Editor: How much difference can a single mile make in the protection the law offers a family? Jason and Justin, an adoptive family from Nebraska, answer this question and describe their efforts to improve the situation.
Justin and I enjoy our warm sunny evenings sharing dinner on the Missouri River after a long day at work. We sit on the Nebraska riverfront landing looking over at the water as we face the Iowa border. After dinner we take a 3-mile walk with our black lab Molly that includes crossing a 3000-foot pedestrian bridge crossing the river. We remember this bridge distinctly as part of our weekly walk along the river. Not just because the bridge is huge or because we get a good view of the sun setting, but because there is a line shown in the cement calling out the border of Nebraska as we cross into Iowa. When the bridge was first opened, it was fun to straddle the line and joke about being in two states at once. But lately when I see the line I am filled with a sense of disappointment that I can step over from one state where my relationship of ten years with Justin can be recognized in marriage. Stepping back to Nebraska, our relationship means nothing in the eyes of the state. The same line also has legal implications when we do adopt depending on where we meet our birthmother. While Iowa recognizes second parent adoption, when we cross back onto the Nebraska side we are no longer allowed to adopt jointly and only one of us will be recognized as the legal parent.
In March of this year, Justin and I decided we needed to help be a voice of change so that when we see that line on our walk, it no longer symbolizes the inequality between the states. We assisted with a postcard campaign to get a bill out of the Nebraska State Judiciary Committee that supported the need to allow second parent adoption by two unmarried qualified adults in Nebraska. We collected post cards and helped people find their senator to write to at tables in our church at the morning and evening services. At the end of the day, our 150 postcards were pulled together with thousands of other voices from around the city. The group that helped organize the postcard campaign took the postcards to Lincoln, Nebraska to deliver to the senators.
While it was a normal hectic workweek, I found time to drive to Lincoln with other supporters of the bill and make my voice heard. On the way to Lincoln, my mind drifted to the thought of what life would be like if this bill did not pass allowing for second parent adoption. It would mean for us if one parent not recognized legally tried to take our child to the hospital in the event of emergency, they could be turned away for healthcare because they were not a legal parent on paper. Imagine arriving at the hospital in a panic to find my partner of ten years and our child together waiting in the emergency room unable to enter because their one dad was not permitted to make medical decisions.
Or if something happened where one of us passed away in an accident and the certainty of our child staying with their living dad would be in jeopardy because only one of their parents would be recognized as under the law. Both dads shared in all the joys of watching them grow up, raising them, and reading to them before bed equally. But now that equally part is seen differently – now the state is allowed to tell our child that one of their dads didn’t mean as much and is not legally recognized as a parent because second parent adoption is not the law in Nebraska.
We pride ourselves on figuring out this winding path of LGBT adoption in our state along with other brave people. We don’t know what hurdle is waiting for us on the next leg of our journey – but we are not afraid to keep going until we hold our child safely in our arms. So that day in Lincoln, I got to share the story about adoption and the journey Justin and I are on. I made my voice heard about why the bill to support second-parent adoption was important for the safety and security of our LGBT family. And people heard it. I got emails, texts, phone calls, and Facebook messages. But best of all we now have a chapter to tell our wonderful birth mother in our adoption story. We now have a chapter to share with our child in our adoption story. A story that we hope shows our child how much we loved and cared for them before we were even able to hold them tight in our arms.
Justin and I both are keeping an eye on where marriage equality and the second parent adoption bill take us in Nebraska over the next year. Once we do match with a birthmother and adopt our child, we want to ensure we are not only protecting each other, but our child too. It’s amazing that one little line on the bridge can separate a committed loving family from so many basic rights that people take for granted every day. We know there are many many other lines like this in our world. And we hope our child comes into a world and continues to not be afraid to step over the lines to be part of the change their dads hoped for — a world where there is equality for other LGBT families that provide safe, loving, compassion-filled homes full of dreams and hopes for their children.
If you would like to see the video of Jason’s interview from channel 8 in Lincoln (KLKN) , click here.
Read more about Jason and Justin’s journey to become parents on adopt.JasonandJustin.com.