A season of thanks

It is supposed to be a time to give thanks, but the news is getting grim. Papers are carrying stories about children of same-sex parents worried that their families will fall apart in the wake of California’s Proposition 8, and children who fear the Arkansas ban on unmarried foster and adoptive parents will mean they are taken from their homes. These children live across the country, not just in the places affected by the bans. If people can do this in one state, they figure, they can do it in another. The sponsors of Prop. 8, ostensibly concerned with the best interests of the children, never thought of ours.

The repercussions of intolerance go further. A lesbian mom in Fresno, Calif., has been forced to resign as president of the parent-teacher association at her son’s Catholic school after she went to a “No on Prop. 8” vigil. Two lesbian moms in Oshawa, Canada, were attacked outside their 6-year-old son’s school in early November, with the son watching, in what police are calling a hate crime.

At this point in time, what can we as LGBT parents be thankful for?

Our children, above all. No matter how they came into our lives, they are the reason we get up every day (albeit sometimes earlier than we would like).

The rest of our families, however we define them. We know their worth, no matter what others say.

In the political realm, not all is bad news, either. This year, we saw marriage equality begin in Connecticut and out-of-state same-sex couples allowed to marry in Massachusetts.

We saw the election of the most LGBT-inclusive president we’ve ever had. His public agenda, taking shape at his Web site, change.gov, expresses strong support for LGBT rights, including adoption rights for all couples and individuals. He also sets an example that being straight, black, Christian and supportive of LGBT rights is not a contradiction in terms. Just as important, he is from a non-traditional family, raised by his mother and his grandparents without a constant father figure. He knows the values of a family count for more than its structure.

Around the country, more openly LGBT elected officials are taking office. Seventy-one of the LGBT candidates endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund won their races earlier this month. Several are parents, including state Reps. Jason Bartlett (D-Conn.), Beth Bye (D-Conn.), Christine Johnson (D-Utah), Al McAffrey (D-Okla.), Jamie Pedersen (D-Wash.), Sue Schafer (D-Colo.) and Oregon Secretary of State-elect Kate Brown (D). Let us hope they bring their sensibilities both as parents and as LGBT individuals to their work.

The U.S. Supreme Court made two decisions in October with positive implications for LGBT parents. One involved a lesbian mother in Kansas whose sperm donor claimed she had said he could be a full parent to the twins she bore. They had no written agreement, however, and the woman denied the claim. The man then asked the Kansas Supreme Court to rule that a Kansas statute denying donors parenthood without written agreement was unconstitutional. The court ruled against him. He appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case. Nancy Polikoff, a noted expert on LGBT family law, observed that now “other states considering new laws on assisted conception can go forward without the cloud of a possible Supreme Court ruling on donor’s rights hanging over their heads (beyondstraightandgaymarriage.blogspot.com, Oct. 6).”

The same week, the U.S. Supreme Court also dismissed the appeal of two couples from Lexington, Mass., who claimed their school district violated their constitutional rights when it included LGBT-inclusive books like “King & King” in its elementary-school curriculum.

More than anything this year, we saw a movement reenergized by its losses. Every parent knows we must encourage our children to get back on their bikes after a fall. It is heartening to see the grassroots actions that have spread across the country in the past few weeks.

As the political season segues into holiday season, though, the need to plan for vacations, buy gifts and attend school pageants may take precedence over activism. How do we balance our families’ immediate needs with the need to make the world better for our children?

My advice? It is vital that LGBT parents be a visible part of the LGBT movement. The failure of the No on 8 coalition to include the voices of LGBT parents in their campaign, against an opponent that directly targeted parents and schools, was a gross oversight. At the same time, an LGBT family attending a school pageant can do as much, if not more, for visibility as a television ad. We’re here, we’re queer and we’ll applaud our children’s off-key carols like everybody else.

Be visible and active, then, but realize there are many ways to do so. For the cost of a few extra stamps, for example, we can send holiday cards with photos of our families to our elected officials, thanking them for their support or asking them to change their views. We can be active in our local communities in ways that have nothing to do with LGBT rights, but which demonstrate that we are valuable members of those communities.

The winter holidays mark a time of rebirth, of knowing there will be light after the darkness. That seems appropriate for the LGBT community right now. As we begin the season, then, let us use this time to reflect and recharge, to give thanks for the progress our community has made, and to find ways we can still make a difference.

Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (www.mombian.com), a blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.