Majority disagrees, says parents’ inability to marry denies them legal protections, stability
Most of the children of gays and lesbians who have filed court briefs in same-sex marriage cases say their parents’ inability to marry has deprived them of legal protections and hampered them from living their otherwise typical lives.
But four adult children of gay parents — acting as a “quartet of truth,” according to their lawyer David Boyle in Long Beach, Calif. — have submitted briefs to the 5th U.S. CircuitCourt of Appeals opposing same-sex marriages, with several saying that growing up under the rainbow was neither normal nor pleasant. The court, which is considering whether to uphold the man-woman marriage laws in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, will hear arguments in New Orleans on Friday.
There are “two rights” that every child shares when they arrive in this world, Katy Faust wrote in her brief. “First, the right to live. Second, the right to have a relationship with his/her father and mother.”
Dawn Stefanowicz said her gay father was so preoccupied with sex that when she was in high school and brought home a male classmate, both her father and his lover propositioned him for sex.
B.N. Klein said her mother and lesbian partner disdained heterosexual families completely, and she didn’t have a clue about the daily interactions of a husband and wife until she went into foster care.
Gay families ‘typical’
In at least 12 court battles, advocacy groups like Family Equality Council and COLAGE have filed testimonies in support of same-sex marriage and gay parenting. COLAGE is a national organization for and by people with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents.
“Families led by same-sex parents are typical American families, with the same joys and challenges as families led by heterosexual parents,” the groups said in their “voices of the children” brief to the 5th Circuit, citing testimonies from more than 12 children and adults raised by same-sex parents.
But state bans on gay marriage are causing them “needless stigmatization and humiliation” and deny their families legal protections and stability, they wrote.
“Our families should be recognized simply because we are humans with the same rights as everyone else. We are families, and treatment of us as anything else is discrimination,” Anna Frackman, a student at Harvard Medical School, wrote to the 5th Circuit.
Will Miller, 28, told the court that when he was growing up in Mississippi with his two mothers, they “made it very clear” he was not to lie or hide his life with them. Mr. Miller went on to join the varsity swim team and excelled in college, thanks to his mothers, who are both biologists.
“They loved me, and that was all that mattered. It’s all that should matter,” Mr. Miller wrote. My childhood “was extraordinary in that it was simply ordinary.” Malina Simard-Halm testified that her two-dad family was “not that different than everyone else’s” — they watched movies and played board games; one dad cooked while the other dropped the kids at school.
Texas teen Baltazar Martinez said that when his two fathers decided to marry in California, “I got to be their best man at their wedding, and that was probably the best moment of my life.”
These testimonies “really represent what we hear” from families and children, Gabriel Blau, executive director of Family Equality Council, said this week. Their “voices of the children” brief especially resonated last year with 7th CircuitCourt of Appeals Judge Richard A. Posner.
It contains “a great deal of rather harrowing information about the problems that are created for children and their parents” when same-sex couples are not allowed to marry, said Judge Posner, who went on to write the unanimous ruling overturning Wisconsin’s and Indiana’s laws banning gay marriage. Judge Posner clearly saw that harm occurs “when we don’t protect all of our citizens in the same way,” said Mr. Blau, who has been with his husband for 12 years and has a son.
In her brief to the 5th Circuit, Ms. Stefanowicz said her life was anything but normal. “You end up never having a real home,” she wrote. “Our home environments have unique and unstable characteristics” due to the presence or absence of biological parents, legal parents or guardians and different sex partners of parents, wrote Ms. Stefanowicz, who spent the first 30 years of her life associated with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual subcultures and has communicated with dozens of adult children raised by gay parents.
“Your childhood is divided to please the adults,” she wrote, explaining that many adults — even former sex partners of a parent — feel they can talk about “where you live, who you visit, what schools you attend, which doctors you see, what medical procedures you have, what faith/religion you practice.”
Ms. Stefanowicz said she “absolutely” loved her father, who died of AIDS in 1991, but he was a troubled man who sexually abused both her and her twin brother and brought countless men into their home.
“I was exposed to overt sexual activities like sodomy, nudity, pornography, group sex, sadomasochism and the ilk,” wrote Ms. Stefanowicz, adding that her father sometimes took her on his “cruising” visits to gay art galleries, nude beaches and public parks.
Like other daughters of gay men she has talked with, Ms. Stefanowicz said she felt she — and her femininity — were not valued or affirmed. “Ultimately, I was seeking his love and acceptance. [But] I was not allowed to freely question him, bring up moral arguments or hurt his feelings, or I would face long-term repercussions,” Ms. Stefanowicz wrote.
“While I do not believe all gays would be de facto bad parents, I know that the gay community has never in my lifetime put children first as anything other than a piece of property, a past mistake or a political tool to be dressed up and taken out as part of a dog-and-pony show to impress the well-meaning,” wrote Ms. Klein, adding that her mother and her partner of 25 years were both deceased and can “never hurt me again.”
Ms. Klein said she was expected to pay “constant homage and attention” to her mothers’ gayness and believe that gays were “much more creative and artistic” because they weren’t sexually repressed.
The heterosexual culture of marriage and children was held in “utter contempt” by the gay adults in her world, Ms. Klein wrote. In fact, the isolation from the “inferior” heterosexual world was so complete, she wrote, that “I had no idea how two heterosexuals behaved toward their children as mother and father” until she was placed in foster care over a medical issue when she was a teenager.
Mr. Lopez said he and other children of gays feel “pain” — but it’s because there’s a “missing biological parent,” not because people lack legal marriage. He said his childhood exposure to radical Catholic liberation theology and talk about “the beauty of homosexual relationships” led him into years of sexual experimentation, including taking money for sex with men.
A reunion with his long-estranged father led to his escape from the “toxic” gay family life, said Mr. Lopez, who is now married to his girlfriend and a father. Ms. Faust differed from the other three in that she doesn’t have a single criticism of her beloved mother and her lesbian partner, but she is still urging the 5th Circuit to uphold the man-woman marriage laws.
“There are no typical comments that people say about growing up with LGBT parents because each of us has had a different experience, just as in heterosexual families,” said Annie Van Avery, executive director of COLAGE, who grew up with a gay father and a lesbian mother and is herself the mother of two.
COLAGE was founded some 25 years ago to “provide a safe space for youth in LGBT families” to be themselves and support each other with issues relevant to their families, said Ms. Van Avery, adding that it is easy for children to feel marginalized or “less than” when their families are not treated equally.
The Supreme Court thus far has elected not to directly address the issue of gay marriage nationally, although the justices are still said to be mulling whether to take up the issue. But even declining to hear appeals earlier this year in states where bans have been overturned had the effect of expanding the number of places in which the unions are legal.
Gay marriage is now sanctioned in 36 states after Florida began recognizing the unions this week — nearly double the number of states in which they were legal just three months ago.
An estimated 220,000 children are being raised by gay parents, and a mass of scholarly materials testifies to the health and well-being of gay families, COLAGE and the Family Equality Council said in their brief.
Still, Ms. Faust and other members of the “quartet of truth” urge the 5th Circuit and other courts to uphold man-woman marriage laws.
“It wasn’t until I had children of my own that the wholeness and worth of having both father and mother raising their children together hit me like a freight train,” Ms. Faust said recently. “My kids need both of us” and “marriage law should always encourage and promote that ideal of mothers and fathers parenting their children together.”