My son, the straight boy

Salon.com, by Heather A. O’Neal – March 24, 2012

Tommy has two moms and one gay biological dad. But at the age of 4, he had an announcement: He wasn’t like us.

A week after my partner, Abbie, and I were married at Brooklyn’s City Hall, our 4-year-old son Tommy came out to me. Tommy had been excited about our wedding. He’d picked out his own tie and asked me to wear my hair like Princess Ariel in “The Little Mermaid.” But he had questions, too. “You already had a wedding,” he said — and he was right.

Three years before he was born, Abbie and I were married by an Episcopalian priest at the New York Botanical Garden. Over 200 guests attended, and the ceremony took place in an enclosed garden on a warm night in July. It was one of the first same-sex weddings featured in a national bridal publication (Modern Bride 2004), and there is a picture of us from that day — two blond women in gowns — on Tommy’s bedside table.

The day Tommy came out to me, we were walking home from school. He was telling me about Taylor, his most recent crush, when he stopped in the middle of the story, looked up and said, “Mama, you know how you and Mommy are gay?”

I nodded and figured he was going to ask more questions about why we had to get married for the second time.

“Well,” he said, “I’m not. I’m a boy who likes girls.”

I was surprised by the declaration — we never thought Tommy was gay — but immediately replied, “That’s OK.”

“I knew you’d say that,” he said. “I just thought it was something I should tell you.”

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If ‘Forever’ Doesn’t Work Out: The Same-Sex Prenup

March 23, 2012
New York Times
By LOUISE RAFKIN

WHEN Ellen DeGeneres married Portia de Rossi in 2008, people wanted to know two things: What did they wear? And was there a prenup?

Regarding the first question, the couple wore Zac Posen.

The second question — Ms. DeGeneres’s representatives did not respond when asked if she had a prenup or not — has become important for many other same-sex couples, who have discovered that all the new opportunities to marry are accompanied by a gloomy companion that hangs silently over every prospective newlywed: the possibility of divorce.

“The old adage ‘with rights come responsibilities’ comes to mind,” said Frederick Hertz, an Oakland, Calif., lawyer and an author of “Making It Legal: A Guide to Same-Sex Marriage, Domestic Partnership & Civil Unions” (Nolo Press, 2009).

Having mediated ugly same-sex breakups, both for those legally married and in domestic partnerships, Mr. Hertz is a staunch advocate of the prenuptial contract; he has worked on more than 100 in the last five years. Yet Mr. Hertz’s unscientific guess is that less than 20 percent of same-sex couples talk to lawyers before reciting vows.

Lisa Padilla, 49, a Manhattan lawyer, and Allison Drew Klein, 55, a sales representative for Pitney Bowes, met during Rosh Hashana at their synagogue in 2010. In a matter of weeks, they formed a strong bond.

For both women, previous long-term relationships had ended badly, and in Ms. Padilla’s case, the problems involved finances. Ms. Padilla, who owns her own law firm, said she made far more than her previous partner and paid for most of the couple’s expenses.

After a giddy three months of dating, Ms. Padilla and Ms. Klein moved in together. They had been sharing costs equally, so when Ms. Padilla broached the subject of a prenuptial agreement, Ms. Klein was taken aback.

“It was unsettling, and took some of the romance away, “ she said. “I read Lisa’s insistence for a prenup as a lack of trust.”

Both women had considerable assets, including apartments and investments. “I really wanted the assurance that if we were making a mistake, we could extricate ourselves easily,” Ms. Padilla said.

Ms. Klein thought the issue was moot. After all, this was supposed to last forever.

For months, the question languished and the prenuptial document that Ms. Padilla had drafted lay untouched.

Both women hired lawyers, and the process was nerve-racking, more so — curiously — for Ms. Padilla. “I was skip-happy in love, but scared, too,” she said. “I could see how the opportunities for misinterpretation abounded — both between the two of us and among our friends.”

“We were looking ahead,” she added, “but we didn’t have anything on paper.”

Eventually, Ms. Klein agreed to sign.

“In my opinion, Lisa had been taken advantage of in other relationships,” she said. “I wanted her to be able to feel safe in this one.”

The women were married in Manhattan last December. “For the first time, I feel like I’m with an equal partner,” Ms. Padilla said. “My primary purpose with the prenup was to take finances off the table and engage in the relationship with our hearts.”

Michele Kahn, the lawyer who represented Ms. Klein, strongly advises those thinking about marriage to grasp all the ramifications, saying, “During breakups, it’s everyone for themselves.”

She says most often it is not the cost of the agreement ($2,000 to $5,000) that short-circuits the process, but the complicated questions that can arise over, say, alimony; compensation for a stay-at-home parent; and retirement accounts, which for same-sex couples cannot be divided without penalties and tax consequences.

Same-sex marriages are not federally recognized, which can make things messier, especially if a couple moves to a state that does not acknowledge their union. “If the second state follows the rules of the first it probably will be binding, but some states have looser standards and if it’s not written according to those looser standards, it might not be binding,” Mr. Hertz said.

Prenuptial agreements were originally established to protect family wealth. That notion is sometimes cloudy in same-sex relationships.

“In the gay community there is a lot of socializing among people with large discrepancies in both income and family wealth,” said Jooske Stil, a marriage and family therapist in Oakland. “Romance often blooms before there’s full disclosure about economic backgrounds and family inheritances.”

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This is my story about my gay family.

March 22, 2012 – GayFamilySupport.com

I am a wife and mother, together with my husband we are parents of gay children. We have two sons, one is gay, the other bisexual and this is my story.

When I first believed my eldest son may be gay, I felt sick in the stomach literally. I went straight to my husband and told him of my thoughts and why I thought this way.
He was a little shocked with my news but as there was no real proof of my theory he was ok about it and we decided to approach our son.
I spoke to our son who was 16 at the time.

This was a disaster.

All it achieved was him in tears and me feeling angry with myself for upsetting him.

It did however make me realize that my son was a little confused with life at the time as he himself wasn’t quite sure how he felt.

My husband and I decided to read up about teenage boys and homosexuality and not put any pressure on our son regarding this.
Reading at the time helped us to understand homosexuality a little but we weren’t sure how our son was going to turn out.

We just sat back and waited.

It was during year 12 at school that we started to notice him changing in his behaviour and temperament.
At this time he had two very quick relationships with two different girls which really confused us.

Because deep down inside, I in particular felt he was gay.
(a mother’s intuition)?

He started to go out more and be a little secretive about his friends which was not really like him.
Just before his 18th birthday and after he finished school he was going out and I thought I might test my theory and ask if he was going to Pride March Street Parade that was happening in the city, just to get his reaction.
When I asked in a friendly manner he said yes. That opened the door to more questions and it all just spilled out then and there. This was the start to our gay family.

Yes our son was gay and he obviously felt comfortable enough with it at this time to discuss it with us. My husband was fantastic with this confirmation as was his younger brother.

For me it was a relief.

Now I felt we could get on with life in a true and honest way.
My husband didn’t find a problem with our son being gay but was very concerned about people finding out.
He had previously worked in a homophobic work place and was worried for our son.
These feelings are very normal but as it turned out we have had no problems at all being a gay family.

We have always been upfront with people and both our children have been brought up to believe in themselves and be proud of who they are. They are both very talented young men.

Once our son came out to us he became that same loving, together young man that he was before year 12. Almost like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He was and is still a very happy, relaxed and confident person.

One of the things that helped us stay united was our whole family got involved in his life as a gay person and spent a lot of time within the gay community. We have met and befriended lots of gay people and found they are no different to our straight friends.
Sometimes a little more colorful perhaps!

Just because we were coping fine with our son being gay didn’t mean we didn’t feel alone. Although our friends and family were accepting, they didn’t really understand about having a gay child, so I needed to find another gay family just so I could share my thoughts with someone who understood completely.

I found PFLAG (parents,friends & families of lesbians & gays).

This was fantastic.

I met so many lovely people who shared their stories with me. So many normal families in the same unique situation I was in.

By speaking to lots of different parents, I realized that we all react to this news in different ways and come to terms with it in different lengths of time.

I never cried while others cry for weeks. Some can’t talk about it straight away, some need councelling etc but they usually get there in the end, especially if they can talk to other parents.

PFLAG has a great library as well, and I read so many books, I recommend you do too.

Our younger son showed a very big interest in coming to meetings with me. I was very impressed with how supportive he was.
But I now realize that he wasn’t just being supportive, he was trying to figure himself out as well.
Almost a year to the day that my eldest son came out, my younger son did the same.

Now we were really a gay family!

This piece of news was a real shock for me.
The mother’s intuition that I had with my other son was not there for this son.
I suppose I felt that having one gay child was ok, but not both my children.

He was my last chance for grandchildren. (How selfish of me).
But I think that was how I felt at the time. Maybe deep down inside I felt like a failure in some way.

Not just one but both my boys were gay.

I also felt that maybe he was saying this because he wanted to be like his brother. I soon changed my mind about this as I believe nobody comes out like that when there hasn’t been a great deal of thought and soul searching put into it.

Nobody wants to be gay or bisexual for the fun of it.

My husband took all this in his stride once more. After all, we can’t change our boys but we can love and accept them. They maybe our gay family but most importantly they are our family.

We have a motto in our family and that is to get over it and get on with it. This is for all aspects of our life not just the gay thing.

We have been very lucky to also have a very supportive extended family on both sides and have never had a problem with any of them. Sure, some don’t understand but they accept and that’s all we can ask for.

My husband and I love our family very much and couldn’t imagine life without our two beautiful sons. We would never even imagine trying to change them.

Change society’s views definitely, but not our boys.

Once we got over not worrying about what other people thought of our sons or us as a gay family we got on with being the normal happy family that we had always been.

There are much worse things than having a gay or bisexual child – death, illness, poverty to say a few.

Being together, supporting and loving one another is much more important.

So, if you are a parent of a gay child please look past the homosexuality and look at the person and you’ll find the same person that was there before he or she came out, except possibly it will be a happier more open and relaxed person than before.

I’ll admit our life has changed, but for the better. We are more accepting and tolerant and we have had so much fun that we wouldn’t have had if our boys weren’t who they are.

My husband and I could have chosen to have a life of misery and sadness because of our boys, but we chose to have a happy and fun filled life instead.

Make the most of your time with your gay family because life is too short.

Nobody wants to live with regrets.

I hope that reading my story about my gay family has been interesting and I hope it has given you something to take away and think about.

Just remember, that whether it be a straight family or a gay family it is still your family and it should be treasured for ever.

Debbie

Valuing All Families: Marriage Equality in Rhode Island

To adopt, or not to adopt… Really?

March 20, 2012 (See 2015 addendum @ the bottom of the article.)

Legal Surrogacy – To adopt, or not to adopt…???

adoptSurprisingly, that has been one of the most asked questions by parents of children born with the assistance of a surrogate mother.  In many cases, the carrier’s name may be removed from the child’s original birth certificate by a proceeding called a pre-birth order.  Some states do not provide for pre-birth orders.  Those that do, may or may not replace the carrier’s name with that of the non-biological intended parent.  California, for instance, does offer the ability to include the non-biological parent’s name on the child’s original birth certificate, and that very significant step is often mistakenly viewed as a replacement for a second parent adoption, which is the only definitive way to establish parental rights between a non-biological parent and a child born through legal surrogacy.

Legal Surrogacy is an emotionally, and financially, exhausting process.  It is a true leap of faith.  Couples considering surrogacy must juggle a myriad of concerns, the least of which being the cost.  With gestational surrogacy tabs running as high as $150,000.00, budgeting is a must.  Lawyer’s fees are often lumped together in surrogacy accounting statements, and some agencies do not include the cost of a second parent adoption in order to keep the numbers low.  Often, the cost of a pre-birth order is less than a second parent adoption.

In order to understand why a second parent adoption is vital, you must understand what a pre-birth order is, and what protections it provides.  Pre-birth orders are court orders that are obtained by filing a petition in the appropriate court in the state in which the child will be born.  Often, these petitions are not filed in the county where the carrier lives, but in a county which has a judge who understands the importance of pre-birth orders and grants them upon the motion of an attorney representing the intended parents.  This in itself may create a problem.

Some states may not recognize the relationship created by the pre-birth order because of the lack of a full judicial process attendant to a pre-birth order.  For an issue to be precluded from challenge, for instance the issue of a non-biological parent’s relationship to a child born through surrogacy, the court looks at the process by which that issue has been established.  The reason why adoption orders from one state are valid in every state, regardless of the gender of the parents, is because the judicial process of the adoption.  The state, for all intents and purposes, becomes and “adversary” to the adoptive parents in the adoption process.  The state performs background checks, it orders that fingerprints be taken, mandates that a homestudy is performed by a licensed social worker to ensure that the child’s prospective residence is safe and clean and essentially verifies that all adoption requirements by the petitioning parent, or parents.  The adoption order is the product of a fully litigated judicial process.  Because this rigorous process is not part of a pre-birth order proceeding, states which do not offer pre-birth orders may not recognize a relationship created in such an order.

Furthermore, some courts, through a pre-birth order, will add the name of the non-biological parent to the original birth certificate if that person is married to the biological parent.  For same-sex couples, this can present a fatal issue, particularly if the non-biological parent’s relationship to the child is being challenged in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage.  These situations usually arise upon the dissolution of a relationship and during the custody/visitation/support aspect of that process.

In New York County, Legal Surrogacy Judge Kristin Booth Glen, in a case entitled In the Matter of Sebastian[i] discusses the issue of establishing parental rights for a non-biological parent specifically.  The case involves married lesbian couple who used an anonymous sperm donor to have a child. Glen concludes, “that although [the] petitioner [non-biological parent] already has a legally protected parental relationship with Sebastian [through a marriage recognized in New York] and, even in the absence of that legal relationship, could utilize several less intrusive, expensive and time consuming methods of establishing one, the only remedy available here that would accord the parties full and unassailable protection is a second-parent adoption pursuant to New York Domestic Relations Law (“DRL”) § 111 et seq.”  Glen further states, “that a judicial order of adoption in one state must be afforded full faith and credit in every state, and that there can be no “public Policy” exception to that mandatory recognition…”.

The Matter of Sebastian case is an amazing confluence of family law, Constitutional law and reproductive law, with the ultimate conclusion that same-sex parents need to adopt to secure the non-biological parent’s rights to their children.  It is a broad and definitive statement that applies to all same-sex families, regardless of how their children were conceived.

While parents going through legal surrogacy must navigate financial and emotional waters, as well as an unsure legal landscape, the last step in the process, the second parent adoption, may seem like an afterthought.  It is, however, the only way to complete the process and ensure that each parent has a permanent and portable legal relationship with the child.

 

 

ADDENDUM (July 17, 2015) – It seems like ages ago when I wrote this piece, and the gay rights movement has literally transformed the world in those short 3 years.  While marriage equality is the law of the land in the United States, many people misinterpret this truly revolutionary civil rights gain as having the same transformative and direct effect on family law, specifically as it applies to the rights of a non-biological child to their bio parent’s spouse, even if achieved through legal surrogacy. 

While it is true that many states have what is called a “martial presumption of parentage,” the truth about this is that it is applied differently in different states.  For instance, in New York state, where I practice, there is specific case law that holds that the marital presumption of parentage does not apply to same-sex couples.  That case is called “Matter of Paczkowski v. Paczkowski.”  In that case, the appellate division of the Second Department of New York, the state’s intermediate appellate court, held that the “presumption of legitimacy… is one of a biological relationship, not a legal status.”

In essence, the court says that a marriage does not create a legal right between a non-biological parent and a child.  While it may be an indication of intent to be a parent, as would a non-biological parent’s name on a birth certificate (as echoed in “Matter of Sebastian” as mention in the body of this article) the only way to actually create the legal relationship that guarantees the security that all same-sex families need, is through an adoption order, and in some states, a parentage order.  Unfortunately, New York currently does not have the capacity to issue a parentage order but there is legislation in committee in Albany that may change that. 

In our ever evolving world where gay couples and, more particularly, gay families are becoming more common place and understood, there are still areas of the law that directly affect our lives that continue to fall short of protecting our families in the ways that they must be protected.  Creating family security is of the utmost importance and it is the responsibility of every gay parent to make sure that happens.

 

 

 

 


[i]  http://www.nylj.com/nylawyer/adgifs/decisions/041009glen.pdf 25 Misc.3d 567, 879 N.Y.S.2d 677 (N.Y. Co. Sur. Ct. 2009)

What They Are Saying – Family Expert on Studies: Same-Sex Parenting Does Affect Children

By Brittany Smith , Christian Post Reporter
March 8, 2012|6:37 pm

Recent studies claiming children raised by lesbian couples are no different than children raised by a mother and a father are flawed, according to a marriage and family expert at Focus on the Family.

Glenn Stanton, director for family formation studies at FOTF, has looked at these reports and told The Christian Post that they don’t tell the whole story.

He released two separate analyses of same-sex studies and found that “these studies consistently show a markedly greater likelihood of children raised by same-sex parents to identify with and experience same-sex or bi-sexual contact than children raised in heterosexual homes.”

The U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) found that 49 percent of girls raised by lesbian mothers identified as either bi- or lesbian, compared with only 7 percent of girls raised in heterosexual-headed households.

Stanton writes in his analysis that the NLLFS study also found that “daughters of lesbian mothers were significantly more likely to have had same-sex contact compared with peers from heterosexual-parented homes. Boys in a few studies were more sexually reticent.”

Lesbian-parented girls also have a higher likelihood of having used emergency contraception (35 percent vs. 5 percent), indicating a higher prevalence of careless sexual activity.

Stanton also found in looking at this study that young adults raised by lesbian moms are seven times more likely to have considered same-sex relationships and six times more likely to have actually had a same-sex relationship.

Aside from looking at the findings and effects on the orientation of children raised in same-sex homes, Stanton also looked at the methodology used to conduct the research.

He told The Christian Post that it was not “representative or objective in any way,” which is a problem since it’s the longest, largest study of same-sex families to date.

He said that the research only focuses on a small population sample of “highly educated upper middle class women that are in their 30s” – all from Boston, Washington, D.C., or San Francisco. He said most of them were recruited through gay activist channels and the parents self-report the well-being of their own children for the study.

“What’s more, 80 percent of the study participants said – when asked – they would choose to be lesbians if such a thing were a choice,” Stanton writes.

The moms reported their children showed no adverse effects from any family break-up, even though the break-up rates of these mothers were much higher than mom/dad homes: 56 percent vs. 36 percent.

In Stanton’s analysis, he quotes professor Mark Regnerus, a research sociologist at University of Texas at Austin, who said of the study, “The bottom line is that snowball samples are nice for undergrads to learn about data collection, but hardly high-quality when you’re a professional sociologist working on a complex research question with significant public ramifications. It’s not fair, not even close, to compare parenting and child outcomes from a national probability sample of hetero parents and a snowball sample of lesbian parents.”

 

Click here to read the full article.  I will update this post as more informaiton on this study becomes available.