By Jon Holden Galluccio
After following many stories in The Crimson, I felt the need to add my own. I am a gay man from New Jersey who, along with my husband, Michael, recently adopted a beautiful boy named Adam -- JOINTLY.
That accomplishment did not come easy, but it has taught us, if not many, a few lessons about homophobia, discrimination, bigotry and most importantly fear.
On June 17, 1997, the American Civil Liberties Union, Gay and Lesbian Rights Project filed a class action lawsuit against the state of New Jersey on our behalf. The lawsuit was a result of the state's refusal to allow us to jointly adopt our son since we were not married (not that we could be married!). Although the state recognized both of us as Adam's parents, they would not allow us to finalize his adoption jointly. The state insisted we create a farce, where Michael would adopt Adam first as a single parent and then I would petition the court anywhere from six months to a year later for a second parent adoption. The state was willing to put Adam at risk with this phony and expensive double adoption process rather than risk rocking the boat. Simply put, they were afraid.
Their fears became more important than the welfare of my son, for whom they were the legal guardians. If Michael had adopted our son alone, he would have been the only legal parent. If Michael were to die, what would have happened to Adam?
Of course, no one knows for sure. I do know, however, that I would have had no legal right to even petition the court for custody of my son. It is evident that the more legal rights we lack, the harder it is to protect ourselves, and more importantly, our children.
Fear however, cannot stop the march toward freedom. History validates fear as an obstacle, not as an end. Our nation was fearful of abolishing slavery, to the point that it literally divided the country. Slavery was abolished and the nation healed. Our nation was fearful over women having the right to vote. Yet we, as a nation, have gotten through that as well. A nation that was fearful of interracial marriage now has a sitting justice enjoying such a relationship.
New Jersey was fearful of two men adopting a little boy, and fearful of a little boy being nurtured to health by these two men. In one bold move, the State overcame its fear long enough to make New Jersey a leader. New Jersey became the first state in the nation to allow gay couples to adopt children on equal footing to married heterosexual couples. Across this nation, Americans were told of this historic decision, they were told the truth about our son and our struggle to adopt. They were asked to decide for themselves. While many Americans were fearful and uncomfortable with something different, they were nonetheless able to recognize the truth and accepted it. Editorials around the country shouted "Let Them Adopt!" There was opposition, as there always is, but it was so minimal that history will define it as insignificant.
On a personal note, we have received hundreds of letters, phone calls and even gifts. Everything we have received has been positive. Most response has been from heterosexuals. Our struggle to adopt our son thus demonstrates not only the gay community supporting its own, but the American Community supporting its own. For a while, it was like Miracle on 34th Street in this house, with people from all over our country writing, "We Believe!"
Now, we too believe. We believe in a country that is big enough and great enough to accept and nurture all of its citizens. We believe that most Americans are becoming painfully aware of persecution and inequality. We believe that their hearts are growing and soon, very soon, the love in their hearts will overpower the fear in their minds. It will speak louder than the hatred and evil we constantly battle.
I speak of America, a most special place, a country with a heart that beats on truth, on freedom, my country. God Bless America.
Jon Holden Galluccio lives in Maywood, N.J. His Web site is at http://gaynj.net/galluccio/ This editorial was originally written for the Harvard Crimson, and is reprinted with the author's permission.