Michigan marriage challenge update
September 7th, 2012A lesbian couple, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, sued the state of Michigan over its adoption laws. Their lawyer explains: (Detroit Free Press)
One of their lawyers, Dana Nessel, pointed out that the state of Michigan certified DeBoer and Rowse to become foster parents together but won’t allow them to both adopt. Michigan law only allows singles or married couples to adopt.
“The state gave them children who had been abandoned and surrendered at birth to raise,” Nessel said. “And they are raising them with all the love, nurturing, care and affection that any parent would give to any child. But the state then rewards these women by telling them while they are good enough to foster as a couple, they aren’t good enough to adopt as a couple. We submit that this is pure and utter insanity.”
But the judge in the case surprised them by noting that they were fighting the wrong battle. Their issues would be over if they married and it’s really the marriage ban that is causing them to be subjected to discrimination.
Personally, I get that. I can see how a state could argue that if a couple was unwilling to make the legal commitments binding themselves together that they were not ideal to jointly adopt children. But it can’t then turn around and refuse to let the couple make such legal commitments.
So April and Jayne have updated their petition.
DeBoer and partner Jayne Rowse decided to take the battle they’re already fighting in U.S. District Court in Detroit one step further today. They amended their complaint in front of Judge Bernard A. Friedman that asks for the right to adopt as a same-sex couple, instead challenging Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette and Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard Jr. to declare Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and partnerships unconstitutional.
“This is totally not what we expected by any means,” Rowse said today, away from the podium during an announcement in the Penobscot Building. “We wanted to keep the kids’ rights at the forefront, the rights that any other child has.”
Lesbian couple suing for adoption rights are told that they have the wrong issue
August 29th, 2012
April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, both nurses, have three children: (Detroit News)
DeBoer adopted a girl, born in February 2010 to a 19-year-old mother.
Rowse, meanwhile, adopted two boys, ages 3 and 2. One was surrendered by his biological mother and the other was abandoned by his mother, a drug-addicted prostitute
But Michigan state law will not allow them to adopt the children jointly, thus giving the children the extra rights and security that come from two-parent adoption (which are considerable). They asked U.S. District Court Judge Bernard A. Friedman, a 68 year-old Reagan appointee, to overturn the state’s law as unconstitutional.
He said, “no”. Or, at least, “not yet”. Because they really were focusing on the wrong issue:
Friedman said Wednesday he’d consider arguments from both sides before rendering his decision, but will first allow the plaintiffs ten days to consider amending their complaint to include a challenge to the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.
“That’s the underlying issue,” Friedman told attorneys, noting that he’s “not suggesting they do it.”
“Both arguments are about marriage and how broad or narrow it should be. That’s the bottom line.”
Oh. Well, come to think of it, that would be the real issue, wouldn’t it?
Of course, just because Judge Friedman correctly noted the real discrimination issue doesn’t mean that he will find the ban unconstitutional. But it does suggest that he correctly understands DeBoer and Rowse’s underlying problem. So I think it is at least likely that he’s sympathetic to giving the marriage issue a fair hearing. And we seldom need more than a fair hearing to point out the obvious.
How very fascinating it would be for DeBoer and Rowse to sue for adoption rights only to find that they’ve overturned the state’s marriage ban.
Again anti-gays blindly and gleefully shoot themselves in the foot
February 9th, 2012
Anti-gay activists in Virginia are dancing with delight. They stood up to Teh HomoSEXshull Agenduh and showed them librulls that they don’t cotton to Teh Ghey so much in the Old Dominion State. The Virginia Senate Republicans, who have a strong majority in that red red state, just passed a bill allowing adoption agencies to deny access to gay couples or individuals on religious grounds.
Except, of course, they couldn’t just say “No gays! We hate ‘em” so they couched their bill in language of “religious freedom”. And in their arrogance, they never stopped to consider how else this bill could be used. Look at the wording:
No private child-placing agency shall be required to consider or consent to any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would conflict with the religious tenets of any sponsor of the agency or other organization or institution with which the child-placing agency is affiliated or associated. The Commissioner shall not deny an application for an initial license or renewal of a license or revoke the license of a private child-placing agency solely on the grounds that the agency has refused to consider or consent to any placement of a child for foster care or adoption in such cases. Refusal of a private child-placing agency to consider or consent to any placement of a child pursuant to this section shall not form the basis of any claim for damages. [emphasis added]
Now I’m sure that all those good ol’ Southern Baptist boys thought that this gave them the power to discriminate. It did. And further more, with the people’s money. Praise Jesus*
But it also empowered others to find that certain cultural views are repressive and dangerous to children and that their faith prohibits the exposure of children to that element. For example, Quakers may find that military families are unfit based on their religious beliefs. Atheists affiliated with an established freethinkers organization could point to the tenets of their organization and decide that church goers rely on superstition and bronze age notions that hinder a child’s development. And we know that Mormons will be automatically disqualified from most taxpayer-funded but church-administered adoption or fostering programs.
The funny thing about religious beliefs is that everyone has them. Some firmly believe in a structured and pageanted theology, some firmly believe that deities are nonsense, and some believe they have no idea and couldn’t care less. And no matter what you believe, there’s a church or organization for you. If your entire faith system consists of nothing more than “I hate those people over there”, I promise you that you can find others who agree and who will happily join together, form a church, and say that God told them so.
Only a pack of fools would look at that reality and decide that the widely ranging, vastly differing, and often irrational beliefs and rules about a subject which is, by its very nature, unknowable is the basis on which adoption and fostering policy would be based.
And let’s be real. Who works in the child advocacy field, anyway? Sure, there are a few good family-first quote Leviticus fire-brands, but it’s mostly a bunch of bleeding heart liberals. And you know, you just know, that the real losers in this deal are going to be the idiots who just voted for the thing.
* (The risen and gone to Heaven with nothing left to say about it Jesus, that is. Not the Love your Neighbor Jesus; he said things that are embarrassing and we try not to quote him too much).
The Outrageous Immorality of the Anti-gay Movement
January 4th, 2012
I’m a dope, a patsy, a dupe. Or at least tragically naive: Somehow, it seems, I’m once again surprised by the unabashed dishonesty of our worst anti-gay opponents.
This time it’s Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons of NARTH, writing a long piece about same-sex adoption. It has a small section titled, “The children do suffer,” with this opening:
There are strong indications that children raised by same sex couples fare less well than children raised in stable homes with a mother and a father.
He brings up two studies to support this, one of them by Seton Hall professor Dr. Theodora Sirota, and then regretfully tells us:
Not surprisingly, there are scholars who oppose this weighty evidence.
I know something that might surprise Fitzgibbons: One of those opposing scholars is — have you guessed? — Seton Hall professor Dr. Theodora Sirota, the source of his weighty evidence.
Actually, I take that back. Fitzgibbons won’t be surprised at all, because Sirota has already written to him, complaining that he has “mis-reported and misrepresented the results of my 2009 research in this blog.” Not surprisingly, Fitzgibbons has yet to correct his article.
I know this because Dr. Sirota (whom I’ve never met) contacted me herself yesterday, asking for help in exposing what he’s done.
You can read the full text of Sirota’s message here, but let me put it in a nutshell. To support his denunciation of same-sex adoption, Fitzgibbons offers this summary of Sirota’s research:
Researchers interviewed 68 women with gay or bisexual fathers and 68 women with heterosexual fathers. The women (average age 29 in both groups) with gay or bisexual fathers had difficulty with adult attachment issues in three areas: they were less comfortable with closeness and intimacy; they were less able to trust and depend on others; and they experienced more anxiety in relationships compared to the women raised by heterosexual fathers.
The problem is not with what Fitzgibbons said; it’s what he left out: The gay and bisexual fathers in Sirota’s study were married to the mothers.
Dr. Sirota’s article is about the impact of a homosexual father raising a girl in a heterosexual marriage. It has nothing to do with same-sex couples, nothing to do with same-sex adoption at all.
You’d never know that from Fitzgibbon’s piece, and that makes his piece a lie. This kind of sin-by-omission is nothing new; we’ve seen it from far more reputable scholars than this NARTHer. Here, though, we have the original researcher explaining why this is an abuse of her research and asking us for help.
Dr. Sirota’s explanation is crucial. Her data suggest the daughters’ issues were related not so much to their fathers’ sexuality, but to factors like “divorce, maternal anger/bitterness, father absence, etc.” In other words (my words, not Sirota’s), pretty much the results you’d expect when a gay man tries to follow the anti-gay advice of “choosing” to be “straight.”
That’s a provocative finding. In fact, it’s the opposite of what Fitzgibbons is trying to establish. Our opponents claim their concern is all about the kids, but how do they reconcile that with these other things they tell us:
- Bans on same-sex marriage don’t discriminate because gays can marry a member of the opposite sex, just like anyone else (recently heard from Michele Bachmann).
- The purpose of marriage is procreation.
And yet kids are hurt when gay men live by this philosophy. Given our opponents’ pure and unselfish regard for children, I eagerly await their loud and public reversal of what they’ve pushed on us for long.
So let’s do a quick recap:
- Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons presents himself as a science-based mental-health professional.
- He distorts another scholar’s work to advance his agenda.
- This scholar points out the distortion.
- Fitzgibbons fails to correct the distortion.
Two points present themselves, one minor and one major.
First (and this is the minor one), every time our opponents unrepentantly twist someone’s research, they admit they have no honest case. Always point this out — always.
More important, though, is the outrageous immorality of Fitzgibbon’s work. And there’s plenty of outrage for plenty of people: For Dr. Sirota, whose research has been abused. For same-sex parents, who’ve been libeled by that abuse. And, most of all, for Fitzgibbons’ own loyal readers, who are counting on him for the truth.
This is a moral issue, and it’s becoming clear we can better advance our cause on the grounds of morality rather than tolerance. When Ted Olson and David Boies made their case against Prop 8, they did so on a moral basis: Same-sex relationships have the same potential for moral value as opposite-sex pairings, and it is a moral wrong to deny us full citizenship and equality. In this effort, Fitzgibbons becomes our ally, a case study in the moral bankruptcy of our extreme opposition.
Dr. Sirota has asked us to help expose this corruption of her work, and it’s the easiest exposure possible, requiring nothing but a simple declaration of truth. Please help her, either by sharing this, or (even better) by using her words to craft a message of your own.
Priorities and perspectives in Illinois
November 16th, 2011
The American Family Association has, unintentionally, the most revelatory article on the final cessation of the foster care program of the Catholic Charities of Illinois. Although the Catholic Church had appealed the state’s decision to allow gay couples to be foster parents, time has run out so they are dropping their appeal.
And so they are ceasing their 90 year old program. Because, unlike 90 years ago, the current Catholic Church is unwilling to fund a foster care program out of their own pocket.
But it is two statements within the article that caught my attention:
Now the state will only be dealing with organizations that are willing to hand children over to homosexuals.
There is something about that which is so bald, so unfiltered, that I caught my breath. The implications are astonishing.
This isn’t about “the best environment for children” or “denying a mom or dad” or any of the other catch phrases. Rather, there is a broadly shared assumption that gay people not only would be harmful to children, just by their being gay, but also that there is some nefarious element involved.
To Charlie Butts and Bob Kellogg, the authors of this article, being homosexual is cause not to have access to children. By default. And, like Catholic Charities, they would never “hand children over” to someone like you or me.
One of my themes in writing here, indeed one of BTB’s underlying themes, is to provide a more nuanced perspective on the views, goals, fears, and concerns of those who oppose our political equality. We don’t often use language such as “bigot” or “hater” here. Not only is it not particularly effective, it often isn’t an accurate portrayal of the motivations, thoughts or intent of those being called bigot and hater.
But there is something about that sentence – presented alone as its own paragraph – that is so full of contempt, so full of animus, that I have a hard time finding any motivation that isn’t based in hatred.
But then at the end of the article I read the words of a Catholic man, words which bring me hope and faith. I also found an irony, a sadness, and a recognition that while his church may have their own priorities, he needn’t follow their lead. Oh, I’m sure that AFA didn’t see it – and, indeed, he may not have seen it – but Gary Huelsmann could not have said it better.
Meanwhile, an organization once known as Catholic Social Services of South Illinois has severed its ties with the diocese in order to comply with the state law. Gary Huelsmann, executive director of the agency, recently told LifeSiteNews that it “boiled down to the Catholic Church needing to stay true to its core beliefs and the agency needing to take care for all of the abused, neglected children.”
But ‘freedom of religion’ means that you have to give me taxpayer money!!
May 27th, 2011
The State of Illinois has changes the way in which it wants one of its programs to operate. One of their contractors doesn’t think that it can operate under the new rules, and so it is not going to apply for further contracts with the state. The policy change is that same-sex couples cannot be excluded from consideration by state-funded adoption agencies, and the contractor is the Rockford Diocese of the Catholic Church.
Yeah, they made good on their threat. And, of course, they are whining and moaning that their “moral stance” actually cost them anything. They seem to believe that when you claim that you are taking a moral stance, then everyone else should cater to you and make exceptions for you. (Beacon-News)
Officials from the Rockford Diocese, which includes Aurora, Kane County and much of Kendall County, said they were forced to terminate state contracts worth $7.5 million after lawmakers failed to pass an amendment exempting religious groups from provisions of the state’s new civil unions law. The law, which will let gay and lesbian couples form civil unions, a rough equivalent to marriage, takes effect on Wednesday.
“The law of our land has always guaranteed its people freedom of religion,” diocese spokeswoman Penny Wiegert said. “Denying this exemption to faith-based agencies leads one to believe that our lawmakers prefer laws that guarantee freedom from religion.”
Yes, they believe that it’s a matter of religious freedom. Of course, they also believe that the Pope should dictate civil policy to “Christian Europe”, so it’s a little difficult to take them seriously when they talk about “religious freedom.”
So now the other 40-odd private agencies (including two other religiously-based groups) will have to pick up the Catholic Church’s 15% of the burden. Or perhaps not even that much if the other three Catholic agencies decide that their faith doesn’t exactly compel them deny orphans a loving adoptive family.
I support you, Catholic Charities…
May 6th, 2011
Now that the state of Illinois is offering civil union recognition to same-sex couples, the Catholic Church has disseminating fears that they will no longer be able to offer foster care or adoption services. They have vowed to be defiant.
And to the Catholic Church in Illinois, I say:
I support you.
I totally agree that if Catholic girls wish to give their children up for adoption and want them to go to Catholic families and be raised in the Catholic faith, then Catholic organizations should be able to facilitate such adoptions. With Catholic dollars.
After all, that is the very meaning of Catholic charity. Catholics sacrificing and contributing for the betterment of others. Bringing Catholic funds to help those in need.
Oh… wait, what’s that? Oh you actually do placement with non-Catholics. Well, that’s even more charitable of you. Peace be with you.
And – sorry, say that again? You disallow unmarried heterosexual couples and all gay couples?
Oh, well I think that is extremely foolish of you and that you are denying a loving family to hard-to-place children. You should really reconsider your values.
But I guess it’s your money. And there are some children being placed that otherwise would not have a family so I’ll defer to your decisions on how best to spend the contributions of your parishioners.
But it’s what? I’m sorry, you mumbled that last part. It’s not what?
Oh, it’s not the money of your parishioners! Oh, so it’s Vatican money? No?
I’m confused. Then who gave you the money to run these programs?
THE STATE??!!?? You mean that the State of Illinois is paying you to run a program that decides foster care and adoption placement based on your own religious criteria? That tax dollars are taken out of the paychecks of gay people and given to you and that you won’t even let them apply?
And the kids AREN’T EVEN CATHOLIC??!!?? They are just kids placed with you by the State????
NO FRIGGEN WAY!!! Why that’s… it’s just… whew whew
Whew… sorry that I got so excited there. I guess I just over-reacted.
Well, there’s the clear and easy solution. The one I’m sure you have already started.
Just pull out your checkbook, Cardinal, and write the state a great big check to pay them back for the fees they’ve given you to administer the state’s foster care and adoption programs. And notify the state that you’ll only be placing kids that are brought to you with the parents’ intention that they be placed according to the teachings of the Church.
And then, praise be to God, you can go back to applying Catholic rules to Catholic kids and everyone is happy.
What do you mean, “NO??”
You don’t intend to repay the State? You don’t intend to only place kids brought to you by their parents for Catholic placement?
Well, F U, Cardinal, you selfish, money-grubbing, pompous bureaucrat.
No, I do NOT support you discriminating against me and my family with MY OWN MONEY.
So kindly take your self-righteous discrimination and shove it.
Oh, and while you’re at it, you may want to consider removing “Charities” from your name. It isn’t charitable if you do it with someone else’s funds.
Two Dads, Twelve Kids in Arizona
May 4th, 2011
The Arizona Republic on Monday profiled the family of Steven and Roger Ham, the two gay dads who are the fathers of twelve children who were adopted from foster care in Arizona, where two men can’t marry or adopt children together. Last month, Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that gives preferential treatment to married couples in state and private adoptions. Even before that law went into effect, Steven and Roger’s quest to bring these children into their home wasn’t an easy one.
“We had to fight to get them,” Roger says. “We had to fight to get them all,” Steven says.
They started out only wanting one child, but when they saw that there were so many kids in the foster care system needing a home — there are 10,514 children in the state’s care presently — they couldn’t stop at one. And besides, their first adopted child, Michael, had four younger brothers and sisters in foster care that he endlessly worried about. Through much legal wrangling, they finally reunited the children in 2004.
“I immediately fell in love with them,” says Heather Shew-Plummer, the caseworker at Aid to the Adoption of Special Kids in Phoenix who handled the Hams’ first nine adoptions. Up to that point, she had worked with 10 or so same-sex couples.
Shew-Plummer felt Steven and Roger were ideal prospective parents – patient, loving, fun and ceaseless advocates for the kids who would come into their care. But she worried they might face extra obstacles in adopting because they were gay.
“They never tried to hide it, but they never made a big deal out of it, either,” Shew-Plummer says. “They didn’t want to change the world. They just wanted to raise their kids.”
The Hams also served as foster parents for 42 children over ten years. Some stayed for just a few days, while others stayed for months.
Two of the Ham’s children were adopted in Washington state, which allows both parents’ names to appear on the birth certificates. The ten adopted in Arizona are legally Steven’s, because Arizona does not allow same-sex couples to adopt, nor does it allow second-parent adoptions. To cover the legal gaps, the couple have drawn up medical powers of attorney and guardianship papers. But even with that, the ten children adopted in Arizona are not entitled to health and Social Security benefits, inheritance rights or, if the parents were to split up, child support from Roger.
And yet the obstacles seem minor compared to the Ham’s determination to care for the children who had such great needs. But it’s not all about the needs. It’s also about the love and support, which is abundant in the Ham household. Sen. Rick Santorum this week denounced adoption and foster parenting by gay couples, saying adoption was a privilege and not a right. The thing is though, I suspect the Hams would agree: it is an enormous privilege, a blessing even. And one that all children deserve, regardless of how their parents are configured.
Rights v. Privileges
May 3rd, 2011
A lesbian woman came up to me and said, ‘why are you denying me my right?’ I said, ‘well, because it’s not a right.’ It’s a privilege that society recognizes because society sees intrinsic value to that relationship over any other relationship.
- Former US Senator Rick Santorum speaking about adoption
Those who seek to institutionalize inequality based on their own biases like to say, “that’s not a right, that’s a privilege.” And implied in this statement (often accompanied by a smirk) is the notion that some people deserve preferential treatment and others deserve lesser treatment and that privileges can be doled out or restricted by whim.
You just aren’t good enough, you see. These are privileges for other people, those deemed worthy.
But besides being juvenile, this response displays a fundamental ignorance of the US Constitution. The clause under which discrimination is addressed is not worded in the way that they assume:
Fourteenth Amendment, Section One
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the PRIVILEGES or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. [emphasis added]
You see, Senator Frothy Mix, whether adoption is a right of citizens or a privilege of citizenship, it still is protected from arbitrary applicaion. Oh, and by the way, you really are a pompous ass.
(hat tip JMG)
Arkansas Supreme Court Overturns Adoption Ban
April 7th, 2011
The Arkansas Supreme Court today ruled that a voter-approved initiative banning unmarried cohabiting couples, including gay couples, from adopting or serving as foster parents. The court found that because the law singles out cohabiting couples for the ban while allowing single individuals to adopt or foster children, it encroaches on a key right to privacy:
Act 1 directly and substantially burdens the privacy rights of “opposite-sex and same-sex individuals” who engage in private, consensual sexual conduct in the bedroom by foreclosing their eligibility to foster or adopt children, should they choose to cohabit with their sexual partner. The pressure on such couples to live apart, should they wish to foster or adopt children, is clearly significant. In Jegley, the burden perpetrated by the State was criminal prosecution for sodomy, although the act took place in the privacy of the bedroom. In the case before us, the burden dispensed by the State is either to remove the ability to foster or adopt children, should sexual partners live together, or to intrude into the bedroom to assure that cohabitors who adopt or foster are celibate. We conclude that, in this case as in Jegley, the burden is direct and substantial.
In 2002, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down that state’s sodomy law in the case of Jegley v. Picado, nearly a full year before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws nationwide in Lawrence v. Texas. A state judge struck down Arkansas’ adoption ban last April. The attorney general then appealed to the Supreme Court, which led to today’s ruling.
Because the court found that Act 1 infringes on a key right to privacy, the court determined that heighened scrutiny rather than rational-basis was the appropriate standard for the ruling:
We have held in this case that a fundamental right of privacy is at issue and that the burden imposed by the State is direct and substantial. We now hold, as an additional matter, that because of the direct and substantial burden on a fundamental right, the standard to be applied is heightened scrutiny and not a rational-basis standard. Using the heightened- scrutiny standard, because Act 1 exacts a categorical ban against all cohabiting couples engaged in sexual conduct, we hold that it is not narrowly tailored or the least restrictive means available to serve the State’s compelling interest of protecting the best interest of the child.
Utah and Mississippi are the only states remaining with adoption bans affecting gay people. Utah, like Arkansas until today, bans cohabiting couples from adopting but allows single adults to adopt when married couples aren’t available. Mississippi law allows unmarried and married adults to adopt regardless of cohabitation status, but contains a separate clause stating, “Adoption by couples of the same gender is prohibited.”
A Good Man Tries and Fails
December 16th, 2010
Ron Sider is a prominent evangelical Christian who opposes marriage equality. He doesn’t seem to be a hateful bigot at all. I never sense that he was murmuring perverts, perverts, perverts as he typed his recent article, ”Bearing Better Witness.” He’s shown me two things with that piece: First, a reminder that some people who promote discrimination are decent, well-meaning human beings. And second, even their best-intentioned arguments can’t withstand scrutiny.
Sider begins by arguing there are secular reasons for opposing marriage equality:
Even a state such as ours, which does not use the law to promote or discourage particular religious beliefs, nevertheless has a huge stake in marriage. It is not simply a religious issue. The law is a moral teacher. Most people assume that if something is legal, it is moral—or at least not immoral. What is legal soon will become normal.
That’s both untrue and dangerous.
Really, most people would brand something like self-serving deceit as immoral. Even a trivial selfish lie betrays someone’s trust. But while some lies are illegal — fraud, libel, slander, perjury, and the like — most everyday lies are not. Sorry, I got caught in traffic. Or, I wasn’t flirting with him. Or, I don’t know who ate the last piece of pie (that one’s egregious in the extreme!).
In fact, you can create a whole catalog of immoral-but-not-illegal acts: Read the rest of this entry »
Florida Dept of Children and Families Won’t Appeal Gay Adoption Ban Ruling
October 12th, 2010
George Sheldon, secretary of the Department of Children & Families, announced today that his agency will not appeal a recent ruling by the Third District Court of Appeal that declared the state’s ban on adoption by gay parents unconstitutional. Sheldon communicated his decision to state Attorney General Bill McCollum this morning.
It is unclear whether McCollum himself will exercise his authority to appeal the decsiion to the Florida Supreme Court. McCollum was responsible for hiring discredited “expert” George Rekers for more than $120,000 in his defense of the state adoption ban. Rekers was later photographed returning from a European vacation in the company of a companion hired through Rentboy.com. Rekers said he turned to Rentboy.com to find someone to “lift his luggage.”
Gov. Crist Orders Halt To Enforcement of Gay Adoption Ban
September 22nd, 2010
Following the state Appeals Court ruling that declared Florida’s ban on adoptions by gay parents unconstitutional, Governor Charlie Crist and George Sheldon, the Department of Children & Families Secretary, confirm that they will no longer enforce the ban:
“Children deserve a loving home to be in, and the opportunity for judges to make this call on a case-by-case basis for every adoption,” said Crist, who once supported the ban. The U.S. Senate candidate reversed himself after he left the Republican Party and began courting liberal and moderate voters.
George Sheldon, the Department of Children & Families secretary who voted against the ban while representing the Tampa area in the 1977 Legislature, called the three-judge panel “the first court in the history of Florida ever to have struck down this law.”
“Obviously, the District Court of Appeal’s decision has statewide application, so, as of today, the statute is unconstitutional. The department will no longer enforce the ban,” he told The Miami Herald. Though Sheldon has long opposed the adoption ban, he said he had no choice but to defend the statute in court as the head of Florida’s child-welfare agency.
As to whether the state would file an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court:
On Wednesday, Attorney General Bill McCollum, whose office represented the state in the case, declined to say what action he will take.
Sheldon said he, too, had yet to chart a course, which would seek to balance the state’s desire for finality in the law against the Gill family’s need for some reassurance that the children would remain with the couple until adulthood.
So we’re not quite at the final act just yet. But it seems we’re very, very close.
Florida Appeals Court: State Adoption Ban Unconstitutional
September 22nd, 2010
A Florida appeals court in Miami unanimously ruled that the state’s ban on gays adopting children is unconstitutional.
In the court’s 3-0 decision (PDF: 107KB/42 pages), the judges examined Florida’s adoption law which calls for a case-by-case examination of the prospective adoptive parents in order to determine their individual suitability to become a parent. Single adults are allowed to adopt, HIV-positive are allowed to adopt, and the court noted that even those with a history of child neglect are able to adopt after following a laborious process. There was only one lone exception to Florida’s case-by-case consideration for adoption: “Except for homosexual persons, there is no automatic, categorical exclusion of anyone from consideration for adoption.”
The Court also noted that gay people are not excluded under Florida law from becoming parents by other means. They are allowed to become foster parents, and Florida law also allows guardianship and custody of gay parents over children. The court concluded that “It is difficult to see any rational basis in utilizing homosexual persons as foster parents or guardians on a temporary or permanent basis, while imposing a blanket prohibition on adoption by those same persons.”
The court took particular note of the state’s “expert witnesses” in support of the adoption ban. The court noted that Dr. Walter Schumm, who has defended the research of discredited anti-gay extremist Paul Cameron, was not a psychologist and was “of no assistance to the Department’s argument.” As for George Rekers, who was later revealed to have hired a rentboy to accompany him on a European vacation, the court took special note that Rekers research relied heavily on Cameron’s discredited work. And in particular, the appeals court took special efforts to dissect the Florida Dept. of Children and Families’ extremely selective citing and outright distortions of other social science research, noting that some of the research actually reached conclusions that were the opposite of the Department’s assertions.
The court concluded by declaring that the state’s ban on gays adopting children was a violation of the equal protection clause of the state’s constitution.
So far, we have not heard whether the State intends to appeal the decision to the Florida Supreme Court.
Charlie Crist To Consider Dropping Gay Adoption Lawsuit
September 14th, 2010
The Palm Beach Post reports that Florida Governor and Independent candidate for the U.S. Senate Charlie Crist is considering dropping a lawsuit challenging a gay couple’s adoption of two foster children that is now on appeal:
“I think we need to review that. My comments really reflect that it’s better to have more of the judicial branch involved in this process. I think that most who follow the judiciary recognize that what’s in the ‘best interest of the child’ is what should be paramount in these kinds of decisions. That’s what I believe and I think that’s what will be the best for them,” Crist, the independent candidate in the three-way race for U.S. Senate, told reporters.
This comes on the heals of last weekend’s revelation that Gov. Crist will back a large number of LGBT equality measures, excluding marriage.
The lawsuit, re the Adoption of John and James Doe, is now before a state appeals court, which is expected to issue a decision at any time. That lawsuit has already caused no end of grief to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who losthis bid for the GOP’s nomination for U.S. Senate. That loss that is partly attributable to controversy surrounding his hiring of George Rekers to serve as an “expert witness” to defend the state’s ban on gay couples adopting children. Rekers was later exposed as a customer of a rentboy while on vacation in Europe. McCullum authorised payment of $120,000 for Rekers’ testimony, which was ultimately dismissed by the trial judge as “motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science.”
Court: Wisconsin gay parents don’t have rights
June 24th, 2010
From the Chicago Tribune:
A Wisconsin appeals court says gay parents do not have full parental rights when it comes to their adopted children.
The court ruled Thursday against a woman who was seeking guardianship of two adopted children for whom she acted as a stay at home mother for years.
Cuz it’s in the interest of the kids, ya know.
Slovenia court upholds adoption
March 5th, 2010
This must be Slovenia week.
The Supreme Court has upheld a US ruling which allowed a gay couple with dual US-Slovenian citizenship to adopt a girl in America, making the couple the girl’s legal parents in Slovenia as well, media report Friday.
That is good news for the Family Law debate which focused in a large part on gay adoption.
Adoption in France
November 11th, 2009
Gay rights in Europe have different difficulties than in the States. Where here the battle is over legal rights and recognition for couples, European countries tend to place more restrictions on parenting. For example, in France where PACS have been legal since 2006, only heterosexual married couples can adopt.
Radio France Internationale is reporting that a breakthrough has just been accomplished in France:
School teacher Emmanuelle B. should receive the necessary paperwork within 15 days following Tuesday morning’s decision, capping off a long court battle that has lasted more than 10 years.
Emmanuelle and her partner Laurence R., a school psychologist, have been living together for twenty years, and meet the requirements of seriousness and stability asked of prospective adopters, the judges wrote in their decision.
Her battle has been through French courts, the European Court of Human Rights, and back again. And it appears that, at least in this instance, Emmanuelle’s desire to be a parent will not be blocked by legislative roadblocks.
But the decision isn’t an outright victory for homosexual couples.
“The judge authorised a woman, who made her request to adopt as an individual, not a homosexual couple as such,” he said.
Montana Supremes Find for Lesbian Parent
October 7th, 2009
Back in 1995 Barbara Maniaci met Michelle Kulstad and they fell in love. In 1996 Kulstad moved from Seattle to Montana to be with Maniaci and they exchanged rings on March 18, 1996.
As time went on, the ladies decided to bring children into their lives so in 2001 the adopted a little boy. Three years later a little girl came into the family. They participated equally in the parenting of these children.
Now as Montana, their home state, does not allow for same-sex couple adoptions, they decided that Maniaci was the better adoption applicant. This proved to be an unfortunate choice.
in 2006, after a decade together, the couple split up and Maniaci tried to exclude Kulstad from her share of their acquisitions and from access to her children.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Montana found, by a 6 – 1 decision, that Kulstad could not be denied her parental rights. The decision is not all that surprising. But far more interesting are the statements and positions of some people involved.
Dr. Trayce Hansen
First let’s look at one small item in the court’s order. When describing the facts of the proceedings, one thing lept out at me:
The court-appointed expert, Dr. Miller, presented testimony regarding her educational background and her parenting plan evaluation.Kulstad presented testimony by Dr. Silverman and Suzanne Dixon, M.D. (Dr. Dixon). Trayce Hansen, Ph.D. (Dr. Hansen), testified for Maniaci.
Silverman was a court appointee. Miller was a specialist in clinical psychology specializing in the protection of children. Who, though, is Hansen.
Dr. Hansen admitted on cross-examination that parenting evaluations represented a new area for her and that she never actually had prepared one. Dr. Hansen never had been qualified as an expert witness by any court. Dr. Hansen never had been retained by any party as an expert witness. Dr. Hansen’s psychology practice involved geriatric patients. Dr. Hansen conceded that she currently did not work with children and had fewer than four years of professional experience after earning her Ph.D. She had worked as a research assistant and had published one article in the journal Personality Assessment in a forensic-type situation.
Why, then, was Hansen presented as a witness credible enough to attack Dr. Miller and the state’s entire evaluation process? Well, a clue can be found in the words of Attorney Matt McReynolds with the Pacific Justice Institute (Lifesite)
“It’s fairly shocking how the Court wouldn’t allow this person who had left the lesbian lifestyle to be freed from it – her and her children.
“It’s very disturbing that someone who wants to get out of this lifestyle can still be trapped in it for years to come …
Barbara Maniaci – who has since married a man – is apparently ex-gay. So we are not really talking about a child custody dispute; rather, we are talking about another battle in the Great Anti-Gay Culture War in which children are pawns of anti-gay and ex-gay activists.
Maniaci’s was not represented by the highest profile divorce attorneys in Montana; her counsel was the anti-gay activist legal group Alliance Defense Fund. And they selected Hansen as their expert witness. Because while Trayce Hansen may know little to nothing about child psychology, when it comes to anti-gay activism she is no novice.
In June of last year, Dr. Hansen issued a press release breathlessly declaring, “Children raised by openly homosexual parents are more likely to engage in homosexual behavior themselves.” This was a follow up to her ” 5 Reasons Why Same-Sex Marriage Will Harm Children.”
What Hansen forgets to reveal in her arguments is that as a research assistant working with geriatric patients, she has no more qualification to make such claims than do I. But, like many anti-gay activists, she’s not above using her title deceptively to achieve her dishonest goals.
The court was not impressed.
The court noted that, contrary to Dr. Hansen’s testimony, the APA concludes that no evidence suggests that same-sex couples are unfit to be parents, or that psychosocial development among children of same-sex couples would be compromised in any respect.
Perhaps that can serve as a warning to anti-gay activists: arguments based solely in animus that are contradicted by evidence do not serve you well in court. Just because you choose to believe your own bogus claims and dubious “studies” does not help you when facing judges that are not blinded by a desire to believe the worst about gay people.
Justice James C. Nelson
Judge Nelson concurred with the findings of the court. But he had a few more things to add to his conclusions.
Sadly, however, this case represents yet another instance in which fellow Montanans, who happen to be lesbian or gay, are forced to battle for their fundamental rights to love who they want, to form intimate associations, to form family relationships, and to have and raise children—all elemental, natural rights that are accorded, presumptively and without thought or hesitation, to heterosexuals.
I stand by my concurring opinion. Unfortunately, though, nothing has changed. I am convinced that until our courts, as a matter of law, accept homosexuals as equal participants with heterosexuals in our society, each person with exactly the same civil and natural rights,
lesbian and gay citizens will continue to suffer homophobic discrimination. Regrettably, this sort of discrimination is both socially acceptable and politically popular.
Naming it for the evil it is, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is an expression of bigotry. And, whether rationalized on the basis of majoritarian morality, partisan ideology, or religious tenets, homophobic discrimination is still bigotry. It cannot be justified; it cannot be legalized; it cannot be constitutionalized.
Justice Jim Rice
Justice Rice has decided that this is all a dispute between the “natural parent” and some “third party” seeking to destroy “the constitutional rights of a natural parent to parent his or her child”.
Because there is something more “natural parenty” about the one partner who was allowed to adopt than there is about the other partner who the state would not allow to co-adopt. Being the one allowed to sign is all that matters to Rice, not whether both parents provided a parental role and their intention was consistently from the beginning to raise the children jointly.
From its emphasis on the facts of this case, it is apparent that the Court has found Kulstad’s case to be factually compelling, as did the District Court, and, thus, has ruled in her favor. But the Court has not acknowledged the significance of the most fundamental facts of this case: Maniaci is a parent, and Kulstad is not.
A legacy of this decision is the legion of parents who will be forced to litigate in order to protect the rights that the Constitution once guaranteed to them. A single parent must now consider whether a new romantic relationship will jeopardize the right to parent her or his children by way of a future third party parenting claim. Other like situations abound.
There will be further consequences as well. This case may well be reported as a legal victory for the rights of same-sex couples. Because both sides have stated that the parties’ gender is not a determinative issue in this case, neither the Court nor this dissent has discussed it. Regardless, the implications of the decision go far beyond the gender of the particular parties at issue here. There are parameters in neither the statute nor this decision that limit the kind or number of parties and relationships that will be now subject to parenting claims. Before this decision, protection of parental constitutional rights, which required termination of a parent’s rights before granting a parental interest to a third party, necessarily, by biology and the adoption laws, limited the number of parents a child could have. However, those inherent limits have now been removed by the Court. Consequently,
what if three or four adult partners develop a “parent-child relationship” with a child? Multiple-party clusters raising children, or polyamorous “families,” are the next wave in societal relationship experimentation.
Ah, yes. If we let the gays be parents then it’s a slippery slope to polygamy. Will someone please think of the children.
Somehow I don’t think Justice Rice will be invited to Thanksgiving Dinner at Justice Nelson’s home.
Growing Up Gay Attending Coastline Bible Church, Day II of IV
"The Harm Of Trying To Fit Into Someone Else's Mold"
October 7th, 2009
Here is today’s installment of my series looking at my childhood church’s harmful teachings which ultimately lead me to seek out ex-gay therapy.
Churches like Coastline Bible Church like to present a single model for what makes up an acceptable family — this is generally at the expense of single parent households, other family members raising kids, blended families, unmarried partners, people who remain single or don’t procreate, and of course LGBT folk like me.
Today’s video looks at how the church sends the message to non-conformers like me that I am inferior unless I bend my life to fit their model. As you’ll see bending one’s life to such extreme degrees can result in things breaking.
There’s a term for this attitude, Heterosexism: the presumption that straight two-parent households are superior to all other family life arrangements. And in case you haven’t already heard about it, Soulforce, Box Turtle Bulletin, Truth Wins Out and a few other groups are having an entire conference about the underlying heterosexism of exgay programs next in Florida called the Anti-Heterosexism Conference. Of course I’ll be there.
Part I, “What My Church Taught Me About My Sexuality”
Part II, “The Harm Of Trying To Fit Into Someone Else’s Mold”
Part III, “Distrusting Science When It Doesn’t Agree With Your Faith”
Part IV, “Gender Conformity And Giving In To Peer Pressure”