In our ongoing weekly series of The Next Living Room, lesbian moms discuss the subtle comments that people make that can end up being hurtful. Share your stories, questions and thoughts with us in our comment section or via email at email@example.com.
Tuesday Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on behalf of a widow and three same-sex couples challenging Georgia’s discriminatory marriage ban. The case was filed on behalf of Christopher Inniss and Shelton Stroman of Snellville, Rayshawn Chandler and Avery Chandler of Jonesboro, Michael Bishop and Shane Thomas of Atlanta, and Jennifer Sisson of Decatur.
“Georgia is our home. Our family is here, our business is here, and our community here is a great support for us,” said Christopher Inniss, veterinarian and pet resort owner. “Shelton and I have been together for 13 years. We own a home together, we own a business together, and we are raising our son, Jonathan, together. We have done everything we can to protect and take responsibility for our family but marriage is the only way to ensure that we are treated as the family that we are. We need the protection that marriage affords.”
Lead plaintiffs Chris, 39, and his partner Shelton Stroman, 41, have been together for 13 years. Their son, Jonathan, is 9.
“Every day that same-sex couples in Georgia are denied the freedom to marry, the government sends a message that their families are not worthy of dignity and respect,” said Tara Borelli, Senior Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. “Georgians believe in the Southern values of love, honor and family, but as long as the State of Georgia continues to bar same-sex couples from marriage, it devalues these families and reinforces unfairness and discrimination.”
“Georgia joins a growing chorus of Southern voices clamoring for marriage equality. The freedom to marry is indeed coming south. We do not want a country divided by unfairness and discrimination. Same-sex couples are in loving, committed relationships in every region of our nation and should be treated the same way, whether they live in the Empire State or the Peach State,” said Beth Littrell, Senior Attorney also based in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office.
Joining Inniss and Stroman as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are: Rayshawn Chandler, 29, and Avery Chandler, 30, Atlanta Police Department police officers who have been together for almost three years; Michael Bishop, 50, and Shane Thomas, 44, together for seven years and the parents of two children; and Jennifer Sisson, 34, whose wife, Pamela Drenner, died on March 1 at age 49. Jennifer and Pam were married in New York in 2013. Despite being legally married, the State of Georgia has refused to list Jennifer as Pam’s wife on Pam’s death certificate.
In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal, joined by pro bono co-counsel from Bryan Cave and White & Case, argues that Georgia’s marriage ban unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples and sends a purposeful message that lesbians, gay men, and their children are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that different-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.
“Today’s filing represents a critically important step in the ongoing work toward marriage equality in Georgia. Georgia Equality stands with these inspiring couples in their fight to enable more than 21,000 same-sex couples and their families living in Georgia the freedom to marry the person who they love,” said Jeff Graham, Georgia Equality Executive Director.
Read the complaint here.
Learn more about Lambda Legal’s Love Unites US campaign here.
Lambda Legal attorneys Tara Borelli, Beth Littrell, Gregory Nevins, and Susan Sommer are handling the case, joined by Georgia co-counsel William V. Custer of Bryan Cave LLP and David P. Draigh of White & Case LLP.
The case is Inniss v. Aderhold.
This article is brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian.
By Rachel Sarnoff
When I read about an EPA study released earlier this year that found trace residues of at least 25 different drugs in drinking water, I panicked. This was on the heels of a study that linked acetaminophen in pregnancy with ADHD in children. If occasional use of endocrine-disrupting drugs like acetaminophen could affect a baby, what could they do to the rest of us if we were ingesting drugs on a daily basis through drinking water?
Are there drugs in my drinking water? Yes, as well as contaminants linked to cancer. After a moment of panic, I took these steps—and you should, too.
After calming down a bit, I decided to take some steps to assess the situation. First was figuring out what exactly was in my drinking water. So I hopped on over to theEnvironmental Working Group’s National Drinking Water Database to find out. This is a great and easy-to-use tool, but because it was last updated in 2009, the information may be out of date. (For more updated info, I could also have contacted my local utility for a water-quality report or called the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.)
The database couldn’t tell me what drugs were in my drinking water, but it did show levels of contaminants such as trihalomethanes as over the legal limit several times during the five-year period of testing. Trihalomethanes are disinfectants that are applied to water in treatment plantsand have been linked to liver, kidney and central nervous system problems, plus an increased risk of cancer. Oh, joy.
On the plus side, no mercury showed up in our drinking water. So there’s that.
I briefly considered converting my entire drinking water supply to bottled, until I realized that it could actually be worse for our health, because:
1. A Natural Resources Defense Council report found that 25% of bottled drinking water is actually tap water.
2. Although they now must label bottled water from municipal sources, manufacturers aren’t required to regularly test their water—or disclose what they find in it—unlike tap water, which is tested weekly by the EPA.
3. Many plastic water bottles contain hormone disrupting chemicals like BPA, which can leach into water.
4. Bottled water is expensive—ringing up as much as $50 per month for a family of four. And we’ve got five.
Instead, I took a deeper look at our refrigerator filtration system, which I use for cooking and drinking water. Ours is carbon made from coconut shells, which filters for chlorine, lead, sediment, dirt and rust. And I know from reading up on the EPA study that charcoal does work to filter some pharmaceuticals. Phew!
In the meantime, I checked out additional filtration options at EWG’s Water Filter Buying Guide. I’m fantasizing about a whole house reverse osmosis filter, which addresses substances that carbon can’t, such as arsenic and chromium—also detected in my drinking water—as well as perchlorate, which wasn’t.
And I’m also trying not to obsess about the drugs in our drinking water—although the study findings were truly frightening. Scientists examined samples from 50 wastewater plants and tested for 56 different drugs; they found medication to treat high blood pressure was found in the highest quantities, but over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and prescription drugs such as hydrocodone were also found.
It does make sense, considering a 2013 Mayo Clinic Study which found that 70 percent of Americans now take prescription drugs, compared to 48 percent just five years ago. The drugs get into our water when we excrete them or flush old drugs down the toilet.
But because the pharmaceuticals register in such small amounts—measured in parts per billion, in some cases—health officials aren’t worried about the risk to humans. However, some are concerned about their effect on plants and wildlife, especially fish.
In fact, last year the FDA denied a petition that would have required pharmaceutical companies to do a more thorough analysis of how drugs in wastewater will affect aquatic life.
In the meantime, scientists have been measuring pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supplyfor more than a decade, after fish were found to have both male and female characteristics linked to oral contraceptives.
Giving me even more reason to change my water filter.
To read more by Rachel Sarnoff, check out her blog.
Pharrell Williams would be “happy” if equality was reached for all people.
The 41-year-old singer was promoting his album G I R L on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and talked about pay inequality between men and women.
“There is a lot of inequality with women and you know how that goes,” he said. “Everything from, you know…still to this day, what is it, 73 cents to a man’s dollar? Like what is that? The last I heard, this whole entire species can only come into existence through the portal in a woman’s body.”
Pharrell went on to question how we have made so many scientific discoveries, yet we haven’t figured out equality.
“We’re a species that has had a space station floating around the earth for over 20 years – we even have a rover on a surface of Mars – how can we be the same species that has legislators and legislations in a place that are telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies?” He asked. “How is that possible?”
His belief of equality encompasses homosexuality as well and he lives by his motto “live and let live.”
“And when I saw equality – you may be surprised – I mean equality for everybody. Like, who are you telling who they can marry and who they can’t,” he said. “What is this? This is 2014.”
This article is brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian.
Photo Credit: Karl Hab
By Jillian Lauren
Tariku has finally been getting some targeted help for his sensory integration issues and it’s making a world of difference. It’s taken us years to land on a recipe that has been having some measurable and surprisingly quick results. I say this to give hope to any parents out there who feel like you’re reading every book and taking every class and spending your last dollar and you’re just beating your head against a wall. I’ve had those months. I actually had a pretty solid year-and-a-half like that. But the last biting incident he had at school set into motion a chain of events that led us to a great child development specialist, who sent us to a kick-ass occupational therapist and also helped us find a therapeutic aide for him in the classroom.
One thing I’ve noticed about the professionals who serve the special needs community is that they often refer to the children as “our children,” as a way of distinguishing them from kids who are developing more typically. As in, “It’s sometimes hard for our children handle unexpected touch.” Or, “Our children have a difficult time visually organizing new environments.” Etc.
I find it soothing. It makes me feel less alone and reminds me that children are raised by communities not individuals. We never asked to be a part of this particular community. Who does? Well, some very exceptional adoptive parents I know do, but most of the selfish rest of us don’t wake up and say- wow, I’d really like to go to lots and lots of therapy with my five-year-old until I’m so harried that I need some for myself as well. And yet here we are. What I’ve found is that I’ve met an amazing group of smart, tough, exceptionally compassionate individuals and they have improved not just my son’s life but also mine.
If you would like to read more by Jillian Lauren, check out her blog. You can also purchase her books on Amazon.
By Rachel Sarnoff
Are your Easter bunny plans in order? Try these tips to create a more natural Easter Basket this year that’s healthier for kids. Many egg dyes contain chemicals that aren’t safe for kids— including food dyes linked to ADHD and hyperactivity. But in minutes you can make dyes from frozen fruits and veggies that are already in your freezer. Then fill your upcycled Easter basket with truly natural chocolates, and deliver a healthier surprise this holiday.
Natural Easter Basket
Rather than buying new, consider reusing a basket you already have in your home—even plastic fruit baskets can work great. Add shredded newspaper comics (use a paper shredder or cut with scissors) for a great upcycled touch!
Fair Trade Chocolates
Despite Hersheys defense of its sustainability efforts in comments—after more than 500 Mommy Greenest readers petitioned for change—the facts remain that fair trade, organic chocolates like this cute, smiling chocolate bunny
these organic peanut-butter filled eggs
and these giftable bunny bars
nix pesticides and unfair labor practices that can make chocolate so not sweet. Because there’s nothing more tragically ironic than third-world children forced to labor to make chocolate for first-world kids.
DIY Egg Dye
Check your labels: Many dyes contain chemicals that aren’t safe for kids, such as propylparaben—an endocrine disruptor, which messes up your hormones—and sodium lauryl sulfate, a bubble-making ingredient used in cleaning and personal care products, as well asfood dyes linked to hyperactivity. Do you really want your kids to be eating that?
Instead, try this quick-and-easy egg dyeing technique using frozen fruits and veggies which are probably in your freezer already!
To read more from Rachel Sarnoff, check out her blog Mommy Greenest.
They say that money talks, and nowhere is that more true than in politics.
Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry is launching a $1 million campaign to reform the national Republican Party platform between now and the 2016 GOP convention. The group’s aim is to strike existing anti-gay language from the official party platform and replace it with more respectful and unifying language.
“It’s time to modernize the Republican Party,” said Tyler Deaton, campaign manager for the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry. “Our aim is to make the national platform less divisive toward gay people and their families – and more focused on unifying all conservatives around our core beliefs of freedom, family, and limited government. The future of the Party is clear on the marriage issue- a seismic shift is already underway in support of the freedom to marry.”
A Pew poll earlier this year shows 61 percent of Republicans under the age of 30 supporting gay couples marrying. Another poll by the New York Times/CBS News shows a majority of Republicans under 45 are also supportive.
The campaign is also in response to the Republican National Committee’s post-2012 election Growth and Opportunity Project. “We do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view,” noted the report. “Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays…If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out.”
“Reform the Platform” will begin touring the early primary states of New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina this spring and summer.
Young Conservatives propose striking the anti-gay and anti-freedom to marry references in five different sections of the official platform. The group also wants to replace the divisive language with unifying language that reads:
We believe that marriage matters both as a religious institution and as a fundamental, personal freedom. Because marriage—rooted in love and lifelong commitment—is one of the foundations of civil society, as marriage thrives, so our nation thrives.
We believe that the health of marriage nationwide directly affects the social and economic well-being of individuals and families, and that undermining families leads to more government costs and more government control over the lives of its citizens. Therefore, we believe in encouraging the strength and stability of all families.
We recognize that there are diverse and sincerely held views on civil marriage within the Party, and that support for allowing same-sex couples the freedom to marry has grown substantially in our own Party. Given this journey that so many Americans, including Republicans, are on, we encourage and welcome a thoughtful conversation among Republicans about the meaning and importance of marriage, and commit our Party to respect for all families and fairness and freedom for all Americans.
This is brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian.
By Vijay S. Mann
My son was born last August. I’m a believer in the notion that everything happens for a reason at that time. I believe that this new being came here to challenge me, change me, and make me see the world and myself in new ways.
When he was born, I felt incredibly powerful and yet unimaginably vulnerable at the same time. It’s one thing to have the ability to create life, but it’s an entirely different thing to nurture and protect it. It’s like pulling your heart out of your body and letting it walk into the world. A beautiful yet ugly world.
A plethora of feelings rushed through me as I held him for the first time. The first one I remember was nervousness; he was so new and fragile and I didn’t want to hurt him in any way as I held him.
Then came elation. He was healthy, my wife was fine, and I was now a dad. Some time later, I was struck by a feeling of fright. I realized that this wasn’t about me anymore and that I was now responsible for another human being. I felt an incredible weight on my shoulders at that time, realizing that I was now responsible for the life, health, development, and happiness of another. I was now responsible for molding a good person, who is to be an asset to his family, community, and society in general.
How was I going to mold this person when I have so many faults of my own?
I had had these thoughts during the pregnancy, but now it was staring me in the face. Crying. I recall feeling shame as well. Shameful for believing that some of my freedom for being yanked from me and in turn, I was being handed responsibility.
How could I think that when I was gifted this child? Moreover, how could I think that knowing this was a decision I was a part of?
These brief yet disturbing thoughts quickly faded. I felt assured that everything would work out, as it always does.
I now carry with me a sense of appreciation. I appreciate the opportunity I have to raise a child, an opportunity many wish they had, but aren’t as fortunate. I also feel appreciation in that I have the chance to teach my son from my mistakes in hopes that he makes better decisions in his life. I think of him as my do-over. He’ll be a new and improved me. A better me than maybe I’ll ever be, or I hope to be.
In that respect, he’s already changing me. I feel a greater sense of calm now; a calm I don’t recall feeling before. This doesn’t mean that I’ll be walking around with an aura of serenity. There are a number of things that still trigger me. And there are new things to deal with. Among them are diaper-changes. As much as I love my child, I still have that “Oh shit” moment when I have to change him. Pun intended.
And there will be greater frustrations and challenges along the way, which will test my new found calmness. This is just the beginning. Life is now a road from Pampers to a university campus, and beyond. RESPs, birthdays, school, friends, heartbreaks and happiness, and everything in between await us.
What he will feel, I will feel as well. There will be the things I can’t foresee as well—things he’ll have to go through on his own. I’ve come to realize that I can do the best that I can as a parent and some things will be out of my control.
The central focus of my life is my child now. Every significant and perhaps not so significant thing I do now will have some effect on him. How I think, act, and speak will be of some consequence to my child. What I believe and value will be the beliefs and values my child will be raised upon.
I can’t help but to think about the film The Place Beyond the Pines. Decisions that parents make create the legacies they leave behind for their children. Fatherhood has become my most significant branching point and this one is indeed a branch; an addition to the family tree.
My life is forever altered through parenthood. It’s an experience that is making me a better person. I felt new life being breathed into me at that moment he was born. I experienced a kind of love that I never felt before; one not built on reciprocity, but one more selfless.
I once read that your children are something you love more than your own life and something you die for without a second thought. I can say that I understand this now. I have many hopes for him. My ultimate hope is that he becomes a person who lives with dignity for himself and compassion for others. This is now my duty.
This article was originally published on The Good Men Project.
Image courtesy of the author
By Jillian Lauren
A friend left a comment on my recent post about raising boys and it got me thinking. This friend’s child has multiple special needs and is confined to a wheelchair. In the comment, she suggested that exposing children to diversity (not just in concept) contributes to compassion. Most of the children who have grown up around her son are empathetic and kind with him.
A transgendered friend has also shared with me that the kids she grew up with from early childhood were always accepting. She began to have problems when she changed schools as a teen and encountered kids who were unfamiliar with her gender identification.
When I consider diversity, race is usually the first thing on my mind. When I was first visiting pre-schools, I always looked around and counted the number of brown faces I saw, putting it into my mental filing cabinet. My friend’s comment reminded me that diversity goes way beyond race. Parents of children with special needs offer something of great value to any school or community.
Sometimes the rabid competition to get into good schools in Los Angeles can prompt me to think in a conformist way and try to portray my family as something more mainstream than we truly are. I want to always remember that our strength is in difference. That is where we shine.
To read more from Jillian Lauren, check out her blog. You can also purchase her books on Amazon.
By Brandy Black
The Next Family has launched a new video series called “The Next Living Room” in which my wife and I will be addressing various topics of discussion around family. We would love your input and suggestions for future shows. It is a 2-3 minute video that will run once a week. Today’s topic is “the other mother.” How do you describe yourself? Lesbian dad, the other mother, non-bio mom, or are you like my wife, see what she has to say.