"I think it's fantastic that he's had a chance to go to Annapolis and see how people debate things, and also to Washington," Whitney says. "It's great he's getting a handle on how our country is run."

A few members of their families raised concerns about Justin's going on the lecture circuit. One was Kathy's mom, an elementary-school assistant principal who worries about violence. Another was Whitney's brother, who worries a little "because there are ignorant people out there."

"I thought about backlash and 'hate mail' and all that kind of stuff but, maybe wrongly, I thought I could protect him from that if it happened," Kathy says. "If you soul-search about something and you feel strongly and you are doing something for the right reasons, then you shouldn't let fear stop you.

"Justin felt strongly and we were comfortable knowing we weren't pushing him, and we weren't trying to use him in any way. He had something he wanted to say, and we believe he should learn to say it."

When the time comes in Hagerstown, that is precisely what Justin does.

His mom speaks first. "It's just the three of us tonight because my partner had to work," Kathy begins. "We've put ourselves out here to say this is what a gay family looks like, to the public, so they can understand we're not scary - or even that exciting."

The crowd laughs and claps and then grows quiet again as Kathy takes a step back to let Justin have the podium. The first thing he says is "Hi." Then he says his name, his grade and where he goes to school.

No one in the audience makes a sound.

"Some people think that having two moms is bad, but I don't think so," Justin says. "When I go over to Zack's or Michael's house - they have a mom and a dad - I see that they are loved the same way that Mommy and Whit love me.

"This summer, since my mom has the new baby, I am looking forward to staying home with my new sister, instead of going to day camp every day. But we have to wait and see if Whitney's job will let Mommy and me onto their insurance. I love my parents and my sister, and they love me. I want to spend time with them, like my cousin did when her mom had a baby. I don't get why some people, like the insurance company, don't think we are a real family.

"Since my sister was born, my moms and me are trying to decide what her last name should be. I want it to be the same as mine, but that would not be fair to Whitney if everybody had the same last name but her. If my moms were married, they could already have the same last name. Then everybody would know we are in the same family."

A representative for the ACLU helped Justin polish this speech before the press conference last week in Washington. He went through it later and put some of it back in his own words.

"In school, we are taught a lot of different things - and in social-studies class, we're taught about what makes America great. We learn about freedom, equality and why discrimination is bad. My parents say that in America, my sister and I can be whatever we want to be, as long as we are willing to work hard. But some people are saying that just because one of my moms is not a man, they aren't real parents and should not be equal, no matter how hard they work. They want to amend the Constitution to say that my family legally does not exist. That just doesn't make sense to me, and it's sort of disturbing.

"Some of my friends, when they first hear about my family, think it's weird and different. My parents always say, 'Different isn't good or bad. It's just different.' And once they get to know my family and me, they see that we're just like them. If my classmates can see that we're a family, why can't Congress?

"Thank you," Justin concludes.

He doesn't stick around for the applause.

It is dark when Kathy turns onto their street. Maya is finally asleep, and Justin still has the world in his hands. His mom tells him to turn off the game as they pull into the driveway.

Once, when Justin let his grades drop from As to Bs, his moms took away his Game Boy during the school week and said he could only play Friday through Sunday. When Friday finally rolled around, Justin woke Kathy at 5 a.m. She had to explain that she meant he could play after school on Friday.

Justin turns off the game, climbs out of the minivan, and goes into the only house he has ever known.

There was a time when Justin said he was going to have nine kids when he grew up, and each kid could have a pet of his own choosing, so long as no one chose a tiger.

Why, someone asked him later, does he want to have nine children?

Justin's answer, like a lot of the things he says, went straight to the heart of the matter.

"I'm just a family guy, I guess."