LGBTQ Parents: Resistance, Persistence and Pride

LGBTQ Parents: Resistance, Persistence and Pride

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This wasn’t the Pride Month I was looking forward to. I hoped we would be celebrating gains built on marriage equality, not battling to stop religious-exemption laws that could exclude us from parenting and limit homes for children who need them. I hoped we would be celebrating a growing understanding of transgender people, not trying to stop the same kind of bathroom bills for which North Carolina has been widely criticized. I hoped we wouldn’t still have to fight for the right of both same-sex parents to be on our children’s birth certificates.

Given the anti-LGBTQ climate that has been nourished by the Trump administration and its supporters, though, this Pride is more necessary than ever, even if it isn’t the one we may have wanted. Pride has always been both protest and celebration, and that remains as true as ever. 

As LGBTQ parents, we are not new to resistance. We have resisted when people tried to prevent us from becoming parents because we are queer. When they tried to take away our children because we are queer. When former partners and spouses tried to deny our parental rights. When our children have been bullied or harassed in school.

As these examples show, LGBTQ parents — and our children — are continuing to resist and persist.

Take Massachusetts fifth-grader Marina Osit, who has two moms. She recently noticed her classmates using “gay” as a slur, and decided to start a campaign to change this. She “has raised more than $800 to purchase pins for her classmates that say, ‘Gay does not mean stupid,’” reports the Greenfield Recorder.

Some persist with lawsuits. Eight same-sex couples in Indiana are fighting to have both parents’ names on their children’s birth certificates. They filed their case in 2015, and a federal district court sided with them, but the state appealed the decision. In May, they had their case heard by a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, where one judge, Diane Sykes, insisted, “You can’t overcome biology. If the state defines parenthood by virtue of biology, no argument under the equal-protection clause or the substantive due-process clause can overcome that.” 

The couples’ lawyer, Karen Celestino-Horseman, disagreed, saying, “We maintain that parenthood is no longer defined by biology,” and arguing that if a child is born to a same-sex married couple, both should be presumed to be the parents, just as for different-sex couples. 

And in April, three same-sex couples in Nebraska won a case they had brought way back in 2013 against the state’s ban on “homosexuals” becoming foster parents. With this ruling of the Nebraska Supreme Court, gay men and lesbians can now be treated equally in foster-care placements in all 50 states.

Justice John Wright, who wrote the ruling, pulled no punches, saying the “published statement on DHHS’ official website that ‘heterosexuals only’ need apply to be foster parents” was “legally indistinguishable from a sign reading ‘whites only’ on the hiring-office door.” 

At the same time, so-called “religious-freedom” laws in several states already allow child-placement agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ prospective parents and others if serving them conflicts with the agencies’ religious beliefs or moral convictions. Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota and Virginia already have such laws in place; Alabama and Oklahoma are considering them; and one in Texas is sitting on the governor’s desk as of this writing. 

Nevertheless, Family Equality Council and PFLAG are leading the charge in supporting a federal bill that provides a counter to this legislation. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act, sponsored by Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), would restrict federal funding for states that discriminate in adoption and foster-care placements based on the sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status of prospective parents, or on the sexual orientation or gender identity of youth in care. The bill has just been introduced in the House for the fifth session in a row. In a Republican-led Congress, its chances may be slim (despite Ros-Lehtinen’s support), but it offers the opportunity to raise awareness by talking up the issue on Capitol Hill.

Persistence can also mean wanting to make a difference in public office, and some LGBTQ parents are taking this route. Jenny Durkan, who was the first openly LGBTQ U.S. attorney, is running for mayor of Seattle. She has two children with her partner Dana Garvey. In New York City, Mel Wymore, a transgender parent with grown children, is running for City Council after a failed attempt in 2013. If elected, he would be the first transgender elected official in a major U.S. city, according to his website.

Whether in the public sphere or our private lives, we’re here, we’re queer and, as parents, we know how to function on lack of sleep, survive toddler tantrums and withstand teen angst, all while trying to deflect social stigma and legitimize our family ties. We are resilient and proud, despite (or perhaps because of) the milk stains on our shirts, mud on our floors and laundry piled in the corner. We know how to multitask, handle setbacks and believe in our families regardless of what those in power might say. We are raising children (or have raised them) as imperfect and wonderful as any. 

May your pride still shine, this month and all year.

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