Jun 23, 2014

Texas Gay Dads denied parental rights to their own twin sons

A heartbreaking story is going viral over the internet waves today about a charming and charismatic gay couple, Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs, who have been denied parental rights in Texas to their own twin sons. The case is complex and baffling in the extreme, but put simply, both men hired a surrogate mother to carry donated eggs (not her own), and each father fertilized one of the eggs, so that both boys share the same biological mother source, but each has been 'fathered' by one of the men. What a beautiful and mystical way to have brought these two boys into the world and into the blessed family of Jason and Joe. What a remarkable symbol of family these two men have forged through this birthing. Yet a stubborn Texas judge has denied both men the right to be listed as the father on either of the boy's birth certificates, that's right, not even on the birth certificate of their own biological child. It is the kind of case that makes one want to tear one's hair out - or to go back and read the articles again and again convinced you must have missed something. I've done this and I can't make any sense out of the case, but it does state clearly the men have been denied the right to be listed as the father even on the birth certificate of their own biological child. The case gets even more complicated when one considers the well being of both boys together, should one of their fathers pass away unexpectedly. 

However, rather than rant on the subject - actually the Family Equality Council has said it best -

“This case clearly illustrates the concrete harms that LGBTQ families face on a daily basis in states like Texas, which have few protections in place for them," said Family Equality Council Executive Director, Gabriel Blau. “This judge was wrong on moral, ethical, and legal grounds.  It is time for judges and others in positions of authority to put the best interests of children first. Judges and lawmakers should stop denying loving, committed families the protections they need to take care of one another. As the patchwork of laws affecting LGBTQ families across this country continue to cause uncertainty, we will continue to push for both legal and lived equality for all families, and we are grateful to Jason and Joe for standing up and telling their story.”

Instead of ranting over this case, however, I was immediately struck by its many positive aspects. First both of these men are poster 'boys' for gay families. You couldn't ask for a more charismatic, photogenic pair, glowing with health and happiness. This photo below radiates the men's own deep affection for one another, and presents a balanced visual image of relational love between the same sexes. How could anyone find this unwholesome, unhealthy, unloving or immoral? Well, only persons who do not have eyes to see, and whose ideological view of the world is more important to them than the test of lived experience.

Secondly, the outpouring of support for these men has been overwhelming, because the case is so egregiously unfair. Check out the comments sections of both of the articles below, and watch the commentators attempt to make sense of the convoluted legal complexities of the case and offer helpful advice. You would think that the case is simply about the wish (and the right) of each of the men to legally adopt the other's child, of which they are not the biological parent. But in fact, it seems to be worse than that. 

Each of the men is a biological father to one of the babies. But, because Texas has a ban on gay marriage (it was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge last February, but the decision was stayed pending appeal), and because a judge can use his or her own discretion in these cases, neither of the men is currently on the birth certificates of either of the boys, nor have they been able to co-adopt each other’s biological child. HUFFINGTON POST

Fox News gave a fairly positive spin on the story, while explaining the legal complexities, and the judge's final comment that she 'strictly follows the law'. But a law which denies a father the right to be listed even on the birth certificate of his own biological child is obscene. 

See the story and many other updates at Glaad Org. 

See also the Huffington Post article, with many great comments. 

One of the more insightful comments went something like this: They seem like such bright, intelligent caring men. What on earth are they doing living in Texas? I have to say that was my first reaction as well. For the sake of the two boys, isn't it time to relocate? Both men were legally married in Washington DC last February. Perhaps they need to consider relocation to a state that would recognize their marriage and grant them full parental rights over their children. However, that's an easy suggestion to make when one doesn't have to deal with the consequences. Their family roots may be very deep in Texas, as well as their vocational ties.

What is clear is that the case is making headlines around the nation (and the world) and only highlights the urgent need to get rid of these antiquated discriminatory laws. If ever there were a case that was 'providentially designed' to elicit both sympathy for gay marriage and outrage over the injustices when it is denied, it is this one.

May Blessings fall from the heavens upon Jason and Joe, Lucas and Ethan.