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At the Richmond, Va., custody hearing, Judge Parsons refused to let
the child's father, Dennis Doustou, testify. Afterward, Doustou
told reporters Tyler should return to his mother, Sharon Bottoms.

"Tyler means the world to her, I know that," he said.

Lesbian poet and activist Minnie Bruce Pratt commented: "I find
that so moving. And it shows how things have changed that the
father would come out publicly supporting a lesbian mother."

Pratt is a lesbian mother whose children were taken from her in
North Carolina in 1976. Her book of poems, "Crime Against Nature,"
grew out of that experience.

She told Workers World that in her case, she settled out of court
based on her lawyer's advice. "Which is very typical. Most cases
don't get to the court system because the mothers are terrified to
go to court, because the assumption is you'll lose the children."

She was granted extremely restricted visitation. "I couldn't have
the children in my house if I lived with any other person. I only
got to see them alternate holidays."

But "my case was in 1976, and this is 1993, and we've had over 15
years of organizing," Pratt noted.

"Especially in the South, there's been intense lesbian and gay
organizing. So that places where there was this terrible isolation
before it just isn't the same."

Pratt said: "The Virginia laws are among the worst. Remember, this
is the state that until 1967 had 'miscegenation' laws [barring
interracial marriage] on the books.

"But even as conservative as Virginia is, there's been tremendous
organizing--even in Lynchburg, Jerry Falwell headquarters. It all
leads to this.

"This is a working-class woman who is willing to be visible about
this. This is an enormous victory in terms of the political climate
and what has happened.

"It was so sad to see this woman's picture with this look of
devastation on her face. And I thought oh my god, it happens to us
over and over again.

"But on the other hand, the fact that she's taking a stand--and
that these organizations, including the ACLU, which at one time
would not touch lesbian and gay issues in the South--the fact that
they're mobilizing behind it, it's very heartening.

"So I think it's definitely, in a strange way, a kind of victory.
The lesson of this is if there's a movement, things change."

--Shelley Ettinger


(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted
if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World,
55 West 17 St., New York, NY 10011; via e-mail: ww@blythe.org.)

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