As a mother, I am grateful every day for the blessing of my family
and committed to ensuring that my children are happy, health, loved
and cared for. This week, as I prepare to celebrate this time of
thanksgiving, my heart goes out to children who have a very
different existence than that of my children. These are the more
than 400, 000 children in foster care, who have no permanent family
to call their own this Thanksgiving. Because of discriminatory
state laws and outdated policies, those who want so much to be moms
and dads and also happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender cannot open up their hearts and homes to these
There is hope that could change in time.
This month, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act was introduced
by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and a companion bill in the
House now has 82 bi-partisan co-sponsors thanks to the work of lead
sponsor, Rep. Pete Stark (CA).
This bill would ensure that our country is doing everything
possible to move children out of the foster care system and into
permanent loving homes. It would eliminate discrimination in foster
and adoption placement policies based on the marital status, sexual
orientation or gender identity of the prospective parents.
Also this month, President Obama issued a proclamation
in recognition of National Adoption Month that clearly expresses
his belief that adoptive families come in all forms.
It also represents his belief and ours that adoption decisions
should be based on the best interests of children and that all
qualified caregivers should be allowed to serve as adoptive
We are making incredible progress, and it’s because there are
moms and dads all over the country who are incredible advocates in
their daily lives. People who recognize that the only way for
circumstances to change is to do something about it. People
Mary Keane, a New York woman who decided to make a difference in
the lives of foster youth by volunteering to become a foster mom at
age 50. Now at age 63, Keane has 12 foster kids, ages 22 to 40.
She has adopted five of them and plans to adopt five more.
Matt and Ray Lees who perservered, in spite of their inability to
adopt jointly as a couple in Ohio. Ray adopted three of their
children and Matt is completing an adoption of five siblings whose
drug-addicted mother could not care for them.
- John Armantrout of San Diego who was forced to hide his
relationship with his spouse, Larry Moreno because of the
now-repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law. Armantrout ended his
service to our country so the two could facilitate the adoption of
both their sons, Mike and Tristion.
- Steven and Roger Ham,
who are raising 12 children, all adopted from foster care, in
Arizona, a state that makes it extremely difficult for LGBT people
to create a family through adoption.
Gill of Florida, who has become a tireless advocate for LGBT
adoption after fighting in his own state to adopt two foster
children he and his partner have been raising since 2004, and
fighting successfully to challenge the constitutionality of a law
that banned adoption by gay and lesbian people.
- Rob Keeling, an adoptive dad in Virginia and a former board
member of Family Equality Council,
who spoke out eloquently this year demanding that his state
prevent child welfare agencies from discriminating against
qualified loving parents, simply because of their sexual
orientation or family status.
Until Congress passes the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, we
must all work to make a difference in whatever ways we can. The
people above have answered the call and done what they could to
improve the lives of youth in foster care. Just like them, there
are simple and easy ways for you to incorporate this into your life
and have a huge impact.
One simple way is to urge your senators and representatives to
support this urgently-needed legislation.
Another way to is for you to recognize the loving parents who are
working in their every day lives to change laws, change the hearts
and minds of policymakers and actively change the lives of children
in their own communities. If you know someone like this, take the
time to thank them.
This Thanksgiving, as we sit around the table with our families, I
ask that you remember all of the children who should be sitting
around tables of their own in loving homes all across this country,
but who have yet to find their forever families.
Give thanks for all of the people who are making a difference in
the lives of these children, in ways both big and small.
I am thankful each and every day to be part of a community of
people who care, and who are committed to creating a better world
for all families. I am thankful for you, and all that you will do
on behalf of the Family Equality community.