“Rogue One,” the latest movie in the “Star Wars” franchise, opened last week. Without leaking any spoilers, trailers have revealed a key line as protagonist Jyn Erso rallies the beleaguered rebels: “We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope.”
It’s a timely thought, given what many of us are feeling after the election. Even before the election, though, there were some setbacks this year for LGBTQ parents and our children. In March, North Carolina passed a law requiring schools and public agencies to limit use of multiple-occupancy bathrooms based on biological sex, and invalidated local LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances. While the law is not specific to parenting, such “bathroom bills” impact transgender children and parents, as well as the children of transgender parents.
And last week, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that same-sex spouses do not have a constitutional right to put both their names on their children’s birth certificates. This comes after U.S. District Courts in Wisconsin and North Carolina said in recent months that their states must indeed list both same-sex spouses.
Still, if we are to rebel (forcefully but peacefully) against the country’s hard right turn, we need hope — so here are some things that gave me hope for LGBTQ families this year.
In January, Jackie Biskupski took office as the first openly LGBTQ mayor of Salt Lake City. She entered politics in 1995 when controversy arose about a gay-straight alliance at a city high school. Biskupski adopted a son, now 6 years old, when she was single, but in August married Betty Iverson, an executive for Johnson & Johnson, who has an 11-year-old son.
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Alabama Supreme Court decision, ruling unanimously that Alabama has to recognize the second-parent adoptions done in Georgia by a nonbiological mom.
President Obama specifically mentioned LGBTQ families at the White House Pride celebration in June, saying that kids of his daughters’ generation “instinctively know people are people and families are families. And discrimination, it’s so last century. It’s so passé. It doesn’t make sense to them. So we live in an America where the laws are finally catching up to the hearts of kids and what they instinctively understand.”
June also saw victory for two gay dads who had been ensnared in a costly year-long legal battle for parental rights over their son, born to a surrogate in Wisconsin. A judge had blocked the effort they thought would be routine, and compared surrogacy to “human trafficking,” even though the surrogate supported the dads. Ultimately, he stepped down to pursue a different position and a new judge granted the dads parentage.
Additional good news in June came from a federal judge who ruled that Mississippi’s law allowing clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses because of their religious beliefs violated the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. The winning lawyer was Roberta Kaplan, herself a lesbian mom, who represented Edie Windsor in her historic case that shattered the Defense of Marriage Act.
Likewise in July, a federal judge said a Mississippi law that would have allowed people to discriminate by citing religious beliefs was unconstitutional. It would have allowed a broad range of discrimination, including refusal to provide foster-care or adoption services; fertility services; wedding ceremonies, facilities and goods; psychological treatment; or counseling or treatment related to gender transitioning.
And while marriage equality still ruled the headlines, New York’s highest court in August said that an unmarried person, not related to a child by biology or adoption, may still be considered a parent if they and the other parent agreed to have and raise the child together. The case involved a biological mom trying to deny her former partner, the nonbiological mom, custody and visitation — but the ruling gave the non-bio mom the right to seek it.
Massachusetts, which led the nation in marriage equality, also upheld the rights of unmarried same-sex parents in a similar case in October. The plaintiff was represented in court by Mary Bonauto, who argued the landmark marriage equality decisions in Massachusetts and at the U.S. Supreme Court — and is another lesbian mom.
In international news, two of the most Catholic countries in the world took steps toward fuller recognition of LGBTQ families. The Mexican Supreme Court in September ruled that adoption should be in the best interests of the children, regardless of the sexual orientation or relationship status of the prospective parent(s). And last week, a court in Italy recognized the Spanish birth certificate of a child with two Italian mothers, following two decisions by Italian courts earlier in the year that approved second-parent adoptions — although such rulings are still on a case-by-case basis.
In media, this year saw a number of terrific new LGBTQ-inclusive children’s and young adult books (visit mombian.com for a list of my favorites), a pledge from Highlights children’s magazines to “be more reflective of all kinds of families” and an affirmation from Cricket children’s magazines that they have been LGBTQ-inclusive and would welcome further submissions of inclusive content.
As I suspect is true for many of us, I look for hope because I want to believe my child will grow up in a world of inclusion and equity for all. This year my son became a teenager and celebrated his bar mitzvah, and I couldn’t be prouder — nor more concerned about the direction of our country. The teen years are known as rebellious ones, to be sure, but perhaps we all need a little rebellion right now. It reminds us there’s hope somewhere. n Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.