Gay Dad Family Stories

Salt Lake Gay Couple Behind Viral Wedding Proposal Become Foster Dads

They've gone viral, appeared on Ellen, and were married by Queen Latifa. What can top all that? Fatherhood.

Photo credit: Tiffany Burke, Follow Your Art Photography.

Over 5 years ago, you might remember seeing an amazing proposal that took place in a Home Depot in Utah. With the help of close friends and family, Spencer organized an incredible flash mob to sweep Dustin off his feet. If you did see it, you're one of the 14 million viewers who did. (If you have been living under a rock, you can see the video below!)

The fiancés quickly became an overnight sensation thanks to this unbelievably romantic stunt. They even appeared on Ellen and were given engagement gifts. (You know you've made it once Ellen starts giving you stuff.) Dustin and Spencer were also part of a symbolic wedding ceremony with many other couples who were married during the 2014 Grammy's event, by Queen Latifa, while Macklemore sang "Same Love."

And for their next act? Fatherhood.


Almost two years after their marriage, in the spring of 2016, Spencer and Dustin Reeser-Stout started their journey to fatherhood. Surrogacy was financially out of reach for the husbands, and not necessarily their first choice, so they began thinking about adoption. Then, a close friend who worked for Utah Foster Care encouraged them to look into fostering.

"We mentioned that we were considering adopting, and he told us that they were pushing a huge campaign to get more people to sign up to foster," said Spencer. "There is a huge need as there are more kids in the system than available foster families."

At first, Spencer and Dustin were concerned that they would come up against challenges and prejudice as a gay couple, but their friend assured them that it wouldn't be an issue. So they started by attending a community event organized by Utah Foster Care. At the event, they listened to speakers explain the process, and heard a foster family give testimonials and share their experience. Spencer and Dustin left feeling inspired and ready to help.

"We both left that night, looked at each other in the car on the way home and said, 'Well, we're doing this aren't we!?'" Within a few weeks, they were sitting in their first training class - one that would take them over the 32 hours needed to become a licensed foster parent in the state of Utah - ready to start their journey.

They were licensed on the first Monday in August 2016, and by Thursday of the same week, they received a call from the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS). There were two little boys waiting for them at the Christmas Box House, a childcare agency in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Dustin loading up on last minute baby and child supplies


"The placement committee reviewed our file and felt like our home would be a good fit for them, but they had very minimal information to give me except for their names, ages and brief situation about why they were placed in the system. I had so many questions and I was in shock because I didn't realize we would be getting a placement so quickly! I immediately called Dustin to see if he was ready to become that "instant family" and if he felt right about the scenario, and there was no hesitation."

Spencer left work early that day and the couple went on a huge shopping spree to get everything they could think of to start caring for the young brothers. By 6pm, Spencer and Dustin pulled up to the Christmas Box house and went inside. They were taken to a foyer where they anxiously waited for the social workers to bring the boys out. "We heard crying and shuffling, and when the door opened, two little angels appeared," remembered Spencer. "Timmy*, Christiano's older half brother, looked at me with tears crusted all over his face, and walked straight to me with his arms out to be held. My heart broke and I started bawling." The social worker gave 11-month-old Christiano to Dustin and then they all moved to a small room for about 20 minutes to play and get acclimated to their foster dads before going home.

*Not his real name

Dustin (left) and Spencer with the boys in the back

That first night, it was a priority for Spencer and Dustin to get their sons into a structured schedule. They fed and cleaned Timmy and Christiano, got them into their new pajamas, brushed their teeth, sang songs and read stories before putting them to bed. "That has become our nightly routine ever since," said Dustin.

Throughout the two and half years of fostering, Timmy and Christiano's biological family was required to have weekly visitations with their sons. As the boys were part of a sibling group of six, including four half siblings, they would see their biological mom and dad, grandparents and the older siblings during these visits.

In the spring of 2017, Timmy's biological father completed his court-ordered requirements for reunification and was granted custody of his son again. "That was one of the most heart-wrenching experiences for all of us," said Spencer. "We sobbed the day we dropped him off."

Dustin with 5-week-old Demetrias

The separation was also incredibly hard on Christiano; he was one and a half at the time and did not understand what was happening. Christiano experienced anxiety and separation issues for almost a year as a consequence. "Even though the licensing process tries to prepare you for the emotions of reunification, it is still one of the hardest things we have ever had to do," explained Dustin. "We loved him as our own boy for nine months and had to send him back into a situation that was definitely going to cause him even more trauma, but that's the risk of foster care."

During the summer of 2017, Spencer and Dustin were getting ready for their lives to change again. Christiano's biological mother was going through her court-ordered process for reunification and the dads were preparing to reunite them. She had become pregnant with another little boy during the process and was full term. She gave birth to Demetrias in July, but after 5 weeks, DCFS called Dustin and Spencer and asked them not only to keep Christiano, but asked if they would be willing to take on a 5-week old baby boy. The dads didn't hesitate.

"Those first few months while caring for both Christiano and new baby Demetrias were probably the hardest months of our lives," shared Spencer. "I think we were finally able to relate to all parents in a way we never had before: sleepless nights, baby cries... Parenting infants is so hard."

On October 16, 2018, Spencer and Dustin finalized the adoptions of Christiano and Demetrias, after a two and a half year foster journey.

Photo credit: Tiffany Burke, Follow Your Art Photography.


"We had a huge celebration that day at our home with all of our family and friends," said Dustin. "We decided we would make it an official anniversary and call it our "Chosen Day" because it's the day we chose to become a family with these little angels." The dads plan to celebrate every year by doing something special to commemorate the experience.

The Reeser-Stouts have maintained contact with Christiano and Demetrias' biological family, and through their joint experiences, have become friends.

Photo credit: Tiffany Burke, Follow Your Art Photography.

As Spencer and Dustin shared, they've found the whole parenting situation at times very hard, especially on their relationship. "Our first year being dads was probably the roughest of our entire time together as couple," said Spencer. "Life changed dramatically and we lost ourselves to the new situation … we felt like daddy-hood consumed us and as miserable as I am making this sound, we really did struggle." Now the dads are happy to report that they're into the swing of things and they've learned to put themselves first, too, sometimes. They have a regular nanny who allows the dads to get out, make time for themselves and each other. "We are WAY better dads with a nanny!"

"It's just an honor to be living in a time that we get to be dads legally," continued Spencer. "When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a dad, and when I came out it was my biggest sadness thinking that I had to give that up to "be gay". Life just gets better and it makes me so happy to see more and more gay families visible in the community!"

From left to right: Spencer, Dimitrias, Dustin, and Christiano

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Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Speaks Out Against Trump's Attempts to Discriminate Against LGBTQ Adoptive Parents

Any business that accepts federal funding must NOT DISCRIMINATE says adoptive dad Erik Alexander.

Four years ago we received the phone call that changed our lives forever. We were told that in our own city of New Orleans, there was a newborn baby that needed a forever home. What we were told by the agency would likely take five or more years took mere weeks. We frantically started putting together her nursery and planning for her arrival. She was born 10 weeks early and needed to stay in the NICU to grow and gain her strength and weight before she was released. She was so tiny and delicate. We were almost afraid to hold her in the beginning because of how fragile she was.

Finally, the day arrived that we were able to bring her home and we were thrust into overdrive. We prepared by reading all the baby books and watching the videos, but all that goes out the window when you have a baby in your arms. Our little baby had trouble digesting her formula due to her prematurity. The look in her eyes due to the pain she felt broke our hearts. We felt helpless! All we could do was just try to make sure to do everything on our end to help alleviate any pain she may encounter while feeding her. It was terrible. We would hold her for hours trying to console our hurting baby girl. I remember thinking to myself while she was crying that I would do anything to make her feel better.

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Your Foster Questions Answered by a Foster Expert and Foster-Adopt Dad

We asked our Instagram community to send us their questions about becoming a foster dad — and Amara's Foster Care Services Supervisor Trey Rabun responded.

Dad Trey Rabun (read his story here) recently shared his experience as a foster Expert and a foster dad with our Instagram community via a question and answer session.

Read Trey's responses below.

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Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Newly Out Gay Dad Feels 'Demoted' After Divorce

Cameron Call showed up to his first family Thanksgiving since coming out and getting a divorce — and struggles to find himself "stuck with the singles."

Cameron Call, who came out in summer 2019, has generously agreed to chronicle his coming out journey for Gays With Kids over the next several months — the highs, lows and everything in between. Read his first article here.

Denial is an interesting thing. It's easy to think you're potentially above it, avoiding it, assume it doesn't apply to you because you'd NEVER do that, or maybe you're just simply avoiding it altogether. After finally coming out, I liked to think that I was done denying anything from now on. But unfortunately that's not the case.

And this fact became very clear to me over Thanksgiving.

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Resources

New Report Details the 'Price of Parenthood' for LGBTQ People

A new report by the Family Equality Council takes a deep dive into the current state of cost for becoming a parent as an LGBTQ person

Parenthood is expensive. But parenthood while queer is still prohibitively costly for so many segments of the LGBTQ community interested in pursuing a family, according to a new repot by the Family Equality Council, titled, "Building LGBTQ+ Families: The Price of Parenthood."

Among the more interesting findings was this one: the cost of family planning is relatively similar for all LGBTQ people, regardless of income level. This shows "that the desire to have children exists regardless of financial security," the report's authors conclude.

Research for the report was conducted through an online survey of 500 LGBTQ adults over the age of 18, and was conducted between July 11-18, 2018. For comparison, the survey also included 1,004 adults who did not identify as LGBTQ.

Other interesting findings of the report include:

  • 29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, and error associated with question-wording and response options.29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Regardless of annual household income, 45-53% of LGBTQ+ millennials are planning to become parents for the first time or add another child to their family. Those making less than $25,000 a year are considering becoming parents at very similar rates as those making over $100,000.
  • Data from the Family Building Survey reveals that LGBTQ+ households making over $100,000 annually are considering the full range of paths to parenthood, from surrogacy and private adoption to foster care and IVF. The most popular options under consideration in this income bracket are private adoption (74% are considering), foster care (42%), and IVF or reciprocal IVF (21%). At the other end of the economic spectrum, for LGBTQ+ individuals in households making less than $25,000 annually, the most commonly considered paths to parenthood are intercourse (35% are considering), foster care (30%), and adoption (23%).

What to Buy

A Gift Guide for LGBTQ Inclusive Children's Books

Need some ideas for good LGBTQ-inclusive children's books? Look no further than our gift guide!

Every year we see more books released that feature our families, and we're here for it! We're especially excited for the day when diverse and LGBTQ+ inclusive books are less of "the odd one out" and rather considered part of every kids' everyday literacy.

To help us reach that day, we need to keep supporting our community and allies who write these stories. So here's a list of some of the great books that need to be in your library, and gifts to the other kids in your lives.

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Broadway Performer's Surrogacy Journey Briefly Sidetracked — for One Very 'Wicked' Reason

"Broadway Husbands" Stephen and Bret explain the exciting reasons they had to hit pause on their surrogacy journey — but don't worry, they're back on track!

In the latest video of the Broadway Husbands sharing their path to fatherhood, Stephen and Bret explain their hiatus for the past 4 months. The couple have big news to share including a relocation, a job announcement, and the fact that they're getting ready to restart their journey (which they had to take a brief pause from since September).

Watch their video to find out their latest news.

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