Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ball, The Right to Be Parents: LGBT Families and the Transformation of Parenthood

Thanks to Al Brophy at Faculty Lounge, I learned of Carlos Ball's new book, The Right to Be Parents: LGBT Families and the Transformation of Parenthood (NYU Press), which addresses the role of litigation in expanding LGBT parental rights.  Increasingly there are good materials for teaching transgender rights in constitutional law.  One contribution of this book is that its coverage of transgender family rights may make it easier to incorporate that area into legal history classes.  Here's the book description:
In 1975, California courts stripped a lesbian mother of her custody rights because she was living openly with another woman. Twenty years later, the Virginia Supreme Court did the same thing to another lesbian mother. In ordering that children be separated from their mothers, these courts ruled that it was not possible for a woman to be both a good parent and a lesbian.

The Right to be Parents is the first book to provide a detailed history of how LGBT parents have turned to the courts to protect and defend their relationships with their children. Carlos A. Ball chronicles the stories of LGBT parents who, in seeking to gain legal recognition of and protection for their relationships with their children, have fundamentally changed how American law defines and regulates parenthood. Each chapter contains riveting human stories of determination and perseverance as LGBT parents challenge the widely-held view that having a same-sexual orientation, or that being a transsexual, renders individuals incapable of being good parents.

To this day, some courts are still not able to look beyond sexual orientation and gender identity in order to fairly apply legal principles in cases involving LGBT parents and their children. Yet on the whole, stories are of progress and transformation: as a result of these pioneering LGBT parent litigants, the law is increasingly recognizing the wide diversity in American familial structures. The Right to be Parents explores why and how that has come to be.
And the endorsements:
"Ball trains his keen, compassionate and judicious legal mind on heart-tugging, often precedent-setting cases that sought to divest parental custody, visitation and adoption decisions of centuries of gender and sexual bias in US family jurisprudence. This beautiful, wise book documents and helps to guide this momentous legal transformation in contemporary definitions of parenthood. An invaluable, engaging and eloquent contribution to family studies, legal thought, and public knowledge." -Judith Stacey,author of Unhitched: Love, Marriage and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China

“If the adage is true that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, then Carlos Ball’s book will be a tremendous antidote to a hard and painful history. Uninformed and bigoted assumptions about sexual orientation had devastating consequences for many families. No one who reads this important work will fail to appreciate that the gains we have made in greater protection and security for our families came at a very high price for those parents and children who paved the way."-Kate Kendell, Esq.,Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights

"Unique and essential, Professor Ball’s book recounts compelling tales of lesbian and gay parents fighting in the courts for rights that most Americans take for granted. The narratives make little-known histories available even to readers with no legal training, and they also provide clear explanations of legal issues that have been at stake. A wonderful contribution, this volume should be of special interest to lesbian and gay parents and their children as well as to all those who care about them."-Charlotte J. Patterson,University of Virginia