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”
El Salvador’s Gay Marriage Ban Fails
September 25th, 2009
El Salvador’s governing leftwing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) voted as a block against amendments to the constitution that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions and adoption of children by same-sex couples. Thus supporters were not able to get the required two thirds to write discrimination into their governing document. (IPS)
During the weeks running up to the vote on Thursday, Catholic and evangelical churches in El Salvador joined forces with rightwing parties to try to push through the constitutional reforms.
Hundreds of Catholics and evangelicals carrying placards with messages like “Marriage is Sacred, Let’s Defend It” marched through the streets of San Salvador on Saturday, Sept. 19 in support of the rightwing opposition bloc in parliament and to press the FMLN to ratify changes to three articles of the constitution.
The church groups held a permanent “prayer chain” and organised more street demonstrations early this week, in the hope that the reforms would be approved in the legislative vote on Thursday, Sept. 24.
Supporters of the reforms said they were defending public morality and the foundations of the family.
Scotland Couples Can Adopt
September 23rd, 2009
From the anti-gay website LifeSiteNews
Scotland’s devolved parliament has announced that, starting next week, homosexual partners may adopt children together and both be regarded as the child’s parents.
Previously the rules said that homosexuals could adopt only as singles. Legislation in 2005 granted adoption rights to unmarried couples, including homosexual partners in England and Wales.
Uruguay Legalizes Adoption
September 9th, 2009
We told you earlier that Uruguay was in the process of legalizing adoption by same-sex couples. It appears it has now passed the final hurdle. (AFP)
Uruguay lawmakers Wednesday adopted a trailblazing law allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children, in an unprecedented move for Latin America.
Senator Margarita Percovich told AFP the contentious bill had passed its final hurdle with 17 out of 23 senators voting in favor of the legislation.
Anti-Gay Extremists Cite Gay Pedophile As Typical Of All Gays
June 30th, 2009
Anti-gay extremists are all over this news item from Durham, North Carolina:
A Duke University official has been charged in federal court with offering his 5-year-old adopted son up for sex. Frank Lombard, associate director of the Center for Health Policy, was arrested Wednesday in Raleigh, the FBI said.
An unidentified informant who already faces child porn charges in a different child sex case pointed investigators to Lombard, according to court documents. The informant told investigators he had met Lombard on the Internet four years ago. The informant described in graphic detail how he allegedly observed Lombard molesting an African-American child on four occasions over an Internet video chat service called ICUii.
…During the chats, according to the affidavit, “FL” [Frank Lombard’s screen name] told undercover investigators that he had himself molested his child, whom he adopted as an infant, and that he had allowed others to molest his child. “FL” stated that “the abuse of the child was easier when the child was too young to talk or know what was happening, but that he had drugged the child with Benadryl during molestation.”
Predictably, anti-gay extremists are already using this horrific crime as “proof” that all gay people are unfit to be parents. They’ll tell you that this is how virtually all gay men behave. LifeSite is already eating it up, as are Dakota Voice’s Bob Ellis and Town Hall’s Mike Adams.
We’ve seen them equate homosexuality with pedophilia by tagging the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act with the libelous “Pedophile Protection Act” moniker. Adams piled onto that them by following his first post up with another one noting that Lombard was Facebook Fan with Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Bishop of the Anglican Church. The Right Rev. Robinson has 3,668 other fans, but that didn’t deter Adams from asking, “Is this arrest thwarting an effort by Lombard to promote tolerance of pedophilia in the Episcopal Church?”
This episode even gave discredited anti-gay “researcher” Paul Cameron the chance to come out of the woodwork to claim that this sad episode “demonstrates why gays should not be able to adopt.”
Kiliann Melloy has a great rundown on anti-gay reactions to Lombard’s arrest at EDGE Boston, including a blog which claims to be a “grassroots network of the Republican Party of Virginia.” And she reviews the contention by Paul Cameron and another so-called “researcher,” Dr. Judith Reisman, that gay men are more likely to molest children. (Reisman’s Ph.D. is in Communications, but as Melloy notes, that doesn’t stop her from writing about the physiological effects of pornography on the brain without the aid of any research.)
The lesson we ought to learn from Lombard’s arrest is that being a horrible, abusive parent is an equal-opportunity crime. Gay individuals are no more immune from engaging in criminal conduct with five-year-olds than straight people. Like this heterosexual couple from Indiana, just to name one tragic example.
But it’s gay men in particular which get the blame for molesting children. Anti-gay activists will claim that gay men are guilty of this horrible crime in numbers far exceeding their proportion in the overall population. The problem with that assertion though is that there is absolutely no evidence to support that claim. That’s not to say that there are no gay predators. But there is no evidence to suggest that gay men are more likely to molest children than straight men, which is the fear-mongering message that extremists return to again and again.
The real tragedy in this case is that a very young boy has been horribly abused. The crime that anti-gay extremists engage in by slandering all gay people with this episode is, without a doubt, the much lesser crime. But it is a crime nevertheless, and it’s one they will have to answer for someday. Just like this Lombard bastard.