My Parents Would Want My Gay Son to Find Love and Get Married
- By Randi Reitan
Mother and gay rights activist
I was born and raised in Greenbush, Minn. My dad was the town doctor, with a clinic attached to our home. If I needed to talk to Dad, I would just go down the hall to the clinic. Often, I would see him with his arm around a patient, walking him or her back to the waiting room, usually with smiles on their faces, sharing some story. Dad loved being a doctor, and he loved the patients he cared for in his practice. He helped make Greenbush a special place to live.
I wish he were still here to write a letter to the people of Greenbush. Everyone loved “Doc Klefstad,” and I know his words would move hearts in that town in northern Minnesota.
Dad died in 1992, but my dear mom was still living when our son came out to us. I will never forget the letter she sent to Jacob after I told her he was gay. It was written in her distinctive cursive handwriting. She told Jacob how proud she was of him, and how much she loved him. She told him she knew he would work to bring understanding and, one day, equality. Along with her beautiful letter, she enclosed a number of newspaper clippings that had yellowed with age, on gay rights. Mom loved to clip out articles that interested her, and she had many on gay rights. It was wonderful for Jacob to read her words of loving support and know that she had been a supporter of gay rights even before he came out.
My mom marched in the Pride Parade with Jacob and stood in vigil lines with him. She financially supported his Equality Ride and cheered on every effort he made to bring about understanding and equality. Mom had a strong faith and was proud when Jacob got word he was named a Presidential scholar at Harvard Divinity School. We miss her loving support now as Minnesota finds itself in the midst of a debate surrounding a constitutional marriage amendment that will be on our ballots in November. The amendment would forever deny any hope for Jacob to marry in Minnesota.
My husband Philip and I were married in our family’s backyard in Greenbush in 1972. The yard was filled with friends and family who came to rejoice with us and support us in our love for each other. This July we will be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. We have been blessed with a beautiful life and four dear children. Jacob is our youngest. Ben, Josh, and Britta have all found love with a dear person and have gotten married. It was such a joy for us as parents to see them pledge their love surrounded by their friends and family on each of their wedding days.
When you have been blessed with a good marriage, you want that for your children. We want Jacob to get married. We want him to find love and share his life with another. We want for him what has been precious to us. Marriage is about love and commitment. It is about building a strong foundation for a family with the one person you can’t imagine life without. It is about being there for one another no matter what happens in our lives. It is about making promises in front of our families and friends knowing you have their love and support. It is about growing old together.
If this hurtful constitutional amendment passes, marriage will be forever denied to Jacob in the state of Minnesota. During this long battle to oppose this amendment, I remember my parents, Helen and Lloyd Klefstad, and the deep love they shared for each other. Their marriage was a beautiful one. I remember what family meant to them. They both dearly loved their grandson Jacob. They would want Jacob to find love with another man and be married. Mom and Dad would most surely want the marriage amendment that will be on our ballots defeated.
I can still hear Dad’s voice at the end of grace before each of our family dinners: “And I thank God that we can all be together.” His marriage and his family were such a blessing to him.
I hope that Minnesotans realize the precious gift that marriage is to us all and that they vote no on the amendment that would forever deny marriage for my son.