Martha Ertman is big on legal contracts. She spent much of the last two decades writing scholarly articles about all sorts of issues related to her day job as a law professor at the University of Maryland Carey Law School and decided to turn her contract finessing into a book she hopes others will learn from.
“Love’s Promises: How Formal & Informal Contracts Shape All Kinds of Families” was released in May and explores issues such as reproductive technology, adoption, living together, marriage and more.
“I wanted to share these lessons, which are largely empowering, about how people can use contracts to ensure that the people they think of as family are treated as such by the law,” the 50-something, Boston native says. “I had a baby with a gay man — using contracts — and then folded in the woman who became my wife as a third parent, again using contracts. As my students say, I’m evangelical about contracts and want to share the good news of how they can support love relationships.”
She calls the book — available on Amazon and at Politics & Prose for varying prices — a “mix of memoir and law written in a lively, often irreverent tone to get some lessons about law to people outside of universities.”
Ertman came to Washington in the summer of 2006 to take a teaching job and in the hope of finding love, which she did. She and her partner, Karen Lash, and son (to whom she gave a pseudonym in her book to protect his identity), live in American University Park. Ertman enjoys stained glass, yoga and gardening in her free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Since my first year of college in 1982 and my mom was the hardest, by far.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Oscar Wilde — stylish, funny, brilliant, great writer and loyal friend
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
El Chucho, 11th Avenue, N.W.
Describe your dream wedding.
The one I got, in 2009: minimal planning drama; 100 friends & family; huppah made by our guests; our son and baby daddy resplendent in matching seersucker suits and checkered Vans.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Anything about Hillary Clinton; women’s colleges
What historical outcome would you change?
I’d have the Founding Fathers abolish slavery in the Constitution.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Ellen DeGeneres coming out on her TV show in 1997.
On what do you insist?
Cloth napkins at the dinner table and minimal eating noises.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“Ever fume about a boss or colleague who refuses to value the “office housekeeping” that keeps the ship afloat? Check out this Harvard Business Review argument for new terminology — “tending” — that shows how everyone can benefit from properly valuing that work.”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Love’s Promises,” the book I just wrote tells the story about gay friends having a baby together and includes stories about other people in families that I call “Plan B” — created through reproductive technologies, adoption and living together.
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Mourn, then organize against its use.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
The Unitarian version of God, a smart, friendly entity without a gender.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Continue to collaborate with activists for racial and economic and youth justice: we are one of the only groups that is everywhere.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“The Kids are Alright”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Small talk — I’m forever getting in trouble for asking intrusive questions.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Family Equality Council naming my book “Love’s Promises” their 2015 Family Week book club pick — plus Curve magazine named it a “queer girl” summer reading pick.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That if I could bear to wait, everything would turn out fine.
Lively, young and best city ever for transplants.