Every once in a while you have a friend who has a partner, spouse, significant other, that you simply cannot stand. You shrink from extending invitations, preferring to stay home and scrub the mildew out of the shower grout instead. This happens because every time you see the partner, they display one or more unpleasant qualities, such as dullness, insensitivity, hypersensitivity, peevishness, grand mal negativity or something else that makes you cringe. Your friend inevitably tells you, "He/She isn't always like this," which means one thing: He or she is always like this. You feel a little badly and just decide not to bring up the subject again from now until the end of the world.
I have no significant other to cause me this kind of embarrassment, but as a stand-in, I do have the place I chose to live in. Florida, for all its fine qualities, inevitably hits such a high number of clinkers on the social scale that I frequently find myself making excuses to friends who live in more progressive places, and also to myself. Whether we are too dumb to mark a ballot properly, too addled to find someone who can roust Jeb, or too steeped in our reputation as heaven's waiting room to ever have a good rep with the cool kids, Floridians always seem to have reason to say, "It's not always like this."
Another of those reasons has been getting lots of attention lately: Florida is one of only three states in America that bans gay couples from adopting children. We are right there with Utah, home to a dominant Mormon population, and Mississippi, with its glittering rep for backwards politics, in preventing children with no parents from having two mommies or two daddies.
The situation was brought into the spotlight in March when Rosie O'Donnell came out (leading many of us to wonder, why did she always drool about Tom Cruise? Was it to get to Nicole?) in order to lend some muscle to the cause of reversing this cobwebbed thinking.
It wasn't just random outrage. It was personal. The law had prevented O'Donnell, a Miami Beach resident, from adopting her own foster child -- a 5-year-old rape victim who O'Donnell heard about and tracked down at a home for sexually abused girls. But O'Donnell's case was just one of those in the news; she also drew attention to the case of a 10-year-old named Bert, who was born HIV-positive and has been the foster child of a gay Florida couple since he was 9 weeks old. A website devoted to the family's story (www.lethimstay.com) details Florida's decision to take Bert away from the only family he's ever known.
Encouragingly, enough attention has been brought to this sorry state of things that some of the former legislators who supported the original 1977 law are organizing to overturn it.
Most of us probably can think of way worse things than being adopted by a wealthy celebrity who's enamored of cakey snack foods. In fact, most of us probably can understand that the world was not nearly as socially advanced in 1977 as it is now, and we can see the absurdity of a law that keeps kids from loving, stable homes on the basis of prejudice.
Couple of nuts
If you can't see the problem immediately, consider some of the parents who, under Florida's current law, might have been preferable to someone like Rosie or Bert's foster parents, simply because they're heterosexual:
- Andrea Yates. A perfectly respectable, heavily religious, stay-at-home mom, the picture of what a lot of conservatives believe a girl oughta be. Until the murders.
- Susan Smith. A very kindly, apparently straight mother of two. True, she was in the process of divorcing, which isn't usually the status of choice when adoptive parents are being sought. Then there were the murders.
- O.J. and Nicole. Before the divorce, the 911 calls and the near beheading, they were a perfectly nice couple raising children of their own.
- he Buttafuocos. The picture of the happy family, until the psychotic teen that dad was diddling shot mom in the face.
You can bet this kind of stuff didn't go on between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Or Oscar Wilde and Bosie Douglas. Or Bert and Ernie. (Sorry, but it's not easy to name a lot of famous gay couples off the top of your head).
Obviously not all straight couples are wacka-nuts, and not all gay couples would make good parents. But you get the picture. Sexuality doesn't have much to do with how well-adjusted people are. Perhaps soon our legislature will figure that out. Then we'll have one less reason to say, "We're not always like this," and have absolutely no one believe it.