Tag Archives: Adoption

The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Family Week Day 4

1 Aug

What a day!! There are so many incredible families here. I think probably twice as many as there were last year. It all reminds me of being on Rosie O’Donnell’s R Family Cruise when it was brand new. Seeing so many dads and moms and these kids that nearly every one of them had to fight for. I believe there’s something to be said for that.

How many straight parents can say they had to fight to have their children? Of course there are many, but I don’t know of a single case where a gay or lesbian couple was able to fall into parenting. They all either adopted, worked with a surrogate, had to deal with artificial insemination, or even if they had kids from a previous heterosexual relationship, many live in places where their spouse still isn’t the legal parent of their child. I’m sure there are cases out there where everything worked out swimmingly, but the vast majority of gay parents had to/has to fight to be a parent. I’ve never heard of a gay or lesbian couple having a child by accident. Every one of these kids is wanted, loved and it shows.

This morning, I went back to take some more shots with the Littles. A whole lot more bouncy house time, some bouncy slide time, facepainting, temporary tattoos and pure joy everywhere. I followed that up with a trip to Kidapalooza where everyone was tie-dying t-shirts (or legs and arms if you ask Riane from Family Equality). I stopped to support Cape Cod’s PFLAG group and pick up a gorgeous rainbow sweater for Eli – pictures of that will follow once we return home.

In the afternoon, I got a surprise text from my extraordinarily pregnant friend Amy. She’s amazing and one of my besties from high school. She and her husband Ty and adorable boy Declan were in town for the day and wanted to grab a bite. I was happy to have a little break where I could join them!

Then came the bonfire. Now as history tells it, we’ve never (or at least very infrequently) had a bonfire night that wasn’t at least a little rainy. Last year it drizzled a bit throughout, but I don’t recall it being all that bad. And as of this past weekend, things looked pretty good. No showers in the forecast. But then apparently, someone must have told whoever’s in charge that it was bonfire night. And the rain came. Now the bonfire and s’more-making (with a generous donation from Hershey’s) happens to be the obsession love of Family Equality Council’s Executive Director, Jennifer Chrisler. Unfortunately I’d heard Jenn wasn’t going to be coming to Family Week this year due to the very recent birth of her third little boy, Matthew. But there were then rumblings that she would be here on Wednesday. Why would she come on Wednesday? The day AFTER her beloved bonfire and s’mores??

The bonfires were set-up, with holes dug and fire started by my very own Beyoncé, Family Equality Council’s New Media Manager Sean Carlson. The misty rain was annoying and it was overcast, but it looked like it maybe possibly perhaps could clear up. And it did, briefly anyway. Then in came the families. I was in shock. We all assumed no one would come due to the rain, but there were twice as many there as last year. I was instructed to get photos of the messiest s’moriest faces I could, and it wasn’t hard.

Then the rain turned from a mist to a drizzle. The camera was put away so it still works for the rest of the week. And the s’more-covered kids (and adults) made their way out. Drenched, we worked to extinguish the fires – btw – didn’t know this, but you’re not supposed to just cover a beach fire with sand. You have to put it out with water because the heat from the fire will get trapped under the sand and stay hot for days. Then someone could step on it and get burned. Crazy, right…just a little tip for all you beach fire lovers. And just as we were about to put out the last one, there’s Jennifer Chrisler – also drenched, toasting a soggy marshmallow over the flickering flame. She just couldn’t stay away.

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Catholic Charities Abandons Thousands of Children Instead of Adopting to LGBT Parents

15 Nov

It seems one of the final frontiers in the struggle for equality for LGBT families is teaching the rest of the world that we are incredible parents and that our families not only deserve equality, but we are suffering without it.

Even some who I once considered allies in our fight have said to me “I think you should be able to get married, but I really believe children should have a mother and father” or “gay people should not be allowed to adopt.” This belief stems from generations of lies which make people think of gays and lesbians as pedophiles. From public service announcements in the 50’s to anti-gay hate groups scraping to connect the recent child rape tragedy at Penn State with gay men, we have never been at a loss for people who – even subconsciously – carry this ignorant defamation.

In 2005, I was lucky enough to go on Rosie O’Donnell’s first “R Family Cruise.” I watched shows, had conversations with LGBT parents and I wished that some of the people who have spoken so falsely about us could see how much love there was there.

Almost every one of these children had to be fought for – some parents lived in states where same-sex parent adoption was not legal and some fought tooth-and-nail through divorces where anti-gay judges refused custody because one parent was gay. And I thought – how many heterosexual parents do I know that can truly say they had to fight for their children – legally – in court? How many straight parents do I know had the state they live in tell them they have no rights as a parent?

Well, times are changing.

Every reliable study that has been done, has proven again and again that LGBT parents are just as, if not better equipped to parent than opposite-gender parents. And a recent study released by the Family Equality Council shows us all the great inequalities our well-equipped families are facing all over the U.S. And in the past decade, the number of lesbian and gay adoptive couples has tripled.

Anti-Gay Governor Bob McDonnell

In states across the country, adoption agencies are still discriminating against gay and lesbian parents. In Virginia, a study was done by the previous governor which confirmed what every other reasonable study has found – that we make excellent parents. But of course, under the current anti-gay administration, all the scientific findings were dismissed and the lesbian and gay adoption ban was left in place by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell. This, despite the fact that there are more than 6,000 children in the Virginia foster care system waiting for a forever home.

Catholic Charities in many states have fought tooth-and-nail against laws which require adoption agencies treat all families equally. And after a hard-fought battle in Illionois, Catholic Charities has chosen to abandon up to 2,200 children instead of allowing them to be placed with capable, loving gay and lesbian parents. Several Catholic Charities Adoption Agencies have chosen to do the same in other states. Over and over again, the Catholic dioceses have made the conscious decision to abandon orphans and foster children rather than place them in loving, forever homes, based on nothing in their actual belief system.

As the Bible clearly says zero about lesbians and gays raising children, the choice to close down their agencies has nothing to do with their religion and everything to do with wrongfully-held beliefs based on nothing but rumors and baseless fear tactics created decades ago. It is indeed heartbreaking to see those who claim “Christian” beliefs act so hatefully by leaving thousands of children with nothing to fall back on.

Fortunately, Catholic Charities around the country represent a tiny sliver of all the adoptions that take place on a regular basis and the children represented by them will be taken in by state agencies which do not practice discrimination. So, at the end of the day, this is a good thing and those kids will now have a much greater shot at finding their forever home.

What if your parents were gay?

25 Oct
Our conversations that have been pushing our movement forward so expediently most frequently revolve around rights and protections for ourselves. The conversation is most always focuses on why we can’t get married, violence against us or own rejection from our families, friends and society. It’s time for the conversation to change.

The Family Equality Council and Center for American Progress released a new MAP (Movement Advancement Project) study today which is the first comprehensive and thorough study of LGBT-headed families in the United States. Their findings not only change the conversation, but they blow apart the last walls of defense for those who continue to propagate bigotry and hatred.

The most devastating conclusion found in the report, which needs to be shared around this country – is that the discriminatory laws of this country are actually harming children. Here is a sampling of some of the staggering statistics:

  • There are up to 2 million children in this country being raised by LGBT parents.
  • Across 18 years, sams-sex parents will have an added $219,262 financial burden which heterosexual parents will not have.
  • Children of binational parents live in fear that one of their parents may be deported.
  • Children of LGBT parents may be denied health insurance if a parent’s employer requires documentation of legal adoption in a state which does not allow same-sex parent adoption.
  • LGBT parents may not be able to take time off work to care for a sick child or spouse under the Family Medical Leave Act.
  • LGBT families are more than twice as likely to live in poverty.
  • 18 states treat LGBT partners and non-adoptive parents and their children as legal strangers. This means if a parent has to take a child to the hospital, they have no right to make medical decisions.
  • Children of LGBT parents are denied financial protections should a parent die or become disabled.

These and many other findings in this groundbreaking report have the capacity to become game-changers. With a half-million children in this country living in foster care and 30 years of competent research stating that children of same-sex parents are just as happy, healthy and well adjusted as those from heterosexual parents, the laws need to change.

Those who so frequently claim that they are “fighting to protect children” as their primary defense of heterosexual-only marriage, can no longer claim that. We now have the facts to support the opposite. This is no longer about us working for our equality. This is about our children who face devastating inequality through no action of their own.

The Family Equality Council has put together a comprehensive website which includes not only the findings of the report, but the next action steps we can take to be certain this report is getting the attention it needs.

On the site, there is a place for LGBT families to “Tell Your Story.” I highly recommend that if you or someone you know is an LGBT family, that you take advantage of this. It is through stories like these, that we will best see these gross inequalities represented. Nothing is going to change if no one knows something is wrong.

Please enjoy the photos below from this morning’s panel on LGBT families and please share the following video wherever you can:

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler

Jeff Krehely, Center for American Progress

Jonathan Capehart

Bryan Samuels

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

The panel on LGBT Families

Jonathan Capehart

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

Bryan Samuels

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

Ineke Mushovic, Movement Advancement Project (MAP)

Ineke Mushovic, Movement Advancement Project (MAP)

Jeff Krehely, Center for American Progress

Aisha Moodie-Mills, Center for American Progress, Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

Reverend Dennis Wiley

Jeff Friedman, Andrew Zwerin and their son Josh with Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Capehart

A More Perfect World: Celebrating Our Families in Provincetown

10 Aug

Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown, MA (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

I had been to Provincetown twice in my life – once as a 13-year old with a summer camp field trip and once in 2005 on Rosie O’Donnell’s R Family Cruise as a correspondent for BroadwayWorld.com. It was always an exciting place to be. A weird sort of Narnia where the world was upside down, straight was gay and gay was straight. But the Provincetown I saw last week changed my life.

Family Equality Council‘s Family Week is intended to bring together LGBT families from across the country for one week of sun and fun. But that’s not all it is. Throughout the course of the week, kids are in summer camp classes learning about photography, dance, playwrighting, nature and all sorts of other summer campy-type disciplines. Parents are taking part in “Parent Cafes” learning about the state of the movement and meeting with other LGBT parents struggling with a lot of the same challenges they face. The week is filled with teen dances, movie nights, clam bakes, and whale watches. In this magnificent Utopia, kids get to be kids instead of “that boy with two moms” or “that girl with two dads.”

Brent Wright (Family Equality Council), his daughter, Olivia (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

For three years, I was the camp director at Camp TLC – a summer camp for inner-city teens living with HIV and AIDS. Not since that time did I see the difference it made in a child’s life to feel like they weren’t alone. Like at Camp TLC, these kids got to spend one week out of 52 weeks a year where they weren’t “the other.” For this week, every kid they knew was in the same boat as them and the support they felt and gave each other was palpable. I like to think they’ll be able to carry that through the other 51 weeks a year.

Family Week Parade (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

Most of the families I met last week came from parts of the country where marriage equality is not the law and where bigotry and hatred is alive and well. One young girl told us the story of her school chorus singing a song where one of the lyrics was “gay.” The kids snickered as kids will do and the teacher explained that the word “just meant ‘happy,’ not the other kind of gay – the other kind of gay is just wrong.” This wasn’t the only time this daughter of two moms faced these kinds of comments. But not this week – this week, instead of finger-pointing and exclusion, these kids are literally celebrated in a special parade down the main street of town.

For this one week, these families got to see what life could be like in a place with no discrimination or hatred, where they were the “normal” ones. Also encouraging to see were a few straight families bringing their children to Family Week. I spoke with one Dad who told me that this is the world he wants his children to grow up in. His two boys were adopted and he said this was one of the only places he could take them where the majority of other kids are adopted as well.

I learned a lot this week – far more than I could ever teach or write about here – but more than anything, I learned that as cliche as it may sound – it’s not biology that makes a family… it’s love.

Please enjoy some of our photos from this week and check out the slideshow we put together with the Family Equality Council. And also drop by their site and make a contribution so that Family Week can continue and grow to include as many families as possible. (all photos copyright: Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

Virginia Fails to Protect Foster Children

21 Apr

Despite Virginia leading the country when it comes to kids living and aging out of the foster care system, a state board has voted to deny gay and lesbian couples the right to give these children a loving home.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

The bigoted decision came down after the state’s historically anti-gay Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sent a memo to the board advising that the proposed changes (of adding lesbian and gay couples as a protected class when it comes to adoption) “does not comport with applicable state law and public policy” and that the board “lacks the authority to adopt this proposed language.” Cuccinelli’s memo didn’t explain any details of the state laws or public policies he was describing, but the board was still swayed toward the homophobic and biased decision.

The Family Equality Council was one of the organizations leading the fight to convince Gov. Bob McDonnell to reconsider his stance against equality.

“Today’s decision by the board to eliminate language prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a bad decision for the children in Virginia’s foster care system,” said Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director of the Family Equality Council. “In a state that is in dire need of adoptive families, this decision makes it more difficult for youth in foster care to find a loving, stable home”

Same-sex parent adoption is now legal in 17 countries including predominantly-Catholic countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Spain as well as 11 US States and Washington D.C. And while there are specific bans on same-sex couples adopting in some states, single LGBT parents can adopt in almost every state.