This year’s Pride Parade will be different. On June 25th, LGBT New Yorkers and their straight allies will congregate in the streets of Manhattan with an urgency the city hasn’t seen since the 80s AIDS crisis or the Stonewall Riots in 1969, which galvanized the modern day Gay Rights Movement. Tens of thousands will stomp down Fifth Avenue protesting the Trump Administration’s sustained efforts to roll back—way back—LGBT progress. I’ll be joining them, but mostly I’ll be marching for my daughter Marty, who, it turns out, isn’t securely mine without an adoption.
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Since taking office in January, Trump has rejected proposed changes to include LGBT-related questions on the U.S. Census; he erased a page dedicated to LGBT Rights from the White House’s official website; he rescinded the guidelines Obama put forth allowing trans students to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender expression; and he partially revoked an Obama-era executive order compelling federal contractors to demonstrate their compliance with anti-discrimination directives.
Although I thought Marty was already mine in no uncertain terms, a few months ago, while researching estate planning attorneys, my spouse Sabrina and I discovered just how tenuous my relationship to Marty could be without a second-parent adoption. Despite the fact that she was born within my marriage, that my name is on her birth certificate, that we live in New York, one of the most progressive states in the country, and that our marriage is recognized by the federal government, every major LGBT advocacy group strongly advises me—and every other non-gestational parent—to complete a second-parent adoption to protect our family from potential legal consequences. And it will cost, at best, a whopping $4,000.
Neglecting to adopt Marty could have shattering consequences: If we ever visit or live in a state where family law is not settled on questions surrounding the legal status of non-biological parents, or one that continues to challenge marital equality, or another country that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, my parentage could be disputed by a medical or school administrator. In cases of life or death, and the need for immediate decision-making authority, that could be especially devastating.
According to Anthony M. Brown, an LGBT family law attorney in New York City, it’s not just news to me. “Gay couples are often surprised and indignant by the necessity of second-parent adoption because they believe we’ve already fought and won this battle,” he says. “But the battle is still playing out in family courts around the country and world.”
“Emboldened legislatures,” he adds, “are attempting to whittle away at marriage rights through parentage issues.” Arkansas and Indiana, for examples, refuse to allow non-biological parents in same-sex marriages to appear on their children’s birth certificates. And a judge in Kentucky thinks he can recuse himself from gay adoptions because, he says, “under no circumstance would ‘… the best interest of the child … be promoted by adoption …’ by a practicing homosexual.”
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These legal quagmires existed before Trump was elected, but his presence in the Oval Office adds new anxieties for same-sex parents. “In the Trump era,” says Cathryn Oakley, a senior legislative counselor at the Human Rights Campaign, “where we see more rhetoric about it being OK to discriminate and Trump giving credence to those who say they should have a religious right to refuse services to same-sex couples, you need to have every possible protection.”
Realizing that I will have to adopt Marty is especially painful because our journey to her was rife with false starts, uncertainty and heartache. Originally, Sabrina and I wanted to link our lineages by asking my brother, a Trump-voting Republican law enforcement officer, to be her sperm donor. That went down like this: He impulsively said yes; then he needed time to think; then he rescinded his offer.
With that plan in a heap of ash, we settled on using an anonymous sperm donor from the Sperm Bank of California in Berkeley, California. We chose a man whose words moved us and whose sweet essence somehow shone through a photograph of his five-year-old self. But once we were ready to give it a go, a test revealed that Sabrina had alarmingly low ovarian reserves. Our doctor urged us to act fast and believed we’d have success via intrauterine insemination—the process of placing the sperm directly into her uterus. At $650 per vial of sperm and $1,000 per IUI procedure, we were out $5,000 after the third unsuccessful try.
But as our faith began to dwindle, Sabrina finally conceived in the first week of December of 2014.
Nine months later, we welcomed our daughter at Methodist Hospital in Park Slope. She arrived with a thick swatch of black hair spiking up from her cone-shaped head and a pissed off expression on her face, all 80s punk and righteous disdain. When she uttered her first sound—a raspy cry like she’s already smoked a pack a day for decades—I immediately thought: “She inherited yiayia’s man-voice!” Yiayia—that’s Greek for “grandma”—is my mother, who sounds like Jodie Foster on T. Marty felt so much mine that I forgot for a moment that she is not of me, of my flesh and blood.
Marty felt so much mine that I forgot for a moment that she is not of me, of my flesh and blood.