Hoosier Moms for Freedom is diverse coalition of moms who working hard every day to ensure that they and their LGBT sons and daughters can live free from the threat of discrimination. These are their stories:
STORIES IN THIS COLLECTION
Donnica Barrett is a plaintiff in the case of eight same-sex Indiana couples who sued the state for the right to have the names of both parents printed on their child’s birth certificate.
But she didn’t know about any of these legal issues when her son was born. She was mostly worried about the health and safety of herself and their child, who was born 5 weeks early because of complications with her pregnancy.
Thankfully, she said, the doctors and nurses provided excellent care, and everything went as smoothly as it possibly could have—until it came time to submit the official documents. Donnica was informed the State Board of Health would not accept the form as completed, with her wife’s name and information where the “father’s” should go.
“Having spent the last 48 hours awake with a new baby in the NICU, to have her parenthood questioned at such a vulnerable time was overwhelming.”
“This case is about protecting him first, not us. He is our life. The state’s job is to promote to protection of Indiana families, and our children are its most vulnerable citizens.” –Donnica Barrett, plaintiff
In addition to the emotional toll it took on her family that day, Donnica worried about her son’s future—what harm might come of him if his legal right to have the protection of both his parents continued to be challenged by the state?
“This case is about protecting him first, not us,” she says. “He is our life. The state’s job is to promote to protection of Indiana families, and our children are its most vulnerable citizens.”
Indiana law only provides two ways for parents to obtain legal status relating to their children. One of those is to have a biological connection—an obvious hurdle for two other plaintiffs in the case, Calle and Sarah Janson, who used a donor to conceive their daughter, Finley.
That’s why they and seven other Indiana couples are suing for right of LGBT couples to have the names of both parents printed on their child’s birth certificate.
They’ve been together through everything, Calle says, and it’s absolutely ridiculous that the law is keeping them apart, legally, in the most important thing they’ve ever done together: raising their daughter.
“If two parents are available to a child, and love that child, that child deserves to have that protection.” –Calle Janson, plaintiff
“Sarah and I made the decision to start a family together, we chose the donor together, we both cried tears of joy when we found out we were expecting and she was there every step of the pregnancy,” Calle says. “While I labored, she was literally the shoulders that I leaned on. She deserves to bear all the legal responsibilities and protections as Finley’s other mother.”
Calle says Finley also deserves better—she and other children of same-sex couples deserve to have both parents, who love their children just as much, recognized as such.
“If two parents are available to a child, and love that child, that child deserves to have that protection.”
For the non-birth-parent in married LGBT couples, the only way they can gain legal rights over their child is to go through the long, cumbersome process of adoption.
However, this is something that opposite-sex married couples don’t have to do, even if their children are conceived through means that don’t confer an automatic biological relationship, like artificial insemination.
Lyndsey and Cathy Bannick—two plaintiffs who are suing the state for the right to have both of their names printed on their child’s birth certificate—have looked at legal adoption, but say the cost and process are prohibitive.
“Besides the obvious equal rights protection, this case is especially important to our family for Cathy to be seen as an equal mother and protected just the same in all facets of life,” says Lyndsey, listing the important parenting areas that Cathy could get cut out of by the law, including doctor’s visits and school decisions.
Lyndsey gave birth to the couple’s first child, Hayden, two years ago, and is due to give birth to their second in July. They’ve been in a committed relationship for eight years, legally married for four years, and made the decision to have and raise kids as a team.
“This case is especially important to our family for Cathy to be seen as an equal mother and protected just the same in all facets of life.” –Lyndsey Bannick, plaintiff
Despite that, under current law, Cathy has to fight to be seen as Hayden’s mom by the state. In fact, she actually has to carry around extra paperwork drawn up by lawyers to “prove” that she is Hayden’s mother.
Lyndsey says that with a win in this case, “Cathy would finally be seen as a second legal parent of our children, without having to go through the costly adoption and home studies,” a process she thinks is absurd for a legally married couple who made a choice to have children together.
Shelly Snyder is a mom on a mission. Three years ago her daughter, Gwyneth, came out as transgender. That moment, Shelly said, lifted “a ton of bricks” off of Gwyneth’s shoulders.
But although her daughter seemed finally at peace with who she really was, some of that weight had been transferred to Shelly.
The more Shelly learned about who transgender people are, and the challenges they face just for being who they are, the more she worried. The statistics she read were jarring: 1 in 12 transgender women are murdered. They’re the number-one victims of hate crimes. Forty-one percent of LGBT youth attempt suicide.
“I wept. I knew I had to help somehow,” she said. “Its infuriating, knowing that many things in her life will be more difficult because she is trans. Things we take for granted, like going to the women’s restroom. My goal is to change that for future trans kids and their parents. Not only trans individuals, but all LBGTQI people.”
“Its infuriating, knowing that many things in her life will be more difficult because she is trans. Things we take for granted, like going to the women’s restroom. My goal is to change that for future trans kids.” –Shelly Snyder, Co-Founder of ORVPRIDE
So Shelly started reaching out, hoping to infuse some new energy into the local Dearborn Pride Alliance, whose Facebook page she had been managing. She organized a meet and greet at her home in Bright, Indiana, but initially, the call for attendees attracted few people, mostly locals from her small community just north of Lawrenceburg.
Now, what started as a mother’s attempt to ensure that her transgender daughter felt welcomed and accepted in their community has blossomed into a multi-county advocacy group that serves LGBT residents across the Ohio River Valley—the Ohio River Valley Pride Coalition (ORVPRIDE).