- The modern American family comes in all shapes and sizes and in the US, there are over 100,000 same-sex couples with children but for many of them, the path to forming a family hasn't been straightforward.
While more than 70% of Americans approve of same-sex couples adopting children today, there are 11 states that allow for discrimination based on religious grounds, including here in Alabama, where the Religious Freedom Law HP24 allows religiously affiliated organizations to deny queer couples the right to adopt but I've been invited into the home of a lesbian couple who wouldn't let anyone or any law get in the way of starting the family they'd always dreamed of.
- [Ginger] Hi there!
- [April] Hi!
- [Dyllón] Oh wow!
- She could do that all day.
- [Dyllón] I don't know if I could do that to save my life.
- I can't so that's definitely-- (laughing) (upbeat music) - And so tell me where we are.
Like, where in the world are we right now?
- We are suburban... - Suburbian?
- Suburbian Birmingham, Alabama.
- Are you from here?
How long have you lived here?
- We were all born in Alabama.
- [Dyllon] And you've been together how many years?
- 21, is that right?
- Almost 22, yeah.
- [Dyllón] So what's it been like being a lesbian couple in Alabama?
- We live actually in a very conservative city and our little suburb is very conservative.
We thought about leaving where it was somewhere easier and then we decided instead of making it easier on ourselves, why don't we try to make the change to make the place better?
Then I just felt like maybe if we stayed and worked in the community and we showed the community that we're just your average normal family, that it might make a little bit of change.
- It would help people be more tolerant and accepting.
- Yeah, it's not any easier on us, I wouldn't say.
- No but I mean, we've definitely had our challenges.
I mean, there's still definitely the worrying concern, you know, we don't put our arm around each other or hold hands walking through the grocery store, although we would love to do that.
- The community knows we're here and we're not going anywhere and I guess after all those years, they're like "okay, so let's deal with this," kinda thing.
(gentle music) - How do you describe your family to other people if you are meeting people for the first time?
- Well I basically just tell them you know, this is my family and we all have our family and some families are always gonna be different.
It doesn't matter if you have a mom or a mom or a dad or a dad, or a mom and dad.
- And that's enough 'cause quite frankly, you don't have to explain your family-- - Yeah.
- [Dyllón] To anybody.
- You know?
How long have you had Avery?
- [April] Since she was three days old.
- [Dyllón] Three days old?
- [April] Yes.
- Wow, so tell me about the process of getting to that?
Do you just call up an adoption agency and be like "hey, we wanna adopt," and they say yes?
- We called a lot of them.
- We searched online and got turned away.
- 'Cause we were gay.
- Well, we weren't married.
- Correct, so a lot of places would get around the you have to be straight by saying "well, you have to be married."
- And at that point-- - [April] We weren't.
- You could not be married.
What year was this?
- We adopted Avery in 2007, we started the process in 2005 and the private agency that we used, they were okay with adopting to a single parent but on the paperwork I was the roommate.
So during the-- - I'm still trying to collect rent.
(laughing) I don't even know what that rent is.
- It was very, I guess, a little unnerving that you're getting ready to commit your life to a child and from the very beginning, you're not even officially considered a parent.
- [Dyllón] Knowing full well the importance a marriage certificate had on the ability to legally form their family, in 2012 April and Ginger, with Avery at their side, got married in Massachusetts, where it was legal but like many states at the time, Alabama didn't recognize it.
So they added their names in a lawsuit for marriage equality.
- There was three people who had sued the state of Alabama for marriage equality, we were one of those couples but they were all separate cases in different districts of Alabama.
- [Dyllon] While their case was pending in the Supreme Court in Alabama, gay marriage was finally legalized nationwide, lifting the final hurdle for this Alabama family.
- So everybody's going to get married, we've already done that, we're good there.
We went to file for-- - Second parent adoption.
- Ginger to finally get on her birth certificate.
- [Dyllon] And in 2015, 10 years after bringing Avery home, Ginger was finally put on Avery's birth certificate as her mom.
- Rumor has it, we're the first one that was ever done in the state.
- What is the first one of what?
- The first birth certificate of second parent adoption that has two mothers.
So the very first adoption that went through where it was two individuals of the same sex.
- So what do you make of all of this Avery?
- Well, I mean, I'm living in a life that I'm pretty thankful for.
It's just the way I was put into the life to be with them.
- It's like, these are your parents, it's simple.
- We have a family motto that we are fearlessly authentic.
And that's just how we try to live our lives, so we don't hide it from anybody anywhere.
- [Ginger] Anymore.
- [April] Anymore.
- I say authenticity is a super power.
- [April] Yeah, absolutely.
- It just, it opens up the world to you when you can be authentic.
So how would you define family?
Family to you is?
I mean, it's to me, warmth.
- Unconditional love.
- Unconditional love, absolutely.
How would you define family, Avery?
- Love, laughter, courage, respect, support for each other.
When you have a family, it's not just that you love them the most but you have to take care of your family and you have to be there for your family when your family needs it.
She's so sweet.
- She has her moments.
(laughing) (gentle music) - What does family mean to you?
- Family is complicated.
(laughing) - Family is love.
- Family is support.
- Family is empathy.
- Family is safety.
- Family is lifesaving.
- Family is fluid.
- Family is chosen.