Tag Archives: judy appel

The Alphabet Soup – Episode 3: Pride Edition

In this episode of The Alphabet Soup with Our Family Coalition we discuss Family Pride. QMOC Anayvette Martinez and her daughter Lupita share their inspiration and goals for the amazing group the Radical Monarchs. Then, Captain Chris Armijo, a fierce advocate and single gay dad of twin girls, speaks about creating inclusive spaces for his family in Texas

Featuring:
Anayvette Martinez, Community Organizer, Parent and Advocate & Lupita Martinez
Chris Armijo, Parent, Captain & Advocate

Host: Judy Appel, Our Family Coalition’s Executive Director

Food for Thought with:
Polly Pagenhart, Our Family Coalition’s Family Programs Director

The Alphabet Soup – Episode 2: Family Activism Edition

In the second episode of The Alphabet Soup with Our Family Coalition, Julia and Zach of The Rainbow Letters share inspiring and powerful stories about growing up with parents who are lesbian or gay. Listen in to an engaging conversation with Willy Wilkinson on parenting, activism and his new book Born on the Edge of Race and Gender: A Voice for Cultural Competency.

Guests:
Zach Wahls and Julia Winston, The Rainbow Letters
Willy Wilkinson, Author, Activist & Parent

Host:
Judy Appel, Executive Director

Food for Thought with:
Renata Moreira, Policy and Communications Director
Our Family Coalition

VICTORY: Governor Brown Signs the Modern Family Act!


Dear families and friends,

I am thrilled to share with you that the Modern Family Act (AB2344) is now the law!

Over the past twenty years California’s LGBTQ families have been gaining increased legal protections through the legislature and the courts. This victory shows the great impact that we can have when working united for laws that keep up with the evolving nature of our families. Your support is critical to our making change.

You may be asking what exactly the Modern Family Law means for our families. The law essentially does three things:

1. Establishes a statutory form that spells out the agreement between a donor and parents – much like the one that currently exists for wills – that may be used in the event of pregnancy achieved through sperm donations. The form would include  parenting rights and responsibilities, if any, for the donor. While we still advise that parents seek counsel, this form adds protections for all parties involved and will reduce future litigation on the issue.

2. Provides  clear specifications related to the financial responsibility of medical costs of the surrogate and the newborn.  This is important since some insurance coverage specifically excludes surrogacy.

3. Provides a streamlined adoption process for parents that meet these specified criteria and would waive associated fees.  This rectifies the inequity caused by states, unlike California, that do not accept birth certificates unless they include one female mother and one male father, forcing same-sex couples to go through an expensive and invasive step-parent adoption process to guarantee parental rights in other states.

I am elated knowing that the Modern Family Act will help build clarity in families that can help prevent non-biological parent from losing contact or custody of their child, in addition to removing the unnecessary financial and emotional cost that our families currently have to undertake to protect our kids across state lines.

We applaud Assemblymember Tom Ammiano for championing this bill in Sacramento, in collaboration with our many allies, and thank Governor Brown for signing the Modern Family Act. This bill is a big step in the right direction toward protecting families across California.

We need your help to build on two decades of work supporting and protecting families. Our Family Coalition is built on reciprocity, we cannot continue to exist and push for progressive policies without your generous support; please join our movement and make a donation today.

Please keep an eye out for more information about all the ways you can get involved with Our Family Coalition and help in the fight for equity and justice. We simply can’t do it without you.

Towards a new future for all of our families,

PS. In more exciting news that supports healthy schools and families, the Governor also just signed AB420 which prohibits suspending students in grades K-3 and prohibiting expulsion for willful disruption/defiance. We played a central role in advocating for this bill and will continue doing so with your support!

 

Groundbreaking Law Would Make It Easier For LGBT Couples To Start A Family

Gay couple Jeffrey Parsons (R) and Chris

Jeffrey Parsons and Chris Hietikko pose with their son Henry Hietikko-Parsons in the garden of their house. Henry was conceived by the couple via artificial insemination and a surrogate mother. | EMMANUEL DUNAND via Getty Images

When Judy Appel and her partner of 22 years, Alison Bernstein, wanted to have children, the state of California didn’t make it easy.

Appel-Bernstein Kobi Graduation 5th Grade

Judy Appel, Alison Bernstein, and their children

Bernstein gave birth to their son using an anonymous sperm donor. But in order for Appel to gain legal custody of her child, she had to go through lengthy, complicated and costly measures to adopt him, which included allowing authorities into the family’s home multiple times for evaluations.

“It was really invasive,” Appel told The Huffington Post of the process. “They came into our home and studied it. It’s this extra legal hoop that, just by its nature, sends the message that our family isn’t equal.”

Appel and Bernstein’s son is now 16 years old, and much has changed in California since then. Gay marriage is now recognized under state law, and the adoption process for non-biological children of LGBT couples has become more streamlined. But certain counties in the state still require home visits as part of the adoption process. And if a same-sex couple with children moved to a state that didn’t recognize their marriage, the parents’ legal custody could be in jeopardy had no formal adoption taken place beforehand.

“In California, there’s the presumption that my wife is the parent of my child,” Appel said. “But elsewhere, that puts us at risk. What if a kid ends up in the hospital and one of the parents couldn’t visit?”

A new California bill aims to protect children from ending up in this kind of situation. Authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and dubbed the Modern Family Act, the first-of-its kind legislation would make adopting easier for LGBT couples in the state who want to start a family, providing legal protections from the moment formal planning begins. The measure would also benefit straight couples and single parents looking to conceive through alternative methods such as in vitro fertilization, sperm donation and surrogacy.

“The science behind having families has advanced more quickly than the laws,” Ammiano told HuffPost in a statement. “This bill is just an attempt to catch up with the realities and help these couples enjoy their modern families.”

themeasureThe measure, which passed the California Assembly by an overwhelming 60-2 majority earlier this week and now faces a vote in the state Senate before heading to the governor’s desk, includes multiple components. First, it would streamline the adoption process for same-sex parents, waiving typically required legal fees (which can range anywhere from $700 to thousands of dollars, according to Ammiano’s office) and protecting the family’s privacy by disallowing home visits and other invasive procedures.

“It will especially help for lower-income families in these situations,” Appel, who serves as the executive director of Our Family Coalition, a San Francisco-based advocacy group that supports LGBT parents and their families, noted. “This would provide security for kids across all economic levels.”

The bill would also apply to couples and individuals using what’s called a “known donor” to achieve pregnancy — in other words, using the sperm or egg of someone with whom they have a relationship, rather than an anonymous donor. Not only would the legislation require that all parties involved sign a statement of parental intention before any medical procedure take place, but it would also require would-be families using alternative reproduction technologies to explore their health insurance options in advance.

Alice Crisci, a government affairs liaison with California Cryobank, the country’s largest sperm donation bank, explained that using a known donor can sometimes lead to complicated legal situations. A donor or surrogate might seek custody of the child after he or she is born, for example, or the intended parents might go after the donor for child support. The Modern Family Act would eliminate any ambiguities at the onset.

“A lot of people use known donors because they want the donor to have a relationship with their child,” she said. “It’s really important that the law is as protective to all parties as possible.”

Crisci added that when legal issues arise after the fact, cases put pressure on California’s already-bloated family court system and impose significant financial burdens on everyone involved. “You can go broke defending your right to be a parent,” she said. “And it’s leaving the children vulnerable.”

334562_10152109118485035_1702709103_o

Renata Moreira, Lori Bilella, and their dog Pete

Renata Moreira, the policy and communications director at Our Family Coalition, married her wife, Lori Bilella, in San Francisco last year following the overturn of Prop 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage. She and Bilella hope to start a family in the near future using Bilella’s egg and a known sperm donor. Moreira will then carry the pregnancy herself so that, as she explained to HuffPost, she and her wife both have the opportunity to bond emotionally with their unborn child.

renataquote

“The Modern Family Act will directly protect my intention to parent the child I will subsequently carry,” she said in a statement of support for the bill, adding to HuffPost that the legislation would “reduce the need for any future litigation in case something goes awry.”

Appel is quick to point out that the legislation reflects society’s evolving definition of what constitutes a family. “We’re in an age in which people create their families in different ways. This act allows for clear understandings going in, so we can create a loving environment for our kids,” she said. “It’s not to protect our rights, but to protect the security of our children.”

Originally posted on the Huffington Post

Straight Talk From a Lesbian Mom

Judy Appel and Family (Oakland Tribute Pictures 1)I am a real live lesbian mom. My wife and I have been together for 23 years, way back before we could even think of being wives. We have a 16-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter.

We are pretty much like any of you and your families. We get up every morning, make lunches for our kids and then scramble to get them out the door to school on time. Then, my wife Alison and I rush off to work, texting when we can catch a moment during our busy days to navigate the chores and details of dinner, shopping, dentist appointments and the ever changing complexities of our kids’ schedules. At the end of our work day, we rush home, make dinner, help with homework and, like many other parents these days, nag our kids to put away their electronic devices. When we are lucky, they share their struggles and their triumphs with us. And, in between all of this, we worry about our kids. Actually, we worry all the time, for all the reasons every parent does.LesbianMomPullquote1

We are fortunate in that we live in a place where our kids are growing up in an oasis of inclusion, with a community of friends and family that span the rainbow of sexual orientation, gender identity, race and class. Inside our bub  ble there is a culture of acceptance. Lesbian moms are hardly worth noticing, certainly far less noteworthy to our children and their friends than our questionable fashion choices or embarrassing dance moves.

But, our bubble is transparent, and both the awesomeness and the ugliness of the world are right outside. Our kids are tuned into American culture through social media, literature and Hollywood movies; but, until very recently, they saw little, if any, reflection of our family in the media, on television, on the web or in the books they read. However, partially due to the popularity of shows like Modern Family, Glee and The A-Bs outsideFosters, this has begun to change. Now that marriage equality is cascading through the blue states, and even some of the red ones, corporations like Coca-Cola and Chevy are clamoring to embrace family diversity to grab a piece of the market share and consequently, send a message out to the world that change is no longer coming, it’s here.LesbianMomPullquote2

Unfortunately, there are some that still react with fear and hate to families like mine. The conservative opposition continues their 50-year crusade leveraging the anxieties of well-meaning straight people, advancing the tired and unfounded notion that somehow gay people, like my wife, and me, will harm their kids. They continue to demonize our families with unfounded truths like, “Kids need both a mother and a father to be well-adjusted members of society” or “Children will be harmed if they grow up in gay or lesbians families.” These statements are slightly watered down version of the repressive Russian laws that led to an international outcry as LGBT families were pushed deep into the closet and out of their homeland. The same way of thinking leaves American children of LGBT parents vulnerable when they are denied legal connections to both their parents in so many states.

Our families are scattered throughout the United States: a quarter of all same-sex couples are raising kids in the American South. Salt Lake City has the highest ratio of same-sex couples raising children. States in the South and Midwest that have the highest percentage of same-sex couples raising children, also have the most precarious legal protections for their families. We have become accustomed to the one step forward and two step backwards pace of achieving equality. Yet, I feel confident that our path is inexorably set and that we will ultimately, some day, triumph in the Supreme Court.

LesbianMomPullquote3The battle for acceptance is not solely taking place in the courts, but also at playgrounds, schoolyards, little league games, chess tournaments and in churches, synagogues, mosques, everywhere LGBT families are quietly going about the business of raising children and living their lives. LGBT parents are your neighbors. We are your kids’ coaches, team managers and fellow carpool drivers. We can be people you rely on, people you turn to, people you trust with that most precious being, your child. We don’t just stay in our bubble and neither do you.

The only way I know to start paving the way for a future of full-scale equity, one that goes beyond marriage equality, is for us to reach our hands across the playground and really meet one another. I ask you to put away any discomfort you might have about my family or other families that are different or simply don’t look like your own. Welcome that two-dad couple when they come to Back-to-School night; take the leap and let your kid attend my kid’s birthday party. Let’s get to know each other. It is the only path to real change.

Originally posted on the Huffington Post blog

Blind Faith

Every day that I wave to my kids as they leave the house for school, I don’t even think about the requisite faith I must have that the world will help me hold them. As they get older and are more and more on their own, I have to trust their teachers to help mold them.  Neighbors to keep an eye out, strangers to not put them I harms way, drivers to obey the law and keep their cars safely on the road. Mostly, I have faith in them to make good choices and show up with the values we have attempted to imbue in them.  Every evening that they return to us after they navigate the simple complexities of their teenage lives. We welcome them home to homework and practicing their instruments and playing and social media. We exhale, and quickly forget the faith in abundance, or luck, that got us through the day.A-Bfamily

Sure, sometimes we are let down. In small ways or even large ones.  A bike gets stolen, our kid does something unkind, someone gets hurt.  I find myself getting stuck in those moments and losing sight of the incredible amount of what goes right every day keeping our kids growing, safe and strong.  Remembering the blind faith that is required to wave my kids off in the morning and release them into the world, and remembering to let go of trying to make it all right, is the ultimate act of trust.

Judy Appel

Everyone’s School

Rick
Rick Oculto, Our Family Coalition Education Coordinator

In October and November Our Family Coalition gathered teachers, school administrators, and families in San Francisco and the East Bay to talk about how to address intersectional needs of diverse families and students at school.  They say that you need a happy environment to have a happy home and the same is true for our schools. In order for our students to succeed we need to provide an environment where they do not have to fear being ostracized for who they are, where they come from, or what they believe. Families from different faith structures, have interracial caregivers, speak different languages, are adopted, have LGBTQ parents, are headed by an aunts or grandparents, have one parent, and many other family structures are every bit as deserving to feel welcome and included at their schools.

Town-Hall-East-Bay-Crowd
The crowd gathered at the East Bay Town Hall 

The events hosted approximately one hundred families and we talked about the importance of representing the diversity of our communities in schools. With topics ranging from racism, homophobia, cyberbullying, transphobia, and cultural identity it was a packed night filled with rich insight on how to address these various issues from a comprehensive and intentional perspective. Guests learned that providing for and understanding different family structures requires visibility of those differences that celebrates rather than segregates; we all win in an environment where we can appreciate one another. Furthermore, the absence of the pressure of not fitting in allows youth to fully embrace their identities and explore their potential without negative prejudice about how that potential should develop. Families were encouraged to participate by sharing their stories and school staff were eager to learn that they had partners in their parent communities to help them with these issues.

The end of each of the events were marked with parents and teachers talking with one another about the needs of their students and what they could do to create a climate that felt supportive and schools that are better suited to help them succeed. The dialogue from these events is only the beginning and with more involved partnerships between schools and parents our schools will only become better. It’s true, the work is far from done and Our Family Coalition is proud to be here every step of the way to educate and advocate for families that are LGBTQ!

Join us as we continue the work throughout the year! Our next event is Everyone’s Story at the Oakland Main Library. We’ll be reading a recommended book from our book list and running a Welcoming Schools lesson plan. Come see what inclusive schools are like in action and learn how to advocate as parents at your own schools!

Rick Oculto