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Friday, October 5, 2007

Meanwhile in Utah

posted by on October 5 at 10:22 AM


A woman that can’t care for her four children—she’s got a drug problem, the father is not on the scene—begged her uncle to take in her children. He’s already raising two children but he did the right thing and took in his niece’s four children—kids that range in age from 10 months to 11 years old. Enter the state of Utah. The man that took in his niece’s four kids is gay and lives with a male partner. The state of Utah wants to remove the four children from the home of Michael Gregg Valdez—he’s the uncle—and Michael Oberg and put them in foster care.

To the state, it’s a simple matter of the law, which says that to adopt or be a foster parent, you must be legally married or single and not cohabitating. Officials asked for clarification of a judge’s directive that Valdez have custody of the children, requesting that the court take custody or grant custody to the state’s Division of Child and Family Services….

The two men, both natives of Utah County, said they would love to get married, but voters passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

The men have been together for five years, both are natives of Utah, both are employed, and neither has a criminal history. The state will have to split the four siblings up if it succeeds in removing from their uncles’ home; it’s almost impossible to find a foster home that will take four children. A brave judge in Utah has so far bucked the state:

Officials [requested] that the court take custody or grant custody to the state’s Division of Child and Family Services. On Friday, the courts took custody, then turned around and granted Valez temporary custody of the children.

“The judge said, ‘I see absolutely no reason why the kids can’t stay where they’re at,’” Valdez said.

Under Utah law the men not only can’t serve as foster parents, they also can’t adopt. Finding foster parents for four siblings ranging in age from 10 months to 11 years is nearly impossible. Finding adoptive parents for a sibling group that large is utterly impossible. But the law in Utah is clear: These four children should be tossed into the foster care system, potentially separated from each other for the rest of their lives, and if their mother loses custody permanently, denied any chance of a stable home. Because it would be illegal to place these children in the care of a loving, stable same-sex couple that they’re related to.

My head is going to explode. I don’t even know what to say. So let’s give the last word to the 11 year-old boy whose life the state of Utah wants to destroy:

An 11-year-old boy who is in the temporary custody of his great-uncle says he wants to stay where he is. But his great-uncle is gay, and the state of Utah doesn’t license foster couples who aren’t legally married.

That means this boy and his three brothers and sisters could be taken away from relatives and split up until their mother regains custody.

The boy said, “I would rather live with my mom. But if I can’t, I’d rather live here.”

RSS icon Comments


Utah. God's country.

Posted by Mr. Poe | October 5, 2007 10:32 AM

breaks my heart

Posted by monkey | October 5, 2007 10:33 AM

I'm sure that some mormom or conservative christian family will try to keep these kids from the evil, evil gays.

Hopefully it's one of the scary quiverfull families that already have 11 kids and expect God to put enough food on the table for them.

Then they can be brainwashed to hate the only relative that they can count on.

Posted by Leeerker | October 5, 2007 10:34 AM

I wonder how we can get stories like this more widely publicized and seen by the types of people who vote against gay marriage. I think human interest stories like this will do more than any other argument.

Posted by J | October 5, 2007 10:35 AM

Also, is it bad that one of the first things that popped into my head was "what kind of judge would end a sentence with the word at?"

Posted by J | October 5, 2007 10:37 AM

Awful. The worst part is a great number of Utahians (and conservatives in general) believe the kids are better off being split up and sent to strangers than being "exposed" for fagness.

Posted by Mike in MO | October 5, 2007 10:42 AM

Jesus. 4 days in London at an international law conference at which a lot of discussion took place on what is going on in other parts of the world and all I need to do is read a story like that to see that in many ways the US is like much of the third world.

Posted by Dave Coffman | October 5, 2007 10:42 AM


Or much of the U.S. is like much of the third world. In first world parts of this country, those guys' orientation and marital status would be meaningless.

Anyway, how is it that Utah law supersedes the mother's rights? I'm no family law attorney, but it seems like the mother can (or should be able to) let whomever she wants take care of her kids.

Posted by keshmeshi | October 5, 2007 10:59 AM

OK, I took a deep breath and read the reader comments on the article, preparing for the worst, and was pleasantly surprised to read people making clear and incisive remarks about the unfairness of the current laws, while not taking any BS from the usual haters. So, if anything positive does come out of this, at least people in Utah are having a real debate.

And Dan, you won't be surprised to learn that one of the haters posted the Last Supper ad for the Folsom Street fair as justification for why the kids should never see their gay uncle ever ever ever again. Other commenters mocked him for equating this couple's situation with an event in SF, so that's a sign there are some sane people in Utah after all. Who knew?

Posted by Original Andrew | October 5, 2007 11:04 AM

@5 No, you're right. Judges should be able to make their arguments with grammatically correct sentences.

Posted by tangent | October 5, 2007 11:04 AM

On second thought, I think that article was quoting the gay dad who was in turn quoting the judge, so maybe he mixed up the grammar.

Posted by J | October 5, 2007 11:32 AM

At least most of the country can look at this situation and see how crazy these laws are. Hypotheticals are no substitute for the real thing. It is a situation that Lamda craves too! Could these guys be any cleaner cut? I totally see them on the cover of magazines as the poster gays of unfair law practices.

Raising so many children in this situation would be difficult. I hope that the children are not too screwed up.

Posted by BassSinger | October 5, 2007 11:45 AM

English sentences can properly be ended with prepositions:

The "rule" about prepositions was created by people trying to fit English into Latin grammar.

Posted by SpookyCat | October 5, 2007 11:49 AM

Its not so much that the sentence was ended with a preposition as that he used the phrase "where they're at" at all. It should have been "where they are."

Besides, the site you linked says "Often what looks like a preposition in an English sentence is really not a preposition but a part of the verb" and in that case it is ok to have it at the end of a sentence. But the preposition under discussion in this case was not part of a verb phrase.

Posted by J | October 5, 2007 11:56 AM

I can't believe you're arguing about grammar.

Posted by Dan Savage | October 5, 2007 12:05 PM

Um, yeah. I think my head did just explode. This is stupid beyond words. If it was ever necessary for me to take (temporary) custody of my nieces and nephews, and the state decided I couldn't because I'm a homo, I'd probably snap and go on a homicidal rampage. At least in my imagination. I adore my nieces and nephews. I excel in my roll as favorite crazy uncle. I can't imagine what those guys are going through.

Posted by SDA in SEA | October 5, 2007 12:20 PM

what in the world is wrong with people?
I can't even believe this story. . .with all the horrors of fostercare.
totally un-fucking-belieable.

Can't they just move the hell out of Utah. Take the kids and split?

Posted by irl500girl | October 5, 2007 12:25 PM

It wasn't the judge who ended the sentance with "at," it was the Gay guy explaining what the judge said. The judge probably did not actually end his ruling as such. Geez, fucking read before you get all grammar police on this nice judge.

Posted by dan | October 5, 2007 12:43 PM

It wasn't the judge who ended the sentence with "at," it was the Gay guy explaining what the judge said. The judge probably did not actually end his ruling as such. Geez, fucking read before you get all grammar police on this nice judge.

Posted by dan | October 5, 2007 12:43 PM

Aw, I think it's charming that there's a grammar battle. Only on the Slog!

Posted by Gloria | October 5, 2007 12:46 PM

This is EXACTLY when evolution made gay people! It's pretty damned handy to have a few childless uncles and aunts around for situations like this.

(I realize the uncle in question has two kids -- you get the idea)

Posted by mulwana | October 5, 2007 1:01 PM

Wait, so they want to take the four kids out because they aren't "fit" to raise them, but it's ok for them to raise their other two kids? Wha??

Good for that judge though. I hope they get to keep the kids, they look like a very cute and loving couple. Kudos to them for taking in the kids.

Posted by Jessika | October 5, 2007 1:29 PM

We're arguing about grammar because there's nothing else to say here-- we all agree they should keep the kids, and its preaching to the choir. That's why the first thing I said was how can we make sure people who don't already agree with us see this kind of article?

@19 Follow your own advice and read before you post-- I already said that.

Posted by J | October 5, 2007 1:30 PM

Most family court judges have the discretion to do what is "in the best interests of the child" regardless of specific statutes. In any event, even if Utah law prohibits a fostering an adoption, the court can still, WITHIN THE LAW, place the children in the uncle's home as their "guardian" . . . which does not require a "foster parent" identification. It's all up to the judge, and this guy seems like a good one. So I'm not too worried.

Posted by DWS77 | October 5, 2007 2:42 PM

This whole story makes me very sad. Those two daddies look so beautiful. And to think the state would rather toss these kids around in a foster parent lotto than keep them together with a family that loves them.

Posted by Steve Schalchlin | October 5, 2007 4:11 PM

I can bear a judge ending a sentence with a preposition. Just thank God he didn't say "irregardless" or even worse "I have been dialoguing . . ."
Absolutely insufferable.

Posted by Sean | October 5, 2007 5:17 PM

I'm with 24 -- even if they can't adopt or be foster parents under the stupid law, why can't the uncle be the guardian (and relative), which is what it sounds like the mom intended anyway. I wonder if they can't afford 4 more kids and that's why they want/need foster care status, so that they'd get some minimal money toward food and clothes? Donations, anyone?

If they went to live with grandma, say, and she had a live-in BF, would they take the kids away too? Or would she be considered a foster parent as well, rather than just a relative?

Posted by Jen | October 5, 2007 5:33 PM

Dan, any chance Lambda Legal will get involved in this one? I think it's a chance to turn a very ugly cloud into a silver lining. It's about time there was a constitutional challenge to the notion that gay marriage can be outlawed. Anyone want to make a donation to the cause?

Posted by Paul | October 5, 2007 5:39 PM

Geez...and to think my state actually BORDERS that state. It's a scary thought. See it's ok in that state to take a 14-year old girl and force her into a marriage with a grown adult cousin. That's what their god would want, right? I know that's a leap, right? The LDS church is MILES away from the FLDS church in doctrine, right??? Just goes to show hypocrisy ALWAYS rears its ugly head...

Posted by MarknVegas | October 5, 2007 5:54 PM

Strange that the same people who scream for limited government have no problem sending in government henchmen to remove children from people's homes. Isn't the "common good" and left wing mantra? This story is truly a tragedy in the making...

Posted by Mario | October 5, 2007 6:18 PM

Strange that the same people who scream for limited government have no problem sending in government henchmen to remove children from people's homes. Isn't the "common good" a left wing mantra? This story is truly a tragedy in the making...

Posted by Mario | October 5, 2007 6:19 PM

Does this mean that a gay uncle in Utah can't even babysit or "hang out" with his nieces and nephews? Maybe Big Brother would like to simply start breeding camps while they're at it.

Posted by Justin | October 5, 2007 6:20 PM

What ever happened to individual rights? Doesn't the mother have a right to place her kids where she wishes, even above state interests? The US Supreme Court ruled in 1974 that the Amish have a right to end their children's education at 8th grade, contrary to the State of Wisconsins wishes. Individual religous rights, the court wrote, supersede state intersts. Now it's the reverse. We have the state forcing it's religion on its citizens. Unfortunately, many people on the Left are all for government intervention too, as long as the state is intervening in what THEY believe is okay. Do you see what a mega can of worms we've opened with all this government-save-us-from-ourselves nonsense? Where is the America where people used to have individaul rights? We're now like europe where it's all about the collective good.

Posted by DPapaccio Chicago, IL | October 5, 2007 6:26 PM

Dan, is there anything productive we can do? I mean, other than whine about how unfair this is (which it is)?

Posted by jenny | October 5, 2007 6:32 PM

The sad thing is that the Christianists who support this kind of madness are going to be really shocked when they find themselves frying for all eternity in the hottest part of hell.

Posted by kk | October 5, 2007 6:35 PM

Weird. I practiced family law in Alaska until a few months ago, and in AK, even if the state has taken custody, they are bound by statute to place first with a relative, before considering foster care, unless the relative has certain criminal convictions or an unsafe home. So foster care regulations wouldn't even be an issue. And in this case the state hasn't even taken custody. But I have no idea what Utah law is.

THis is extremely interesting, to say the least.

Posted by Phoebe | October 5, 2007 7:10 PM

I think the suggestion that they move is probably the best one. However, it just sucks that they'd have to go to all that trouble just to take care of someone else's children.

If heterosexuals are the only ones fit to take care of kids (yes, I am one), then where are the parents? Oh, right, that's the substance-abusing mom and the absent dad.

Jesus, here you have two people willing to take care of four kids and the State is having to stick its nose into someone else's business. Only in America.

Posted by Steve | October 5, 2007 8:07 PM

Thank you, GOD! This is exactly the sort of protection of marriage that my pasty cuntface has been praying for. May GOD take these children and put them in the homes of total strangers so that they won't be near gays!


Posted by Maggie Gallagher | October 5, 2007 8:45 PM

Can't we seize the otherwise beautiful state of Utah from all those close-minded fascist Mormons?

Posted by Gomez | October 5, 2007 9:22 PM

Dan, is there anything productive we can do? I mean, other than whine about how unfair this is (which it is)?

Write/fax/email the governor? The mayor? The Division of Child and Family Services?

Posted by notDan | October 6, 2007 6:18 AM

Well, I agree with most all the comments, but the American bashing is unwaranted. In Canada, the state successfully took guardianship over 5 children being raised by Jehova Witnesses becasue JWs do not believe in blood transfusions, which one of the kids needed. (Keep in mind the Utah judge granted temporary custody to the gay parents--that wouldn't happen in most the world--the gay guys would probably be executed.) I always tell my gay left wing friends who despiste Utah but seem to be in love with the Middle East: would you rather be excommunicated or executed?? Again, the Left sees this as okay. Where do we draw the line? Either the state has a right to take away our kids for the "common good" or it doesn't. Liberty is a two-way street. The more power we give government to fight our "enemies" the more freedom we all lose. When we use the government as a boxing ring to fight out our differences, we're all losers. There is only one winner: the corrupt government.

Posted by DPapaccio Chicago, IL | October 6, 2007 8:18 AM

Without discussing whether this is right or wrong, why get outraged specifically about Utah? Just because of the Mormon connection? This exact same story would be true in how many states? If you are interested, look it up.

Having said that, I think the law is ridiculous - and I am an active Mormon in a pretty prominent position in my community. I sympathize completely, but to turn this into a Mormon / Utah rant is stupid.

Posted by Curtis | October 6, 2007 8:45 AM

I agree with Curtis. I'm Mormon, and I'm sympathetic to the uncle and the children, and I think most of my Mormon friends (not all) would feel the same way. Family counts for a lot.

Posted by John | October 6, 2007 9:15 AM

@5 First off, it's perfectly grammatical to end a sentence with a preposition. That rule is a silly one derived from Latin in an attempt to add prestige to English at a time when French was considered the language of culture. It has no roots in actual English.

On to the post. I'm dealing with a kid who's been through the foster system, and who was lucky enough to be adopted by a loving mother after spending four years shuffling between foster homes. I have no idea how any sane person can believe that the foster system as we have it set up could possibly be more healthy than any stable family. At best, it's only marginally more healthy than leaving them with their fucked up parents, since it seems that a lot of foster parents are pretty fucked up in their own right.

Posted by Gitai | October 6, 2007 9:30 AM

to the mormons writing in, please be honest with yourselves and realize that the words of a mormon in the state of utah carry exponentially more weight than anyone who has anything to do with gayness. them's the breaks.

please, good mormons, do what you can to speak out and get your friends to do the same. i know there are many of you.

Posted by trevor | October 6, 2007 9:38 AM

God bless Michael & Michael for accepting the task of caring for 6 innocent souls.

Posted by Kirt | October 6, 2007 11:03 AM

This is not a Mormon thing simply because it happened to take place in Utah. If this tragedy occured in, say, Alabama, this board would probably be filled with Baptist-bashing even though not all Baptists are homophobic.

I'm not a Mormon but I do know how important the family is to LDS doctrine. The mother has done the right thing in recognizing that her addiction was causing problems for her children and deciding to place them with a relative who can provide them with a loving, stable home while she gets her act together. Any good Mormon (and I know there are many out there) should be outraged at the state's decision to interfere with what should be a private matter between this mother and her family. If you are a Mormon/Utah resident and agree, by all means speak up! Talk to other members of your congregation, write letters to the editor, contact your state representative. It's your state too, do what you can to get the law changed so this sort of thing won't happen again.

Posted by david | October 6, 2007 11:21 AM

Ok, leave it to a conservative to so clumsily conflate and obscufate the issues. In specific, No. 41 (Pappadappachooki from Chicago) attempts to address a child custody issue by twisting it into the weary cliche that his "gay left wing friends despiste (sic} Utah" but love the Middle East. How tired. And what a slanderous lie.

Moreover, I am an attorney, and you're wrong on the law as well. In adjudicating issues of child placement and/or custody, the legal standard is not the "common good." In almost all states, the standard is the "best interests of the child."

In addition, I am a liberal and I do not "despiste" Utah. In fact, I think it's a beautiful state. I just happen to despise bigotry, small-mindedness, intolerance and moral hypocrisy, which your state seems to have in spades.

So do me a favor, Pappadappachooki, please don't provide any more legal analyses. Watching you try to give legal analysis is like watching George Bush dance. Just plain mortifying.

Posted by Sean | October 6, 2007 11:30 AM

Unfortunately folks, this does have a Mormon slant as it takes place in Utah County--the very heart of Utah Mormonism, home of BYU, the LDS Missionary Traning Center, and the highest proportion of active Mormons in the state of Utah, almost ALL (like 90 percent or higher)consistently vote Republican. It has to be the most right-wing, reactionary county in the entire US. The gay men in the story will likely not find much sympathy from people there. Salt Lake City, much akin to Austin in Texas, is primarily Democrat (in a very red state), progessive AND gay friendly. It's too bad the guys live where they do--I wish them all the best.

Posted by SLC Native | October 6, 2007 1:59 PM

This is appalling. There have been gay adoptions since the first bachelor uncle or maiden aunt took in the children of a deceased sibling, exactly as has happened here. Good for the Judge who understands that the "best interests" of the children should trump any statement of public policy.

Posted by marykk | October 7, 2007 11:04 AM

it is not only sickening to know that that a law is more important than the mental welfare of these children, but the article did not even mention that the grandfather of these children also live with the uncles in the same household; who is more than happy to take custody of the children. The law also permits the grandfather from doing so because he lives with gregg and michael. he would have to move out of their home to be allowed custody. The law also says that gregg and michael could have custody if they sign government documents stating they will live in seperate bendrooms and sign papers saying they will not engage in sexual activity while in custody of the children. their relationship would then be monitored with legal consequences for breaking contract.

Posted by britt | October 7, 2007 2:59 PM

Sean No. 48, I read DPapaccio's statement (btw, your obvious xenophobia cannot be ignored by the way you deliberately misspelled his name--not all of us can be so honored to have a our last names ending in consonants), but anyway, no where does he mention law or disclose he's conservative. And if you knew anything about the gay community, you would know that it is knee-jerk anti-American and sympathetic to Islam. If this had taken place in Islam, I'm sure most the liberals posting anti-Mormon sentiments would hold themselves back from expressing anti-Islam sentiment. Whether this is from PC or fear I don't know. Perhaps you reacted so passionately to Papaccio's statement because you know it to be true? I personally found his comment that the left and the right creating a big government will only strip us of more of our individual rights very insightful. You must be one of those radical lefties who hate the idea that others can think on their own.

Posted by Cherrie Andresen, Provo, Utah | October 8, 2007 8:44 AM

Curtis No. 42, I agree that people are using this as an excuse to bash Mormons (although this does not excuse the actions of the state). I remember when Brokeback Mountain came out, a British newspaper picked up the story that the Utah Jazz owner who owns a theater banned the movie from being shown in his theater. The British tabloid went on a rant about how this is not only indicative of all of Utah, but all of the United States. The left wing paper failed to mention the film was being shown in several other SLC area theaters with sell-out crowds. Did the British paper mention that the film was banned in all of the Islam world? No! Ironic that this anti-Mormon, anti-American rant came out just as the Brits were coping with yet another terrorist attack from home-grown militan Islamists. How many blond, blue eyed Mormons with Scandinavian ancestry are strapping bombs to their chests looking to blow up the London Underground. The Left hates Christianity, and Mormonism in particular because its origins come from America.

Posted by CherrieAndersen, Provo, Utah | October 8, 2007 8:51 AM

Yea I don't get your rant either lawyerboy. What's your issue......... Me thinks the truth hurties you??

Posted by Tonio | October 8, 2007 9:08 AM

wait, then how is he already raising two kids?

Posted by kathleen | October 8, 2007 12:36 PM

Remember the good old days when conservatives were looking to keep government out of our affairs?

Posted by Martin S | October 8, 2007 12:43 PM

Salt Lake City was rated by Planet Out as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. "Salt Lake City Outed as Gay-friendly" USA Today:
BYU also just recently made discrimination on sexual-orientation illegal. You're probably more likely to be gay bashed in New York City or Boston than Salt Lake City or Austin, Texas.

Posted by John Galt | October 8, 2007 12:48 PM

I think their "special underwear" is a bit too tight in Utah

Posted by Elaygee | October 8, 2007 3:28 PM

Elaygee, what a disgusting and bigoted comment - and it's not funny, to boot.

Posted by Ray | October 8, 2007 9:46 PM

Why is it okay to bash Mormons but not okay to bash gays? Most the mormons I know are clean, nice and self-sufficient. If only more people were like that. And they don't bash gays. Do all Catholics follow the Pope verbatum? NO! All bigots are the same, whether antiAmerican, antiMormon or antigay. They are all cut from same cloth!

Posted by Janice | October 9, 2007 3:34 PM

Please spare us the mormon persecution complex...Should we get the government to pay you reparations now since people find you to be peculiar people.

Just remember it is the LDS CHurch that claim that "all other religions are an ABOMINATION, and you should join none of them."

THe above is from the LDS Church and its statement as to what occured during the first vision. Pay aly ale

Posted by Benjamin | October 9, 2007 5:35 PM

Just to weigh in here... I'm Michael's twin brother, also born and bred in Utah. The overwhelming support that they have been receiving though all this is amazing. And although you will never hear me stand up for the Mormon church, the GREAT majority of the people in Utah (regardless of their religious beliefs) are good, decent, family oriented people who can see that these kids SHOULD be with Michael and Gregg. It does the people of the state a disservice to blythly lump them all into the category of bigoted gay bashers. That is certainly not what this family is experiencing. They are fighthing a stupid, bigoted law with the great majority of the public, as well as the local media, behind them all the way.

Your support is appreciated. They need it.

Posted by Derek Oberg | October 10, 2007 9:12 AM

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