The Weirdest Reactions Same-Sex Parents Get from Straight People

Being a same-sex parent means dealing with a barrage of unexpected questions and remarks from straight people. We collected gems from couples across the country.

When I was pregnant with our son, my wife Sam and I often imagined our lives post-delivery: the unbearable cuteness of bath time, the inevitable onset of exhaustion, the middle of the night blowouts. We knew everything about our relationship was about to change, and that it would be close to impossible to prepare for what was to come.  Straight people and their questions.straight people

As same-sex parents, however, we knew we might have to steel ourselves for something else: a shift in how the world sees us. Though it would be years before he would understand that having two moms made him different, we had decisions to make about our son early on: what language we would use to describe our family, how we would answer questions from loved ones and strangers, how we would respond to inquiring minds.

The hospital staff where I delivered had experience with same-sex couples, and they made us feel welcome and celebrated. But in the world we’ve encountered since, reactions have often felt more complicated. In restaurants and grocery stores, men and women have wanted to stop and ask about our beautiful baby. Often their congratulations landed on whichever one of us was holding him; if anyone was confused when we both responded, they never let on. When people ask, “Who’s his mom?” We say, “We both are.” Often, when people learn we’re same-sex parents, they feel comfortable asking us who carried, whether he’s breastfed, how we chose a donor. We’re incredibly open when we reply, but I often wonder whether they’d ask the same kinds of questions of a hetero couple.

Those subtle displays of obliviousness are often frustrating (when they’re not humorous), and we’re far from alone in our experiences. Below, we collected stories from a handful of same-sex parents around the country about reactions they’ve encountered from the world, and how they’ve chosen to respond in turn.

Vice.com, by Laura Leigh Abbey, July 27, 2017

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Trump just eviscerated his claim to being an LGBT ally

Things could have been worse for the gay rights community under a Republican president. President Trump tried to court them during the campaign, and he seemed to go out of his way to avoid limiting their rights when he signed an executive order underscoring religious freedom.

That dynamic changed drastically Wednesday. Trump announced on Twitter an unequivocal ban on transgender people serving in the military, reversing a groundbreaking decision set in motion by the Obama administration.

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……

 

….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…..

….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you

It’s a major attack by the president on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and advocates say it’s a big one. While the White House says the intent is to improve military readiness and is not based in politics, the message the LGBT community is hearing from the president is this: Transgender people are other, are different, are too costly to be treated like the rest of America.

The Trump administration had already revoked federal guidelines on transgender student rights in February. If anyone in the gay community still held out hope that Trump would live up to his pro-LGBT campaign rhetoric (and not-as-anti-LGBT presidency), Trump just eviscerated that.

President Trump is most pro-LGBTQ rights @POTUS in history. Why’s that story not written in mainstream media? http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jan/31/white-house-tries-calm-fears-gay-rights-rollback/ 

Photo published for White House tries to calm fears of a gay-rights rollback
That optimism will be hard to square now. 

“There is no gloss, no makeup, no lipstick on any of this,” said Bob Witeck, a Washington-based consultant to businesses and nonprofit organizations on LGBT issues. “This is a full-frontal attack.”

It’s also a politically potent one. Transgender policy is the tip of the spear in the gay rights battle.

North Carolina became a national battlefield in 2016 for limiting what public restrooms transgender people can use. Texas is in the process of trying to pass a similar law. Closing the door on transgender people is akin to closing the door on the entire LGBT community, Witeck said.

Trump’s action Wednesday is an about-face from his repeated and off-brand-for-Republicans attempts to reach out to the community during the campaign.

Washington Post by Amber Phillips, July 26, 2017

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Czech Republic Constitutional Court Recognizes Same-Sex Couple’s Parenthood

The Czech Republic Constitutional Court decided on 24 July 2017 in a landmark ruling to recognize a same-sex couple’s parenthood which was already valid in a foreign country.

The decision is about a Czech and a Dane who were married in the USA and raise two children by surrogate mother. California laws consider both men parents since the children’s births, and both men’s names are in the California birth certificate. The parents have been trying to get both their names, not just one, written in the Czech birth certificate, a move the Czech Supreme Court has rejected in the past, claiming it would go against the public order. The Constitutional Court’s ruling today gives both partners, who have been raising together the children ever since they were born, the hope that their rights and obligations towards the children will be recognized in the Czech Republic, as well, and that the children will be entitled to receive care from both parents.Czech Republic

“We are happy that the Constitutional Court decided in our favor. We hope that we will soon be able to obtain Czech birth certificates for our children, and both our names will be on them, as parents. We will be less afraid of all the complications that might occur during our visits to my family in the Czech Republic, or in case we decide to move to the Czech Republic”, said Jiří Ambrož, the Czech father of the two children.

Today’s ruling of the Constitutional Court, however, only applies to parenthood originating abroadGays and lesbians in the Czech Republic are still unable to adopt children as a couple, nor can one of them adopt the partner’s child. Today’s ruling therefore leaves the gay and lesbian parents in a half-way position. It is the same situation as in the case of last year’s ruling by the Constitutional Court, which repealed the ban for a person living in `registered partnership` to adopt children individually, but did not make possible joint adoptions by the two partners. Moreover, today’s decision to recognize parenthood originating abroad does not apply to surrogate parenthood in the Czech Republic, something that exists, but is not regulated by specific laws. The Czech state is thus spinelessly ignoring the needs and legal certainties not only of a considerable number of children growing up in the families of same-sex couples, but also of the children born to heterosexual couples by surrogate mothers.

Surrogate motherhood

Substitute or surrogate motherhood is a procedure where the biological parent’s embryo is carried and delivered by a substitute mother. She gives birth to the child and then give up her parenthood rights. This service is used by childless heterosexual couples, but also by gay couples who use an ovule from a donor. While in many Western countries this substitute motherhood is a regulated procedure, with licensed agencies, in the Czech Republic surrogate motherhood is kept in a ‘gray’ legal area.international surrogacy

The case of Jiří Ambrož’s family –background

Jiří Ambrož and his husband have two children, a 5 year-old daughter and a 4 year-old son. Founding his claim on the principle that a child born to a Czech citizen, or adopted by such a citizen becomes a Czech citizen, the Czech father of the two children asked the Czech population register office (“matrika”) to register the two children, issue them a Czech birth certificate and confirm their state citizenship.

In the case of the young boy, the Supreme Court recognized the Czech citizen’s parenthood. The boy was therefore registered by the Czech population office and has a Czech birth certificate and a confirmation that he is a Czech citizen, but in those papers there is just one parent name. The application for the registration of the second parent was rejected by the Supreme Court because it would go against the public order, since the Czech law does not allow two people of the same sex to jointly adopt children. The Supreme Court identified in that reality a fundament of the Czech law, which it said should be observed. The two parents and their legal representatives decided therefore to file a constitutional complaint.

Press release from www.praguepride.cz – July 24, 2017

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Tennessee judge rules gay couples have equal parental rights

Same-sex couples in Tennessee have the same rights as heterosexual couples who have children born through artificial insemination, a judge ruled.

Four married lesbian couples sued after the state passed a law that requires using the “natural and ordinary meaning” of words in state law. Gay rights groups said the requirement was a sneaky way to deny same-sex couples the legal rights and protections granted to a “husband,” a “wife,” a “father” or “mother.”

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle’s dismissed the couples’ lawsuit on Friday, saying they didn’t prove their rights had been violated, The Tennessean reported . Each of the four couples has conceived a child using a sperm donor and the first baby is not expected until September.Tennessee

Still, the couples heralded the ruling as a victory because it will give them equal parental rights when the children are born.

“We have a Tennessee court order saying same-sex couples are to be treated the same as opposite-sex couples,” said attorney Julia Tate-Keith, who represented the couples.

The decision comes about a month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex couples who believed an Arkansas law discriminated against them. Under that law, married lesbian couples had to get a court order to have both spouses listed as parents on their children’s birth certificates.

In previous court filings, Attorney General Herbert Slatery had argued that the new Tennessee law actually does “nothing new at all.”

The new law should be considered alongside a more-specific state law requiring gender-specific words to be interpreted as inclusive, a filing by the state said. Previously, Slatery issued an opinion that said a judge would likely side with the state law requiring gender-inclusive interpretations.

Fox17.com via Associated Press, July 25, 2017

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German President OKs Gay Marriage Law, Takes Effect in Fall

Germany’s president has signed legislation legalizing gay marriage, his office said Friday, paving the way for the bill to take effect this fall. 

BERLIN — Lawmakers approved the bill on June 30 in parliament’s last session before Germany’s September election. The move became possible after Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose conservative party had long been reluctant to budge on the issue, said she would allow its lawmakers to vote according to their conscience.Germany

The presidential office said President Frank-Walter Steinmeier signed the legislation on Thursday. That means it will come into force Oct. 1 at the earliest. 

Germany has allowed same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships since 2001, but until now has not granted them full marital rights including the possibility of jointly adopting children. The change brings it into line with many other western European countries.

NBCNews.com via Associated Press – July 21, 2017

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Gay Rights Groups Seek One More Win From Justice Kennedy

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the greatest judicial champion of gay rights in the nation’s history, will turn 81 on Sunday. Rumors that he would retire in June turned out to be wrong, but he will not be on the Supreme Court forever.

Gay rights groups hope to score one more victory before he leaves the court. The goal this time is nationwide protection against employment discrimination.

Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinions in all four of the court’s landmark gay rights rulings, culminating in the 2015 decisionestablishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. But there is more work to be done, said Suzanne B. Goldberg, a law professor at Columbia.

“Marriage equality did not bring an end to sexual-orientation discrimination in this country,” she said.

The same-sex marriage decision left gay men and lesbians in a strange position, said David S. Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University.

“You can get married, put a picture on your desk from the wedding and then be fired because the boss sees the picture,” he said.

“Marriage was certainly an important step, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is no federal law protecting against sexual-orientation discrimination in employment or housing or education or public accommodations,” Professor Cohen said. “Only about 20 states offer protection under their own state laws.”

This month, the gay rights group Lambda Legal announced that it would ask the Supreme Court to hear a case that could prohibit employers from discriminating against gay and lesbian workers. The group argues that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace discrimination based on sex, also bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Most federal appeals courts have rejected the theory. But in April, by an 8-to-3 vote, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, said Title VII covered gay people. “It would require considerable calisthenics to remove the ‘sex’ from ‘sexual orientation,’” Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for the majority.

She relied on the language and logic of Title VII, and on Supreme Court precedents.

In 1989, for instance, the Supreme Court said discrimination against workers because they did not conform to gender stereotypes was a form of sex discrimination. Being a lesbian, Judge Wood wrote, “represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype (at least as understood in a place such as modern America, which views heterosexuality as the norm and other forms of sexuality as exceptional).”

By Adam Liptak, July 17, 2017

New York Times

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French High Court Grants New Rights to Gay Parents

French gay couples with children born to foreign surrogate mothers won a key victory Wednesday, with the country’s highest appeals court ruling that the partner of the biological father could adopt the child born through gestational surrogacy.

Surrogacy, when a woman carries a child for a couple that cannot conceive — sometimes for financial gain — is banned in France.

Some gay couples have turned to surrogate mothers in countries such as the United States, where the practice is legal in some states, in order to have children.

 Until now, however, France has refused to recognise the partner of the biological father as one of the child’s parents.

 Weighing in on an issue that has divided French liberals and conservatives, the Cour de Cassation refused a request that French authorities automatically recognise the two parents listed on the foreign birth certificate.

But it ruled that the father’s partner could apply to adopt the child, in line with a 2013 law allowing both gay marriages and adoptions.

Patrice Spinosi, lawyer for a gay couple whose child was born to a surrogate mother in California, welcomed the “third way” ruling.

“It’s not entirely satisfactory for all families but it allows children born to surrogate mothers to have a filial relationship with both their parents — their biological father and their sociological parent (the other partner in the couple),” he said.

Up until 2015, France refused to recognise surrogate children as French citizens a hardline stance that left the children in limbo.

After being rapped by the European Court of Human Rights, France eventually agreed to give the children birth certificates and recognise their biological fathers.

Towleroad.com via RFI, July 6, 2017

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A Transgender Groom Sees Beyond What He Ever Imagined

When I said it out loud for the first time to my brother, Mikey — “I think I’m transgender” — I was weeping. “I’m afraid no one will ever love me again.”

It was February 2006, and I was 25 years old. I was living in Bangkok on a research grant from the Fulbright Program, studying the impact of public health marketing on the stigma surrounding H.I.V. I spent most of my free time researching how to transform my body from female to male. I could no longer look in the mirror because each time I was reminded of how uncomfortable I was in my body. Eventually, I covered up all the mirrors.

Growing up female, I didn’t know people like me existed. I had no language for my everyday experience of gender, but I knew that I was not the same. And I knew that not the same was not good and not normal.

“Why did you cut off all of your hair?” people asked. “You were so beautiful.”

“Are you a girl or a boy?”

The truth is, I didn’t know the answer at first. Every time someone asked me, I was reminded of how confusing this question was for me. I knew that I made people uncomfortable.

I did not want to make people uncomfortable.

I was labeled a tomboy. It was a compromise. I still had to wear a white frilly dress to my First Communion like all the other girls, but I got a jean jacket and Vans Half Cabs too. I played sports in my suburban Southern California neighborhood. I rode dirt bikes. But I wasn’t a tomboy. My discomfort wasn’t about the expression of my gender.

My discomfort was about my gender itself.

When puberty happened, things got worse. While girls around me shared their excitement about first kisses, prom dates, makeup and bras, I became increasingly disoriented by adolescence.

New York Times, June 21, 2017

by ALIC CUSTER-SHOOK – Click here to read the entire story.

 

As Surrogacy Surges, New Parents Seek Legal Protections

As more couples turn to surrogates to carry their child, some states are considering further protections for the intended parents, many of whom are gay, by handling custody issues before a child is born.

When Brad Hoylman and his husband wanted to start a family, they looked to a woman nearly 3,000 miles away to carry their child.Hoylman

The two Manhattanites turned to a surrogate in California, a state with a robust commercial surrogacy industry, because the practice is banned in New York.

The advent of gay marriage, advances in reproductive technology, and the fact that more people are waiting longer to start families have fueled a surge in the surrogacy industry.

In 2015, 2,807 babies were born through surrogacy in the U.S., up from 738 in 2004, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Women are often paid at least $30,000 to carry a baby created from the egg and sperm of others.

But in many places, once the baby arrives, outdated state laws fail to answer an important question: Who are the parents?

In many states the law is murky or even silent on surrogacy. The industry is free to operate but the contracts signed between surrogates and intended parents may not be legally binding. The baby may be born in a state that views the woman who gave birth as its mother, even if she has no genetic connection to the child.

The legal uncertainty is particularly concerning to the intended parents, who usually spend about $100,000 (including payments to a surrogate and the company she works with as well as doctors and lawyers) and risk ending up without the child they counted on. Gay male couples have an additional fear: that they might be discriminated against if they are embroiled in a legal fight over custody.

In states that ban commercial surrogacy and those with no laws at all, legislators are pushing bills that would legalize the practice, determine parentage before a child arrives, and ensure that contracts are enforceable and followed by all parties. In many cases, they would require surrogates to be at least 21, to have already given birth to their own children, and to undergo medical and psychiatric evaluations before signing a contract.

Hoylman, a state senator from New York, introduced a bill this year that would legalize surrogacy in his state and establish the legal framework of intended parentage.

Surrogacy became legal in Washington, D.C., in April, and lawmakers in Minnesota and Massachusetts debated bills this year but didn’t approve them. In New Jersey, state lawmakers passed similar bills in 2012 and in 2015, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed them. The Senate passed another bill this week.

Women and Babies as Commodities?

Critics of surrogacy, including both religious conservatives and some feminists, object to what they view as the commodification of both women and children. Opponents point to numerous European countries that have banned the practice and say states should be wary of letting American women be used by others, including foreigners searching for surrogates beyond their borders.

For many, the financial aspect of surrogacy is most troubling.

“Women will be exploited by wealthy people,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of Minnesota’s Catholic Conference. “We see all kinds of Hollywood stars contracting with surrogates, but we don’t see any Hollywood stars serving as surrogates for their nannies and maids.”

Surrogacy companies prefer to work with women they consider financially stable in order to avoid women who may be acting out of financial desperation. Medicaid does not cover surrogacy costs, and women who are enrolled in the program would risk losing coverage for themselves and their families if they carry a surrogate baby.

By Rebecca Beitsch, Huffingtonpost.com, june 29, 2017

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