Fearing the Trump era, same-sex couples rush to adopt their own kids
As soon as the presidential election results were in, Megan Moffat Sather of West Seattle got a call from her lawyer: It was time to adopt her 6-month-old daughter, Winslow.
"I have to go through something that I think is actually humiliating," Moffat Sather said. "I have to pay my own money for someone to come into my home and to judge whether or not I should be able to be the parent to my own child."
Jen Moffat Sather is Winslow’s biological mom. Megan Moffat Sather is not. They've been together 14 years and also have a son together.
But in the current political climate, Megan is afraid her rights as a parent might not be recognized if the family travels outside of Washington state.
One fear she expresses is that at some point in the future a hospital in some other state, for example, might exclude her from decisions involving her family. "It's wrong, it's absolutely wrong,” she said.
So Megan has embarked on a process called second parent adoption.
The first step is to hire a social worker to visit your home. Megan called this "deeply painful," even though she personally really likes the social worker in question.
When that's done, Megan has to hire a lawyer and then head to court to, as she put it, “tell them I understand the right and responsibilities of making this child mine permanently, when the child is already mine permanently."
(In Washington state, both people in a same-sex marriage or domestic partnership are presumed to be parents of children born during the relationship.)
Jill Dziko, the social worker that the Moffat Sathers hired, said she hadn't received a single call from parents in same-sex marriages looking to adopt their own children in about three years. But she's seen a spike in phone calls since the election.
Now, Dziko feels deeply conflicted about her role in these adoptions, calling it “ridiculous, because people have been a family from the get-go, they've been a family prior to conception.”
That said, Dziko believes parents ought to move forward with the process, which she's also done with her own kids.
It’s not clear yet exactly what the next administration's policies on same-sex parenting or LGBTQ rights will be. Some pundits and activists think president-elect Donald Trump may even be relatively supportive (for a Republican president).
But for Dziko and parents like the Moffat Sathers, the uncertainty this year is unnerving.
“Not knowing what is going to happen just scares me," Dziko said, adding, "I have never been afraid before in this country."
Jen Moffat Sather feels the same way about her kids, with "this additional question of wondering, if we travel what might happen. Just to have that feeling that people might be against us instead of for us, as a unit, is stressful."
University of Washington law professor Peter Nicolas said he's less worried that parents like Jen Moffat Sather will actually have their rights challenged, as long as they go through second parent adoption. But Nicolas strongly advises any person who is a non-biological parent to get these adoptions finalized, regardless of who is going to be the next president.