Feel-good gay parenting story of the day

Jesse, and his two mommies, are embraced by a Boston-area Catholic school.


Lynn Harris
April 19, 2006 6:33PM (UTC)

A story in today's New York Times made me cry a little, and for once in a good way. It's about a Boston-area boy named Jesse who -- after years of disjointed foster care and struggling in school -- was adopted two years ago by Laura Patey and Leigh Powers: two mommies.

Two mommies, specifically, who wanted to send Jesse, at 12, to Catholic school. (Patey had attended parochial schools herself but -- "reluctantly," the Times says -- joined an Episcopal church with her partner so the two could worship more openly as partners.)

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Remember, Massachusetts is home not only to Tanglewood, the Kennedys and the People's Republic of Cambridge. It's also home to the recent controversy over Catholic Charities of Boston, a state leader in foster care adoptions, according to the Times. Former leader, that is: Last month, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley caused an uproar by announcing that the agency would stop handling adoptions altogether in the face of state law allowing adoptions by gay couples. Eight Catholic Charities board members resigned in protest.

Now, dispute remains as to whether the organization acted out of bigotry or was just in a bind: that is, whether the organization discontinued adoptions to avoid having to knuckle under to the state, or to avoid having to knuckle under to the Vatican and violate state law. No matter what, though, the climate for gay parents got a little chilly as a result. Some church leaders, in support of the move, cited Vatican statements calling gay adoption "gravely immoral" and claiming that it means "doing violence to these children." (Right. Jesse had been in six schools and eight foster homes by age 10. Better with the state than with the gays! Don't get me started.)

Needless to say, when the Times article placed Jesse's story in this context, I started to get nervous.

So Jesse applied to Catholic school. Patey and Powers filled out the forms, crossing out "father" and writing in their names. Jesse wrote an application essay about his moms. "We didn't hide a thing," Patey said.

And guess what? As the Times reports: Jesse's moms "were angered by the official church position, but they also know this: At the two Catholic high schools Jesse has attended -- Catholic Memorial in Boston and Saint Clement in Medford, where he will soon graduate -- they have not been treated like 'gravely immoral' people. They have been embraced and made to feel welcome." Jesse's a big, respected, jock. His moms pal around with other parents; school leaders -- though wary of speaking to the press -- have said, "You're doing a wonderful job with this kid." The couple has adopted a second child, who now attends Catholic Memorial.

Let me make this very clear: I'm not saying "Well! I never expected this from those evil bigoted Catholics!" On the contrary, in fact. I love stories that dig down and find the on-the-ground good stuff that's happening in spite of all the bad news, and not in a "Don't be silly! Iraq is thriving!" kind of way. In other words, I have a feeling that Jesse and his moms' experience is more common than we know. Which is exactly why it should be written about.

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Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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