Florida (finally) does it for the children

By Cameron Tolle, Freedom to Marry's Online Organizer 

 

"We’re doing it to protect the children!"

No doubt you’ve heard this line before. Maggie Gallagher, Tony Perkins, and other infamous voices of anti-gay bigotry incessantly justify discriminating against LGBT families by pointing to the welfare of the child.  They argue that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are disadvantaged—deprived by their gay parents of the love and support that only a mother and a father can uniquely provide. Maggie and Co. only do what they do because they care about the wellbeing of these kids.

Well Maggie, I was one of those kids. And as the son of a gay mom, I grew up in one of those households that anti-gay leaders characterize as dysfunctional, unhealthy, and harmful. But from a young age, the only thing my gay mom “indoctrinated” me with at home was unconditional love, support, and affirmation.

Was it hard being the son of a gay mom? Sure, sometimes. But only because of the anti-gay politicians (and the policies they enacted) that continually told my siblings and me that we should be ashamed of thefamily we love more than anything in the world.  I remember all too well how it felt to not be able to invitemy friends over to my house or show pictures from my family vacations for fearof being laughed at, ridiculed, and bullied.  Political and religious leaders kept telling me that my family wasn’t okay, and I began to believe it.

This is a message that children of gay parents across the country are “indoctrinated” with each and every day.  The latest census data shows that out of 594,391 households identified as same-sex partners nationwide, 19 percent of lesbian couples and 5 to 14 percent of gay male couples have children under the age of 18.  And, as America continues to exclude committed same-sex couples from marriage and adoption, each of those kids is told that there is something wrong with their families too.

Thankfully, the state of Florida is finally sending a message that it desperately should have sent 33 years ago when it passed its anti-gay adoption ban: all families who love and nurture their children should be respected and valued.

Yesterday, the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF) announced that it will not appeal a court’s decision that the state’s anti-gay adoption ban is unconstitutional.  The ban, which was enacted in 1977 in the wake of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade, has been a painful reality in the lives of Florida families like Martin Gill, his partner, and their children.  Gill, who was the plaintiff in the ACLU of Florida’s case against the adoption ban, has endured a legal limbo since 2008 when the state appealed his right to adopt two young brothers that he andhis partner had been fostering.  Though the state of Florida has until October 22nd to appeal the court’s decision, the DCF assured the Gill family that their legal battle is done andthey can legally adopt their children. The court’s decision, coupled with the DCF’s statement, brings a significant number of loving and committed same-sex couples and their families one (huge) step closer to equal treatment under the law.  And perhaps more importantly, it does what Maggie Gallagher will certainly never accomplish:“protects the children.”

It’s a message I wish I would have heard when I was growing up, and I’m thankful that children of gay and lesbian families in Florida have the chance to hear it now.