Tag Archives: parenting

Cincinnati zoo director defends killing gorilla

The Cincinnati Zoo’s director is defending the decision to kill a gorilla to protect a 4-year-old boy who entered its exhibit, noting it’s easy to second-guess after the child was recovered safely.

The male western lowland gorilla named Harambe was killed Saturday by a special zoo response team that feared for the boy’s safety. Video taken by zoo visitors showed the gorilla at times appeared to be protective of the boy but also dragged him through the shallow moat.

Director Thane Maynard said the gorilla was agitated and disoriented by the commotion during the 10 minutes after the boy fell. He said the gorilla could crush a coconut in one hand and there was no doubt that the boy’s life was in danger.

“We stand by our decision,” he said Monday, reiterating that using a tranquilizer on the 420-pound gorilla could have further threatened the boy because it wouldn’t have taken effect immediately.

Maynard said an investigation indicates the boy climbed over a 3-foot-tall railing, then walked through an area of bushes about 4 feet deep before plunging some 15 feet into the moat. The boy was treated at a hospital and released that same day.

The director said the zoo remains safe for its some 1.6 million annual visitors, but a review is underway for possible improvements.

Kim O’Connor, who witnessed the boy’s fall, told said she heard the youngster say he wanted to get in the water with the gorillas. She said the boy’s mother was with several other young children and told him no.

Anthony Seta, an animal rights activist in Cincinnati, helped organize a vigil Monday just outside the zoo gates. He said the gathering wasn’t meant to assess blame but rather to honor Harambe, who turned 17 the day before he was shot.

“People can shout at the parents and people can shout at the zoo,” Seta said. “The fact is that a gorilla that just celebrated his birthday has been killed.”

In the days since, people have taken to social media to voice their outrage about the killing of a member of an endangered species. A Facebook page called “Justice for Harambe” was created along with online petitions and another page calling for a June 5 protest at the zoo.

Maynard said the zoo had received messages of support and condolences from around the world, including from other zoo directors and gorilla experts. A spokesman for Jane Goodall, the famed primatologist, said she had “a private conversation” with Maynard, who said she expressed her sympathy.

Maynard said zoo visitors have been leaving flowers at the exhibit and asking how they could support gorilla conservation.

“This is very emotional and people have expressed different feelings,” Maynard said by email. “Not everyone shares the same opinion and that’s OK. But we all share the love for animals.”

The Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, where Harambe spent most of his life, said Monday that its staff was deeply saddened by the gorilla’s death.

Harambe was sent to Cincinnati less than two years ago in hopes he would eventually breed with females there. Maynard said the zoo has some of Harambe’s sperm saved for research and possible future reproductive use.

Many social media commenters have criticized the boy’s parents and said they should be held accountable. A Cincinnati police spokesman said no charges were being considered. A spokeswoman for the family said Monday they had no plans to comment.

“I do think there’s a degree of responsibility they have to be held to,” said Kate Villanueva, a mother of two children from Erlanger, Kentucky, who started the “Justice for Harambe” page and attended Monday’s vigil. “You have to be watching your children at all times.”

Jack Hanna, host of “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild,” said the zoo made the right call by shooting the gorilla. Hanna said he saw video of the gorilla jerking the boy through the water and knew what would happen if the animal wasn’t killed.

“I’ll bet my life on this, that child would not be here today,” Hanna told WBNS-TV.

The zoo said that it’s the first such spectator breach at Gorilla World since it opened in 1978. The director said expansion plans announced for the exhibit earlier this year would proceed as scheduled.

Gorilla World remained closed Monday, but Maynard said it could reopen next weekend.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a statement from its primatologist Julia Gallucci saying the zoo should have had better barriers between humans and the gorillas.

“This tragedy is exactly why PETA urges families to stay away from any facility that displays animals as sideshows for humans to gawk at,” Gallucci said.

Suit over sperm bank error sets off extraordinary discussion

An unusual lawsuit prompted by an insemination gone wrong has set off an extraordinary discussion touching on sensitive issues of race, motherhood, sexuality and justice, though the debate begins with one basic premise: You should get what you pay for.

Jennifer Cramblett and her wife, Amanda Zinkon, wanted a white baby. They went to the Midwest Sperm Bank near Chicago and chose blond, blue-eyed donor No. 380, who looked like he could have been related to Zinkon. When Cramblett was five months pregnant, they found out that she her donor was No. 330, a black man.

“The couple did not get what they asked for, which was a particular donor. The company made a mistake, and it should have to pay for that,” says Jessica Barrow, an information technology professional in suburban Detroit.

Barrow is black and lesbian, with a white partner. They considered insemination of the white partner before choosing to adopt. When looking at donors, they wanted sperm from a black donor, to create a biracial baby that would have shared some physical characteristics with both of them.

“They’re not saying anything racist, they’re not saying, `We don’t want a black baby,'” Barrow said of Cramblett and Zinkon, who profess their love for their now 2-year-old daughter. “They’re saying, `We asked for something, you gave us something different, and now we have to adjust to that.’”

That “adjustment” is a major justification for Cramblett’s lawsuit. It cites the stress and anxiety of raising a brown girl in predominantly white Uniontown, Ohio, which Cramblett describes as intolerant. Some of her own family members have unconscious racial biases, the lawsuit says.

That leads some to believe that Cramblett is asking to be paid for the difficulties that many black folks — and white parents of adopted black children — deal with without compensation.

“I don’t think I deserve anything more being the white parent of a black child than any parent of a black child does,” says Rory Mullen, who adopted her daughter.

Strangers have asked Mullen why she didn’t adopt a white baby. One remarked in front of her white then-husband that Mullen must have cheated with a black man. Too many white people to count have pawed her daughter’s hair.

“It’s hard, but being a parent is hard,” says Mullen, who lives in Southern California.

“Being a parent is going to throw things at you that you never expected, and we make a decision that we’re going to roll with it, because we love our kids and they deserve it,” she says.

Mullen agrees that a company should be held liable for promising one thing and doing another. But she thinks the fact Cramblett waited more than two years to sue indicates that the experience of raising a black child is her real problem.

“When you say this is too hard, I didn’t deserve this, this is too much for me to handle, then the child internalizes it and it affects their self-esteem,” she says. “It’s my job to pour self-esteem into my daughter, not tear it down.”

From the days of American slavery through the 1960s, white men fathering children with black women was commonplace and tacitly accepted — yet there were few things as scandalous as a white woman with a brown baby.

That history makes Denene Millner, author of the MyBrownBaby.com blog, say that the lawsuit is “rooted in fear … stuck in the muck and mire of racism and the purity of white lineage.”

“She simply cannot fathom dealing with what it means to, in essence, be a Black mom, having to navigate and negotiate a racist world on behalf of a human she bore, in an environment of which she is a product,” Millner wrote.

Darron Smith, co-author of “White Parents, Black Children: Experiencing Transracial Adoption,” says that the lawsuit reflects America’s unexamined racist attitudes and Cramblett’s angst over having a biracial child.

He notes that due to supply and demand, it costs about half as much to adopt a black child as a white one, and many black boys in foster care are never adopted.

“This lawsuit demonstrates quite nicely the value of skin color,” says Smith, a professor at Wichita State University.

Yet Cramblett’s defenders say she should not be held responsible for being unprepared.

“White people who aren’t affiliated with black people don’t necessarily understand the challenges that black people face in all facets of their life. This couple wasn’t expecting that, and now they have to deal with it,” says Rachel Dube, who owns a youth sports business in New York.

“She didn’t ask for a biracial baby. She was given one, she loves it, she adores it, now she’s facing challenges and admits it. That doesn’t make her a racist,” Dube says.

“You can’t fault her for what she was not exposed to,” she says. “Her only obligation is to love and raise her child in the best environment possible. And if the money will help her do that, then good for her.”

Former Mississippi governor regrets law banning adoptions by gay couples

Former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove says he now regrets signing a state law in 2000 that bans same-sex couples from adopting children.

Musgrove, a Democrat, served one term as governor, from January 2000 to January 2004.

He first reported his change of heart in a recent essay on the Huffington Post. He also said same-sex couples should have the right to marry.

Musgrove, who’s Baptist, told The Associated Press on March 22 that his evolution occurred over time. He said reading the U.S. Constitution made it clear that the government cannot deny rights to groups of people. 

He commended Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who recently announced support for same-sex couple after learning his son is gay.

Mississippi voters in 2004 adopted a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Witness in favor of Proposition 8 changes mind on marriage

The key witness for upholding the anti-gay Proposition 8 in California has had a change of mind.

David Blankenhorn, the founder of the Institute for American Values who testified at the federal trial no the California constitutional amendment, came out in support of marriage equality in an op-ed in The New York Times on June 22.

Responding, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign said, “What David Blankenhorn has shown the world is that through careful deliberation and a deepening understanding of LGBT people, one can only draw the conclusion that the answer is full equality. While it can be difficult as a public figure to change course, I applaud him for taking a courageous and principled stand. His experience wrestling with the issue of marriage equality and coming out on the right side of history will be an inspiration to millions of fair-minded Americans who are in the same place.”

In January 2010, Blankenhorn was one of two witnesses for the proponents of Proposition 8 during the federal district court trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now Perry v. Brown). He testified that “we would be more American on the day we permitted same-sex marriage than we were on the day before.”  The court found Proposition 8 unconstitutional in August 2010. That ruling was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2012 but is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court this summer.

Blankenhorn’s op-ed in The New York Times is headlined, “How my view on gay marriage changed.”

He wrote that as a marriage advocate, the time has come for him to endorse gay marriage.

He wrote, “I don’t believe that opposite-sex and same-sex relationships are the same, but I do believe, with growing numbers of Americans, that the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over. Whatever one’s definition of marriage, legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples and their children is a victory for basic fairness.”

He also wrote, “Instead of fighting gay marriage, I’d like to help build new coalitions bringing together gays who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same. For example, once we accept gay marriage, might we also agree that getting married before having children is a vital cultural value that all of us should do more to embrace? Can we agree that, for all lovers who want their love to last, marriage is preferable to cohabitation? Can we discuss whether both gays and straight people should think twice before denying children born through artificial reproductive technology the right to know and be known by their biological parents?”

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Adoptions soar among gay couples

Despite laws that impede the practice, an ever-increasing number of gays and lesbians are adopting children, according to an extensive new survey from the New York-based Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

The number of gays and lesbians adopting children has nearly tripled in the last decade.

At least half of gay and lesbian parents are providing homes for boys and girls from foster care, and 60 percent are adopting trans-racially, according to the adoption institute, a national non-profit “devoted to improving adoption policy and practice.”

The institute’s 69-page survey – released in late October and titled “Expanding Resources of Children III: Research-Based Best Practices by Gays and Lesbians” – is based on four years of research and provides new insights into the perceptions, experiences and needs of gay and lesbian adoptive parents.

“We know the majority of adoption agencies readily work with gay and lesbian clients, and our research shows that most want guidance about how best to do that,” said institute executive director Adam Pertman. “Our hope and belief is that by providing greater knowledge to professionals, policy-makers and the public, the result will be more families for the children who need them.”

The adoption institute reported:

• About one-third of adoptions by lesbians and gays were “open,” meaning the door was left open for children to develop future relationships with their birth families.

• Seventy-three percent of birth families initially had positive reactions toward the sexual orientation of the adoptive parents.

• Male couples more often than female couples reported having been chosen by birth families because of their sexual orientation. Men said that birthmothers expressed a desire to remain the child’s only mother.

• More than 10 percent of the children adopted by gays and lesbians were 6 or older, a population generally perceived as more difficult to place.

• Lesbians and gays adopt at significant rates – more than 65,000 adopted children and 14,000 foster children in the United States are residing in homes headed by people who aren’t straight.

• At least 60 percent of U.S. adoption agencies accept gays and lesbians as applicants.

• More than 50 percent of lesbian and gay parents adopted children from the child welfare system.

• More than 80 percent of lesbians and gays reported that they volunteered information about their sexual orientation with their adoption workers, and most workers responded in positively.

Several days after the adoption institute released its report, the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., issued another major research-based paper – “All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families.”

That report concluded that 2 million children “have become collateral damage of decades of ideology, laws and policies designed to hurt lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.”

A coalition of LGBT leaders, policy experts and child advocates, including the Donaldson Adoption Institute, the Family Equality Council, the Movement Advancement Project, the Center for American Progress, the National Association of Social Workers, COLAGE and the Child Welfare League of America worked on the paper.

“Many Americans don’t realize how anti-gay laws and policies hurt children,” said Jeff Krehely of the Center for American Progress. “The Supreme Court of North Carolina just invalidated all second-parent adoptions, undermining family security and leaving children as legal strangers to the LGBT parents who have raised them since birth. Similarly, when states like Minnesota and North Carolina advance ballot initiatives to deny marriage to same-sex couples, it can have serious consequences, such as denying children access to a parent’s health insurance.”

The report detailed how existing laws can deny children legal ties to both of their parents and separate children from their parents in cases of divorce or death of a parent. Existing laws can also deny children access to quality child care and early education and deny children Social Security survivor benefits or inheritance.

“Our nation’s laws and policies simply have not kept pace with the changing reality of America’s families,” said Ineke Mushovic of the Movement Advancement Project. “All Children Matter outlines common-sense recommendations that should be looked at very seriously by anyone claiming to fight for children’s well-being. Many of these solutions would serve the needs not only of children with LGBT parents, but also those in other families as well, such as children of unmarried heterosexual parents.” 

Solutions include:

• Pass marriage equality laws, and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

• Provide equal access to government-based protections for families. 

• Provide LGBT parents and their children with equal access to healthcare and health insurance.

• Protect LGBT families with non-discrimination laws and anti-bullying policies.

DCF won’t appeal overturn of gay adoption ban

(AP) – Florida’s gay adoption ban won’t be enforced anywhere in the state after the Department of Children and Families decided Tuesday not to appeal the ban’s overturn to the state Supreme Court.

The only way the case stays alive is if Attorney General Bill McCollum separately decides to appeal to the Supreme Court to keep the ban in place. He would have to do so without the support of the child welfare agency, which is changing its forms so adoptive parents aren’t asked if they’re gay.

If McCollum doesn’t appeal, it will end the three-decade old ban that was considered the strictest in the country. The state’s 3rd District Court of Appeal last month upheld a 2008 ruling by a Miami-Dade judge, who found “no rational basis” for the ban when she approved the adoption of two young brothers by Martin Gill and his male partner.

McCollum’s office said he isn’t sure how he will proceed, but his lawyers will talk with DCF’s lawyers before a final decision is made. A decision to appeal must be made by Oct. 21.

“So now this is all in Bill McCollum’s lap,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, which represents Gill. “The big question is what is there to appeal? That opinion is not going to be disturbed.”

That’s the conclusion DCF reached.

“We had weighed an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court to achieve an ultimate certainty and finality for all parties. But the depth, clarity and unanimity of the DCA opinion – and that of Miami-Dade Judge Cindy Lederman’s original circuit court decision – has made it evident that an appeal would have a less than limited chance of a different outcome,” said DCF spokesman Joe Follick.

Gov. Charlie Crist said after last month’s ruling that DCF wouldn’t enforce the gay adoption ban. The ACLU initially urged an appeal to put a final end to the case, but the ACLU and DCF agree that the ban can’t be enforced statewide because of the ruling.

“The DCA opinion is binding on all trial courts and therefore provides statewide uniformity. The ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional statewide,” Follick said. “We have created and implemented new application forms that drop the question about sexual orientation from adoption proceedings.”