Matthew Lannon testifies at the hearing for Rhode Island's same-sex marriage bill. Photo by Kim Kalunian, WPRO News.
By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News
Matthew Lannon, the 12-year-old Wheeler student who testified in favor of same-sex marriage at last month’s Senate Judiciary hearing, has become somewhat of an overnight sensation.
Matthew has two moms and two dads, but said his family is normal just like everyone else’s. Well, as normal as they can be.
“I think every family in America is weird,” said Matthew with a laugh. Matthew and his two moms, Mary Ellen Butke and Josephine O’Connell, sat with WPRO Tara Granahan on Saturday to discuss same-sex marriage in Rhode Island, as well as Matthew’s nearly overnight fame.
Butke explained that Matthew was planned: she and Josephine met Matthew’s two dads at church in 1998, and decided to have a son. Butke carried Matthew, and the two families, who live close to one another, now share parenting duties.
Matthew said his two sets of parents are different in many ways, but agree on some things: no violent video games and bedtime at 9 p.m.
Matthew has never known another kind of family, and in his testimony, he urged the Senate to allow his two sets of parents to be able to be treated like anyone else’s.
“If there’s one thing you don’t mess with in life, it’s love,” Matthew said Saturday.
The video of Matthew’s passionate and heartfelt testimony has gotten a lot of people talking.
“It’s great when you see the good feedback,” explained Matthew, who said it’s “not as great when you see the bad feedback.”
But, he said, “You kind of have to respect everyone’s opinion.”
Butke said it was Matthew’s decision to testify at the Senate hearing. (He also testified at the House Committee on Judiciary hearing of the legislation.) She said letting him see the comments on his video, good or bad, are ok as long as they work to keep him “safe and protected.”
“I think it’s fear,” said Butke about the opposition to same-sex marriage and the sometimes hurtful words that go along with it. “I just think there’s a lot of fear out there.”
Matthew said he hopes for a future where people like his parents can get married like their heterosexual counterparts. In fact, by the time he’s old enough to get married, he think people will think about same-sex marriage the same way people today think of segregation.
“All the kids will be like, lesbians and gays couldn’t get married? That was awful!” he said.