How Many San Francisco High Schoolers Have Gay Parents?

By Lauren Smiley Mon., Oct. 17 2011

SFWeekly.com

Some social conservatives have bizarrely charged that making LGBT history a part of the state-mandated curriculum is just a veiled lesson on how to be gay. But for a small percentage of San Francisco kids, that classroom instruction won’t just be history lessons about a marginalized minority group — that coursework will help them define their own families.

Four percent of students in San Francisco’s public high schools say they have LGBT parents, according to preliminary results of a district-wide survey given to ninth and 11th graders last spring, as SF Weekly has learned. Additionally, two percent of seventh graders said that are living in LGBT households, says Kevin Gogin, the San Francisco Unified School District’s head of LGBT support services.

That comes out to about 800 families total. “We were the first district nationally to ask the question,” Gogin told us. The data was part of a larger survey given to high schoolers last spring about LGBT bullying. All the statistics will be released in a month.

San Francisco schools, perhaps surprisingly, have a long way to go on cutting out LGBT bullying, as we wrote about in a cover story last year. The results from surveys given in 2007 and 2009 showed LGBT students had a much higher rate of suicidal thoughts than their straight peers, and students often heard gay slurs at their schools.

The data on LGBT families was announced last Thursday night as the school district had its first-ever dinner for the district’s LGBT families at Alvarado Elementary School, where roughly 200 people attended.

“There’s only one other district that does this in the country, and we beat them in the first year,” Gogin says. “We were overwhelmed with the positive outpouring from the community.”

Now the data has the district curious about how many elementary school kids are living in LGBT households. When the district revamps the questionnaire in two years, they’ll be asking the city’s youngsters, too.

No TV for Children Under 2, Doctors’ Group Urges

October 18, 2011
New York Times
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Watching television or videos is discouraged for babies younger than 2 because studies suggest it could harm their development, a pediatricians’ group said Tuesday.

Instead of allowing infants to watch videos or screens, parents should talk to them and encourage independent play, said the first guidelines on the subject issued in more than a decade by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The advice is the same as that issued in 1999 by the group, the country’s largest association of pediatricians, but this time it also warns parents that their own screen-watching habits may delay their children’s ability to talk.

“This updated policy statement provides further evidence that media — both foreground and background — have potentially negative effects and no known positive effects for children younger than 2 years,” it said. “Thus the A.A.P. reaffirms its recommendation to discourage media use in this age group.”

The latest guidelines do not refer to interactive play like video games on smartphones or other devices, but to programs watched passively on phones, computers, televisions or any other kind of screen.

Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin, Tex., who is a member of the academy, said the update was needed because of the explosion of DVDs meant for the under-2 age group, and because as many as 90 percent of parents acknowledge that their infants watch some sort of electronic media.

“Clearly, no one is listening to this message,” she said. “In this ubiquitous screen world, I think we need to find a way to manage it and make it a healthy media diet.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics urges pediatricians to discuss media use with new parents, and says adults should be aware of how distracted they become when the television is on.

“I like to call it secondhand TV,” said Dr. Brown, who is the lead author of the guidelines.

Studies cited in the guidelines say that parents interact less with children when the television is on, and that a young child at play will glance at the TV — if it is on, even in the background — three times a minute.

“When the TV is on, the parent is talking less,” Dr. Brown said. “There is some scientific evidence that shows that the less talk time a child has, the poorer their language development is.”

Though about 50 studies have been done in the past decade on media viewing by young children, none have followed heavy television watchers into later childhood or adulthood, so any long-term effects are not known. Heavy media use in a household is defined as one in which the television is on all or most of the time.

To read the complete article, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/19/health/19babies.html?hp

For Children of Same-Sex Couples, a Student Aid Maze

October 14, 2011
New York Times
By TARA SIEGEL BERNARD

It took five attempts for one prospective college student and her mother to fill out the 106-question federal form that would determine whether she would be eligible for financial aid. And that was not just because the form was frustratingly complicated. What tripped them up was the fact that the student had two legal mothers — and the form had room for only one.

Further confusing matters, her mothers had since split and married other women; they have six children among them. “It was so stressful and so frustrating to try to fit our family into those forms when so clearly it wasn’t going to fit,” said the student, who is now a senior at a university in Illinois and wanted to remain anonymous to keep her family’s financial affairs private. “You feel like you are lying no matter what you do.”

The aid form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the single most important document in determining how much and what type of financial aid students get. But the form, informally called Fafsa, has not kept up with the changing composition of families, in large part because the federal agency that issues it has to abide by the Defense of Marriage Act, which recognizes only heterosexual marriage. Because these students cannot fully portray their family’s finances, the amount of aid they receive may not fairly reflect their needs.

“In some cases, they are robbed of aid they would have otherwise received, and in other instances they benefit from it,” said Crosby Burns, special assistant for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, a research organization that recently published a report about these issues in the financial aid process.

This is not solely an issue for children of same-sex parents. Any children with unusual family circumstances — whether their parent is in jail, involved in a messy divorce or simply refuses to provide support — can have trouble filling out the form. The form’s length and complexity is often a deterrent for would-be students with lower incomes, too. No numbers are available on the number of students from gay and lesbian families who are affected, though Gary Gates, a demographer with the Williams Institute, which studies sexual orientation law and policy issues, has calculated that about 220,000 children under age 18 are being raised by same-sex parents.

Though it is not immediately clear from the actual form, officials from the Department of Education, which issues it, said that applicants with two married mothers or fathers must fill out the Fafsa as if the couple were divorced. They must choose the legal parent who provides more support, which means that the other parent’s income and assets are often ignored. That can give the impression that the student requires more aid — or less — than one from an identical family headed by heterosexual parents. Applicants with same-sex partners, meanwhile, may not be able to include their spouses or other dependents on the form. Other gay students, who are now out on their own because their families have cut off support on learning about their sexual orientation, have difficulty establishing themselves as financially independent. (In some instances, however, colleges could choose to include more information provided by the student and include it in their calculations.)

“Since most other financial aid depends on the application for federal aid, these distortions will trickle down throughout the entire financial aid application process, even outside the federal government’s support,” Mr. Burns said.

The section of the financial aid form that asks for parental information has two lines: one for the applicant’s father/stepfather and another for mother/stepmother. The form also asks for the parents’ marital status, as well as the applicant’s marital status, using the federal definition.

“There is the stigma and indignity of having to list them as divorced, when they are, in fact, not,” said Emily Hecht-McGowan, director of public policy at the Family Equality Council, “It creates confusion and this extra step that children raised by L.G.B.T. parents have to go through,” she added referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

An undergraduate at Harvard, meanwhile, said his challenge was trying to figure out how to get financial aid while excluding his parents. He said that when he was home during winter break in his sophomore year, he told his parents he could not change his sexual orientation. His parents promptly decided to cut off their financial contribution to his studies, he said, and asked him to leave the family home. (The student wanted to remain anonymous to protect his parent’s identities.) He scraped together the last of his savings to get a plane ticket back to Harvard, and his resident dean helped him find a place to stay for the remainder of the break.

But figuring out how to pay tuition was a bigger hurdle. Students under the age of 24 generally must have their parents fill out the Fafsa, unless they can persuade their institution to grant them independent status, which colleges have the power to do. But the Harvard student said that he was told that the university typically required students to take two years off to be deemed independent. “When I first heard this, I was mildly panicking,” he said. “I had no idea what I could do for two years or where I could do it.”

Ultimately, the university agreed to grant him independent status, as long as he took out about $10,000 in total loans, kept a part-time job, and visited a counselor (which made him uncomfortable, since his only experience with therapists was with those who tried to convince him that he could change his sexuality). He was also required to get a letter from his parents explaining why they cut off financial support — something he knew he could not possibly do.

Eventually, Harvard relented and told him it would not require him to get the letter and allowed him to continue his studies. But college officials did urge him to take short break to clear his head. “It was a pretty intense series of steps to get into this independent status,” he said. He is taking the current semester off, and will start his senior year in January. “I know if I had been at any other university, I would have had to drop out,” he said, since he had a support system that included his dean. Even so, “It was a pretty excruciating experience.”

To read the entire article, go to:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/15/your-money/for-children-of-same-sex-couples-a-student-aid-maze.html?hp

Same-sex couple denied high court review of adoption dispute

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
Tue October 11, 2011

Washington (CNN) — A same-sex couple has been turned away at the Supreme Court in a cross-state dispute to have both of them officially listed as the parents of an adopted 5-year-old boy.

The justices rejected the California couple’s appeal Tuesday without comment. The couple claims that Louisiana, where the child was born, has an unconstitutional policy against adoption by unmarried partners. The state used that policy to justify naming only one of them on an amended birth certificate.

The men, Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith, argue gay couples have a due process right to be listed on such certificates as joint custodial parents. A federal appeals court ruled against the couple earlier this year.

Some civil rights groups had urged a high court review, saying the case would have broader implications in the current legal fight in state and federal courts over same-sex marriage and whether states — and Washington, D.C. — must honor legal rights that gays and lesbians enjoy in other states.

The men, who live in San Diego, legally adopted a 1 year-old boy from Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2006. The adoption was finalized in New York state, where the couple was then residing.

In their appeal, spearheaded by the gay rights advocacy group Lambda Legal, the couple said it was important both practically and symbolically they both be listed as the legal parents.

“Obtaining an amended birth certificate that accurately identifies both parents of an adopted child is vitally important for multiple purposes, including determining the parents’ and child’s right to make medical decisions for other family members at the necessary moments; determining custody, care, and support of the child in the event of a separation or divorce between the parents,” the legal brief said.

Lawyers for the men also said it is vitally necessary for Social Security and tax purposes, inheritance, insurance, school registration, and obtaining a passport.

Adar and Smith tried to have the birth certificate changed in Louisiana. All states have laws creating a right to accurate, amended official birth and identity documents that would be recognized in other states and by the federal government.

Darlene Smith, Louisiana’s registrar of vital records and statistics, refused their request. She took the position that the term “adoptive parents” in the applicable section of state law applies only to married parents, because in Louisiana, only married couples may jointly adopt a child.

Louisiana state officials argued they did not refuse to recognize the New York adoption decree, and had offered to list one of the parents on the official amended birth certificate. But Adar and Smith insisted both of them should be named.

In a statement, Lambda Legal said it was disappointed in the court’s discretion to stay out of the dispute. “This decision leaves adopted children and their parents vulnerable in their interactions with officials from other states,” said Kenneth Upton, a senior staff attorney with the group.

“More particularly, this decision leaves a child without an accurate birth certificate listing both his parents,” Upton added. “This issue now moves into the legislative arena. We need to push for a change in Louisiana state policy in order to stabilize and standardize respect for parent-child relationships for all adoptive children.”

The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled in April that Adar and Smith could not file a federal civil rights claim under the Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause. That refers to Article IV, Section 1, which says states must respect the “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.”

The full 16-member court, in an 11-5 ruling, concluded the clause applies only to court actions, not those of state legislators or executive officials, and added that “there is no legal basis on which to conclude that failure to issue a revised birth certificate denies ‘recognition’ to the New York adoption decree.”

More importantly, the court said states have the power to make their own decisions about issuing birth certificates.

“Adoption is not a fundamental right,” said the appeals court, citing studies that found marriage provides a more stable environment in which to raise children.

“Louisiana has a legitimate interest in encouraging a stable and nurturing environment for the education and socialization of its adopted children. … Louisiana may rationally conclude that having parenthood focused on a married couple or single individual — not on the freely severable relationship of unmarried partners — furthers the interests of adopted children.”

Tuesday’s decision by the justices not to intervene is the final legal defeat for Adar and Smith on the certificate question, but does not affect their continuing custody of the boy.

Dr. Doyle on ethical surrogacy practices – Paris 2011

Dr. Doyle of CT Fertility Calls for Ethical Surrogacy Standards in Groundbreaking Paris Conference, Challenging the French to Embrace the Practice

  9.28.2011 – PRWEB.com

American experts, a surrogate mother, French parents and academics weighed in on a topic that divides France, where surrogacy is still illegal. Instead of pros or cons, they concentrated on providing guidelines on how surrogacy can be carried out ethically. The ethical principles Dr. Doyle outlined include fully informing and protecting surrogates and donors from medical and psychological risks, treating them with dignity and respect, and considering the long term well being of all involved, including the surrogates’ families, and the children they help create.

Paris, France (PRWEB) September 28, 2011

Surrogacy in France is illegal and still controversial, yet an increasing number of French people who cannot have children on their own are turning to various surrogacy and egg donation arrangements abroad. Attempts to change the law are hotly debated and even presidential candidates are taking sides. Yet in a recent groundbreaking Paris conference hosted by the French organization ADFH, several American and French experts weighed in for the first time not on the merits of the practice, but on how it could be done in a more ethical manner. While political debates often over-simplify, “every surrogacy journey is different,” said Dr. Michael Doyle, an American IVF and surrogacy expert, as he laid out the ways clinics, agencies and prospective parents can assert control and shape their surrogacy journey in line with their moral convictions.

The “Ethical Surrogacy Journeys” seminar took place on September 19, 2011, in a packed wedding hall at Paris’s 3ème municipal building. In addition to Dr. Michael Doyle, the panel also included Karen Synesiou of Center for Surrogate Parenting, Dr. Kim Bergman, a psychologist who works with parents and surrogates at the Growing Generations agency, Colleen Iversen, an American surrogate mother, Alexandre Urwicz and Hervé Lancelin, co-presidents of ADFH, Dominique Mennesson, a French parent and the president of CLARA, and the French sociologist Irène Théry.

“We must remember, realize and embrace that this is not just a financial transaction, that this is much more than a sequence of medical procedures, since we are creating new families and bonding existing families to each other,” said Dr. Doyle. “The role of the medical clinic is to maximize the efficiency and quality of the services, minimize the risk that each party is subjected to, and to control the costs of that process. It is essential that the physician fully informs everyone involves concerning the medical steps, alternatives and risks”, he added, “even though fortunately these risks are now extremely rare and can be further minimized with adequate screening, tests and treatment protocols.” For instance, “minimizing the risk for surrogates involves transferring the fewest number of embryos of the highest quality, which increasingly in the United States is a single embryo transfer. It is also important that we support and consider the well being of all the parties, including the surrogate’s entire family, and the future children that will result from the decisions that we make today,” said Dr. Doyle.

Colleen Iversen shared her experience being a two-time gestational surrogate for a couple that with severe infertility problems. As one of the CT Fertility’s staff she witnessed the couple’s failed attempts have a baby on their own, until she finally stepped up and offered to become the couple’s surrogate herself. “I didn’t do this for financial gain,” said Colleen. Similarly to many gestational surrogates she met working at the clinic, Colleen had several easy pregnancies carrying her own children, and felt empathy towards this couple and a strong urge to help fulfill their dream of becoming parents. “Was I compensated? Yes. But was I putting my body through risks? Yes. My 5th and final pregnancy resulted in hospital bed rest where I was unable to care for my children, unable to go to work, and the health of the baby inside of me became my sole focus until the birth,” she recounted. Indeed she understands why the financial compensation is something that intended parents insist on: “if they hadn’t paid me I think they would have felt terrible putting me through all those cycles, and would have given up prematurely.” Despite the medical risks and hardships, looking back at her experience Colleen stated that she was honored to be a surrogate and “knowing that I have forever changed the lives of one family will never lead me to regret my decision to do this.”

Questions from the audience included requests for practical advise, but also concerned that surrogates may be exploited, perhaps by business women who may wish to hire a surrogate just to avoid disrupting their careers. Both Karen Synesiou of CSP and Dr. Doyle clarified that such women will not be accepted to their program, as prospective parents are also screened for their motivation and their willingness to support and treat the surrogate with respect. “There will always be unscrupulous people who may wish to exploit and take advantage of others, and it is the responsibility of those of us in the practice to maintain the highest possible ethical and professional standards and refuse to cooperate in these individuals,” replied Dr. Doyle and was greeted by applause from the audience. He challenged the self-declared feminist who asked the question not to doubt the ability of other women to make decisions that are in their best interest. “I speak from my experience with the numerous women I have worked with, as Colleen has just articulated, who say surrogacy has been one of the most empowering experiences of their life.”

Another questioner voiced concerns about babies that may be abandoned due to birth defects, and that surrogacy could lead to more questionable practices like cloning. “It is easy to take a topic like surrogacy that may seem different and challenging, and link it to things like cloning, birth defects, or embryo biopsy, that are not specific to surrogacy,” replied Dr. Doyle. “These may be worthy topics for ethical discussion some other time, but should not be used to attack the very valid notion of surrogacy which we hope you can as a culture and as a nation embrace.”

Anderson Cooper, Rodemeyer Parents Confront Bullies

Advocate.com by Diane Anderson-Minshall

October 4, 2011

On Monday’s special anti-bullying episode of Anderson Cooper, the talk show host spoke with Tracy and Timothy Rodemeyer, parents of Jamey Rodemeyer, a gay teen who took his own life only weeks ago after constant bullying became too much for him to bear. The heartbreaking episode was taped just nine days after Rodemeyer was found hanging from his swing set by his sister.

While photos of a cute and cherubic Rodemeyer flashed on screen, his mother solemnly told Cooper, “It is the same swing set that he was on since he was three years old. That we built special for them.”

Jamey’s sister, Alyssa, performed a tribute song she wrote for her brother. She courageously admits to her own bullying behavior, apologizes for her wrongs and shares how Jamey’s death has affected her.

Cooper introduced the Rodemeyers to the Jacobsens, another family mourning the loss of their son to suicide over bullying, in hopes that these families can support each other as they grieve. Cooper also spoke with a bullying survivor, Emily Carey, and her mother, Carla. And Dr. Dorothy Espelage offered up tips for parents and the community on what they can do to help prevent bullying, and how to tell if something is going on with a child.

Gay Marriage Foe NOM Pours Water On Jared Polis Birth Announcement

By On Top Magazine Staff
Published: October 03, 2011

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) on Monday criticized Colorado Rep. Jared Polis’ announcement of his son Caspian Julius.

On Friday, Polis and his domestic partner, writer Marlon Reis, announced the birth of Caspian, making Polis, who is serving his second term in office, the first openly gay parent in Congress.

“Baby and parents are doing well, [and] baby has learned to cry already!” Polis and Reis said in an emailed birth announcement. “No gifts please, just nice thoughts for Caspian, humankind, the planet, and the universe!”

Caspian Julius weighed in at 8 pounds, 12 ounces.

“We have no clue whether it was a planned motherless family or whether he and his partner stepped in to give a motherless child a family – since he will not say,” NOM wrote in a blog post titled Rep. Jared Polis Announces With Pride His Child Has No Mother.

“But he and his partner are proud to announce they were both ‘very excited to become new parents.’”

What Polis has not discussed is whether the child was adopted or conceived through a surrogate pregnancy.