Campaign for Change
U.S. Plans Against Venezuela
Washington, Democracy & Haiti
U.S. & the Somalia Invasion
No New Nukes Victory
Korea, America & War
"Anti-Terrorism" Law Expansion
Rehabilitation of Bush
Honeywell Lock Out
The "Golden Rule"
Lawrence S. Wittner
Beyond Gay Marriage
GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
Sense & Sentimentality
Savage Imperialism 3
How to Create Jobs
The Pick Up Artist
Bread and Puppet Theater
Zaps - 02/11
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Sense and Sentimentality
For more than 50 years lesbian and gay people have fought complicated battles to maintain and preserve the relationships they had with what they considered family. In the 1950s, lesbians in Daughters of Bilitis, one of the first gay/lesbian rights groups, struggled to find legal arguments that would protect women who "came out" while married from being legally estranged from their children. While mothers were almost always granted custody in divorce cases, the exception was lesbian mothers. Courts almost always viewed a lesbian mother as an unfit parent and often denied them visitation rights.
In the 1980s and 1990s, during the height of the AIDS epidemic, many gay men found they had no legal right to visit a dying lover in the hospital or to make medical decisions. Sometimes the dying man's biological family forbid this, other times it was simply hospital policy that did not allow input from non-family members. In the most extreme cases, some men even had their legal "domestic partnership," medical proxy, and living will arrangements challenged by their partner's biological family who claimed that their "family" ties were stronger than the legal paperwork.
Access to marriage would have provided a remedy in some of these cases—although not all. It certainly would not have addressed the underlying homophobia that fueled these fights. But the LGBT legal community eventually pioneered legal mechanisms to give basic protections to same-sex couples.
These legal protections in family law have been one of the triumphs of the gay rights movement. One of the most important of these has been the second parent adoption laws that allow a same-sex couple (and a heterosexual couple if they choose not to legally marry) to both adopt a child and have equal rights for and custody of that child. This would be true if one partner was the biological parent or if neither were. In both cases the couple would both have the same legal relationship to their children.
However, in late December 2010, a North Carolina Supreme Court decision put all second parent adoptions in the state at risk. Some LGBT legal scholars are claiming it may be a harbinger of other attacks on protections for LGBT families.
The facts of the case are simple. Julia Boseman (an openly lesbian state senator in North Carolina) and her partner Melissa Jarrell decided to have and raise a child. Jarrell gave birth to a son in 2002 and, three years later, she happily agreed to Boseman's adopting their son, giving both women full legal responsibility for the child. When the couple split up a year later, Boseman filed for joint custody.
Jarrell, who has always admitted that Boseman was an excellent parent, countered by filing for sole custody while also filing a class-action suit that claimed that all second parent adoption was illegal in North Carolina, and thus there was no legal standing for joint custody. Under pressure from the ACLU and gay rights groups, she dropped the class action suit, but still filed for sole custody claiming that the state did not recognize second-parent adoptions. After losing twice, she appealed to the State Supreme Court which upheld the lower court's decision on the joint custody, but invalidated the adoption.
The 5-2 ruling—which was clearly influenced by the religious sensibilities of the judges—took place in an increasingly conservative political context in the state. In fact, Jarrell's case was supported by several very conservative, anti-gay political groups.
Influential family law and LGBT law scholar Nancy Polikoff argued that the case is a disaster for same-sex-headed families: "[I]n the most far reaching, shocking, and unique aspect of Boseman, all second parent adoptions that have been granted in the state are void. With the stroke of a pen, hundreds of North Carolina children have gone from having two legal parents to having only one. While other courts have ruled that second parent adoptions are not permitted, until this case none had ruled that all previously granted adoptions were invalid. The court ruled that a second-parent adoption granted in North Carolina is void ab initio, a Latin term for 'from the beginning'."
Polikoff argues that there are tremendous community implications here as well: "I want Jarrell to face serious chastisement from her community. She wanted to get rid of Boseman—a task she did not accomplish—and to do so she made an argument with enormous cost to North Carolina's children of same-sex couples. She accepted help in the form of friend of the court briefs from right-wing organizations that oppose any recognition of gay and lesbian families. What she did was abhorrent and unforgivable. The law couldn't stop her, but her peers may have been able to. She has caused substantial damage and I want someone to remind her of that constantly. Do I sound angry? I am."
Polikoff is correct that the community needs to unite in support of progressive, just laws that protect children and their families and against rogue individual acting on personal pique, vendetta, and entitlement. While the Boseman/Jarrell case and the Supreme Court judgment is extreme, it does not exist in isolation. Over the years there have been a series of ugly child custody cases involving male and female same-sex couples. The most famous of these, covered in the mainstream press, is Lisa Miller v. Janet Jenkins in which the former, having renounced her homosexuality, fled with their daughter and refused all court orders to engage in joint custody.
The larger question is, "How do our cultural attitudes about children inform our ethical decision making and behaviors?" Rather than looking at this as a gay or a straight issue, we should be looking at it as a larger, more cohesive ethical issue. For all of the talk within the LGBT community about the importance of gay and lesbian families, the community has never really taken the time to think about its relationship to children.
Culturally, we have almost no models to rethink the institution of childhood. Any discussions about protecting the LGBT family and what that might mean or look like rarely opens up new, original, or useful discussions about the rights of children. Until that happens on a community level, we are going to see the same replay of bad, even horrible, behavior that has existed in heterosexual communities forever.
Michael Bronski is a professor in Women's and Gender Studies at Dartmouth College. His articles have been published in the Village Voice, the Boston Globe, GLQ, and the Los Angeles Times. His books include the current Queer Ideas and Action series, Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps, and An LGBT History of the United States (forthcoming).
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; email@example.com; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; email@example.com; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: email@example.com; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.