Emily Schall Townley shares her reasons for supporting marriage equality in Virginia. Emily is the daughter of Carol Schall and Mary Townley, who are both plaintiffs in the federal suit challenging Virginia's marriage ban.
If you were to take a look at me you wouldn’t see anything super extraordinary. I’m just a sixteen year old girl who goes to school, hangs out with my friends, and spends time with my family. But one thing that is special is the fact that my parents are plaintiffs in the Virginia gay marriage case, Bostic v. Schaffer. Mary Townley and Carol Schall have been my mothers ever since I was born and I have always seen them as such. Growing up I never thought of them as being different from any other parents that I saw. They were my parents. They cared for me and loved me and raised me, so it was hard as I got older to learn that we weren’t always treated as fairly as other families. It hurts to know that there are people out in the world that deem a family as less worthy just because of the parents’ sexuality. Despite the animosity that still resides within some people for families like mine, I couldn’t be prouder of my parents being a part of this huge movement toward marriage equality across the country.
As my moms entered this case, I was fine with being in the pictures and being on stage, but I didn’t really want to talk. You see, I don’t love having all those eyes on me. I’ve always been kind of quiet that way. That changed for me when we were in court in Norfolk. When we were in court, I heard the other side’s opinions of parents like mine. Plain and simple, it wasn’t nice. I also saw all the signs everywhere that basically said my parents were bad for me. The arguments seemed so absurd. I mean, right in front of me, in the court room, the other side’s lawyers said that parents like my moms make bad parents for their kids. I was so shocked that I asked my moms if they thought people really believed that. I mean, really, how can anyone be so judgmental? It just seemed so wrong. I realized that one way to counter that argument was for me to speak out against those ideas. That’s when I decided to speak at the press conference after our hearing in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. I felt it was important to tell everyone that my family is pretty normal. I love my parents, they love me, everyone who knows me knows who my parents are and, as far as I can tell, no one is traumatized by any of that. In fact, all of my friends love my moms and think they are “cool”.
I learned in school about discrimination throughout history. I learned that one of the easiest ways to encourage bigotry is to tell others that the “different people” are dangerous toward children. So, that’s why I’m speaking out now. My parents are loving and considerate people. They work hard to help children with special needs and are great parents to me. Whatever the other side might say, it is simply a lie to suggest that my parents are not fit or capable just because they love each other. It’s also false to suggest that I am damaged because of my family. I am loved and have learned to give love to others because my moms are good, even great parents.
Because we live in Virginia, we are a family in every way except for the law. My mama is a legal stranger to me. I may not get all the financial stuff about retirement and inheritance, but I do get the weird looks we got when my moms tried to get my passport renewed. I mean, this person who didn’t know us at all decided who was and wasn’t my own mom. I mean, really, my moms are my own. So, that’s what marriage equality is all about for us. Is a chance for us to be viewed for what we are, a family. The day when marriage equality is the law of the land will be a great day for kids like me. On that day, we will be just that much closer to full equality for everyone.
Photo provided by Carol Schall. Photo taken by Jordan Cramer.