(reprinted from FrontiersLA.com, 9/11/13)
When United Flight 175 flew into the second tower of the World Trade Center in New York City 12 years ago today, three dear friends of The Pop Luck Club were lost. Daniel Brandhorst and Ronald Gamboa and their young son David died, perished in the terrible event. Though their story did not get press on a national level, it is part of the fabric of LGBT history and the quest to achieve family equality for LGBT people.
Dan and Ron were charter members of The Pop Luck Club, a group of gay dads gathering monthly in West Hollywood to offer support, resources and kid-friendly activities. The couple met in 1987. When they adopted David in 1998, they also took on the challenge of helping many other prospective dads to find their way to creating families of their own. David was in the first wave of Pop Luck kids who were regulars at the West Hollywood Park playground. Those who knew the family saw how parenting increased the deep bond Dan and Ron shared as they watched young David blossom.
We are grateful for their time with us and we miss them.
Dan and Ron were part of an increasing number of LGBT parents who were willing to be visible and thereby change the hearts and minds of mainstream America. According to the Pew Research Center, 57 percent of Americans opposed LGBT adoption in 1999. By 2012, opposition had dropped to 42 percent, more than a point per year.
When Dan and Ron built their family, fostering and adoption by LGBT parents were rare. Since then, laws and attitudes in California have changed significantly. Government agencies, like the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, have trained through the Human Rights Campaign’s “All Children-All Families” initiative to be culturally competent working with the LGBT community.
Today, acceptance of LGBT parents is growing swiftly. We are represented on TV and in the media. Our family milestones—engagements, marriages and baby announcements—are becoming commonplace, celebrated by family, friends and work colleagues.
As we honor the memory of Dan, Ron and David, we salute the growing ranks of LGBT parents who openly create loving families. In the U.S., parenting rights vary state by state, but at least LGBT equality is on the horizon. Internationally, building a family can bring tremendous risk to LGBT people.
Right now, Russian gays are quickly losing their civil rights, human rights and—in a drastic, dastardly pogrom—family rights. A national climate of fear and confrontation is pressuring parents to turn in their gay children, and children to turn in their gay parents. LGBT parents are forced to ‘go undercover’ for fear their children will be taken away. Some LGBT families who can afford to are fleeing the country. We are hopeful that international pressure will provide LGBT people with increased protections.
In 2011, we co-founded RaiseAChild.us, a national nonprofit organization encouraging the LGBT community to build families through fostering and adoption. As our nation moves forward, we will build momentum for full equality for all LGBT families. Everyone is better off when we can “let love define family.”
John Ireland is the current president of The Pop Luck Club, and Rich Valenza is the immediate past president. Together, they co-founded RaiseAChild.us