If there's a movement, things change

Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit

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


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