that having a homosexual be the first person clients saw when they walked into the office was “bad publicity.”
“They can get away with it because there is nothing that prevents them from doing it,” Walker said.
In addition to eliminating discrimination in the workplace and child custody battles, the two believe that legislation providing equal rights for gays and lesbians would make the coming-out-process easier on homosexual youth.
“Coming out in high school is absolutely horrible,” said Walker, who declared her homosexuality at age 18. She believes she got through the gutsy experience because of support from her community.
“I have a great family and good friends so it (was) easy for me,” Walker said. “I haven’t gone through any turmoil because of being gay.”
Bullock, who openly declared her sexual orientation during her sophomore year at CSU, said most of her friends already knew and were very accepting. Her mother was the one who struggled with it the most.
“She thought I was never going to have a ‘normal life’ and now she has come to realize that is stupid because I can have all those things,” Bullock said.
The two believe that the future of homosexuals in society will improve eventually, though they do not know what the turning point will be nor when it will happen.
“I think there are a lot of politicians out there who want to support it (legislation granting equal rights to homosexuals) but they are afraid to,” Bullock said.
With luck, the people of the future will be able to take a stand for gay rights and accept their homosexual peers without reservations. According to Walker and Bullock, this desire is already there, people just need to find the means with which to take action.
“People so desperately don’t want to be homophobic, but they don’t know how not to be,” Walker said.
Bullock and Walker advocate that the key to understanding and being truly accepting lies in viewing homosexuality as a lifestyle and not a sexual practice.
“There are actually human beings behind (the label of ‘homosexual’) and it has nothing to do with sex,” Walker said.