Jeffrey Friedman and Andrew Zwerin were high school
sweethearts. They met in 1984, dated throughout
college and graduate school, and in 1999 decided to
build their family through international adoption. It proved
expensive and frustrating. Friedman recalls, "For two
years our agency worked with contacts in Guatemala,
but then decided it just would not work, since we
wanted to be honest about being a couple."
adoption agency found a potential match in Russia and
prepared the men to visit an orphanage there. But
before they packed their bags, a phone call dashed
their hopes. "They told us the Russian judge who
would have approved us as a couple had
retired," says Zwerin. "That was it."
So in 2002 they
gave up on an international search and decided to try
domestic adoption. Joshua was born on August 14, 2003, and
became their son through joint adoption in the State
of New York. Freidman says, beaming: "We picked
up Joshua that day, and he has been the great joy in
our lives ever since."
Vermont and Virginia
Virginia residents Lisa and Janet Miller-Jenkins
were joined by civil union in Vermont in 2000. Two
years later, after conceiving though artificial
insemination, Lisa gave birth to their daughter, Isabella,
in April 2002, and the family moved to Vermont that
The couple split
up in September 2003--Lisa moved back to Virginia with
Isabella, and she filed to dissolve the civil union in a
Vermont county family court. Janet then filed a
counterclaim seeking sole custody. The Vermont court
issued a temporary order awarding Janet custody and
granting Lisa visitation. Lisa then sought sole custody from
the Virginia court system.
On October 15,
2004, Judge John R. Prosser of Frederick County, Va.,
circuit court issued a Final Order of Parentage declaring
Lisa the child's "sole biological and
natural parent." The ruling was consistent with
Virginia's Affirmation of Marriage Act, which bars
the state from recognizing same-sex civil unions. On
August 4, 2006, the Vermont supreme court unanimously
ruled in favor of Janet; later that year the Virginia
court of appeals rejected Judge Prosser's lower court
ruling, citing the federal Parental Kidnapping
Prevention Act, under which courts must recognize
other states' court orders regarding custody and
visitation. Lisa had sought appeals in the Virginia
supreme court and the U.S. Supreme Court, both of
which declined to hear the appeal. Their civil union
was dissolved in July of this year: Lisa was ruled
biological parent; Janet was granted visitation
On March 11, 2002, Ed Swaya and Greg Hampel sat in an
Oklahoma hospital awaiting the birth of Vivian, whose
birth mother had chosen them to become her fathers
though open adoption--that is, the mother would have
contact with the child. Five days later the couple took
their new baby home to Seattle. But when the adoption
was finalized near the end of that year, the state of
Oklahoma refused to allow an amended birth certificate
that would list both men as Vivian's legal parents.
The state health department said it "could not
establish maternity for Mr. Swaya."
vigorous advocacy by Lambda Legal Defense and Education
Fund, the Oklahoma state legislature in spring 2004
passed an amendment to its adoption code (by
93-4 in the house and 44-0 in the senate) that
refused to recognize out-of-state adoptions by
same-sex parents, and the law took effect July 1,
2004. According to state representative Thad Balkman, it
was designed to "protect Oklahoma children from
adoption by homosexual couples," since, as he
put it, "the proverbial barn door has been opened,
and we need to shut it immediately."
to take her to visit her birth mother, but after that, we
were unwilling to go back with her [to
Oklahoma]," Swaya says, "because we
feared if we needed a doctor, a police officer, or
government official's help, they might not
recognize us as Vivian's parents."
The law was held
unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2006, who ruled
that states must recognize each other's judicial
adoption decrees under the "full faith and
credit" clause of the U.S. Constitution. On August 3
of this year, a federal appellate court concurred.
After successfully fostering 18 needy children over the
past few years, Knoxville, Tenn., denizens Scott Amos
and Tony Frost have many fans in children's
services. Nevertheless, in October 2004, Judge Carey
Garrett ruled their home "immoral" and ordered
the county to remove five foster children from their
rallied to Amos and Frost's defense but were unable
to return the children, who subsequently cycled
through other various foster homes repeatedly. As with
many of their other former foster children, Amos says,
"the kids call us during the holidays and on
birthdays. We miss them, and we'll always be
here if they need us."
In 2005 a friend
of theirs decided to place her newborn child with the
couple through open adoption. Tyler was born on February 23,
and his adoption was finalized on September 6. In
November their foster agency placed siblings Dominique
and Aaliyah with the couple, though Frost says, the
county social worker initially opposed the placement.
"She even spoke with Tyler's mother to
convince her that two gay men should not raise her
child," he says.
However, over the
course of almost a year, the social worker had a change
of heart. She came to know Amos and Frost and saw their
children flourishing. "Now she's our
biggest advocate," Amos explains. "When our
foster kids' parents learn that we're two gay
men, they march into the office and make a big stink,
assuming the worst. But our social workers have built
a wall around us, and they go to bat for us."
On August 30,
2006, Amos and Frost celebrated the finalization of
Dominique and Aaliyah's adoptions. And they were
joined at the courthouse by their supportive and
excited social worker.
Because of Florida's prohibition on gay adoption,
Cathy James of Tampa has no legal relationship with
her son Tyler. Judy, her partner of 12 years,
conceived through artificial insemination and gave birth to
him in February 2000.
would not allow me to adopt him if Judy were to die,"
James explains. In fact, she wouldn't have
legal standing in the family court to petition for
visitation if he were taken away from her. So James and
her partner got to work. Last year they joined other parents
to start a nonprofit political lobbying organization
called Securing Our Childrens Rights
(www.ourchildrensrights.org), which seeks to change the laws
in their state to better protect their family.
Washington and Florida
In February 2007, Janice Langbehn and her partner, Lisa
Pond, from Olympia, Wash., traveled on vacation to
Miami with their children, Katie, David, and Danielle,
where their cruise ship was bound for the Bahamas.
Shortly after boarding, Pond collapsed, and she was rushed
to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she died of a
family tragedy, Langbehn and her children were stopped in
the waiting room, unable to learn of Pond's condition
for hours. Langbehn says hospital social worker
Garnett Frederick pointed out that they were in
"an antigay city and state," then refused to
share details of Pond's condition or treatment.
He is then alleged to have told Langbehn that she
would need a health care proxy before she would be allowed
to see her partner. Langbehn called a family friend in
Olympia, who went to their house, retrieved their
power of attorney, living will, and advance directive,
and faxed the legal documents to the hospital.
neurosurgeons who had been operating on Pond emerged from
the emergency room and allowed Langbehn to accompany a
priest as he performed last rites.
children and I all lost the ability to be with Lisa in her
last moments of consciousness, to hold her hand and to
say goodbye," Langbehn says, "and that
is something that can never be given back to our
the organ donation papers arrived, administrators looked
to Langbehn to sign the consent forms.
This March, Randi Romo went to the Arkansas
state capitol to talk sense into her state
legislature, which had been considering an amendment to
the state's constitution that would prevent her from
adopting her teenage granddaughter, Devon, because
Romo is a lesbian.
Romo has been
taking care of Devon because the girl's mother,
Jennifer, is chronically ill.
absolutely devastated at how this law could affect our
family," says Romo about her trip to the
capitol. "Jennifer's condition had flared
up; she was hospitalized and in critical condition. No
grandparent should ever have to fight for a child in
this type of survivor situation."
Romo is the
director of the Center for Artistic Revolution, a grassroots
community group based in Little Rock with a mission to work
for fairness and equality for all Arkansans. The
activist knows all too well the bigotry her family is
facing. "When are people going to 'get
it,' that we are all the same? We deal with the
same joys and worries, sickness and health, victories
and challenges like everyone else. There's a real
possibility that, if Devon's mother were to die,
Devon could be put in foster care by the
were not enough signatures gathered by the deadline this
summer to put the aforementioned constitutional amendment on
the 2008 general election ballot.