Waldlaw Blog

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Why Are Folks Still Quoting This Guy??

In Monday's San Francisco Chronicle, there was a front page article titled: "S.F.'s same-sex couples asked to adopt foster kids." The article reported that the San Francisco Department of Human Services has this week started a campaign to recruit gay and lesbian couples and singles to adopt children out of the foster care system -- especially teens, who are generally particularly hard to place in permanent homes. The article also noted that this campaign comes just two weeks after the evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family began a drive to recruit more Christians as adoptive parents; and, I note, just days after I noticed that one of my favorite local adoption agencies -- Adopt International -- has added a call for more African American adoptive parents -- and more parents of any race willing to adopt African American children -- to their website. The bottom line is that we have a foster care crisis in this country, with approximately 500,000 children currently in foster care nationwide. We need more adoptive homes of all kinds for these children, to give them a chance to grow up in permanent, loving families. I frankly support all efforts to recruit more adoptive parents, as long as these efforts remain focused on the needs of the foster children available for adoption and not the needs of the groups doing the recruiting. African American, gay, Christian or all-of-the-above, any stable individual or family willing to take a child out of the foster care system should be applauded. That said, I was shocked and horrified to find the Chronicle article quoting Paul Cameron. Paul Cameron is a nut. He is such a nut, that he actually has been repudiated by Focus on the Family. He is such a nut that he and his utterly fabricated "research" have been featured in an article in the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, a periodical dedicated to monitoring hate groups and extremist activities throughout the United States. He is such a nut that he has been thrown out of both the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association. He is such a nut that he reaches "scientific" conclusions like (my personal favorite) his recent conclusion that lesbians are 300 times more likely to die in car accidents than heterosexual women. (????) So what is the San Francisco Chronicle doing quoting this guy??? I am not so self-righteous as to believe that there are no intelligent, well-informed people out there who -- based on their deeply-held religious beliefs -- sincerely believe that foster children should not be placed in gay homes. I fiercely disagree with these folks, but I am prepared to respect them for their beliefs, as I hope they will respect me for mine. But Paul Cameron?? He is a demagogue with no professional credibility or ethics who has made insane and damaging conclusions about gay people -- such as his widely-reported conclusion that the average life-span for gay men is only 43 years -- and has made a name for himself spouting this garbage around the country. No self-respecting scientist or academic would use him as a source of information -- so, I ask again, why does the San Francisco Chronicle?? Frankly, it is time for mainstream media to hold right wing extremists to the same standards as they hold the rest of us. Do a little fact checking. Check on the credentials of "experts" before quoting them. Don't just use the most inflamatory material you can find without making sure it has some basis in reality. It doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it? Interestingly, I was getting ready to write this on Tuesday, but got caught up in work (oh yeah, that) and didn't get time until today. Today, when I went to look at the article about same-sex adoptive homes on SFGate (the on-line version of The Chronicle), the article had a BIG disclaimer: "CLARIFICATION: In an article that ran on Page 1 on Monday about San Francisco's campaign to get more gays and lesbians to adopt foster children -- as well as an opposing evangelical campaign led by Focus on the Family to get more Christian families to adopt -- the Chronicle quoted Paul Cameron, director of the Family Research Institute. The article should have noted that Cameron, who believes gays make unfit parents and self-published dozens of articles he said were based on his research, was expelled from the American Psychological Association in 1983 when he refused to subject his work to peer review. The article also should have reported that his Family Research Institute was named a hate group in 2006 by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Writings by Cameron, who split with Focus on the Family many years ago, are still relied on by many conservative Christians." I guess I wasn't the only one offended by their use of Cameron as a source for the article....

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Three Parents in Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania appellate court ruled on April 30 that two children born to a lesbian couple there have legal relationships with -- and an ensuing right to financial support from -- three parents: their biological mother, her ex-partner with whom she was living when she conceived them (and with whom she'd entered into a Vermont civil union), and the known sperm donor that they call "papa." In this somewhat unusual case, the bio mom had adopted her nephews, then she and her partner had two more kids together using a friend as a sperm donor. The insemination was accomplished at home, with the donor providing the sperm directly to the women. The man had regular contact with the children, and contributed voluntarily and sporadically to their support, but resisted being held legally liable for child support. After the women broke up, they ended up living in different counties. Each went to court in her own county over issues of support and visitation; one county court found that the donor should share child support obligations with the non-biological mother, while the other county court found that he was simply a sperm donor and not a parent and therefore had no duty to support the children. The appellate court resolved this controversy on April 30, holding that the donor had a substantial, parental relationship with the children such that he should share in their financial support. Ironically, the donor died unexpectedly in March, so he did not survive to hear this ruling. However, because of the appellate court decision the two children should be eligible for Social Security death benefits as his off-spring; something they would not have been had the court ruled the other way. I have a law review article coming out in June in which I express my view that it is time for courts to recognize that many children walking among us have more than two parents -- whether through bonded stepparent relationships, or through assisted reproduction involving known egg donors, sperm donors, and/or surrogates. Prior to this Pennsylvania case, the only published case where a court found 3 parents was out of Ontario, Canada. It is very encouraging to have a state like Pennsylvania -- not generally known for its "cutting edge" approach to family issues -- rendering such a foresightful and sensible ruling.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Greetings from Boston!

I'm writing this from Boston (well, actually Cambridge for those who care), where I am attending my 20th law school reunion. I graduated from Northeastern University School of Law in 1987. 1987.... In Bowers v. Hardwick, the U.S. Supreme Court had just upheld the constitutionality of sending consenting adults to prison for engaging in consensual sodomy. The first big surrogacy case -- the case of "Baby M" -- was being fought out in the New Jersey courts. Ronald Reagan was being chastised for his role in the "Iran-Contra" affair. The USS Stark was attacked by missiles in the Persian Gulf -- an attack for which then-president Sadaam Hussein quickly apologized. Liberace, Andy Warhol, Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire all died; Hillary Duff was born. Robert Bork was nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, a nomination which was defeated in the U.S. Senate based on his extreme and outspoken positions against civil rights, abortion rights, and other "judicial activism." (Bork is a "strict constructionist," believing that the role of Supreme Court Justices is to attempt to figure out what the Framers of the Constitution would do; under this theory, any attempt to interpret the Constitution as a living document capable of changing with the times constitutes improper judicial activism.) Jim Bakker, President of Praise the Lord (PTL) Ministries, resigned after admitting an affair with his secretary. And reggae music lost one of its greatest voices when Peter Tosh died. 1987... Reunions always make me think of how times have changed, and how they have stayed the same. Bowers v. Hardwick has been reversed (in 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas), and now we're in national battle over whether same-sex adult relationships deserve legal recognition and protection -- whether through marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership. States are still debating the legal and ethical ramifications of surrogacy, with 11 states and the District of Columbia currently prohibiting surrogacy in some or all forms (for more info on this, see the HRC's excellent and informative website). Saddam Hussein is dead, and we have recently marked the 4th anniversary of our "victory" in Iraq (and I'm sorry, but I can't help but think that the "Iran-Contra" scandal will pale by comparison to some of what has yet to come to light about this current administration's shenanigans!). George W. Bush has appointed several new, ultra-conservative Justices to the Court, with the impact on civil rights, abortion rights, etc. still to be determined. 1987.... 2007.... So here I am, 20 years later, lucky enough to still be with the same life partner with whom I struggled my way through law school 20 years ago -- amazed to watch our two sons move from childhood into adolescence -- proud founder and head counsel at The Wald Law Group, practicing "Family Law for the 21st Century" -- enjoying being back in Boston on a lovely May day, with everything in bloom and spring in the air, reminiscing....