The Churches Have Legalized Discrimination In America: Ellen Masters

By Ellen Masters


“Jake” at Sea World

Do I need to leave America to be free?

I am a natural-born citizen of the United States. I attended public schools and earned a college degree here. I have worked here. I have owned property here. I pay taxes here. I vote here. I have no criminal record. I even volunteer for charities. I’m a nice person, really.

But . . . it is illegal for me to marry the person of my choice here. It is illegal for me to adopt a child in my resident state of Florida. I am not welcome to serve my country in the military. I can be denied housing without recourse.

I have fewer civil rights than your average incarcerated serial killer. Doesn’t that just make you want to wave around the American flag?

Why am I a second-class citizen? I’m a lesbian and religious bias infiltrates this country’s laws.

What a religious text says should have nothing to do with the laws of this country. Wasn’t that the main purpose of this country in the first place? I vaguely remember something from history class about not letting the church control the government. The laws governing citizen behavior, rights, and responsibilities should be based on common sense and secular ethics as decided by the people. But no, that’s not the way it is here in good ole U. S. of A.

The Christian extremists have pushed law after ordinance after ban until they’ve homogenized our civil rights. Note you don’t see a lot of Buddhist or Jewish Americans pulling this trick because they know what discrimination feels like. Regardless of their blubbering, modern American Christian extremists have no clue what discrimination feels like.

At every turn, the god people oppress and discriminate against gay and lesbian citizens. OK, not that gays ever had any rights here or anywhere in the first place, but that’s because they were all forced into the closet, afraid of being burned at the stake or hanged for wearing a dress, or for not wearing a dress. They made gay sex illegal. That is so none of their business. The police raided gay bars and bath houses, arresting hundreds. Then the Stonewall Riots of 1969 blew the closet door off in America and strides were made for gay rights. (You can only push a 6-foot drag queen so far before she whips off her size 18 stiletto and nails you.)

This sort of discrimination is a state/church entanglement of enormous magnitude. All of this legalized discrimination angers me, but the two thorns in my side are the gay marriage and gay adoption issues. Let me share with you just how this type of discrimination manifests itself.

Let’s start with gay marriage.

According to

There are over 1,138 federal rights, responsibilities and privileges that come with civil marriage, as well as additional rights per individual state. These are rights, privileges and responsibilities that tax-paying gay and lesbian couples aren’t allowed equal access to. Most people, regardless of sexual orientation, don’t even know what all those rights are. These include the ability to make medical decisions, family medical leave, custody of children, rights of inheritance, taxation, survivors’ rights, and many more. In 1996 and then again in 2003, the General Accounting Office compiled a report of more than 1,138 federal rights.

The recent rash of state constitutional bans on gay marriage moved across the nation like a virus at a preschool. Perhaps we will never have equal rights in that regard. And just think of all that lost revenue for bridal boutiques, formalwear retailers, florists, cake decorators, caterers, and the companies who make those little plastic bride and groom cake toppers. Oh, those are made in China, never mind. You’d think those companies would be lobbying for gay marriage like crazy. Sadly, I feel the gay marriage issue is about to be a moot point.

* * *

On to the gay adoption issue:

Gay adoption is not about adopting a homeless gay person into your home to help you decorate or garden, as you might think. It is about gays and lesbians adopting the children that heterosexual parents discard or cannot care for because they’re high on crack or incarcerated. Not that I’m making a statement. I’m not going to point out the epidemic rate of divorce, child abuse, abductions, runaways, drug use, teen pregnancy, smoking, binge drinking, and other awful things that this country’s youth are suffering from because of their heterosexual parents’ ineptitude, ignorance, and selfishness. Are all children of gays and lesbians great kids? No, of course not. But neither are they inordinately more troubled than the offspring of straight parents.

Florida is the only state in the union with an outright ban on adoptions by homosexuals. Florida gays are allowed to foster children . . . for now. The fundies are trying to fix that.

My partner and I would have adopted a homeless child, but no, the Republican/Christian-dominated state legislature decided two lesbians are not fit to be parents. Hmmm, they give out marriage licenses willy nilly. They don’t license parents, yet they decide across the board that homosexuals cannot be parents. Let’s review the Constitution of Florida:

We, the people of the State of Florida, being grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty, in order to secure its benefits, perfect our government, insure domestic tranquility, maintain public order, and guarantee equal civil and political rights to all, do ordain and establish this constitution. [emphasis mine]

The Christian right asserts that homosexuals are not fit to be parents. They have asserted this fallacy right into law. It’s bad enough that they think we have sex hanging from chandeliers; now they think we’re going to teach our children the secret gay handshake. They seem to think it’s a choice and that young children can be swayed to swish. Clearly, they’ve never met a strong-willed child. I was raised by heterosexual Christians and look how I turned out–a lesbian atheist, or is it atheist lesbian? The reality is that there is mounting evidence that sexuality is genetic. It’s not a choice. Who would choose to be a social outcast, besides Marilyn Manson?

Nonetheless, my illegal wife and I decided to become parents a few years ago. The only way to go about that here is to either go through an expensive private adoption agency and lie about being homosexual, thus risking having the child taken away if the lie is discovered, or have the child yourself. (Gay men in this state have no legal way to become parents.) We opted for a pregnancy. I’ll spare you the details. We have a three-year-old son now.

In order to legally protect our little family as best we could, we had to hire a lesbian attorney to draw up papers regarding our sperm donor’s forfeiture of parental rights and my agreement not to pursue him for child support. Also, we had to legally make sure my partner would be the first and only person to gain guardianship of our son in the event of my death or severe impairment. We also had to include language that gives her the right to make medical decisions for me in the event that I become impaired. Without it, she could be barred from visiting me in the emergency room.

We had to pay a substantial sum (cha-ching) for this legal paperwork, but it is worth it. Even though it may not stand up in court, since there is no legal precedent, at least it indicates our intent. She has to take this paperwork with her everywhere she goes.

Just prior to our son’s birth, I decided to legally change my name so that my partner and I and our son would all have the same last name. This cost a few hundred dollars (cha-ching) and a few hours of paperwork, court time, and missed work. It was more costly and inconvenient than if I had simply applied for a marriage certificate and done my name change that way. Hmmm.

My son’s birth certificate states that I am his mother, but the father line is left blank. There is no line for illegal wife. In the state of Florida, if you are not married, you do not have to put a father’s name down. My partner cannot adopt our son, unless I forfeit parental rights. She has no parental rights or responsibilities for him whatsoever. She could walk away at any time. Fortunately, our relationship is based on trust, not a piece of paper issued by the government.

Last fall I had to leave my job. I had opted to continue health insurance benefits from my employer through COBRA. I have had to pay over $700 a month since then to cover myself and my son. If my partner and I could get married and she could adopt him (without my giving up parental rights), then we could have utilized her health insurance and saved hundreds of dollars. This has been financially very difficult for us (cha-ching).

We are devoted parents who make sure our son is well-nourished, immunized, well-educated, healthy and receives proper pediatric medical care, is warm and safe, gets enough sleep, lots of books, and tons of affection and nurturing. We respect him and offer him choices and ask his opinion. We do not ever hit him. He is the most well-spoken student in his class in daycare (which we didn’t enroll him in until he was two years old). We are teaching him to think for himself, so that he will know how to handle life based on his own character, not that of a peer group, thus making him less likely to make poor choices. We intercept and recycle the bible storybooks that Grandma mails to him. We are trying to keep his cute little noggin as religion-free as possible.

When he is old enough to date, we will carefully screen his love interest and possibly hire a P.I. for background checks and surveillance, just like any other parent of a teenager does. As long as he is happy (and his date has a clean record), we don’t care who he falls in love with, or what career he decides to pursue. He doesn’t have to go to Harvard; we just want him to know his own heart and follow it.

Is my child going to be emotionally/psychologically damaged because he is being raised by two loving mothers? I seriously doubt it. He’s going to be emotionally/psychologically damaged, because he is being raised by parents who are closeted Miles Davis fans.

“But your child won’t have a father figure!” I hear that from my mother. And by that do you mean a man to teach him how to be a man? Does it take testicles and facial hair to teach a child to respect himself, respect others, shave a beard, tie a tie, pee standing up? I think not. Is my son going to go through life not knowing any men? Not unless we move to Northampton, Mass.

I’m not saying we’re the best parents in the world. OK, I am. And how dare anyone say that because I am partnered with a woman instead of married to a man, I am somehow not a good mother. Especially some Jesus freak.

Exhibit A

This summer, a handful of Christian right protesters showed up at the local St. Pete Gay & Lesbian Pride event with a police escort and a megaphone, shouting about homosexual sex acts in detail to the crowd. OK, A) Thanks for the blow by blow, but all of us get it. B) Many children were in the crowd, including my own. Fortunately, he is too young to understand. I was incensed, but knew better than to engage them.

Exhibit B

While at a local playground this summer, I witnessed a mother reprimand her toddler for not saying “Forgive me” after apologizing. The little girl had pushed my son off a ride. A simple “sorry” would have sufficed. But this mother kept insisting that her daughter ask for forgiveness. The girl refused to say it (of course, she was three). The mother told the girl she couldn’t play any more and they left. It’s a good thing, because my son wouldn’t have known how to respond to “Forgive me” anyway and I didn’t want to have to explain it.

When I think of the psychological damage that brainwashing a child about religion and god can cause, I just cringe. I don’t think religionists are fit to be parents, and I certainly wouldn’t want any right-wing Christians around my kid!

In a few years, we will be searching for a state to move to that will provide the maximum amount of legal protection for us as a family. I have literally spent hundreds of hours over the past few years trying to find that one location that offers us the most protection, and, of course, decent weather, excellent schools, clean air and water, abundant jobs, affordable, newer housing, etc. I found it: it’s called Oz.

Massachusetts allows gay marriage, and only this year changed the law to permit second-parent adoption (i.e., the partner adopts the child and the biological mother maintains parental rights). Oddly, I’ve noticed that several states allow gays to adopt or allow the partner to adopt the other partner’s adopted child, but not the other partner’s biological child (called second parent adoption). Hello! Plus there’s no saying Massachusetts will continue to allow gay marriage forever.

According to the Human Rights Campaign web site (, as of April 2006, California, Connecticut, D.C., Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont currently allow second parent adoption, either with expressly written laws, or higher court interpretation. Some states have allowed it in lower courts, which pretty much means we’d be in for a lawsuit, of which we cannot afford, nor do we want to drag our son and our names into the public. But only one of these states allows gay marriage–Massachusetts. One state in the whole country would grant us the civil rights to marry and do a second parent adoption.

But there’s no saying Massachusetts will continue to allow these rights forever anyway.

We should be able to live anywhere we want in this country and have the same rights. This is America, land of the free, right?

But alas, I am arguing with intellect and common sense. The Christian right argues with emotions and propaganda. Their leaders use rhetoric to play political games to advance careers and gain power. On my side, families are deeply affected, civil rights are denied, and citizens are unfairly financially burdened. They say gay rights groups are all about political agendas, but in fact, they are about rights, about lives, about freedom in America.

Here are some books we found that offer a positive and equal viewpoint of gay families:

The Family Book by Scott Parr
Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden
Lesbians Raising Sons by Jess Wells
And of course the ubiquitous:
Heather Has Two Mommiesby Leslea Newman

Freedom From Religion Foundation