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Legal Rights Gay Parents Don't Have

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Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend
Legal Rights Gay Parents Don't Have#0
Posted: 9/7/04 at 11:23am
With constitutional amendments blocking same-sex marriages on the ballots in a dozen states this fall and courts hearing cases on this issue in California, New Jersey and Washington, it’s easy to forget that it’s not all about legal briefs and signature gathering. It’s about loving couples who just want the law to recognize their families. One of those couples is Johanna Bender and Sherri Kokx.

After a few years together, Johanna, a lawyer, and Sherri, a middle school teacher, planned for a family, with each carrying a child. They now have two boys, three-year-old Zachary and five-month-old Quintin.

If they had been married, they would have been the presumed parents of both children under Washington State law. Because they were unable to marry, they were subjected to the financial and emotional stress of the cross-adoption process. This led them to join seven other plaintiff couples to sue King County, Washington, for the right to marry. Earlier this month, the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, who were represented by the Northwest Women’s Law Center. The decision is stayed while under appeal to the Washington State Supreme Court.

When Sherri was pregnant, Johanna took steps to protect her rights as a parent. Sherri did the same when Johanna was pregnant. Then, once the babies were born, the non-carrying mother had to adopt the child.

For the adoptions, Johanna and Sherri were forced to submit to criminal background checks, obtain letters of recommendation from friends as well as mental and physical health certificates, and pay a social worker to come into their home to evaluate whether they were “fit” to be a parent. Not only was the process demeaning, it was expensive. Each time Johanna and Sherri had to pay for the required services of a social worker to perform the home study and for court costs and fees. Fortunately, Johanna’s mother practices adoption law; otherwise, they would have had to pay $2,000 per adoption in attorney’s fees alone.

When their youngest son Quin was born, his immediate healthcare needs brought into sharp focus the challenges and stresses that they faced as an unmarried lesbian couple in a world that doesn’t always recognize them as a family. When Quin was about three weeks old, Johanna and Sherri took him to see his pediatrician because his breathing appeared labored. The doctor immediately summoned an ambulance to transport Quin to the hospital. Yet the ambulance sat in the parking lot while the paramedics struggled to complete paperwork because the baby has two moms. “It was nerve-wracking to have to take the time in an absolute crisis, when our son’s health was in danger, to try to explain our family status. It’s something no parent should have to experience,” Johanna says.

Now together seven years, Johanna and Sherri have talked about marriage many times. They dread having to explain to their sons why their own parents aren’t married when they have attended the weddings of their aunts and uncles. “I never want my children to see their family as lacking legitimacy,” Sherri says.

But they are hopeful that the Washington State Supreme Court will uphold the trial court’s decision. “I believe in the law,” Johanna says. “The law should respect my relationship with Sherri, and the family we’ve created together.”

It’s in the Washington State Supreme Court’s hands now.

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend
re: Legal Rights Gay Parents Don't Have#1
Posted: 9/7/04 at 11:26am
Unfortunately, there appear to be only two kinds of judges in America. Those "activist" kind Bush and Co. are trying to eliminate and puritanical 18th century Christians who will uphold values not touted since the Crucible.
Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend
re: Legal Rights Gay Parents Don't Have#2
Posted: 9/7/04 at 11:27am
Thanks for the post!
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Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend
re: Legal Rights Gay Parents Don't Have#3
Posted: 9/7/04 at 12:52pm
I love Bush's term "activist judges"....

Oh, you mean like those who "elected" you to begin with? or the ones who FORCED civil rights and women's suffrage on an unwilling public?

BOTH of those issues were highly mean like those GW?