Co-written by Jon and Michael Galluccio
It was the spring of 1982 when we fell in love at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University). Jon, 18, was a freshman majoring in Speech/Theatre Communications and Michael, just 20, was a sophomore majoring in Advertising. It all began in our fraternity house, the Tau Kappa Epsilon or the TeKE house, as it was referred to. Fate had brought us together through Jon's pledging and Michael's hazing. Jon jokingly says that the best revenge to Michael's pledging antics was to "marry" him, so he did.
It should have been the happiest time of our life. We were blissfully filled with true love for the first and only time of our lives. Instead, it was the saddest time. We came out to our families and were greeted not with open arms but with fear, anger, sadness, confusion and rejection. Our parents took it hard. There were a variety of objections but one statement was consistent:
"Oh my God, this means we will never have your grandchildren."
To us, this us was an accepted fact - Gay Men Don't Have Children. It seemed there were many prices to pay for honoring our love for one another. This was one of the heaviest. But it was our choice, was it not? Of course not!
Jon had dreams of fatherhood and service to his country since he was a child, maybe even as early as his Cub Scout days. Michael too had spent the better part of his youth working and caring for and teaching children. It took more than ten years before we, ourselves, could accept the fact that we were people just like everyone else.
Gay Men Do Have Children. For us their names are Adam, Madison and Rosa.
In 1995, we moved from our "fabulous" duplex apartment off Central Park on the Upper West Side of Manhattan into a modest stucco home in the suburb of Maywood, NJ. We were on our way to fulfilling our dreams of a family, dreams which once were shattered.
Shortly after moving in, we applied with the state to become foster and adoptive parents. Nine months later, after being screened, investigated, trained and inspected we received a call from the Child Placement Specialist with the Division of Youth and Family Services of New Jersey. This call, three days before Christmas, would change our lives in more ways than we could have ever predicted.
Adam was two and a half months old. He weighed eleven pounds. He was testing positive for HIV, Tuberculosis, and Hepatitis C. He had a hole in his heart, a cardiac arrhythmia and an enlarged liver. His lungs were damaged due to merconian aspiration syndrome at birth and RSV when he was a month old. He was also still going through severe drug withdrawal. In his system at birth were crack, heroin, methadone, marijuana, nicotine and alcohol.
It was one of the happiest days of our life.
After nursing him back to health, he had become free for adoption and so we filed to adopt. It was then and only then did our homosexuality become an issue. The fact that we were an unmarried couple is what caused concern with the State. New Jersey did not allow joint adoptions by unmarried couples. We were in a "Catch 22". In our state, or any for that matter, we could not become a married couple.
We challenged the state policy. It was discriminatory and clearly not in the best interest of our child. On June 19, 1997, we filed a class action lawsuit against the State of New Jersey to have the policy stricken from the books.
In the meantime, the state saw us fit enough to place another child, Andrew, born to similar circumstances, with us. He was a foster child that we would, in 5 months time, return to live with his grandparents. On the day we surrendered Andrew to his grandparents, we retain the ACLU to fight our case to adopt Adam in earnest. Oddly enough, it was also the day the state would call to tell us about our little girl Madison. And with Madison would eventually come her older sister Rosa.
To date, we have won all our battles with the state. Adam was legally adopted by both of us on October 22, 1997. On December 17, 1997, the State of New Jersey settled the class action lawsuit in our favor, making New Jersey the first state in the nation to have a statewide policy that put homosexual couples on equal footing with married couples in the matter of adoption.
Whether its public speaking or the written word, we are committed to helping one another with issues of coming out. But most of all, we believe we are continuing to fight for the best interests of our children, all of our children.
Gay men can and do have children and you too can make a difference in the plight of America's most vulnerable children, children "lost in the system".
So we urge you to stand up to legislation that would forbid this. Legislation forfeiting the rights of these vulnerable children to secure a good loving permanent home. Stand up for your right to be that home. You may not be ready to parent today but if and when you are ready, you will be glad you stood up now.
Above all, these children will grow up knowing that the gay and lesbian community fought to protect and nurture them, when others only used them as political pawns.
Jon and Michael