Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Florida Gay Adoption Ban On Its Way Out

This is a big win. Yes, it’s only a trial court judge. Yes, it will be appealed. But this is the case that I suspect will finally end Florida’s ban on adoption by gay men and lesbians, once and for all. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman has declared the ban unconstitutional. Here's the full ruling.

Earlier this fall a judge in Key West ruled the ban unconstitutional and granted an adoption, but the state did not appeal that ruling. The child in that case was not being adopted out of the state’s foster care system, and so the state bowed out. In this case, Frank Gill has been the foster parent of two brothers, 4 and 8 years old, for the last four years. The state expected the placement to be brief, thinking the children would be returned to their parents or taken in by their grandmother. Neither of those things happened, and the children thrived with Gill and his partner. State child welfare workers would have supported Gill’s adoption petition had it not been prohibited by state law.

If you think you’ve heard about court challenges to Florida’s adoption ban before, it’s because you have. The most famous case, Lofton, went to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, where the ban was upheld by a sharply divided court.

So why would this case come out differently? Well, the ACLU, which litigated both cases, decided in Lofton to argue that the state should have to come forward with evidence to support the gay adoption ban. So the ACLU in that case didn’t offer its own experts to testify about the wisdom – or lack thereof – of denying children the opportunity to be raised by loving parents who happened to be gay. In this case, they made a different choice. They offered experts with unassailable credentials, and the trial court judge accepted their testimony and used it as the basis for her ruling. Every mainstream child welfare organization opposes restrictions on adoption by lesbians and gay men.

The state of Florida offered experts too. But their experts were thoroughly discredited. George Rekers testified that gay people should be disallowed from adopting because of their higher rates of depression and suicide. When confronted with evidence of other groups with higher rates of depression and suicide, such a lower income people and Native Americans, he testified that more groups should be banned from adopting children! Rekers also admitted that he had written that women who work outside the home have functionally deserted their children and that he had condemned social science that does not adhere to “the moral laws of God.” The other supposed expert testified that social science could be used to spread God’s word. It’s a testament to the utter travesty that is this ban that Florida could do no better than this in defending a policy that is truly without any rational defense.

ACLU lawyers Matt Coles and Leslie Cooper deserve our highest praise for their years of work on behalf of lesbian and gay adoptive and foster parents. A 2005 case ended Arkansas's ban on gay and lesbian foster parenting. This year an initiative in Arkansas instituted a ban on adoption and foster parenting by anyone living with an unmarried partner. Expect the ACLU to challenge this as well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

WHAT THOMAS BEATIE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND

I watched Thomas and Nancy Beatie on Barbara Walters last week. They described their struggle with the state of Oregon over how they would be identified on their child's birth certificate. They want Thomas listed as the father and Nancy listed as the mother. The hospital insisted that Thomas be listed as the mother, but eventually the state issued a birth certificate with Thomas and Nancy listed as "parent" and "parent."

They are still fighting to get Thomas designated as the father. Give me a break! Parent and parent is the designation that should go on ALL birth certificates! What makes this an insult? Yes, if the state insisted on listing Thomas as the mother, that I would have a problem with. But a gender neutral term?

And then there's his complaint about the advice he received from some (unnamed) gay rights legal groups. They advised the couple that Nancy should adopt their child. What do the Beaties say? That Nancy shouldn't have to adopt her own child. Well, welcome to the real world, where every day lesbian couples have children and the one who didn't give birth has to adopt that child to feel safe as the child's legal parent. Don't you think they all take offense at having to adopt their own children? Of course. But LGBT legal groups advise even those who marry in Massachusetts or Connecticut, or enter civil unions or domestic partnerships in other states (including Oregon!) that the nonbiological mom should adopt her child. That's because adoption is recognized everywhere, but a parent-child relationship created by a same-sex marriage or civil union or DP may be disregarded in gay-unfriendly states (and there's lots of those).

So why should Thomas and Nancy be different? Because Thomas transitioned and the couple went from being a lesbian couple to being a different-sex couple? I've pointed out that the couple's marriage won't be recognized everywhere...maybe not in most states. Nancy DEFINITELY needs to adopt that child...and the second one...to have a solid status as the child's parent. Do I think it should be that way? No. I think the fact that Nancy consented to Thomas's insemination with the intent to be a parent of their child, an intent Thomas shared, should be enough to make her a parent. Marriage or no marriage. And the American Bar Association agrees. The ABA Model Act Governing Assisted Reproductive Technology would make her a parent. But wishing doesn't make it so. I'd be willing to defend Nancy's parental rights if anyone challenged them, but does she really want to take the chance it would come out wrong? Is it fair to her daughter? On a matter of principle? With the emotional and financial well-being of her daughter at stake?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

THE RIGHT-WING "MARRIAGE MOVEMENT:" IDEOLOGY MASQUERADING AS EDUCATION AT THE GEORGIA SUPREME COURT

Thanks to Nan Hunter for alerting me to an astonishing "marriage movement" event, a "summit on marriage and family" co-hosted by David Blankenhorn's Institute for American Values and the Georgia Supreme Court. I am horrified that a body with the power to rule on the well-being of children with LGBT parents, namely a state supreme court, is giving its imprimatur to one of the most vocal organizations in the country that opposes legal recognition of same-sex couples and parents.

How did this happen? Well the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, Leah Sears, is on the board of directors of the Institute for American Values! She is on record espousing the core position -- as wrong as it is -- that the decline of life long heterosexual marriage is the cause of all our social problems. Sears is leaving the court next year, so she needn't fear criticism for associating the Georgia Supreme Court with a political agenda. (And the conference program says this is the "first annual" conference of its kind; okay, that's scary!)

But maybe more significantly, Chief Justice Sears may well think this conference isn't subject to criticism for furthering a political agenda. The "marriage movement" rhetoric that the decline of life-long heterosexual marriage is responsible for all our social problems has such mainstream support -- after all our federal government funds "marriage promotion" -- that to some ears it sounds like a statement of fact.

There will be one speaker who supports marriage for same-sex couples, Jonathan Rauch, but he actually accepts every tenet of the "marriage movement" except the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. So no one at this conference will present a different view about the cause -- and therefore the solutions -- to our social problems. In fact, luncheon speaker Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, whose 1993 "Dan Quayle Was Right" Atlantic Monthly article first laid out the ideology of the "marriage movement" (and was soundly critiqued by NYU sociologist Judith Stacey), appears poised to link the nation's financial crisis to the decline of marriage! Why didn't I guess that would be coming?

And just in case there's any question about this conference's agenda on gender roles, there will be continuous screenings of the DVD Hardwired to Connect, which emphasizes differences between boys and girls.

These folks are dangerous. Read a comprehensive critique of their positions in chapter 4 of my book.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

IT'S THE YOUNG PEOPLE, STUPID...

You can't have avoided hearing about race and Prop 8. I'm not repeating the coverage here. (I do recommend you read Richard Kim in The Nation.)

But have you heard this? 61% of people 65 and older voted for Prop 8. 61% of people under 30 voted against it. Click here for the full exit polling on Prop 8. So why no press coverage on this angle? The future is ours...and no amount of Mormon money or blatant disinformation will stop that.

And on the matter of race and sexual orientation...Thanks to Alex Blaze at Bilerico for pointing out that only 72% of self-identified lesbian, gay, and bisexual voters choose Barack Obama, while 77% voted for John Kerry in 2004. This is astonishing. Review the exit polls for 2004 and the exit polls for 2008, and you find that in 2008, more men, more women, more whites, more blacks, more latinos, more asians, more protestants, more catholics, and more jews voted for Obama than voted for Kerry in 2004. But fewer gay people did. What explains this do you think? There was no increase in the percentage of self-identified LGB voters; it was 4% in both 2004 and 2008. 2008 was an overwhelmingly democratic year, but more gay people picked McCain than picked Bush in 2004. Had Obama lost (heaven forbid!), could Obama supporters of all races have looked towards racism among gay people as a reason? Is there some other plausible explanation? Oh, and in the same post, Alex Blaze notes that a higher percentage of whites than blacks voted to ban unmarried couples from adopting in Arkansas, but you haven't heard anyone decry white homophobia there, have you?

Oh, and another demographic voting more for McCain in 2008 than for Bush in 2004...people over 65. Even in California, with its overwhelming support for Obama, only 48% of people over 65 voted for Obama; 50% voted for McCain.

I'm old enough to remember "Don't trust anyone over 30." Today at the very least we should think twice about the 65 and over crowd.