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2.9 Million Orphans, Happy Father’s Day

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States Offering Full Marriage Equality Have Lowest Rates Of Child

Homelessness

Editor’s note: This piece originally ran on Father’s Day, 2009.

There are 2.9 million children in America living with no parents – and 1.6 million American children are homeless. 2.9 million is almost 1 percent of the entire U.S. population – and that figure is five years old. Half a million U.S. children live with foster parents.

Those half a million foster kids? Only half will graduate high school, only 2% will earn a Bachelor’s degree. The day they turn 18, 30% will have no health insurance and will be on public assistance.

Last November, voters in Arkansas decided that unmarried couples – same-sex couples, obviously – should not be allowed to adopt children. Voters in Florida came up with the same result, but at least a Florida court later that month rightly deemed Florida’s 30 year-old ban on homosexuals adopting children unconstitutional.

Now for some more hard facts. Arkansas ranks third worst in child homelessness in America, and its state’s planning and policy on child homelessness, unsurprisingly, is deemed “inadequate” by The National Center on Family Homelessness. (Florida is not much better: 43rd out of 50.) There are a quarter of a million children living in poverty in Arkansas, and almost 19,000 homeless children, 8,000 of whom are under six years old. And if you think this is an issue that affects minorities the most, well, in Arkansas, 54% of those poverty-stricken children are white.

Yet, despite all these statistics, and the pain, suffering, and severe emotional distress associated with child homelessness, Arkansas would rather let its children suffer than allow gay and lesbian couples – married or not – adopt. In addition to Arkansas (which, you’ll remember, ranks #48), Michigan (#29), Mississippi (#41), and Utah (#37) all prohibit same-sex couples to jointly petition for adoption. Nebraska (#34), according to The National Gay And Lesbian Task Force, “prohibits adoption by individuals ‘who are known by the agency to be homosexual or who are unmarried and living with another adult.'”

While there might be no direct correlation, right now, the states that offer full marriage equality are also among the states that rank lowest in child homelessness. Connecticut (#1), New Hampshire (#2), Massachusetts (#8), Maine (#9), Vermont (#10), and Iowa (#11). Hawaii, with a long-standing domestic partnership history, ranks #3. Utah, by comparison, which ranks #38, prohibits adoption by “a person who is cohabiting in a relationship that is not a legally valid and binding marriage.” Coincidence?

Is it possible that the states that truly care about children and families are the states that care about all children and all families?

Given the current economic crisis, there can be no doubt these numbers will dramatically worsen this year.

And speaking of all children, it is estimated that 40% of all homeless children are LGBTQ youth. These children – and they most certainly are children – are more likely, according to the Task Force, “to use drugs, participate in sex work, and attempt suicide.” What a shame that there are so many same-sex couples who would be thrilled to adopt children. What a shame they often are prohibited from doing so. What a shame that those same-sex couples who have adopted children are prohibited from marrying, further alienating the children from society.

In America, most gay and lesbian couples are not allowed to marry. In the six states that now support full marriage equality, these couples can marry but are still deprived the 1138 federal benefits their heterosexual married peers enjoy. In America, many gay and lesbian couples are not allowed to adopt as a family. One member often, although in some states not at all, may adopt, the other member, essentially, is forced to “pretend.” These couples face the additional burden of fear should a family member go to the hospital, and the additional burden of greater taxes than their heterosexual peers. Given all same-sex families have to do to ensure their relationships are recognized legally and socially, it’s a crime the government, which claims to have an interest in supporting the family, does not see an interest in supporting same-sex families.

Families in America, many families, are in crisis. Throughout America, there are groups chartered with the claimed mission of “protecting the family.” They work to do anything but. Take the National Organization For Marriage, for instance. Maggie Gallagher, its founder, reportedly takes an average one-third of all money her organization collects. On top of that, they claim they spent $1.5 million to produce and air a commercial which was designed to drum up fear and hatred of homosexuals and gay marriage. That means that people around the country donated more than two and a quarter million dollars to “protect the family,” and got for it a TV ad and a hefty salary for Mrs. Gallagher. $2.25 million dollars could have gone a long way in helping families learn to cope with the challenges this new economy is forcing them to face. Heck, $2.25 million dollars could have gone a long way to help those quarter of a million kids living in poverty in Arkansas.

What are we saying as a country that claims moral leadership of the free world, a country that claims to celebrate the family, and yet denies the very right to create and maintain a family to millions of its citizens? What are we saying to the half a million children in foster care who aren’t being adopted, when we deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry or the right to adopt children as a family? What are we saying to the children of America when we celebrate holidays like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day and Christmas, spending billions of dollars to promote a fantasy, while their fantasy is merely to have two adults take care of them, feed them, clothe them, school them, protect them, spend time with them, love them? And what are we saying to the millions of homeless and orphaned children who hear ads on TV that say, “This Father’s Day, be sure to give Dad the very best”? Why don’t we have a Children’s Day, so we could remember our obligation to give children our very best, including homes with parents who love them.

To the hundreds of thousands of single gays and lesbians raising children, biologically yours or not, and to the hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples raising children, biologically one of yours or not, I say, thank you.

To the millions of people who ever voted to ban same-sex couples from adopting children, to the millions more who have voted against marriage equality or gay adoption, I say, shame on you. And to the millions of orphaned and homeless children, I say, there is hope.

(image: Pink Sherbet Photography)


See Also:

Out And Alone: Gay Homeless Youth (The New York Times Multimedia)

Young. Gay. Homeless. (YouTube video)

The National Center on Family Homelessness

Child Welfare Information Gateway

The Trevor Project

1-800-RUNAWAY

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News

‘Taking Us All for Fools’: Critics Decimate Greg Abbott’s Claims and Defense of His Actions in Wake of School Shooting

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Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott in a press conference that left reporters frustrated defended his actions and insisted his earlier praise for law enforcement’s widely criticized response to the Uvalde school massacre was the result of being “misled.”

“I am livid about what happened,” Abbott declared, blaming others for his “recitation of what people in that room told me.”

Critics aren’t buying his claims.

Abbott, who’s in the middle of a heated re-election campaign, appeared extremely defensive when reporters asked him questions.

“Let’s be clear about one thing. None of the laws I signed this past session had any intersection with this crime at all,” Abbott told reporters when asked if he would call the legislature back for a special session, as The Texas Tribune’s Sewell Chan noted.

“No law that I signed allowed him to get a gun,” Abbott insisted.

“The answers fell pretty flat,” opined MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, who noted the press event lasted just 36 minutes, less time than the police officers “stood outside and did nothing,” which was 47 minutes.

Abbott ended the press conference with many reporters almost begging him to take more questions. As the governor got up and left one frustrated reporter was caught on a hot mic saying “unbelievable.”

Chan, who is the editor in chief of the Tribune, added on Twitter: “Abbott rejects background checks as a simplistic and ineffective fix. Wouldn’t have prevented Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe shootings, he says. Tries to turn focus to broken mental health system.”

Former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi on MSNBC delivered a strong rebuke to Governor Abbott’s remarks.

“No amount of free flights, no amount of free caskets, no amount of mental health counseling is going to bring back any one of those murdered children,” Figliuzzi said, referring to Abbott’s announcement an anonymous donor is putting up  $175,000 for funeral expenses of those who were murdered in the shooting and said the state will pay for mental health treatment.

Abbott also insisted that since Texas became a state it’s been legal for 18-year-olds to buy long guns.

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was murdered in the Parkland school shooting, blasted Abbott:

And long guns of today, as Figliuzzi noted, are often semi-automatic “killing machines.”

“The governor seems completely unable to understand that he can easily make a distinction when you’re talking about whether an 18-year-old should buy an assault rifle or not. And all he cares about is a century of history in Texas on long guns. We didn’t have the AR-15 style assault weapons back then.  He can easily make a distinction and say, ‘you can go hunting, here are the rifles you can do, you can buy, you can possess – and here’s an assault-style rifle.'”

“If he thinks that people are stupid and unable to understand that there is a clear distinction between a killing machine and a hunting rifle, that he’s taking us all for fools.”

 

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‘I Apologize for Interrupting Your Press Conference’: Tearful Texas Democrat Urges Greg Abbott to ‘Do Something’ on Guns

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The Texas Democratic State Senator who represents Uvalde stood up during Greg Abbott’s Friday afternoon press conference and almost begged the Republican Governor to “do something” about gun violence after Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School that took 21 lives.

Abbott was trying to place the blame for the school shooting on mental health despite the gunman having no documented issues, and told attendees, “we’re focusing our attention on the wrong thing.”

That was not good enough for Democratic State Senator Roland Gutierrez, who politely introduced himself and said, “I’m not making a political speech.”

“My colleagues are asking for a special session, you’re getting a letter tomorrow,” from the Senate Democratic Caucus.

“We’ve asked for gun control changes – I’m asking you now, bring us back in three weeks.”

Gutierrez grew emotional, sounding as if he was choking up, and added, “I apologize for interrupting your press conference about the needs of this community. I’ve been here for three days with all of these elected officials – this county judge has been working his ass off,” he continued.

“I don’t know how to express the loss of the families that I’ve talked to,” he added.

“You have to do something, man,” Gutierrez said, all but begging the governor to take action, and saying his “own colleagues are calling me and telling me this is enough.”

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Watch: Right Wing Host at NRA Convention Likens 18 Year Olds Buying Guns to 3rd Graders Deciding Gender

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A host from a right-wing streaming service covering the NRA convention in Houston decided to compare conservatives’ growing active opposition to the rights and existence of transgender people, to the majority of Americans demanding expanded gun control legislation.

“We are being told by the left that a third-grader has the knowledge to determine if they were born a boy or they were born a girl, whether or not they want to stay that gender that they were born with,” said Brian Glenn, Right Side Broadcasting’s director of programming and correspondent.

“And if we feel like at a third grade you can make decisions on your gender, then I think by the time you’re 18 you should have enough maturity – assuming you’re not a complete psychopath – to buy a handgun and exercise your Second Amendment.”

Of course, that hypothetical third-grader is harming exactly no one and later can reverse that decision if they choose, which the vast majority do not.

That hypothetical 18-year old, or, in the case of this week’s horrific tragedy, an actual 18-year old, buying two AR-15 style assault weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition within three days of their 18th birthday, gunning down 21 people including 19 elementary school children, cannot reverse any of those decisions.

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