London Free Press

Friday, March 19, 1999

Adoption by same-sex couples ill-fated

By RORY LEISHMAN
London Free Press

Anyone who thinks homosexual couples should have essentially the same legal status as married couples ought to contemplate the sad plight of Girl M, a nine-year-old embroiled in a nasty custody battle between her estranged lesbian parents.

The mothers in this case, Leanne Bueker and Kelly Cunningham, are both residents of the state of Colorado. According to a report by Peggy Lowe in the Denver Post on March 9, it was in 1987 that Cunningham, then 28, "became romantically involved with Bueker," then 21. Two years later, Cunningham got herself impregnated by in-vitro fertilization and gave birth to her daughter, Girl M.

The following year, Bueker's sister, a woman described in court documents as having "serious cognitive and emotional problems," moved in with the couple for several weeks. The resulting stress led to what Lowe delicately describes as "a physical altercation" between Bueker and Cunningham. In 1993, a return visit from the sister triggered another "enormous fight."

Tensions in the home were aggravated by Cunningham's complaints about Bueker's smoking and weight gain. In December 1996, their relationship fell definitively apart, when Cunningham disclosed she had fallen in love with Michael Naylor, a divorced man from Albany, N.Y., and planned to move to New York with him and Girl M.

Within days, Bueker moved out of the house and on March 19, 1997, sued for custody of Girl M. According to a psychological report filed with the court, the young girl is a "sweet," "profoundly gifted," "remarkably thoughtful and articulate child," who loves both of her mothers, calling Cunningham "mom" and Bueker "nana."

When Cunningham tried to explain to Girl M that Bueker was not her real mother, the youngster became very upset. Asked to sum up her feeling about the custody battle, Girl M replied, "I do not want to move to New York, and I do not want to lose my nana."

Custody battles are bad enough for the children of divorce. Who can believe the psychological damage for children caught up in custody battles between estranged homosexuals is not likely to be significantly worse?

Referring to Cunningham v. Bueker, Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in the United States, says, "In the last five years we've seen a sharp increase in these kinds of visitation or custody disputes." That's hardly surprising, given the growing number of children living with same-sex parents. Same-sex relationships are extremely unstable. Prior to 1987, Cunningham and Bueker had each already gone through a couple of lesbian relationships. An authoritative study of United States homosexuals found that fewer than eight per cent of gay men and seven per cent of lesbians had ever had a relationship that lasted more than three years.

In Straight & Narrow: Compassion & Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate, Thomas Schmidt sums up: "In short, there is practically no comparison possible to heterosexual marriage in terms of either fidelity or longevity. Tragically, lifelong faithfulness is almost non-existent in the homosexual experience."

Regardless, Ontario is now one of just two provinces that permits same-sex couples to adopt children. How can that be?

Didn't former Ontario attorney general Marion Boyd propose to legalize adoptions by gay and lesbian couples in 1994 when she introduced legislation to change the definition of spouse in 79 provincial statutes to include same-sex couples? Wasn't her notorious bill decisively repudiated in a free vote on June 9, 1994, thanks to a backbenchers' revolt within the New Democratic Party?

Yes, that is true. However, in a creative interpretation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms handed down just a few months later, on May 9, 1995, Judge J. P. Nevins of the provincial division of Ontario Court contemptuously dismissed the judgment of the legislature and unilaterally amended the law to permit adoptions by same-sex couples.

That's fine with the Ontario Liberal and New Democratic parties. Why is that? What about the Ontario Progressive Conservative party? Why has the Harris government not introduced legislation under the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution to reassert the authority of elected representatives in the Ontario legislature to define the law on adoptions by same-sex couples?

These are questions many voters might well wish to put to candidates in the coming provincial election.


Write Rory at The London Free Press, P.O. Box 2280, London, Ont. N6A 4G1 or fax 519-667-4528 or E-mail.-->
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