As Arizona ramps up its attempt to win national “America’s stupidest laws” competition (hotly contested, admittedly) by prioritizing heterosexual married couples over gay people and singles for adoption, there’s a lovely story about two gay fathers and their 12 children adopted from foster care:
These are all your kids? Oh, my gosh. Their poor mother. Where is she? I have to congratulate her.”
“I am their mother – and their father,” Steven said. Then, reaching out to shake her hand, he introduced himself, and then Roger, and each of the kids as they loaded into two cars and buckled in.
The men watched her face, saw her expression soften.
“That is so commendable of you,” she told them. “They are very lucky children.”
No, the men shook their heads and smiled. They are the lucky ones.
If it’s ever legal for them to marry in Arizona, Steven and Roger say they’ll be first in line, with their kids – and probably by then grandkids – in tow. And if it never happens, well, a marriage certificate and birth certificates are not what defines their family.
“Can you see what Christmas is going to be like at that house 20 years from now? There will be 100 people there,” says Monbleau, the CPS adoptions caseworker. “I know that they will always be there for those kids.”
Neither of the Hams’ caseworkers, Monbleau or Shew-Plummer, worried about placing so many children in one home, though both concede they wouldn’t do the same with every family. In separate interviews, each said she would entrust Steven and Roger with her own children.
Though Steven and Roger never planned to have such a large family, neither can imagine life any other way. Even when their running joke is that, when all the children are grown, they will buy a one-bedroom condominium in San Diego that doesn’t allow pets or kids.
“Sure, there are days when I am ripping my hair out, but I wouldn’t change it for anything,” Steven says. “We knew the kids deserved a better life, and someone who would love them, no matter what. None of my kids will ever tell you, anytime in their lives, even years from now, that they didn’t feel loved.”
The article notes that most of the people who actually deal with children could give a damn about sexual preference – they want kids in good homes. Statistically speaking, gay parents and single parents are *more* likely to adopt children with special needs that are hard to place,. And with thousands of kids who don’t find families, I have honestly never understood opposition to gay adoption – do people really think that kids are better off in (almost always heterosexual) violent, dangerous families that can’t provide for their basic needs? Or with a permanent inability to attach or function in society because they never had a family?
By 2003, when Roger and Steven were meeting their first child, the nation was taking sides.
The California Supreme Court affirmed that a same-sex partner could petition to adopt his or her partner’s child, and 60 percent of adoption agencies nationwide reported accepting applications from gays and lesbians.
But North Dakota’s legislature passed a law that allows adoption agencies to refuse to participate in child placements that violate the agency’s “religious or moral convictions or policies,” including denying placement of a child with gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals or same-sex couples.
And along the way, there were the various attempts by the Arizona Legislature to put parameters on who makes the best foster and adoptive parent(s).
None of it could deter Steven and Roger from starting their family.
“The more someone tells me I can’t do something, the more determined I am to do it,” Steven says, watching his children play from under a big blue umbrella in a park on a Sunday afternoon. “People can think whatever they want to think. We know what makes a family a family.”
Roger, next to Steven, says, “We were determined not to let anyone stand in our way to do what we thought was best.”
It seems ridiculous to the pair that, when there are 10,514 children in the state’s care – including group homes, foster care and residential treatment – the priority isn’t simply finding the best home for each child regardless of parents’ marital status or sexual orientation.
My parents took their plunge into foster care shortly before gay and lesbian foster care became a political football in the 1988 election. Watching Michael Dukakis disavow the gay foster families in his state – my gay family who had worked really hard to keep four damaged siblings together – to get elected president remains one of the critical political awakenings of my youth. I credit it with some of my own distaste for both liberalism and conservativism – for my becoming an actual leftist, rather than a liberal. Learning at 16 that my family would be sold out for political gain was a useful revelation to me, and in a way, I don’t regret it. I do, however, regret that kids and teenagers in families now still have to learn this.
Last night my mother accompanied us to the final MAPP training, the last night of preparation before we become foster parents. The mood at the class was ebullient – people brought extended families, everyone who had them brought their kids, the social workers organized children’s activities. One family in our class is already transitioning a three year old boy into their home, another member has had a call she couldn’t accept.
We all know we’re on the cusp of a major shift in our families – something hard, sometimes scary because of all the bad, difficult things that can come with it. The funny thing is that my mother, who had foster children, who worked a social worker doing removals and placements, who did more than 50 adoptions is not worried. She just wants to know the names, ages, and most important of all, clothing sizes of her new grandkids – the rest, well, we’ll go from there. That doesn’t make it easy, or mean there aren’t problems. That’s just what you do – its what she did with her kids, the ones born to her and the ones that lived in her home for a time. It is just what every functional family does.
The good news is that even in the most backwards places politically, ordinary gay families have given the lie to the claim that you can rank the value of families by sexual preference. For the first time, a majority of Americans support gay marriage, and the demographics of every poll suggest that as time goes on and generations shift, opposition to gay marriage and adoption will disappear. Because most of us know Steven and Roger or a Naomi and Sue, or someone rather like them who are just raising their families like everyone else, and who can’t think why you wouldn’t want them to, or why you wouldn’t want to see your own kids grow up like them. Someday even the slowest and last to get a clue, our legislators, won’t be able to convince anyone against the evidence of their eyes that gay and lesbian families are like all families – just doing their family thing. And when that day comes round, all I can say is “Hallelujah!”