“LGBTQ families are no different from heterosexual families. We have the same desire to connect and to love.”
— John Freml
The shifting legal landscape or the finer points of moral theology are not the primary issue for most same-sex parents. Those couples insist that the real-life stories of struggle and success can humanize debates that too often feel abstract.
John Freml, left, with husband Rick Nelson and their children Jordan Freml-Nelson, front left, and Riley Freml-Nelson. (Courtesy of John Freml)
John Freml and his husband, Rick, adopted a baby girl in 2016 through a private Illinois agency. It was a dream fulfilled, and they immediately bonded with their daughter. But when a few of the infant’s biological family members found out the child had been placed with a same-sex couple, they took action to remove the baby. Experts made home visits. The Department of Children and Family Services seemed to favor keeping the child in Freml’s home. But the painful process dragged on for over a year and cost the couple more than $30,000 in legal fees. They eventually lost in court. “It was heartbreaking,” Freml said. “It took us a while to recover.”
The couple later successfully adopted and now have a 5-year-old son, Riley, and a 7-year-old daughter, Jordan.
They had planned to raise their children in a religious tradition. But Freml acknowledges his Catholic faith has been tested by the church’s opposition to LGBTQ rights — from the firing of gay teachers in Catholic schools to bishops fighting the Equality Act and opposing same-sex couples adopting children. The 36-year-old, who attended Catholic schools for 12 years, drifted away from the church. He found his way back after his bishop, Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, led prayers of “supplication and exorcism” to protest the state passing a marriage equality law in 2013. John called the spectacle “egregious and hurtful.”
“I found a group of Catholic moms of LGBTQ kids protesting outside the cathedral,” he said. “They hugged me and we cried and we sang. It really brought me back to the church. It showed me there was a place for me in the church.”
But in recent years, he has struggled to identify as Catholic.
“My kids come from foster care and had such traumatic experiences in their lives even before they came to live with us so to think they might sit in Mass on a Sunday and hear a homily that calls their parents ‘disordered’ would only inflict more trauma on them,” Freml said. He wants church leaders to hear a simple message. “LGBTQ families are no different from heterosexual families. We have the same desire to connect and to love.”
[John Gehring is Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life and author of The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church.]
Currently, in the U.S. Supreme Court, another case is being fought on whether – or not – a same-sex couple can legally adopt children. See :-
Cases like these – of Same-Sex Couples who are prepared to adopt otherwise parent-less children – are sometimes prevented from adopting a child/children simply because of the fact that they are not the so-called ‘normal’ heterosexual couple, capable of producing a child of their own.
Objections are most often. nowadays, based on the flawed understanding that the sexual preference of their prospective S/S parents might in some way affect the children’s choice of their personal sexual orientation! This, of course, is based on the false premise that sexual orientation is a personally ‘chosen’ rather than a ‘given’ characterIstic.
Since the recently-issued Vatican Statement that their Church cannot authorise the ‘Blessing’ of a same-sex partnership’ on the grounds that it is ‘against nature’ (even though the Church has officially stated that LGBT+ people are to be welcomed by the Church) there has been a current of unrest amongs Gay Catholic couples who want to adopt children in order to give them a family upbringing – when otherwise their prospects might be limited to living in an institution.
The struggle here is between Church dogma and the need for appropriate pastoral care by the Church towards the burgeoning number of children condemned to grow up without the close support of a family in which they are personally nurtured and loved.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand