Proposed bill would allow same-sex, live-in couples to adopt in Utah

Aaron Vaughn, Web Producer

FOX 13 News

11:24 a.m. MST, January 25, 2012

If passed, Sen. Ross Romero’s Adoption by a Co-parent Bill would allow gay couples, or any unmarried couple living together, to adopt.

“Some people may not want to marry or some people may not be able to marry, so this could apply with equal force if they were sisters,” says Romero, giving a hypothetical example. “One sister moved in with another sister and one of the sisters from a previous marriage had a child. They could not legally marry.”

The two could legally be parents to the same child if the bill passes. However, it may be a tough sell to the Utah Legislature given that the bill failed last session.

“I think it would be impossible of me to assume the intentions of the legislators who determine the fate of a bill like this one,” says Executive Director of Equality Utah Brandie Balken.
Balkan says the bill would have substantial impact on the state’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community by allowing them to adopt. But Romero says the bill is more than just about LGBT rights, but about parental rights, gay or straight.

“What this bill says is ‘I know what is best for my child and it will be judged on what’s in the best interest of the child,'” Romero explains.

Romero says the parent could be able to designate a co-parent to raise the child, whether that person is a sister, brother, or significant other.

Although Romero is not convinced it will pass this year, he says it is important to keep the dialog going and believes one day it will pass.

A Cautionary Surrogacy Tale

January 5, 2012 – By Arthur Leonard – Gay City News

Facing legal questions for which no New Jersey precedent yet existed, Superior Court Judge Francis B. Schultz, on December 13, awarded the father of twin girls conceived through gestational surrogacy sole custody of the two five-year-olds.

That ruling came despite the court having earlier ruled that the surrogacy contract signed ahead of their birth was void as a matter of state law. Schultz’s earlier order found that the gestational surrogate, though not genetically related to the twins, is their legal mother.

The lengthy court battle has separated the father’s husband from his own sister, the gestational surrogate, who has rejected her earlier lesbian identity and now has moral objections to the relationship between her brother and her legal daughters’ biological dad.

In 2005, Donald Robinson and Sean Hollingsworth, then New Jersey registered domestic partners, entered into a surrogacy agreement with Donald’s sister, Angelia Robinson, for her to bear children for them. The parties originally intended that Angelia’s ova would be inseminated with Sean’s sperm so that the children would be genetically related to both men, but in the end an anonymously donated ova was fertilized in vitro and implanted in her. Angelia was a gestational surrogate rather than a traditional surrogate, and has no genetic relationship to the girls.

The couple and Angelia signed a series of agreements in 2005 and 2006 signaling their intent that the girls, when born, would be the legal children of Sean and Donald, and that Angelia did not intend to be a parent. After the girls’ birth in October 2006, she signed a consent agreement authorizing termination of her parental rights and allowing her brother Donald’s adoption of the twins.

Before the adoption took place, however, Angelia ended her same-sex relationship, renewed her conservative Baptist faith in which she and Donald were raised in Texas, renounced homosexuality, and voiced moral objections to the surrogacy arrangement. After visitation disputes arose, she filed suit in 2007 seeking custody.

Donald and Sean counter-sued seeking summary judgment that Angelia could not be deemed the girls’ mother since she lacked a genetic relationship to them. In late 2009, Judge Schultz rejected that motion, finding that under New Jersey law, the surrogacy agreement and Angelia’s consent to the adoption were both unenforceable, and that she was the twins’ legal mother.

Schultz relied on a 1988 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that found in favor of a traditional surrogate mother who carried her biological child ostensibly on behalf of a couple. The couple argued that this case was different since Angelia was not the genetic mother as the woman in the 1988 case had been, but the judge rejected that, observing that the state high court had placed no significance on genetic relationships, instead focusing on general policy concerns about surrogacy.

The judge acknowledged that courts in some other states had distinguished sharply between traditional and gestational surrogates, but he found himself bound by New Jersey precedent.

Schultz next set for trial what had become a controversy between two legal parents, Angelia and Sean, who are not married to each other. Each of them theoretically has an equal custody claim, and in some circumstances courts will grant joint legal custody. That is really not a viable option, however, when the parties are bitterly hostile to each other.

Schultz’s decision lays out the great complexity of the case, which pitted Sean and David against Angelia and her parents, who share her moral objections to homosexuality. The twins’ racial identity also became a factor in the case. Sean’s mother is white and his father is African-American, and courts normally treat mixed-race children as having “special needs” due to the identity issues growing up in a society that thinks in racial terms. The ability of parents to provide support for them in establishing their own identity becomes an issue to consider.

Both sides presented experts, but the court relied primarily on the views of a third, neutral expert, Dr. Alex Weintrob, who, Schultz wrote, “was passionate about this.” Weintrob “strongly recommended sole custody” for Sean — who married Donald in California during the brief period in 2008 when it was legal there — “and that it be done as quickly as possible.” Weintrob contended it would be harmful to the girls for Angelia to be awarded custody, in light of her attitudes toward homosexuality and her lack of concern for the issues the girls would face as mixed-race children.

The expert found that Sean would be a superior parent in terms of affirming the girls’ identity, and as a stay-at-home parent, with Donald supporting the family, was better able to care for the children than his sister-in-law, who worked full time and would leave the girls in the care of her parents, who are also hostile to their son’s relationship with the twins’ father.

Finding that “the parents’ ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate in matters relating to the children is nonexistent here,” Schultz rejected joint custody. Awarding sole custody to Sean, he granted Angelia visitation rights to maintain her parental relationship with the girls.

The result of this ruling is that the children have two legal parents, Sean and Angelia, and an uncle, Donald, who also happens to be their father’s New Jersey registered domestic partner and California husband, but who has no legal parental relationship to them, even though they consider him to be one of their fathers.

Since Angelia has blocked her brother’s route to a second-parent adoption and New Jersey does not provide for a child having three legal parents, Donald would have no standing to challenge his sister’s custody should his husband Sean become incapacitated or die. The couple’s family relationship, therefore, remains tenuous.

This case presents a cautionary tale for gay male couples interested in having children through a surrogacy arrangement. Doing this kind of a thing in a state such as New Jersey that has no statutory or judicial recognition and enforcement of surrogacy agreements is a risky business, as written agreements may have no weight in a legal dispute. Things are even worse in New York, where a criminal statute condemns surrogacy agreements, both traditional and gestational. By contrast, surrogacy is legally recognized and such agreements are enforced in Connecticut.

Lowenstein Sandler PC represented the fathers, and Harold J. Cassidy represented the mother.

Virginia To Consider Opposing Gay Adoption Bills

By On Top Magazine Staff
Published: January 22, 2012
Virginia lawmakers are set to consider opposing gay adoption bills, the AP reported.

Democratic Senator Adam Ebbin is the sponsor of a bill that would bar the state from funding adoption agencies which discriminate against foster or adoptive parents based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“One major issue is whether charities that receive tax dollars should be able to discriminate,” Ebbin said. “Adoption is a public act that goes through state courts, and no government agent should engage in discrimination.”

Ebbin’s proposed measure would reinstate protections removed last month by the Virginia Board of Social Services. The board’s new regulations, which strip out protections against discrimination based on gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation and family status, take effect May 1.

A competing bill, however, would reinforce the board’s move.

Senator Jeffrey McWaters and Delegate Todd Gilbert’s proposal would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective foster or adoptive parents who are gay, if doing so is supported by the organization’s religious beliefs.

“We just want to ensure that people can continue to abide by their religious beliefs and continue to provide services consistent with those beliefs,” said Gilbert, a Republican from Woodstock.

Bias, Bullying, and Homophobia in Elementary Schools: Are Teachers Prepared?

January 18, 2012 –

The media has been full of stories about bullying and its damaging effects—but most stories have centered around middle-school and high-school students. Less has been said of bullying in elementary schools. A new study from the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), however, shows that such bullying does exist—including bullying and teasing based on homophobia and gender-nonconformity. Those who contend that elementary students are “too young” to learn about issues related to LGBT people are missing the simple fact that many are already learning about them—in negative and potentially harmful ways.

The striking part about the findings in the new study, Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States, is not that such bullying exists, but that it is so widespread. Almost half of the teachers and students surveyed reported regularly hearing comments like use of the word“gay” in a negative way (e.g., “that’s so gay”), “spaz,” or “retard.” About one quarter reported regularly hearing students make homophobic remarks, such as “fag” or “lesbo” and negative comments about race/ethnicity.

Three-fourths of students reported that “students at their school are called names, made fun of or bullied with at least some regularity,” most often because of students’ looks or body size (67 percent), by not being good at sports (37 percent), how well they do at schoolwork (26 percent), not conforming to traditional gender norms/roles (23 percent) or because other people think they’re gay (21 percent).

Of equal interest to me are the findings on family diversity and teacher preparedness. Almost three-quarters of students say they have been taught that there are many different kinds of families—but less than 2 in 10 have learned about families with two dads or two moms.

Nearly 90 percent of teachers report including representations of different types of families when discussing families in the classroom—but less than a quarter report including representations of LGB parents, and less than 1 in 10 represent transgender parents. Only a quarter report “having personally engaged in efforts to create a safe and supportive classroom environment for families with LGBT parents.”

Eight in 10 teachers said they would feel comfortable addressing name-calling, bullying or harassment of students who are perceived to be LGB or gender nonconforming. But less than half said they feel comfortable responding to questions from their students about LGB people, and even less felt comfortable about questions from their students about transgender people. And while 85 percent of teachers said they received professional development on diversity or multicultural issues, just over a third received professional development specific to gender issues and less than one quarter on families with LGBT parents.

In order to help educators address the above issues, GLSEN today also released the instructional resource Ready, Set, Respect! GLSEN’s Elementary School Toolkit. In addition to that toolkit, I’ll also point readers to the Welcoming Schools program from the HRC Foundation, the PFLAG Safe Schools: Cultivating Respect program, and the films (and associated curriculum guides) That’s a Family and It’s STILL Elementary (for students and teachers, respectively) from Groundspark.

Teachers should not bear the full responsibility of instilling respect in children. Much, if not most, of this must come from parents (which is why it is good to see mainstream childcare books, like the new edition of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, start to address LGBT topics). But teachers can play an important role, and it is good to see there are an increasing number of resources to help them do so.

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Why Gay Parents May Be the Best Parents

By Stephanie Pappas, – Mon, Jan 16, 2012

Gay marriage, and especially gay parenting, has been in the cross hairs in recent days.

On Jan. 6, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum told a New Hampshire audience that children are better off with a father in prison than being raised in a home with lesbian parents and no father at all. And last Monday (Jan. 9), Pope Benedict called gay marriage a threat “to the future of humanity itself,” citing the need for children to have heterosexual homes.

But research on families headed by gays and lesbians doesn’t back up these dire assertions. In fact, in some ways, gay parents may bring talents to the table that straight parents don’t.

Gay parents “tend to be more motivated, more committed than heterosexual parents on average, because they chose to be parents,” said Abbie Goldberg, a psychologist at Clark University in Massachusetts who researches gay and lesbian parenting. Gays and lesbians rarely become parents by accident, compared with an almost 50 percent accidental pregnancy rate among heterosexuals, Goldberg said. “That translates to greater commitment on average and more involvement.”

And while research indicates that kids of gay parents show few differences in achievement, mental health, social functioning and other measures, these kids may have the advantage of open-mindedness, tolerance and role models for equitable relationships, according to some research. Not only that, but gays and lesbians are likely to provide homes for difficult-to-place children in the foster system, studies show. (Of course, this isn’t to say that heterosexual parents can’t bring these same qualities to the parenting table.) [5 Myths About Gay People Debunked]

Adopting the neediest

Gay adoption recently caused controversy in Illinois, where Catholic Charities adoption services decided in November to cease offering services because the state refused funding unless the groups agreed not to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Rather than comply, Catholic Charities closed up shop.

Catholic opposition aside, research suggests that gay and lesbian parents are actually a powerful resource for kids in need of adoption. According to a 2007 report by the Williams Institute and the Urban Institute, 65,000 kids were living with adoptive gay parents between 2000 and 2002, with another 14,000 in foster homes headed by gays and lesbians. (There are currently more than 100,000 kids in foster care in the U.S.)

An October 2011 report by Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute found that, of gay and lesbian adoptions at more than 300 agencies, 10 percent of the kids placed were older than 6 — typically a very difficult age to adopt out. About 25 percent were older than 3. Sixty percent of gay and lesbian couples adopted across races, which is important given that minority children in the foster system tend to linger. More than half of the kids adopted by gays and lesbians had special needs.

The report didn’t compare the adoption preferences of gay couples directly with those of heterosexual couples, said author David Brodzinsky, research director at the Institute and co-editor of “Adoption By Lesbians and Gay Men: A New Dimension of Family Diversity” (Oxford University Press, 2011). But research suggests that gays and lesbians are more likely than heterosexuals to adopt older, special-needs and minority children, he said. Part of that could be their own preferences, and part could be because of discrimination by adoption agencies that puts more difficult children with what caseworkers see as “less desirable” parents.

No matter how you slice it, Brodzinsky told LiveScience, gays and lesbians are highly interested in adoption as a group. The 2007 report by the Urban Institute also found that more than half of gay men and 41 percent of lesbians in the U.S. would like to adopt. That adds up to an estimated 2 million gay people who are interested in adoption. It’s a huge reservoir of potential parents who could get kids out of the instability of the foster system, Brodzinsky said.

“When you think about the 114,000 children who are freed for adoption who continue to live in foster care and who are not being readily adopted, the goal is to increase the pool of available, interested and well-trained individuals to parent these children,” Brodzinsky said.

In addition, Brodzinsky said, there’s evidence to suggest that gays and lesbians are especially accepting of open adoptions, where the child retains some contact with his or her birth parents. And the statistics bear out that birth parents often have no problem with their kids being raised by same-sex couples, he added.

“Interestingly, we find that a small percentage, but enough to be noteworthy, [of birth mothers] make a conscious decision to place with gay men, so they can be the only mother in their child’s life,” Brodzinsky said.

Good parenting

Research has shown that the kids of same-sex couples — both adopted and biological kids — fare no worse than the kids of straight couples on mental health, social functioning, school performance and a variety of other life-success measures.

In a 2010 review of virtually every study on gay parenting, New York University sociologist Judith Stacey and University of Southern California sociologist Tim Biblarz found no differences between children raised in homes with two heterosexual parents and children raised with lesbian parents.

“There’s no doubt whatsoever from the research that children with two lesbian parents are growing up to be just as well-adjusted and successful” as children with a male and a female parent,” Stacey told LiveScience.

There is very little research on the children of gay men, so Stacey and Biblarz couldn’t draw conclusions on those families. But Stacey suspects that gay men “will be the best parents on average,” she said.

That’s a speculation, she said, but if lesbian parents have to really plan to have a child, it’s even harder for gay men. Those who decide to do it are thus likely to be extremely committed, Stacey said. Gay men may also experience fewer parenting conflicts, she added. Most lesbians use donor sperm to have a child, so one mother is biological and the other is not, which could create conflict because one mother may feel closer to the kid.

“With gay men, you don’t have that factor,” she said. “Neither of them gets pregnant, neither of them breast-feeds, so you don’t have that asymmetry built into the relationship.”

The bottom line, Stacey said, is that people who say children need both a father and a mother in the home are misrepresenting the research, most of which compares children of single parents to children of married couples. Two good parents are better than one good parent, Stacey said, but one good parent is better than two bad parents. And gender seems to make no difference. While you do find broad differences between how men and women parent on average, she said, there is much more diversity within the genders than between them.

“Two heterosexual parents of the same educational background, class, race and religion are more like each other in the way they parent than one is like all other women and one is like all other men,” she said. [6 Gender Myths Busted]

Nurturing tolerance

In fact, the only consistent places you find differences between how kids of gay parents and kids of straight parents turn out are in issues of tolerance and open-mindedness, according to Goldberg. In a paper published in 2007 in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Goldberg conducted in-depth interviews with 46 adults with at least one gay parent. Twenty-eight of them spontaneously offered that they felt more open-minded and empathetic than people not raised in their situation.

“These individuals feel like their perspectives on family, on gender, on sexuality have largely been enhanced by growing up with gay parents,” Goldberg said.

One 33-year-old man with a lesbian mother told Goldberg, “I feel I’m a more open, well-rounded person for having been raised in a nontraditional family, and I think those that know me would agree. My mom opened me up to the positive impact of differences in people.”

Children of gay parents also reported feeling less stymied by gender stereotypes than they would have been if raised in straight households. That’s likely because gays and lesbians tend to have more egalitarian relationships than straight couples, Goldberg said. They’re also less wedded to rigid gender stereotypes themselves.

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NOM Suggests Kids Raised By Gay Parents Don’t Get Food Or Health Care

by David Badash on November 30, 2011

The New Civil Rights Movement

In yet another example of anti-​gay tunnel vision, NOM, the National Organization For Marriage, displaying a complete lack of understanding of the nature of same-​sex headed households, links to and quotes a fatally-​flawed op-​ed that suggests children parented by gay couples will not get “child care, groceries, health care, home maintenance, household products, insurance and juvenile products,” nor will these children of gay or lesbian couples be “acquiring the skills and social capital they need to become well-​adjusted, productive workers.”

NOM posted an excerpt — four short paragraphs — of a ludicrous anti-​gay op-​ed penned by a Republican Minnesota state legislator, Steve Drazkowski. (Let’s pause of a moment and think of all the anti-​gay news that’s come out of Minnesota, starting with Michele Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, and the high student suicide contagion rate in the schools in her district, the recent “license to bully” legislation in their not anti-​bullying but pro-​bullying bill, and take it from there.)

Representative Steve Drazkowski’s supercilious analogy says that “eight of the top 10 ‘best states for business.’ according to a survey of 556 CEO’s by Chief Executive Magazine. have a state marriage amendment in their constitution. [sic]” Well, since only six states/​jurisdictions support same-​sex marriage, and 31 states have some form of legal ban on marriage equality, saying eight of the top ten states ban marriage equality is like shooting fish in a barrel; you’re bound to hit a good number, and 80% is about right. Heck, you could also argue that eight of the top ten best states for business also have an average temperature of at least 70 degrees.

Here’s the money quote of the ludicrous insinuation:

“Children, raised in married, mother-​father families play a huge factor in the health of the economy because they consume many services and goods, especially in child care, groceries, health care, home maintenance, household products, insurance and juvenile products.”

So, children raised by gays don’t get those vital necessities, apparently.

Never mind that gay parents generally adopt, and so are scrutinized and monitored far more than their heterosexual counterparts.

Of course gay couples provide for their children, at least as well as straight couples do, and, again, if they’ve adopted, probably better. Anyone who has been through the adoption process knows there are standards that have to be met, and rightly so, as long as those standards aren’t one man-​one woman marriage.

Drazkowski, by the way, is quoting from a May, 2011 article in Chief Executive magazine that has absolutely nothing to do with same-​sex marriage or same-​sex parenting.

Drazkowski also writes of a report that “emphasized that children, raised in married, mother-​father families, have an advantage when it comes to acquiring the skills and social capital they need to become well-​adjusted, productive workers.”

Seriously, what are NOM and Rep. Drazkowski thinking? Oh, right, they’re not.

Well, folks, here’s a lesson for you. When NOM’s Maggie, John, Bryan, and their anti-​gay ilk, like Rep.instant payday loans Drazkowski, say things like, “studies show that kids need a mom and a dad to be happy/​successful/​healthy, etc.,” what they’re not telling you is that the studies don’t offer the option of same-​sex parents in their analysis, nor do these studies, like the one Rep. Drazkowski, which you can access here, even mention the word “gay” or “homosexual.”

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Edie Windsor Reacts to Winning Her Case Against DOMA

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U.S. to Aid Gay Rights Abroad, Obama and Clinton Say

December 6, 2011


GENEVA — The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that the United States would use all the tools of American diplomacy, including the potent enticement of foreign aid, to promote gay rights around the world.

In a memorandum issued by President Obama in Washington and in a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton here, the administration vowed to actively combat efforts by other nations that criminalize homosexual conduct, abuse gay men, lesbians, bisexuals or transgendered people, or ignore abuse against them.

“Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct,” Mrs. Clinton said at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, “but in fact they are one and the same.”

Neither Mr. Obama nor Mrs.Dipyridamole online Clinton specified how to give the initiative teeth. Caitlin Hayden, the National Security Council’s deputy spokeswoman, said the administration was “not cutting or tying” foreign aid to changes in other nation’s practices.

Still, raising the issue to such prominence on the administration’s foreign policy agenda is important, symbolically, much like President Jimmy Carter’s emphasis on human rights.

With campaigning already under way in the 2012 presidential contest, Mr. Obama’s announcement could bolster support among gay voters and donors, who have questioned the depth of his commitment. He chose the Rev. Rick Warren, a pastor who opposes same-sex marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Mr. Obama himself has not come out officially in favor of same-sex marriage. But he successfully pushed for repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prevented gays from serving openly in the military. And the Justice Department has said it will no longer defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The initiative also invites attacks from Republicans trying to appeal to a conservative base in the primary and caucus states.

One Republican candidate, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, said: “President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles. I will not make that mistake.”

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The new normal: Stay-at-home Dads and gay parents

By Deborah Skolnik,
updated 12:10 PM EST, Wed November 30, 2011 — There was a time when gay parents and single adoptive mothers were unheard of, but the new norm is that almost anything works well as long as there’s a dedicated adult and plenty of love

Christopher Fraley, 42, and Victor Self, 41, Parents of 20-month-old Coco

Christopher Fraley and Victor Self have been married three times — to each other. They first exchanged vows in St. Barts in 2008, and again in South Africa on their honeymoon. Then this past summer, on July 24, 2011, they became the first same-sex couple in Rye, New York, to legally wed. Coco, their daughter, was right by their side.

Fraley and Self met in 2003. “I saw kids in my life, and Chris did, too,” Self remembers. Eventually, “we decided to get married,” adds Fraley, who works for an investment fund. He bought Self a ring, but didn’t ask Self’s mother for his hand. “Nobody is the wife,” he insists. “However,” he adds, “Victor and I will be offended if Coco’s suitor doesn’t ask us for her hand.”

While their attitude toward fatherhood is traditional, the way they became dads isn’t: Coco was born through a surrogate, using a donor egg. In expanding their family, Self and Fraley joined the growing number of same-sex parents in America today: somewhere between 1.5 million and 5 million, according to rough U.S. Census estimates, up from 300,000 to 500,000 in 1976.

The surrogacy process took two years: One egg donor became ill, then a first surrogate failed to get pregnant. But in February 2010, Kira, their second surrogate, gave birth to 8-pound-9-ounce Coco. “We post pictures of Coco on Facebook that Kira can look at,” says Self.

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