Father's Day, from a gay dad's perspective
June 13, 2001
When Oscar's biological dad asked me to take his son, he didn't ask whether I was gay. He wanted to know if Oscar would have a stable home where he would always be wanted and loved.
That was almost six years ago, one week before Christmas. Oscar was 3 years old, and I was working as a nurse practitioner in the children's clinic at a hospital in Miami. Oscar's family had been bringing him in because of health problems since he was a baby.
He had already been shuffled in and out of three different homes and was now living with his dad, who had just become homeless again. His dad loved him dearly but knew he couldn't take care of all of his children.
When he asked me to take Oscar, I agreed right away. I had thought about starting a family before, but that day my family found me.
To the people who mattered -- Oscar, his birth family and me -- my sexual orientation had no bearing on the adoption. But to the state of Florida, it was all that mattered.
Twenty-four years ago this week, Florida enacted the nation's broadest ban on lesbian and gay people adopting children. A gay person in Florida could not adopt a child under any circumstance. Two other states -- Utah and Mississippi -- also have laws banning us from adopting, and every year, other state legislatures consider passing similar laws.
In Florida's eyes, I am Oscar's "guardian." But this Sunday we will celebrate our fifth Father's Day together -- because in Oscar's eyes, and in his heart, that's who I am.
Later this year, Florida's ban on gay adoption will face its toughest challenge yet when a federal lawsuit challenging its constitutionality goes to trial. I'm a plaintiff in the American Civil Liberties Union case because I want to adopt Oscar. My son has had enough uncertainty in his life, and he deserves better.
Tens of thousands of children wait to be adopted in Florida, and hundreds of thousands more around the country. They are shuffled from one foster home to another, often until they turn 18.
People who favor keeping Florida's ban (and passing others like it) argue that children need both a mother and a father. But this doesn't reflect reality. Recent U.S. Census data shows that millions of children are being raised by single parents, unmarried couples, gay people or extended families.
I can't say what every child needs, but I do know what Oscar needs: attention, love, guidance and support. That's what he gets from me.
Not a single piece of credible evidence shows that being raised by a gay parent deprives a child of these things. The Florida law that prevents me from adopting Oscar is based on animosity toward gay people. It does not consider a child's welfare.
For years, Oscar felt unwanted and feared being abandoned. I've tried to calm his fears, but adopting him is the only way to show him that nothing will happen to our family. He needs that sense of security.
This weekend, Oscar and I will celebrate Father's Day as we have the last five years. We'll probably go to the beach and later go see a movie.
My wish this Father's Day is that it be the last I spend as his "guardian."
Doug Houghton is a nurse practitioner in Miami and is also working on his Ph.D. in nursing research. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.