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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sun Sentinel: Gay Families Are Here, No Matter What The Florida Constitution Says

Gay Families Are Here, No Matter What The Florida Constitution Says
October 5, 2008
Adelle Barsky-Moore is 5, and she doesn't know about wedge politics and the Culture War. All she knows is that she loves her two dads and they love her.

Her parents, Allan Barsky and Greg Moore, have been together 10 years. They were married in Canada, Barsky's native country, in 2003. They wear wedding bands, are registered domestic partners in Broward and live in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

Barsky, a professor at
Florida Atlantic University, is opposed to Amendment 2 on the November ballot. It would constitutionally define marriage in Florida as between a man and woman. It states, "No other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."

A few weeks ago, Adelle tagged along as her parents campaigned against the amendment.
"Why are you telling people not to vote?" she asked.

Barsky explained they want people to vote, but were telling them to vote no on the amendment. He explained it wouldn't allow two moms or two dads to get married.

"She got really upset and started crying," Barsky said. "She said, 'If it passes, does that mean you and daddy have to break up?'"

Barsky told me this story last weekend, during a group picnic at Holiday Park in
Fort Lauderdale. Adelle and other kids romped on the playground while parents kept an eye on them. There was fried chicken, macaroni salad and brownies on the pavilion tables.

"Just like anyone else on a Sunday afternoon," Barsky said.

The crowd of 60 had female couples with children from artificial insemination and previous heterosexual marriages, male couples with children from international adoptions and surrogate births.

The group, South Florida Family Pride, has been getting together for the last six years. It sprouted from a Yahoo! forum board and now has more than 250 registered families. They have picnics and holiday parties, celebrate new arrivals and share frustrations.

"The first time we came, I started to cry," said Thea Sommer, of Weston, who has two children from a previous marriage and a partner of five years, Maria DiPietro-Sommer. "It was like, 'Oh my God, we're not alone.'"

Said Michael Gallacher, a group co-founder who has two children: "It means so much for these kids to see they're not the only ones with two moms or two dads."

More than anything I could say, this scene showed why Amendment 2 is irrelevant, misguided and just plain wrong.

Same-sex couples exist, and they're raising loving families.

In that respect it doesn't matter what state law, which bans gay marriage and gay adoption, or the Florida Constitution says.

Except it does matter. For these families, life would be easier, less stressful and more just if the state gave them the same rights as heterosexuals.

For now, they'll consider it victory enough if an amendment that codifies inequality doesn't get the 60 percent needed for approval.

"People should have 100 more important things to worry about these days than whether or not we can get married," said Karen Lynskey-Lake, of Weston. "It's beyond ridiculous."

Her partner, Debbie Lynskey-Lake, has given birth to three children: David, 5, and twins Caitlyn and Elizabeth, 10 months.
The Lynskey-Lakes have been together 13 years. They got married in 2004 in Boston, where they lived for eight years. They returned to South Florida a year ago.

"We were just talking about all the legal rights we lost by moving," said Karen, an emergency room nurse at Broward General Hospital. "I live every day with the fear that if something happens to Deb, somebody could take these kids away from me."

Karen adopted David in Massachusetts, but she has no legal standing with the twins, born in Florida.

"I support them, insure them for health care, but I can't adopt them," Karen said. "I'm a taxpaying citizen. I'm not asking for any handouts. I just want to have the same rights as any other parent."
Even though Allan Barsky pays a family rate for his health-care plan to cover Adelle, who was born through surrogacy, the plan will not cover his partner.

"You feel like you're a second-class citizen," said Barsky. "It hurts you."

Doug McCafferty, of
Wilton Manors, watched his partner's newly adopted son bounce on a seesaw. Earlier that week, Jak, 7, arrived from Kyrzygstan. He had spent his entire life in an orphanage. One of the first things the new parents did was take Jak, slightly cross-eyed, to an eye doctor.

"I know most people have already made up their minds about this issue and logic doesn't really fit into the equation," said McCafferty. "But how can anybody say Jak would be better off in an orphanage, with his eyes getting worse, than in a secure, loving home?"

McCafferty said he and his partner have been drafting many legal documents to provide for each other and Jak should something happen to the other.

"It's a hassle," he said. "I'm divorced, and when I married my wife it cost us $15 for a license. Now it costs me thousands of dollars in legal fees to accomplish the same thing. When I think about it, it really does piss me off."

Michael Mayo's column runs Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Read him online weekdays at Reach him at or 954-356-4508