Tag: samesex

Michigan Appeals Court Recognizes Parental Rights of Same-Sex Parents-and Points the Way Forward

Michigan Appeals Court Recognizes Parental Rights of Same-Sex Parents-and Points

Last week, the Michigan Court of Appeals recognized that both women in an unmarried same-sex couple, one the genetic mother and one the gestational mother, have parental rights. This is a clear victory—but the ruling also indicates what is still needed for even fuller protection of all families, no matter who’s in them or how they are formed.

Michigan - LeFever v. Matthews

LaNesha Matthews and Kyresha LeFever started dating in 2011 and created their family via reciprocal in vitro fertilization (RIVF), using LeFever’s eggs and Matthews’s womb, plus sperm from an anonymous donor. They planned for Matthews to give birth in Ohio, but their twins came two months early, when the two were still in Michigan. That was a problem because at the time, Ohio would allow both moms to be on the birth certificates, but Michigan wouldn’t. Only Matthews was listed, therefore, but the twins were given LeFever’s last name.

The couple broke up in 2014 and shared custody for several years before going to court after a custody dispute. The trial court ruled last year that Matthews was effectively a surrogate, not a parent; removed her from the birth certificates and from any parental decision-making; and gave her only limited visitation as an unrelated “third party.”

The Court of Appeals unanimously disagreed, stating in its ruling (PDF) that “The trial court erred when it concluded that defendant is not a ‘natural parent’ [under the law] because she lacks a genetic link to the twins that she carried through gestation and birthed.” They said the trial court must reconsider the custody case, treating both women as legal parents.

Good news, yes? But Elizabeth L. Gleicher, a judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals, went even further than her colleagues by issuing a separate opinion (PDF) arguing that while the court was right to recognize both women on the basis that each was a “natural parent” to their child, there are also constitutional arguments to support recognition of all parents, regardless of marital status or genetic connection to the children. (Let’s face it, not all same-sex couples who use assisted reproduction use RIVF (though my spouse and I did); many if not most use IVF with the same parent’s egg and womb, leaving one parent with neither a genetic nor gestational connection.) Gleicher wrote (my bold):

LeFever and Matthews had a constitutional right to create the twins in the manner they chose, and it follows that both women have constitutionally protected due process rights to parent the twins despite their nonmarital status. That Matthews lacks a genetic relationship to the twins is constitutionally irrelevant to her liberty interest in their custody. And even had she not personally gestated and born the children (or had an ovum from a donor other than LeFever been implanted in Matthews’ womb), I suggest that both women would nonetheless be entitled to be considered parents of the twins.

The majority opinion of the court, while it didn’t go this far, did indicate the need for a broader view of what constitutes a parent, adding this observation in a footnote (my bold):

We conclude that the term “natural parent” is elastic enough to include both parents in this case, where the parties divided the female reproductive roles of conceiving a child so that each has assumed a function traditionally used to evidence a legal maternal relationship. However, we note that the advent of assisted reproductive technology has complicated an area of law that traditionally was fairly straightforward…. Our current statutory schemes are poor vehicles for modern-made families to seek relief, and we question whether they are robust enough in their current form to provide equitable outcomes to such families…. Accordingly, we anticipate that the Legislature will need to modernize the law to keep pace with technological advancements and appropriately balance various public policy concerns.

Same-sex couples aren’t the only ones who will benefit from updated parentage laws. A different-sex couple in the state, Jordan and Tammy Myers, recently used surrogacy to have a child after Tammy was diagnosed with cancer. They were then told they had to go through the adoption process to become legal parents, since gestational surrogacy is not permitted in the state. “Being forced to prove they are fit to adopt their own children is ‘offensive,’ said Mr. Myers,” the New York Times reported.

Many of us LGBTQ parents will say, “Yeah, welcome to the club,” about that, since we’re still advised to go through the financial and emotional hassle of second-parent (confirmatory) adoptions even when both parents are on the birth certificate. Yet cases like this show the potential for forming a real alliance across all kinds of families in order to make positive change. (Ellen Trachman at Above the Law has more about Michigan’s outdated surrogacy laws.)

We’re seeing this same need for updated parentage laws play out in other states, as I wrote last fall. New York, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire are among the states that have recently updated their parentage laws to better protect all families and all ways of family formation; an inclusive Connecticut parentage bill passed out of committee last month and now moves to the full House. Clearly, though, there’s still lots of work to do.

Nevertheless, one family has benefitted immediately from the Michigan ruling, and for that we should be happy. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), along with trial counsel Regina Jemison, represented Matthews. NCLR Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura said in a statement, “We are grateful that our client and her children are once again recognized as a family. We know that families are formed in many ways. Recognizing genetics as the only basis for parent-child relationships leaves out many families and harms children by separating them from their parents.”

Amen—and onward.

‘I love and champion same-sex love stories’

Ammonite: First image of Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan as lesbian lovers

Kate Winslet as Mary Anning and Saoirse Ronan as her lesbian lover in upcoming romantic drama Ammonite.

Kate Winslet has emphatically hit back at pearl-clutching critics of lesbian drama Ammonite, saying that she, above all, “champions same-sex love stories”.

Speaking to Attitude magazine, the 45-year-old actor explained how people have taken offence at its same-sex love story captures just how important telling queer stories are.

The movie sees Winslet’s real-life palaeontologist Mary Anning fall for Saoirse Ronan’s Charlotte, a waify, grief-engulfed wife of a baronet.

Both stars went to their gay friends for advice on how best to represent the queer experience on-screen – one that came very close to not being told at all.

Kate Winslet: ‘I hope that we are able to normalise same-sex connection on film’

Director Francis Lee, who also oversaw 2017’s critically-acclaimed God’s Own Country, revealed that he faced pushback from the press and from Anning’s descendants about his decision to portray her as queer.

The filmmaker said he doesn’t understand why historic figures are presumed to be straight until proven otherwise and insisted that Ammonite is not a biopic.

Kate Winslet echoed this, given that there is a “lack of historical evidence” on her sexuality.

“There is no historical evidence whatsoever to suggest she had relationships with men, none,” she said. “And she was not married.

“So, I think it should be permissible to explore an alternative love life for that individual, to delve into what might have gone on in the inner workings of their heart.

“And I don’t understand why that matters. I don’t understand what difference it makes to who Mary was and her extraordinary achievements, to pair her with a woman.

Kate Winslet Saoirse Ronan kiss Ammonite
Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet share a kiss in the first trailer for Ammonite, directed by Francis Lee (Twitter)

“For me, I absolutely love and champion same-sex love stories and any LGBTQ stories that we can possibly get our hands-on.

“And I hope that we are able to normalise same-sex connection on film without hesitation, secrecy or fear, by normalising these relationships.”

Winslet also lasered in on how the movie’s response would have been far less rabble-rousing if Mary’s love interest were male.

“Why does it have to be sensationalised or commented on or criticised in any way?” she explained.

“You know, I don’t actually know if it actually has been criticised, because I just don’t read things like that, to be honest.

“But what difference does it make? I wasn’t raised like that. That’s not how I was raised.

“What difference does it make? A person’s a person.”

Former priest explains why the Bible does NOT condemn same-sex unions / Queerty

Former priest explains why the Bible does NOT condemn same-sex

Pope Francis
Pope Francis (Photo: Shutterstock)

Roman Catholic attitudes toward gay people have made headlines this week after the Vatican issued a decree on Monday stating priests could not bless same-sex unions. The statement, made with the approval of Pope Francis, said the church “does not and cannot bless sin.

A former Orthodox priest turned civil rights activist disagrees. He has seen one of his social media postings go viral, in which he says there is no condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible and says it’s all down to mistranslations.

Related: The Catholic Church is trending and you know that can’t be good for the gays

Nathan Monk lives in Tennessee with his wife and three children. He is the author of the memoir Chasing The Mouse: A Memoir About Childhood Homelessness, Charity Means Love, and a novel, The Miracle.

In his Facebook posting Monk said, “Because of the recent ruling of the Vatican, many have asked me what the Bible really says about same-sex relationships. Others have questioned if it is even possible for the Church to evolve on the issue of marriage equality.

(Photo: Father Nathan Monk/Facebook)

“I believe that it can. More importantly, I believe the Church has devolved on the issue and has allowed malicious translations of scripture to marginalize the LGBTQ+ communities around the world. The Church must repent of this grave error that has spanned centuries and, instead, become fully and utterly inclusive as God intended.

“The Bible does not condemn same-sex relationships. The word homosexual wasn’t added to the Bible until the 1940s. You read that right, the word didn’t appear until the 20th century. The issue officially became foggy when the scriptures were being translated from the Greek, Hebrew, and Latin into German, French, and English. But the real issue boils down to the Apostle Paul.

“Paul literally invented a word, arsenokoitai, which is a compound word derived from two Greek words meaning male (arsén) and bed (koité.) The word was an anomaly for Biblical translators and it took different forms from translation to translation. Eventually, scholars began to believe that Paul was harkening back to Leviticus 20:13 which parallels Leviticus 18:22. A simple reading of the text would imply that same-sex relationships are against the customs of God, but like most things in life, context matters.

“In Leviticus chapter 18 the verses begin with God commanding the people not to, ‘do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you.’ and in chapter 20, the preamble warns not to practice the religious customs of Molek.

“It was widely believed that Molek required child sacrifices and temple sex, specifically with temple prostitutes that were enslaved. The holiness code in Leviticus 18 and 20 is condemning of the Molek temple practices. It was not a wholesale condemnation of same-sex relationships.

“The reason that Paul was attempting to recall the verses from Leviticus the two times he used the word arsenokoitai, found in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10, is because in his first letter to the Corinthians he was drawing parallels as the body as a Temple and in 1 Timothy he was discussing being lured away by false teachings. These verses were meant to mirror the dangers of falling into a type of false temple worship, similar to the warnings about Molek in the Old Testament.

“The other verses that are misused to condemn the LGBTQ+ community is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. This verse has nothing to do with consensual same-sex relationships.

“The reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was clearly defined in Ezekiel 26:49, ‘Behold, this was the guilt of Sodom: pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.’ The reason that Lot was spared is because he kept the custom of hospitality and invited the angels into his home and protected them from the assault of the mob. But the sin of Sodom was not consensual same-sex relationships, but their violence, greed, and inhospitable nature.

“The Bible does not, and has not, condemned same-sex relationships. What has happened is that the scriptures have been weaponized over time against the LGBTQ+ community. It is time for the Church to acknowledge these grave translational errors and step into the light of love and truth.”

His posting has been shared over a thousand times and prompted hundreds of comments.

“Thank you for posting this very concise explanation. It out a heartbreaking what the church has done to LGBTQ people,” said one commentator.

Related: Pope says Catholic Church can’t bless same-sex relationships because they’re “sin”

The Vatican’s statement on Monday has upset many LGBTQ Catholics and divided many in the church. It has been criticized by some hoping the church might adopt a more welcoming approach, including Belgian Bishop Johan Bonny. He wrote an opinion piece on Wednesday saying he felt “shame for my Church” and “intellectual and moral incomprehension” at the Vatican’s statement.

Priests of the progressive, Europe-based Pfarrer-Initiative (Priests’ Initiative) released a statement on Wednesday expressing similar disappointment, saying they were “deeply appalled” and vowing they would “not reject any loving couple in the future who wants to celebrate God’s blessing.”

Meanwhile, in the Pope’s homeland of Argentina, a former priest turned LGBTQ campaigner announced he was leaving the Roman Catholic church because of the statement. Andrés Gioeni wrote in a letter to the church, “I do not want to continue being an accomplice to this institution, because I realize the harm they are doing to people.”

Have you read about the Sapporo court in Japan that has said that the same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional? What do you think about it? : actuallesbians

Have you read about the Sapporo court in Japan that

A place for discussions for and by cis and trans lesbians, bisexual girls, chicks who like chicks, bi-curious folks, dykes, butches, femmes, girls who kiss girls, birls, bois, aces, LGBT allies, and anyone else interested! Our subreddit is named r/actuallesbians because r/lesbians is not really for or by lesbians–it was meant to be a joke. We’re not a militant or exclusive group, so feel free to join up!

Kids with Same-Sex Parents Do Better Academically? That Doesn’t Mean Same-Sex Parents Are “Better”

Kids with Same-Sex Parents Do Better Academically? That Doesn't Mean

A new study has found that children with same-sex parents do better academically than those with different-sex ones. This is yet another study among dozens that show our children do as well as—or better than—those with different-sex parents, based on various metrics of well-being. Such studies have been vital in fighting for our rights in courts and legislatures—but often the “better than” results lead to a flurry of headlines asking if same-sex parents are better than different-sex ones. Sure, I’d like to believe in my family’s superpowers—but there’s a danger in jumping to that conclusion.

Classroom desk - Element5 Digital on Unsplash

The latest study, by Australian researchers Jan Kabátek and Francisco Perales, published in the journal Demography, used data from the Netherlands, one of the few countries where researchers can link anonymous data from many administrative sources covering the entire population, and not have to rely on a possibly skewed “convenience sample” of volunteer participants. Also, because the Netherlands has had a long-standing acceptance of same-sex relationships (in 2001 it became the first country to enact marriage equality), the country offered a “best case scenario” for looking at the impact of same-sex vs. different-sex parents, without the muddying influence of factors like stigma and discrimination.

The researchers looked at 13 consecutive cohorts of primary school students, which included more than 1.4 million children raised by different-sex couples and more than 3,000 raised by same-sex couples. They statistically eliminated factors like the higher average education and lower average incomes of same-sex parents, in order to focus solely on the effects of parental structure.

The results? In a nationwide standardized test of language, mathematics, and general learning ability, given to all eighth-grade students, children in same-sex-parented families scored higher by 13 percent of a standard deviation (SD). This difference is “comparable to the advantage of children whose parents are both employed as opposed to being out of work,” they say in an article on their study at theconversation.com. Children with same-sex parents were also on average 21.6 percent more likely to enter an academic high school track, 1.5 percent more likely to graduate from high school, and 11.2 percent more likely to enroll in a university.

The researchers also looked specifically at children who lived part of their lives with different-sex parents and part with same-sex ones, and found that “Children who had some exposure to same-sex parenting attain higher test scores than children who had none,” an association that “grows stronger among children who have more exposure to same-sex parenting.”

Why the differences? The current study did not allow the authors to identify specific reasons, but they hypothesize that overcoming greater obstacles to parenthood may strengthen [same-sex parents’] commitment to parental roles.” Additionally, they say, because same-sex couples are less likely to become parents through accidental pregnancies, “this can result in more positive parenting practices.”

The authors conclude that their results “support the idea that in sociopolitical environments characterized by high levels of legislative or public support, children in same-sex-parented families fare at least as well as children in different-sex-parented families.” The Netherlands “provides robust legislative support structures for same-sex couples, such as the right to adopt children, equal access to IVF treatments and formal recognition of both parents,” they say. Countries that are currently without such support could also see such successful outcomes, “should they direct comparable efforts towards the inclusion of sexual minorities.” (This is yet another reason for the U.S. to pass the Equality Act and for more states to update their parentage laws.)

Can we go further and say that same-sex parents are better than different-sex ones? No. The authors’ judicious “at least as well as” is key. Their study has several limitations, they admit, including that they only looked at standardized testing at one point in time. Additionally, because there are few male same-sex parents in the Netherlands, the results for their children are less precise.

Also, I would add, academic outcomes aren’t everything. And although more than 70 previous studies of children with same-sex parents also show them doing as well or better on various academic and psychological measures of well-being (according to the What We Know project at Cornell University), we should not conclude that we are categorically “better.” Nor should we want to. As I’ve written before, that’s unfair to us as individuals—and more importantly, to our kids—as it sets a standard that any given person may or may not achieve. Not only that, but saying that same-sex parents are better means we must discredit bisexual and transgender parents who are in different-sex relationships. The most we can and should say is that as parents, same-sex couples are no worse than any others and perhaps have strengths in certain areas, generally speaking (and different-sex couples and single parents may have strengths in others, without any type being “better” overall).

I understand why we’ve needed studies to show that children with same-sex parents do at least as well—but we shouldn’t fall into a game of “Who’s better?” Not only does that set unreasonable expectations, but it can lead to the conclusion that certain parents should be favored (say, in foster care and adoption), simply because of the category they belong to, and not on their individual merits. We LGBTQ parents have been on the negative end of that approach. Let’s not propagate it forward.

The study is “Academic Achievement of Children in Same- and Different-Sex-Parented Families: A Population-Level Analysis of Linked Administrative Data from the Netherlands,” in Demography, 2/15/2021.

American Girl “Girl of the Year” Doll’s Aunts Are a Same-Sex Couple, Delighting Many (and Outraging Some)

American Girl "Girl of the Year" Doll's Aunts Are a

Mattel’s powerhouse American Doll brand recently announced its 2021 “Girl of the Year” doll: 10-year-old Kira, who loves animals. In further backstory from an associated book and video, we discover that Kira is spending the summer at the wildlife sanctuary run by her two aunts, a same-sex couple, in Australia. Such representation is much needed, though some vocal homophobes are giving the book one-star reviews.

Kira Down Under - American Girl

The Kira doll has nothing particularly LGBTQ about her—but in the backstory American Girl has given her through the book and video, Kira has two married aunts, Mamie and Lynette. The book mentions that the aunts got married “after the law was changed to allow it.”

Kira “joins American Girl’s line of contemporary characters that inspires children to make a positive difference in the world,” Mattel’s press release tells us. “Whether she’s caring for an orphaned koala joey or facing a bushfire that’s threatening her great-aunts’ wildlife sanctuary in Australia, Kira confronts critical ecological issues, such as wildlife protection and the threat of climate change, that are more relevant to our planet than ever.”

“As American Girl kicks off its 35th year, Kira joins our lineup of diverse and purposeful characters who star in stories that reflect the realities of the times—whether it’s historical or modern-day,” said Jamie Cygielman, General Manager of American Girl. Cygielman noted the Australian bushfires and U.S. wildfires of the past year and added, “We knew it was important to focus Kira’s story on the major conservation and climate challenges facing our planet today—causes that are extremely important to today’s youth. Through Kira, we hope our fans will learn that we all have a part to play in taking positive action for our planet.”

Those are important lessons—but Kira’s aunts are also having an important impact. Sydney Jean, a blogger on the website American Girl Doll News wrote, “When I found out that Kira had two aunts, Mamie and Lynette, I wanted to cry tears of joy…. it means the world to me that American Girl is taking a big step and representing lesbians—people like me—in their newest book series.” (I’ll note that while they’re clearly a same-sex couple, I’m not sure it’s stated whether they’re lesbians as opposed to bisexual.)

Others were not as thrilled, giving the associated book Kira Down Under one-star reviews at Amazon. One reviewer wrote, “My daughter had no idea what a lesbian couple is and American Girl has cruelly taken away part of her innocence now that I’ve had to explain about that lifestyle.” Another said, “This book blatantly introduces very mature topics.” Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. And the aunts’ “lifestyle” consists of being a hardworking, animal-loving couple who cares for their family. (Also, if I wanted to, I could explain the creation of my family to a child without once mentioning sex, which is probably more than these reviewers could do. Whose family really requires the discussion of “mature” topics?)

As Sydney Jean noted, this isn’t the first time American Girl has been the target of homophobes ire. Some called for boycotting the brand in 2005 because of its support of Girls Inc., which supported the LGBTQ community, and again in 2015, when American Girl magazine featured a girl with two dads. Let’s repeat Cygielman’s words (my bold): “Kira joins our lineup of diverse and purposeful characters who star in stories that reflect the realities of the times.”

Watch the start of Kira’s story—and meet her aunts—in the 10-minute video below, part of a series dropping every Friday. Then check out the book and, wherever you bought or borrowed it, go to Amazon and leave your own review.

Now if American Girl would only launch a transgender girl doll next, I’d be even more excited.


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Board Book with Same-Sex Parents, Gender Creative Kids, and Pregnant Trans Man Wins Prestigious Stonewall Book Award

Stonewall Book Award Winners for LGBTQ Kids’ and Young Adult

The American Library Association (ALA) today announced its 2021 Stonewall Book Awards for LGBTQ-inclusive children’s and young adult books, part of the Youth Media Awards that also include the prestigious Newbery and Caldecott Medals. The winner was a board book that includes not only same-sex parents, but also gender creative kids and a pregnant transgender man.

We Are Little Feminists: Families

The Stonewall Book Awards — Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award (to distinguish them from the Stonewall Book Awards for adult books) are chosen by a committee of the ALA’s Rainbow Round Table, “the oldest professional association for LGBTQIA+ people in the United States.” This year’s winner is:

  • We Are Little Feminists: Families, by Archaa Shrivastav (Little Feminist), a board book that uses simply rhymes to celebrate many types of families as it shows photos of real families around the world engaged in everyday activities. While other books may have similar themes, this one is notable for the photos of actual families and the broad LGBTQ inclusion. Several of the families include two moms and two dads; there are also children who seem nonbinary or gender creative, and one image of a transgender man who is pregnant. (Readers may recognize him as trans advocate Trystan Reese, who posts about his family on Instagram at @biffandi.) Some images are below; note the publisher has not made the one with Reese available to the media, but it’s very similar to this one on his Instagram. This is truly a joyous book that belongs in any library or bookshelf for young children.

Four honor books were also selected:

  • Beetle & The Hollowbones, written and illustrated by Aliza Layne (Atheneum Books for Young Readers): In this middle grade graphic novel, 12-year-old goblin-witch Beetle, who lives in the eerie town of ‘Allows, fits in neither as a sorceress nor as a ghost whose spirit is trapped in the mall, like her nonbinary best friend Blob Ghost. When Beetle’s old best friend, Kat Hollowbone, returns to town for a sorcery apprenticeship with her Aunt Hollowbone, Beetle is reminded of her inadequacy. Yet plans are afoot that endanger Blob Ghost and force Beetle to act, confronting her fears and her feelings for Kat. A fun and clever story that is surprisingly human despite the fantastical characters.
  • You Should See Me in a Crown, by Leah Johnson (Scholastic): In this middle grade novel, Liz Lighty is a Black, nerdy, poor, wallflower, which sets her apart in her small, rich, Midwestern town. But when a scholarship to an elite college falls through, she unexpectedly finds herself in the social spotlight, running for prom queen and the prize money that brings. As if that’s not hard enough, she may also be falling for one of her competitors. Full review.
  • Darius the Great Deserves Better, by Adib Khorram (Dial Books): This sequel to Khorram’s young adult novel Darius the Great Is Not Okay, continues the story of Darius, an out gay Iranian American teen navigating romantic relationships and family as well as bullying, racism, and his family’s financial struggles. He also has queer grandmothers.
  • Felix Ever After, by Kacen Callender (Balzer + Bray): A young adult novel about a Black, transgender teen whose plan to foil transphobic harassment lands him in an unexpected love triangle—but also leads him to redefine how he feels about himself.

In addition to the above, Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail, by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Susan Gal (Charlesbridge) won the Sydney Taylor Book Award, presented annually to “outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.” While the LGBTQ content is slight (one pair of visiting relatives to the Passover seder is a two-dad couple), I’m still going to mention it. Newman, author of Heather Has Two Mommies and many other LGBTQ-inclusive works, arguably brought LGBTQ picture books into mainstream awareness, so I’m happy to celebrate any recognition of her work. Full review.

And queer mom Jacqueline Woodson won the Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award for her middle grade novel Before the Ever After (Nancy Paulsen Books) about a 12-year-old whose father, a retired football player, is grappling with traumatic brain injury.

The full list of ALA Youth Media Award winners is here.

Congratulations to them all!


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A Sweet Same-Sex Crush in New Picture Book

A Sweet Same-Sex Crush in New Picture Book

I’m thrilled that what might be the last LGBTQ-inclusive picture book of 2020, about two young boys in love, is an absolute joy.

From Archie to Zack

“’Archie loves Zack!’ ‘Zack loves Archie!’ Everyone said it was so,” begins From Archie to Zack, by Vincent X. Kirsch (Abrams). Despite everyone’s knowing and accepting, however, neither Archie nor Zack feels like they can say this to each other. Their hesitancy is never explained, though it’s clear that it’s not because of bias, but simply the uncertainty of knowing whether one’s feelings are reciprocated. As the story unfolds, we see the two boys having adventures together as Archie pens note after note telling Zack that he loves him—but then feeling like “something’s missing” and hiding the note before giving it to him.

Three girls in their class find the notes, however, and, knowing who they’re for, give them to Zack as their school prepares for the holidays. It’s clear from the text and illustrations that this was done with good intentions and the girls are trying to help them express their feelings for each other. Nevertheless, on another level it’s rather intrusive, and it’s outing Archie, so adults may want to discuss with children when this sort of sharing isn’t appropriate. Nevertheless, “Reading [the notes] made Zack very happy.”

Zack, in fact, has wanted to share a similar note with Archie for a long time. In the end, the boys express their feelings for each other and are shown smiling in the midst of their classmates at the holiday pageant.

Kirsch, who also illustrated the book, keeps the images bright and cheery, and gives the characters big, expressive faces. Archie is White; Zack is Black, and their classmates are a range of racial and ethnic identities. Kirsch could have toned down the slant on the Asian characters’ eyes, however; they feel like an exaggerated stereotype. The holiday pageant includes Christmas, Hanukkah, and general winter themes. On a final spread, we see vignettes of Archie and Zack both carrying a Christmas tree and standing behind a menorah. Zack is holding the shamash (helper) candle to light the menorah; perhaps this is a rare picture book representation of a Jew of color (here are some others), though it’s incidental to this tale.

There’s much to like about this book that gives us such a lovely and positive story of two boys in love. Contrast Thomas Scotto’s Jerome By Heart, where the protagonist Raphael’s parents disapprove of his love for Jerome. Yes, unfortunately Jerome by Heart still has an element of truth in it for many young queer people, and its portrayal of Raphael’s strength in the face of his parents’ opposition offers an important model for young readers. At the same time, I think it’s critical for more LGBTQ-inclusive stories—about LGBTQ kids, kids with LGBTQ parents, or combinations thereof—to be simply fun stories that don’t “problematize” LGBTQ identities. Archie and Zack’s “problem” is that of any two people trying to assess whether the other loves them back. To that end, From Archie to Zack is a terrific addition to the genre of LGBTQ-inclusive children’s books. It reminds me of When We Love Someone We Sing to Them/Cuando Amamos CantamosErnesto Javier Martí­nez’s 2018 book (Reflection Press) with a similar (but far from identical) story of a boy figuring out how to express his feelings for another. Now we just need some picture book stories of two girls and/or nonbinary children in love….

From Archie to Zack will be published December 29, but is available for pre-order. With its holiday-themed ending, I’m guessing it was initially intended to come out a bit earlier (2020 delayed a lot of books), but at least it will be available during the extended holiday season, which arguably runs through early January. And its message is a good one year round.


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Hungary Bans Same-Sex Couples and Most Single People from Adopting

Hungary Bans Same-Sex Couples and Most Single People from Adopting

In the latest of a series of anti-LGBTQ moves, Hungary’s parliament has changed its constitution to ban same-sex couples and most single people from adopting children.

Hungarian Parliament Building - Budapest

Hungarian Parliament Building – Budapest. Photo credit: Jorge Franganillo. Used under CC BY 2.0

The change on Tuesday, championed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his right-wing Fidesz party, will allow adoption only by married couples and single people “granted special permission by the government,” reports the Washington Post. Same-sex couples cannot marry in Hungary, although they may get civil unions. Same-sex couples had previously been able to adopt by having only one partner apply to be the legal parent, “but the new law puts an end to this practice,” the Post says.

Justice Minister Judit Varga posted part of the text of the new legislation on her Facebook page:

Hungary protects the institution of marriage as a cohabitation between a man and a woman, based on voluntary decision, and the family as the basis for the survival of the nation. The basis of the family relationship is the marriage and the parent-child relationship. The mother is a woman, the father is a man.

The Háttér Society, the largest and oldest non-governmental LGBTQI organization in Hungary, tweeted that this legislation, however, will “stigmatize same-sex couples raising children and transgender people, make LGBTQI school education programs impossible and complicate single-parent adoption.” They add, in a series of tweets:

These provisions are very problematic on their own, as they go against international human rights norms and especially the rights of children. LGBTQI children exist, forcing them to live according to conservative ideals might make them invisible, but will not make them disappear.

Restricting the number of potential adoptive parents means that more children will remain in state care or be adopted abroad where they can’t maintain their language or cultural identity. There are already hundreds of children being adopted outside of Hungary.

Adopting such highly problematic laws at the peak of the COVID pandemic is even more appaling [sic]: it is part of a political strategy to divert attention away from the government’s inability to control the health and economic crisis.

The adoption legislation is not the only anti-LGBTQ move made by Orban’s government, however. In May, it banned transgender people from changing their gender identity on identification documents. These are shameful moves by the government. I hope that both national and international pressure comes to bear to reverse these harmful and short-sighted policies.

Also coincidentally released on Tuesday was the “State-Sponsored Homophobia 2020: Global Legislation Overview Update ” from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, a worldwide federation of more than 1,600 organizations from over 150 countries and territories. Among other findings, it notes that “69 UN member States still criminalise consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults,” with six member States prescribing the death penalty.

On the positive side, 11 UN member States have constitutional provisions that specify sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination protections; 57 offer broad protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation; 81 protect against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; 48 impose enhanced criminal penalties for offences motivated by hate towards the victim’s sexual orientation; and 4 have nationwide bans against “conversion therapies.” Twenty-eight recognize marriage for same-sex couples (plus one non-UN jurisdiction, Taiwan); 34 provide for some partnership recognition; and 28 have joint adoption laws, with 32 allowing for same-sex second parent adoption. (Yet the data alone can be deceiving: “In Ecuador, constitutional protection co-exists with a constitutional ban on adoption of children by same-sex couples,” the report notes.) This report shows the progress that has been made over the past decades—but also, as this latest move from Hungary emphasizes, how far we have yet to go. Onward….

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses Case Challenging Right of Same-Sex Parents to Both Be Recognized as Legal Parents

Indiana Continues Pressure on U.S. Supreme Court to Deny Same-Sex

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take a case in which Indiana was trying to deny the right of married nonbiological mothers in same-sex couples to be recognized as legal parents by being put on their children’s birth certificates. An appeals court had ruled in January that both mothers must be allowed on the birth certificates; because the Supreme Court has refused to take the case, that decision stands.

U.S. Supreme Court

Indiana had been appealing a January 2020 ruling of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Box v. Henderson that said Indiana must put both same-sex spouses on the birth certificate of a child born to one of them. This right is crucial for giving children with same-sex parents the legal protection of both parents from the moment of birth. In an order (PDF) posted this morning, the Supreme Court “denied certiorari,” meaning they will not hear the case.

I wrote at length about the case in June, when Indiana asked the Supreme Court to take it, and just a few weeks ago, when it filed an additional brief. Please go read those posts if you want to try and understand the convoluted logic by which Indiana was trying to say that only biology, not marital status, matters for birth certificates and that while it does allow a husband’s name to go on a child’s birth certificate even if another man is really the biological father (say, if he and his wife have fertility issues and use a sperm donor), it can treat same-sex couples differently.

Not buying it? Neither, apparently, was the U.S. Supreme Court. The court may also have been reluctant to issue a ruling in opposition to its 2017 decision in Pavan v. Smith, which said that married same-sex couples in Arkansas have the right to both be on their children’s birth certificates. That decision itself rested on the landmark 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which said same- and different-sex couples must be treated equally. This case thus threatened not only the rights of same-sex parents, but also the solidity of Obergefell to protect all same-sex couples. The Supreme Court’s refusal to take it is a very good thing.

Congratulations to all of the eight plaintiff couples and their families, to the attorneys from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Ropes & Gray who worked on the case, and all of the families in Indiana and elsewhere who will benefit.