Change the World

A Year of "Dadvocacy" with Dove Men+Care

This past year, Gays With Kids has partnered with Dove Men+Care to fight for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads.

Throughout 2019, we've been advocating alongside our partners Dove Men+Care for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads. We've encouraged our community of gay, bi, and trans dads, along with our allies, to sign the Pledge for Paternity Leave, and we've been part of the Dove Men+Care and PL+US Day of Action on Capitol Hill as a group of Dadvocates, lead by Alexis Ohanian, spoke with lawmakers and shared their paternity leave stories.

We created six videos of dads in our community sharing their paternity leave stories, numerous social posts, and over eight articles on the topic. We've helped collect close to 40,000 signatures for this vital cause, but the fight continues.

We sat down with one of the Dadvocates who played a huge role in organizing the Day of Action, Vice President / General Manager at Unilever, Skin Cleansing & Baby Care USA Nick Soukas, for a Q&A on his thoughts on and experiences of the day itself.


The Dadvocates Day of Action on Capitol Hill - October 22, Washington, D.C.

Gays With Kids: How would you describe the Day of Action?

Nick Soukas: The Dove Men+Care Dads Day of Action was one of the most inspiring days of my career. Our ongoing commitment to paternity leave came to life with the help of our NGO partner PL+US and a team of Dadvocates, including Alexis Ohanian, Unilever leadership and eight real dads from across the country, all of whom are deeply passionate about affecting policy change in Washington, D.C. Paid Family Leave is a bipartisan issue, that impacts all American families, and while conversations around the issue have been increasing in both culture and politics, it is still not a priority issue for many of our politicians. The powerful stories of the Dadvocates, real fathers who have suffered without access to paid paternity leave, were moving and sparked conversations among politicians across the aisle. Seeing politicians post on social media about the Dadvocates and the meetings we had with them was a clear indicator of how truly impactful these stories were, and how effective they were at placing faces and names to an issue.

GWK: What were some of your personal highlights, most rewarding moments from the day?

NS: The most rewarding part of the day was seeing dads and allies from different backgrounds come together to advocate for a common cause. Everyone involved had a key role to play, and those roles fit together to create a compelling movement that resonated with the Members of Congress we met. It was also extremely powerful to see Dadvocates – some of whom stood side-by-side with their partners and children – candidly sharing their personal stories to these legislators. Coming in as a brand representative, it became clear that we have a powerful role to play in amplifying the millions of voices of real dads who use and trust our brand every day. We sometimes underestimate the role that brands and business with purpose have to affect real societal change.

GWK: What do you think were the main achievements of the day?

NS: The main achievement of the day was the number of intimate meetings we had with key legislators from both sides of the aisle. We ended up meeting with 23 legislators in total, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Bill Cassidy and more. It was powerful and effective to bring our Dadvocates to D.C., leading the meetings with their personal stories – it was clear that these stories, especially those coming from constituents, had a lasting emotional impact on the people sitting in the room.

Nick Soukas speaking on Capitol Hill, alongside PL+US's Founder and Executive Director Katie Bethell, and Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian

GWK: What are Dove Men+Care's next steps to continue advocating for paternity leave?

NS: Our plan is to continue to build support of the Pledge for Paternity Leave until federally mandated policy becomes a reality for all American parents. We saw the Dads Day of Action as an important step in the journey towards this goal. In 2020, we hope to continue connecting with key legislators at both the Federal and Local levels, and inspire individuals, communities and businesses to become advocates for the cause and take action however they can.

GWK: What should our community continue to do regarding next steps? How can folks keep advocating and pushing for change?

NS: The Gays with Kids community adds a valuable voice to the paid leave conversation, as GBT dads and LGBTQ parents are often not brought to the forefront when the issue is addressed by our legislators. For all communities, it is so important to remain active and engaged – actively keeping eyes and ears open about the issue, and taking action however they see fit. There is strength in numbers.

GWK: Looking back on 2019, where and how do you think Dove Men+Care's campaign was most impactful?

NS: Overall, it is clear that the Pledge for Paternity Leave tapped into a barrier that is truly affecting men and their ability to care for others. With nearly 40,000 Pledge signatures to date, the community has created a strong foundation for a movement fighting for paid paternity leave and paid leave policies overall. We continue to foster and engage this community through our Facebook group – Advocates for Paternity Leave – where we will sustain growth in advocacy by providing valuable tools and resources needed to take action. I think the most impactful part of our campaign is in this community, and in their authentic stories. As such, we feel the Pledge has begun to generate the social proof necessary for people to feel comfortable talking about the issue, and feel inspired to take action for change.

GWK: Congratulations on recently becoming a dad! How have you found fatherhood so far and what was your paternity leave experience?

NS: Fatherhood is a unique and personal journey for every dad and my journey was no exception. I was fortunate to have the opportunity from Unilever to take paid leave and I took the full time I was given. Those early moments are so critical in forming a bond with your child, but it's also an important period for parents to build their confidence. Parenting isn't something that you naturally fall into and become an expert in, it requires quality time with your child and your partner. Through my own experience with paternity leave, and through the work we are doing at Dove Men+Care, I want to make sure that no dad has to choose between their job and their family.


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Politics

Colorado Republicans Try and Fail to Outlaw LGBTQ Marriage and Adoption Rights

A bill introduced by four Republican state legislators in Colorado that would outlaw same-sex marriage and adoption rights was voted down.

The "Colorado Natural Marriage and Adoption Act," which would have outlawed gay marriage and adoption in the state of Colorado, was voted down in the state legislature this week. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Stephen Humphrey and three of his conservative colleagues: Dave Williams, Shane Sandridge and Mark Baisley.

If enacted, the bill would have enforced "state law that marriage is between one man and one woman" and restrict "adoption of children by spouses in a marriage ... that consist of one man and one woman."

The bill, which had little chance of success, particularly in Colorado which has trended more progressive over the past several election cycles, was mostly symbolic, according to Sanridrge. "We all know this bill isn't gonna pass in this current left-wing environment," he told Colorado Public Radio. "It's to remind everyone, this is the ultimate way to conceive a child."

In a sign of how far we've come on the issue of LGBTQ marriage and parenting rights, most Republican legislators in the state did not endorse the bill.

Though the bill had little chance of passage, LGBTQ advocacy groups in the state are taking the threats seriously nonetheless. Daniel Ramos, director of the LGBTQ group One Colorado, told LGBTQ Nation that the bills were an attempt to return Colorado to its "hate status" of the 1990s, adding the aggressiveness of the measures were "a bit surprising."

Change the World

Your Marriage Should Be Gayer, Says the New York Times

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," lists the many insights LGBTQ marriages can offer straight ones.

According to a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times this week by Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," turns out the people convinced marriage equality — legal across the United States for five years now — would usher in the complete breakdown of civil society should be more worried about the health of their own marriages.

In the article, Coontz details the results of research that followed 756 "midlife" straight marriages, and 378 gay marriages, and found same-sex couples reporting the lowest levels of physiological distress — with male gay couples reporting the lowest. The reason for this, the author said, is pretty simple — misogyny. The idea that men and women should strive for parity in a relationship is still a fairly new idea, Coontz said, and traditional gender roles are still pervasive. Gay couples, meanwhile, are free from such presumptions, which often results in happier, healthier relationships.

The most interesting findings in the research relate to parenting. While gender norms tend to be even more emphasized among straight people once they have children, with the bulk of the childrearing falling to mothers, same-sex couples — once again freed from the stereotypes of the male/female divide — parent more equitably. As the author notes, "A 2015 survey found that almost half of dual-earner, same-sex couples shared laundry duties, compared with just under a third of different-sex couples. And a whopping 74 percent of same-sex couples shared routine child care, compared with only 38 percent of straight couples."

When it comes to time spent with children, men in straight marriages spent the least amount of time and the lowest proportion of "nonwork" time, with their children — while men in same-sex marriages spent just as much time with their children as women in a straight relationship. "The result?" Coontz writes, "Children living with same-sex parents experienced, on average, three and a half hours of parenting time per day, compared with two and a half for children living with a heterosexual couple."

Straight fathers devote the least amount of time — about 55 minutes a day — on their children, which includes things like physical needs, reading, playing, and homework. Gay mothers spent an additional 18 minutes each and straight mothers an additional 23 minutes. Gay fathers spent the most time with their children, the study found, an average of an additional 28 minutes a day.

Taken together, straight couples spend an average of 2 hours and 14 minutes on their children. Lesbian moms spend an additional 13 minutes, while gay men spend 33 more minutes than straight couples.

One factor, the author notes, that can help explain this difference is this: gay parents rarely end up with an unintended or unwanted child, whereas a full 45% percent of pregnancies in straight relationships in 2011 (the last year data is available) were unintended, and 18% were unwanted.

But right. Gay people shouldn't be parents.

Politics

New Report Finds Paid Family Leave Rising Among Top Employers

PL+US report has found paid family and medical leave policies more popular than ever among nation's top employers

PL+US, an organization that advocates for paid family leave policies for all families, released a report that showed paid family and medical leave policies gaining steam among the nation's top employers. In a first, the non-profit expanded its research this year to examine the largest employment sectors in the country to help show what policies look like for workers in different sectors.

Among the report's main findings:

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News

What's it Like to Be a Child of the 'Gayby Boom'?

Tosca Langbert, who grew up with two dads, writes a piece for the Harvard Business Review about what it's like being among the first children of the "Gayby Boom" to come of age.

We've previously written about the pressure on LGBTQ parents to appear perfect, given that so many in the United States still feel out families shouldn't exist in the first place. And we know this pressure trickles down to our kids. But In an article for the Harvard Business Review titled 'The Gayby Boom Is Here to Stay," author Tosca Langbert eloquently writes, from her perspective, about the experience of beingone of the first children to come of age during an era when LGBTQ parenthood is far more commonplace. She and her two siblings, she notes, "were raised in a family that was an impossibility only decades ago."

In the article, Langbert said she knew from a young age that her family was different from those of most of her peers, who had one a father and a mother. But otherwise, she writes, she didn't feel like her family differed much. "Like any other parents, Dad sat in the carpool lane after school and taught us how to ride our bikes," she writes, "while Papa took us to the movies on the weekends and separated the whites from the colors."

Despite this mundanity, her family remained something to marvel at for much of her youth. When the family moved into a new neighborhood in 2006, it made the local newspaper, with a headline titled, "Gay Father Tests Tolerance in the Park Cities."

She and her siblings have spent much of their lives, she explained further, having to respond to the question: what's it like having two gay dads? For Langbert, there is only one correct response, which is: Amazing! "Any other response, even if simply accounting for a family's nuanced experience, might as well be an outright admission of failure on behalf of the entire LGBTQ community," she wrote.

Children of the 'Gayby Generation,' are also put in the position of having to come out on behalf of their parents, and "often with mixed results," she wrote. She gave the following anecdote as an example:

"My father was asked to step down from his leadership position in my brother's Boy Scout troop on account of his sexuality. Even though my siblings and I were only fourth graders at the time, we understood that our family was under strict scrutiny, and that even the slightest misstep could beget severe consequences for how competent our fathers were perceived as being. In the face of this pressure, the first generation of 'gaybies' recognized the importance of presenting their families as perfect; doing otherwise would only present ammunition to those already dubious about the rights of LGBTQ parents to raise children."

The entire article, which includes the perspectives of multiple now-grown kids that are part of the "Gayby generation," is well worth a read, which you can access here.


Politics

Utah Bill Would Allow Gay Men to Enter Surrogacy Contracts

Rep. Patrice Arent of Utah is sponsoring a bill that will remove a provision that currently prohibits gay men from entering into commercial surrogacy contracts in the state.

Though Utah is not one of the three states that currently prohibit commercial surrogacy contracts, the state's current policy does specifically exclude gay men from doing so. That may soon changed, however, thanks to a bill in the state's legislature that was unanimously voted out of a House Committee that would remove that restriction.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, a Democrat, was created in response to a ruling by the Utah Supreme Court this past August that found the ban on gay men unconstitutional.

Gay men have been excluded from legally entering surrogacy contracts due to a provision in the current law that requires medical evidence "that the intended mother is unable to bear a child or is unable to do so without unreasonable risk to her physical or mental health or to the unborn child," Rep. Arent told the Salt Lake Tribune — a requirement that clearly excludes gay male couples.

The state's original surrogacy law dates back to 2005, before same-sex marriage was legalized in the state, which accounts for the gendered language. Though the state's Supreme Court already ruled the provision unconstitutional, Rep Arent further told the Tribute that, "People do not look to Supreme Court opinions to figure out the law, they look to the code and the code should be constitutional."

Surrogacy for Gay Men

Dads Talk About Surrogacy Process in New Video for Northwest Surrogacy Center

The Northwest Surrogacy Center interviewed some of their gay dad clients for a video to celebrate their 25th anniversary of creating families through surrogacy!

Image: NWSC Clients

Last year, Northwest Surrogacy Center celebrated 25 years of helping parents realize their dreams. And they celebrated in style by inviting the families they've worked with over the past two and a half decades to join them!

At the party, they took the opportunity to film queer dads and dads-to-be, asking them a couple of questions: how did it feel holding your baby for the first time, and tell us about your relationship with your surrogate.

Watch the video below and get ready for the water works!

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Campaign to Legalize Surrogacy in New York Heats Up with Competing Bills

Two competing bills — one backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and another by Senator Liz Krueger with stricter provisions — are aiming to legalize surrogacy in New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is once again attempting to legalize commercial surrogacy in the state, which is still just one of three states in the country to forbid the practice.

"This antiquated law is repugnant to our values and we must repeal it once and for all and enact the nation's strongest protections for surrogates and parents choosing to take part in the surrogacy process," Governor Cuomo said in a statement in announcing a broader effort called Love Makes a Family. "This year we must pass gestational surrogacy and expedite the second parent adoption process to complete marriage and family equality."

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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