- The Washington Times - Friday, March 27, 2015

Six adult children of gay parents have filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court to dissuade the justices from legalizing same-sex marriage, citing their childhood experiences.

The group and their attorney — David Boyle of Long Beach, California — were in Washington on Friday to visit congressional offices and meet with scholars and advocacy groups. Mr. Boyle and five of the adult children sat for a short interview with The Washington Times.

“We don’t have childhoods,” said Dawn Stefanowicz, who grew up with two brothers in a chaotic world dominated by their gay father and his many lovers.

“There were no safe boundaries in my home,” said Denise Shick, who explained in her amicus brief how her transgender father spied on and fondled her, stole her clothes and tried to step into her shoes because, as a girl blossoming into womanhood, she was the very thing he wanted to be.

Robert Oscar Lopez, founder and president of the International Children’s Rights Institute, noted that judges often have asked attorneys if gay marriage “harms” anyone. The answer to that question is in the briefs and other publications, said Mr. Lopez, who was raised by his lesbian mother and her partner. He filed a brief with colleague B.N. Klein, who grew up with her lesbian mother and her partners.

The briefs reveal children’s struggles with gender confusion, pressures to conform to gay values and attitudes, and feelings of isolation and sadness without being able to talk about those things with anyone.

The inconsolable longing for the “missing” parent is another common theme.

“When you have kids, all of a sudden it hits you,” said Mr. Lopez, who reconnected with his biological father in his late 20s.

If the Supreme Court “rules to redefine marriage, it rules to redefine parenthood as well,” Katy Faust and Heather Barwick wrote in a joint brief.

The women, who both grew up with loving lesbian mothers, said they realized gay marriage is wrong for kids when they saw their husbands interact with their children.

“Adult desires do not trump child rights,” Ms. Faust said.

There’s “no reason to write out of civil code the need for a mother and a father,” she said. “This court must either side with adult desires or side with children’s rights. But it cannot do both.”

Friday was the deadline for attorneys for Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee to file their briefs in support of their states’ one man-one woman marriage laws, which were upheld as constitutional by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The gay and lesbian plaintiffs in the four state cases are asking the high court to overturn the 6th Circuit ruling — a move tantamount to legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

Gay marriage is now legal in all or part of at least 38 states.

Dozens of amici briefs have been filed in the four landmark lawsuits: Obergefell v. Hodges, Tanco v. Haslam, DeBoer v. Snyder and Bourke v. Beshear.

The high court will hear oral arguments April 28 on the questions of whether the 14th Amendment requires a state to issue a marriage license to two people of the same sex, and whether it requires a state to recognize a same-sex marriage when it was lawfully licensed elsewhere.

Groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families, such as the Family Equality Council and COLAGE, have filed a brief with the Supreme Court.

They argue that families led by same-sex parents deserve “no less protection” than other families, and that years of marriage rights for gay families have already shown that it benefits children and has “harmed no one.”

“I laugh at the thought of a ‘gay lifestyle,’ because other than being led by two women, my family is about as traditional as it gets,” Kinsey Morrison, an 18-year-old woman from Kentucky, said in COLAGE brief to the Supreme Court.

“I don’t look back and wish I was raised in a household with straight parents. I wish my mom and stepmom could finally have validation of their love,” Lea Mitchell, 29, of Michigan, said in the COLAGE brief, which was filled with statements from some two dozen children raised in LGBT homes.

Mr. Lopez said Friday he agrees some children raised by gays have had “that COLAGE experience,” where “they came out of it and feel totally great about it.

“But I think the majority struggles,” he said, noting that new social science is beginning to paint less-rosy family portraits than previous studies.

Moreover, he and Ms. Klein said, there is also a great deal of “speech policing” of children in gay families — examples of which they recently compiled in a new book, “Jephthah’s Daughters.”

For instance, one sperm-donor-conceived daughter of a lesbian couple got a “lecture” if she talked about wanting a “normal” family, Mr. Lopez and Ms. Klein said in their brief.

Another a man, who was conceived in the 1990s for a gay father, experienced an “aching sadness on Mother’s Day.” When he was brought to a lesbian psychiatrist for counseling, she told him he was homophobic and should apologize to his father.

None of the adult children of gays could predict what kind of impact their arguments might have on the upcoming gay marriage case, but they agreed they wanted to make sure their views were part of the historical record.

“The important thing is to speak out,” and the court should “hear it from eyewitnesses,” said Mr. Boyle.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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