Christian group’s gay gaffe

Lesbian couple not sufficiently ugly for Florida Family Policy Council

Topics: Adoption, Broadsheet,

As anyone familiar with sexual stereotypes knows, there are two kinds of lesbians: the hot kind who secretly just want a good boning, and the scary, ugly kind who are ruining America. And dissing the latter for not being feminine enough is of course a classic homophobic move (see also: The Daily Caller’s well-documented ragging on Rachel Maddow). So when the cheerful, normal-looking Melanie Leon and Vanessa Alenier were awarded custody of a relative by a South Florida judge recently, perhaps they weren’t sufficiently terrifying for the conservative Florida Family Policy Council of Orlando.

Alenier and Leon, who despite Florida’s 33 year-old ban on gay adoption had the audacity to tell the truth about their relationship when applying to adopt their son, were awarded custody of the one-year-old boy last month. In ruling for the couple, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia called the Florida law “unconstitutional on its face” and said, ” There is no rational connection between sexual orientation and what is or is not in the best interest of a child. The child is happy and thriving with [Alenier]. The only way to give this child permanency… is to allow him to be adopted.”

This didn’t sit well with Florida Family Policy Council, who promptly shot back with an alert about the “arrogant judicial activism.”  “FL judge violates law, places child in homosexual adoption,” ran the headline, accompanied  by an image of a pale, plus-sized, bespectacled – and most horrifying of all – mullet-rocking female duo. Ooga booga! 

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Their inaccuracy, however, was picked up by the Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell, who wrote a blistering column stating that “These extremists wage their campaigns of intolerance based on deception and misrepresentation. And they have the gall to do it in God’s name.”

In a follow-up post, Maxwell noted a response from John Stemberger, the head of the Florida Family Policy Council, about the incorrect image. Stemberger explained, “A day after the e-newsletter was sent out it was brought to my attention by one of my own staff members that this was not a picture of the actual couple in question in the Herald story but was a photo which was associated with an earlier story on a different gay adoption story.” He continued: “I would be happy to issue a correction and an apology if you or someone else felt it was warranted. I have received no complaints on this till now. If you are going to do a piece defending the position that Florida’s law on homosexual adoption needs to be changed that is fine but do not focus on the straw man of our admittedly boneheaded mistake.”

Ah, well, if nobody complained, what’s the big deal?

Lending ever less credibility to the explanation, by the way, the image accompanying the earlier story that Stemberger cited is obviously itself not representational of the case it describes — one involving a 47 year-old-man

At least Stemberger stepped and apologized, though, right? On the Florida Families blog, however, he was somewhat less gracious, referring to the Sentinel story as a “name calling hit piece” and an “irresponsible and judgmental rant.” Frankly, if your name is Florida Family Policy of Orlando, I think you forfeit your right to call anybody else “irresponsible and judgmental,” but maybe that’ s just me.  And while Florida Families insists that “Optimal human socialization involves a child understanding the proper working relationship between a man and a woman, a father and a mother and a husband and wife,” new mothers Alenier and Leon are busily adjusting to parenthood.  “We strongly wanted to be a family,” Vanessa Alenier told the Miami Herald in January. “It’s the most amazing thing that ever happened to us.”  And that’s the true picture.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

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