Nel's New Day

August 18, 2016

Couples Forced to Annul Adoption before Marrying

Twenty years ago, I met a lesbian couple who managed to get the same rights of married couples when the mother of one of them adopted the other one. As “sisters,” they were able to have the same rights that married couples have, i.e., visiting each other in the hospital. Since then, I discovered that other same-gender couples took a different route by one of them adopting the other one.

Another route for same-gender couples to have the same rights as married couples is for one of them to adopt the other. Two gay couples talked about what happened after they followed this route and then wanted to marry each other after marriage equality became the law of the land. Typically, adoption cannot be overturned; they are parent and child in perpetuity. But two Pennsylvania couples tried to have their adoptions annulled because getting married while the adoption is still legal would violate state incest laws that exist in 25 states.

couple 1

With Couple 1 (above left), Bill Novak adopted Norman MacArthur in 2000 after they had been partners for more than three decades. They persuaded a judge to annul their adoption in 2015 and then married in Bucks County where they had retired from Brooklyn (NY). Bill said that he adopted Norman because they would be legally considered strangers if one of them was hospitalized. In 2000, they were told that “hell would freeze over” because Pennsylvania would allow the gay couple to marry. When Norm had heart surgery in 2002, two years after the adoption, the sign on the door to the Cardiac-Intensive Care Unit stated “immediate family only.”

Twelve years later, the lawyer who finalized the adoption said that it couldn’t be undone. But some judges in the county understood the importance of adoption annulment so that the couple could marry. In the court proceedings, the judge said, “The times have changed and the laws must change with them,” and vacated the adoption. They immediately got their marriage license, and Bill said, “After 52 years together, it was already the world’s longest engagement.” This year the couple is celebrating their first wedding anniversary.

When Judge Gary B. Gilman of Bucks County vacated Novak’s adoption decree last year, the couple’s lawyer, Terry Clemons said, “It removes the hurdle for other people who may be in the same position as Bill and Norm.” He was wrong, as shown by another Pennsylvania couple who tried to get an annulment.

Couple 2 (above right), Nino Esposito and Roland “Drew” Bosee, spent another Father’s Day this year as an adoptive couple, however, because another judge refused to annul their adoption. Retired teacher Esposito adopted former freelance writer Bosee in 2012 after they had lived together more than 40 years as a same-gender couple and only ten states had marriage equality laws. The judge accused the couple of trying to get tax advantages and refused to annul the adoption. He said that the annulment can be granted only in cases of fraud and reversing it could put all adoptions in jeopardy.

After the couple was denied the annulment to their adoption, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to issue guidance to courts so that same-gender couples could easily annul their adoption in order to marry. It appears that this has not been done.

Whether this kind of adoption is common is hard to know. Angela Giampolo, a Philadelphia lawyer specializing in LGT law, said that there are no statistics. Yet there are stories of other couples, some of them famous, in which one adopts the other.

bayard rustin

Black activist Bayard Rustin (above left) helped set up the famous 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1982, Rustin decided to adopt Walter Naegle after they had been together for five years so that Naegle could inherit his estate. For the gay couple to do this, Naegle’s biological mother had to legally disown him, and then a social worker came to the couple’s home to ensure that it was suitable for a child. The adoption gave Naegle visiting privileges when Rustin was hospitalized for a perforated appendix. Rustin died in 1987 before anyone dreamed that the United States would legalize marriage equality.

Sergio Cervetti and Kenneth Rinker, choreographer of Murphy’s Law, also considered adoption when they moved to Pennsylvania from New York City. Issues were health insurance and inheritance tax as well as their wanting to be a couple. Their adoption was vacated after 15 years in the same county where Novak and MacArthur succeeded in having the adoption annulled. Novak and MacArthur were among the witnesses to Cervetti and Rinker’s wedding vows.

faderman

Famous lesbian author and scholar Lillian Faderman (above right) and Phyllis Irwin, chair of the English department at California State University where Faderman was on the faculty, decided on adult adoption after Faderman gave birth to her son, Avrom, in 1975. They completed the legality in 1983 after the fame of Faderman’s book, Surpassing the Love of Men, and she had to travel. If Irwin had not gone through the adoption of her partner, she couldn’t have even taken their son to a doctor. The adoption made Irwin the grandmother of Avrom. At that time, Irwin could not adopt Avrom because no state recognized adoptions of a second, same-gender parent.

Irwin and Faderman got married in June 2008 before the court reversed marriage equality during California’s Proposition 8 debacle. They didn’t vacate the adoption, however, because legal advice told them that undoing the adoption was unnecessary of there was no blood connection. Since then, hey have discovered that their lawyer’s advice was wrong, and they are working to annul the adoption. Faderman said in 2015, “We’ve always felt married. We’ve been married in our hearts for 44 years.”

Trump Watch: New York City has fined Donald Trump $10,000 for violating his agreement to preserve the Trump Tower atrium as public space. Trump has repeatedly closed the atrium and used it for campaign events. He was also fined $10,000 in June for failing to show up for a court hearing, again violating part of the public space agreement with the city.

Photos of full-sized statues of Trump in the nude have popped up all over the internet after the anarchist group INDECLINE put them up in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Seattle. The statue that mysteriously appeared in New York City’s Union Square today is gone with the declaration from NYC Parks that it “stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small.” The project is called “The Emperor Has No B—s.” Checking out the gross image shows parts of the “junk” missing and the rest very small.

Ivanka Trump, who is off vacationing with Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend (no, I’m not joking), received this note after she ordered an ear cuff online.

Invanka's note

Trump supporters responded with thousands of threats. At a rally featuring GOP vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence, supporters also promised “civil war” no matter who is elected president of the United States in November.

Eighty-one more days.

 

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