I blogged about this at Strollerderby and I mentioned it on Facebook, but I have more to say about it.
These lesbians and lesbian exes and ex-lesbians and what-have-you are getting me down today. The story is: Once upon a time two women fell in love and got together in Seattle. There they settled down, feathered a nest and each gave birth to a baby, each of whom was adopted, in turn by the nonbiological second mom. Happy-happy, joy-joy.
Then the family moved to Florida and all hell broke loose. Moms split up, agreeing to coparent amicably, until Mom A falls in love with a fundamentalist Christian man, gets engaged, repudiates her lesbo history and refuses to let Mom B have any more visitation with Mom A's bio child.
Mom B sues for custody (of her nonbio, but fully legally adopted child) and the court overturns the adoption (made in another state, mind you) on the grounds that Florida doesn't grant adoption to gay people. Mom B appeals and the appeals court rules in her favor, saying Florida, whether it grants gay adoptions or not, must recognize adoptions made in other states under the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Now, Mom A has appealed to the Florida Supreme Court (no word on whether they are taking the case yet).
Here are some points:
1. If Florida upholds its right to willy-nilly reverse adoptions made in other states, um, whoa, Bessie! What does that mean for any adoptive family, not just queer ones? You may think that you are safe because Florida doesn't ban you from adopting at the moment, but this kind of precedent sure opens a can of worms to allow Florida to decide it doesn't like you either and will dissolve your relationship to your child while on vacation at Disney. Florida, by all accounts is Crazy State. You never know what it's going to do next.
2. Mom A is a jerk, obviously. But not just because she is keeping her bio kid from its (don't know the genders here) second mom. She is, one must assume, also repudiating her own parenthood of Mom B's bio kid, in spite of having adopted the kid legally in Washington. Now that's major jerkness, right there.
3. We need federal laws governing this stuff, not state ones. I know that's a long shot, but if states are going to go ignoring the full faith and credit clause, and if the U.S. Congress is going to support them in that with laws like the DOMA, which allows marriages to be dissolved when crossing state lines (also in glaring contradiction to full faith and credit, among other things), then states need to simmer down and let the feds take over family law in these broad areas of marriage and adoption. You can't just dissolve legal familial bonds when a family arrives in your state. That is dangerous on a zillion levels. Certainly, most clearly in the case of a child whose parent can just renounce her responsibility to provide for and nurture that child as a parent who took on these responsibilities legally--and for life--in another state.
4. I have been reading all this adoption stuff (new books from conference) about the various ways that a loss as devastating as an entire family will mess with the developmental tasks at every stage of a child's life. Whether adopted at birth or after five years of foster care, kids still sustain a loss at the outset of adoption that adds challenges to growing up healthy, happy and whole. It can be done of course, I'm not suggesting otherwise. I'm simply saying that it adds challenges and makes life more difficult. Why any parent in her right mind would create this situation for a child by taking that child from a (perfectly healthy, non-abusive) second parent is beyond me. Why orchestrate a loss for your child when you could have prevented it?
I know, people are nutso when they break up. Ex-gay fundie converts even more so, I am sure. Much as I wish it were not true, lesbians are just normal human beings like everyone else and no better behaved in a breakup than straight, legally married people who might just as readily swipe the kids if it were so easily done, given no legal protection for the ex's relationship with them.
And because lesbians (and gay men and you know, everyone) are human, we need laws to protect our children when breakups happen. I know some people pull off voluntary coparenting with integrity. But some don't. And some really, really don't. So we need a blanket of second-parent adoption that covers all children and protects their connections to their parents.
In fact, I think de facto parents should have legal standing, whether adoptive or not. They should have automatic rights to visitation unless a court decides it is not in the child's best interest. Overall, I am tired of this stuff being put under the heading of "gay rights" because it is really about children's rights. Kids don't get to choose who their parents are. Like it or not, queers have been having children from time immemorial and will continue to do so. Protect those kids not by prohibiting them from having legal ties to their parents, but by mandating their parents support them and give them access to all other parents, whether they are born again or not.
Really, what kid would Jesus abandon?
Same-sex marriage would help--if the moms had married in this particular case--by providing same-sex divorce and thus putting the visitation and custody stuff in the hands of a court. But plenty of straight people don't bother/have their reasons not to marry the second parent of their child (biological and otherwise--look at Brangelina), so marriage really isn't the issue here. The issue is kids' rights to their parents--as defined by the kids. Children will develop connections to people whether the adults in their lives necessarily want them to or not. Step-parents, boyfriends, grandmothers who babysit every day--kids will define their primary caregivers in ways we might not. Those relationships deserve at least a glance by a court before being severed at the whim of one legal parent.
Meanwhile, this case is simple enough--the adoption was actually legal. Mom A needs to present her bio kid for visitation with Mom B and cut a check for her share of Mom B's bio kid's support. Case closed.