Sunday, November 27, 2016
On the day Donald Trump was elected the President of the United States, I turned to gin.
While my Utah family slept, only to be shocked in the morning by the headlines announcing the new President-Elect, I was sixteen hours ahead of them, in Seoul, South Korea, watching the returns. I was alone. My son and his wife were at work, my grandson at school. When the polls closed in Florida, it was 9:00 AM in Seoul and all day long, between anxious bouts of comfort eating, I sat in smug, then stunned, silence, streaming the election results.
To calm myself, I ate. Mind you, I dislike Korean food, what with fermented napa cabbage kimchi, long-boiled beef bones and cartilage, raw fish and eggs, pork intestines, chicken-stuffed waffles, and a variety of concave, weeping vegetables. Ten years of bi-annual month-long visits had not accustomed me to So Korea’s traditional foods. Yet that day, raiding the cupboards and fridge in a panic, I chewed obsessively on unspiced sweet potato, cold boiled beef bulgogi, and gopchang (trust me, you don’t want to know.)
The electoral guillotine dropped in slow motion. Trump won Florida at about 3 PM as I sat gorging on leftover bim bop and watched the announcers twitch and twist, pretending to be neutral, weakly plotting out Hillary’s remaining paths to success. I plowed the refrigerator for feel-good food and had to settle for leftover quail eggs that had served as Halloween’s “Eat-The-Monster’s Eyes”—the children were required to swallow one before they got a treat. I sipped a bit of soybean paste soup and gnawed on radish kimchi. I began to tipple at the Korean beer—a sip or two equaled a full bottle of Utah’s 3% wash, and soon I was blearily cheering Wisconsin: “Go Packers!” It didn’t help Hillary.
By the time the TV anchors were flashing fake smiles and staring with glazed eyes at Trump’s certain path to the Presidency, my grandson, Noah came home from school, cleared the table of the leftover bowls and empty bottle of OB Golden Lager, patted my sagging head affectionately, and said, “Munyah, let’s play gin.”
As it turned out, it was the perfect distraction, not only because my seven-year old grandson is a card whiz, but also because the analogy was so perfect. I fell into a deep metaphor.
In gin, the point is to save books or runs, which was very close to whether to make book or run. I could bet on America’s resilience, return to and stay in the states, doing what I could to prevent disaster, and cheerfully helping to restore credibility to the flailing Democratic party. But that felt rather like promoting painless childbirth. I could run. But while the idea of joining Canada had occurred as a pre-election joke, Canada took the threat seriously. By the time it became clear Trump would win, Canada, flooded with calls from Americans wanting to emigrate, closed its phone lines at the Immigration Service.
Better to make books. Certainly I would not save kings (or queens, for that matter.) Perhaps jacks—when I was a lawyer in my own firm, my loyal and delightfully eccentric gay paralegal had been named Jack, and now he was definitely in trouble, given that Mike Sessions would likely be nominated for attorney general, and Sessions had voted for decades against every gay rights legislation that had come before him, calling the likes of Jack (and myself, incidentally) “beasts.” Yes, I could save jacks. Three jacks would do; if I could save four I might feel like Schindler, saving Jews, or Desmond Doss, saving “just one more” soldier out there on Hacksaw Ridge.
Even better, “Let’s play with two decks,” I suggested, realizing I could save eight. “Munyah,” Noah chided, “there’s no such thing possible.” Oh, Lord, I thought, will that truly be true? Not possible?”
I’d save twos then, spades and diamonds, hearts and clubs, in a black and red miscegenative configuration (that would show Sessions, who was also a flaming racist; as a judge, he had called an African American defendant “boy,” and accused his lawyer of “racial betrayal.” Sessions had been rejected as a Supreme Court nominee for his racism.
Perhaps I should make runs. But even that presented problems. If confirmed, the new billionaire philanthropist Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, will elevate the lowly, embryonic ace of gin, gestating below the two card, to a sovereign place above the queen, and there is nothing the woman can do about it. And as sure as 2 runs straight up to 10, all the better-off folks from the needy neighborhoods will take DeVos’s vouchers and skedaddle up to private schools and leave the poorest folks to attend the least-funded public schools, where they will learn that the world was created in seven days and evolution is what you do when you become good enough to go to Heaven. Pass the Immodium.
“Are you going to knock me, Munyah?” Noah asked, worried that I would lay down my cards before he was ready to do so.
No, I wouldn’t. I hadn’t been playing my hand cleverly enough. None of us had, ignoring the rise in populist fury, neglecting to understand the willful disregard of the disenfranchised working class, so angry at the stall in their lives that they would elect a racist, anti-Semite, homophobic, xenophobic bigot rather than see government proceed as before. Besides, if I knocked my grandson, everything he held in his hand would count against him, and weren’t we struggling, my generation, to make things better for our children and grandchildren, not worse. I wanted him to have “the whole world in his hands,” counting for him, Ah, but Trump would knock him; he planned to invalidate the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement, alienating the So. Korean people.
Not that So. Korea wasn’t having its problems. The citizenry discovered that President Park Geun-Hye had been running the government through the secret advice of her psychic, Choi Sun-Sill. There were even somewhat credible rumors Park had been part of a conspiracy to sink the ferry that killed 300 Korean students, as a sacrifice to her former guru, Choi’s father. Park’s oddly, just-appointed officers of the ferry were saved, while the students died. Park could not be found for eight hours, rumored to be huddled with Choi. Every day, millions of So. Koreans are protesting in the streets, calling for Park’s resignation and arrest.
In that light, perhaps Trump will get along quite well with the So. Korean President. And don’t get me started on No. Korea.
So, of course, I lost at gin. I was happy to see my grandson win. He truly believes he has the capacity to win, and that he always will have. He believes in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, too. Me, I believe in what is known as the Big Gin, when you plan and play all your cards successfully, even the last one you draw; that card segues perfectly into your hand and thus leaves you with nothing unwanted to discard. All is then right with the world. I would like to do that,. I would like to see America do that.
In the meantime, I have returned home to the land of justice for all where I have signed petitions to challenge Trump’s cabinet choices, to disperse with the electoral college, to demand recounts in Wisconsin and Michigan, and to beg the Democrats to wake up and listen: the low cards, numbers 2 to 9, may only count for five points each, but add them together and they are worth more than all three of the ten-point royalty cards: the king, the queen, and the jack.
As soon as I landed in the USA, I went directly to Smashburger where I had a delectable cheeseburger, succulent fries, and a creamy chocolate shake. Then I came home. The neighbor’s dog licks my face, my friends comfort me, the US citizenry rumbles its dissent. I am reminded that we survived Franklin Pierce, Warren Harding, and James Buchanan. We are a strong country.
And now I believe I will toast my country with a true “big gin.” The kind with tonic and a touch of lime. Anyone for a game on Monopoly?
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
(draft) Ch. ____ Drops of Water
“We shall be like drops of water, falling on a stone,
Splashing, breaking, dispersing in air,
Weaker than the stone by far, but be aware,
As time goes by, the stone will wear away.”
Holly Near and Meg Christian
One morning, I reported to court for assignment of a case to trial for the next day. The courtroom was abuzz with gossip.
“I hear that Judge Deiz is refusing to sit on any cases.”
“This can’t be true,” I replied. “I have a hearing in front of her this afternoon.”
“Well, supposedly, she is protesting something or other about South Africa.”
Once I had received my assignment, I decided to go up a floor to family law Judge Mercedes Deiz’s courtroom . The only African American judge on the bench in 1983, she was a crusty, charismatic, no-nonsense woman, saucy and blunt, as liable to interfere with a lawyer’s representation of a case as she was to chastise him or her for failing to ask soon enough the questions to which she wanted answers. “Get to it,” she would snap. “I haven’t all day.”
I liked her. She sometimes ruled against my client, but generally for good reason. And she appreciated novel lawyering. In one divorce case, I represented a wife who had brought a substantial inheritance into the marriage. The husband had spent it. After Deiz ruled in the wife’s favor, ordering a substantial judgment and generous alimony, she lectured the husband on his profligacy and scolded the wife for being so obtuse. Then she requested my presence in her chambers. Resigned to an upcoming lecture for some piece of malfeasance, I entered and sat.
“Well, I must say,” she said admiringly, “where did you get that phrase ‘financial abuse?’”
“I made it up, Judge,” I said, surprised by her inviting tone. “That’s what I thought my client had suffered.”
“Hmph.,” she congratulated me. “Well-done. I’ll have to use that saying in the future.”
It was in front of Judge Deiz, however, that I committed my most shameful lawyering. In that divorce case, she had ruled in favor of my recently naturalized Filipino client, the husband, whose also-naturalized wife was represented by Mr. M____, a lawyer so incompetent that he was subsequently disbarred.
My client had only lamely sought custody, not actually wanting it. What hi did want was to limit his alimony to his wife of twenty years; yet Judge Deiz had awarded custody of the children to him, and the residence, and very small alimony payments to his wife—a truly shocking ruling.
I had taken the case as a referral from an immigration lawyer friend because it had seemed that it would be easily settled. But mother’s attorney, this Mr. M_____, had refused to settle, was oddly unavailable whenever I called, didn’t show up for my depositions of the wife and her doctor, and lumbered into court ten minutes late, while the wife sat nervously at counsel table waiting for him. She clearly spoke little English, yet her lawyer brought no interpreter.
I was appalled that Mr. M____ seemed fully unprepared to represent his client; I felt confused about what I should do. We were in trial. I had an obligation to represent my client. I had no obligation to present evidence in favor of his client, nor should I. So I plunged ahead and did my best job of it, presenting evidence of the husband’s hard work as a construction laborer, the fact that it was seasonal work, his wife’s own employment as a “domestic,” hinting at tips, alleging that she could expand into full-time if she wished, his efforts at parenting when he had the time, his sole name on the deed of the home he bought from his “own” work wages, etc. We had prepared him pre-trial to testify, humbly and soberly, which he did. I called character witnesses, who gave favorable opinions. Then I rested my case.
It was now Mr. M___ ‘s responsibility to bring evidence in the wife’s favor. I knew, from interviews and depositions, that there was much to be presented on the wife’s behalf: how the husband had insisted she move to America with him, leaving her family and friends behind in Manila; that she had no relatives in town; that she was employed part time at a Super 8 as a maid but couldn’t continue the work because of back pain. Severely diabetic, she relied on expensive medications and was covered by his insurance, which would terminate upon divorce. She had contributed her wages to the purchase of the home, giving him her checks each week. Furthermore, she spoke only halting English.
As for parenting, she was the primary parent. I had interviewed the pediatrician and the teachers; her lawyer had not. I had possession of the family photo album in which almost all of the photos were of her and the children; and another full of mementos she pasted of the children’s school progress., both of which were available to the mother’s lawyer upon request. He did not ask for them, nor enter them into evidence.
To my shock, Mr. M____ not only entered no exhibits, he put on no witnesses! He simply stood up and gave a vague opening argument that kids need their mothers and wives of twenty years deserve alimony half of everything. But what the lawyer says is not evidence, and a judge cannot rely on it.
Then he sat down. He called no witnesses, not even his own client. So Judge Deiz had only the husband’s evidence on which to rule. She knew nothing about the woman’s predicament. She could not even ask any questions because there had been no witnesses for the wife.
Time stood still. I felt the heat rising in my face. A fly wandered aimlessly over my yellow legal pad, on which I had jotted now-irrelevant notes for closing argument. I wanted to rise. I wanted to stand up and yell, “Stop! Don’t rule, Your Honor,. I know so much more!”
What else I knew is that my client had acquired a very rich girlfriend at his very well-paid job, that he had a substantial, and hidden, savings account, easily discovered by the other lawyer if looked for, and that his wife would now be left homeless, without her children, sick, and unable to speak the language.
Yet I sat at counsel table and said nothing. I could feel the backs of my legs begin to sweat. I looked at the stenographer, who was waiting patiently to take down the order. I noticed a stain on her blouse. Was it coffee?
Judge Deiz was silent for what seemed to me to be an agonizingly long time. Then she spoke in what I thought might be a foreign tongue that I heard in a haze. Children to the father. House to the husband so the children wouldn’t have to move. A pittance of alimony to the working wife.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Deiz called me into chambers, ordered me to take a chair, and then spoke to me harshly.
“Something is wrong,” she asserted. “M____ never defended his client in any way. What’s up?”
“I really can’t ethically say, can I?” I squirmed.
Then she leaned forward on her desk and said “Katharine, you are an excellent lawyer. I do not know how this case got away from you, but it did. It seems to me that a serious injustice might have been done here today. I blame you.”
I was already in shock from the ruling. My client had leapt up, hugged me, patted me on the back, raced to the back of the courtroom and embraced his girlfriend who had unapologetically attended the hearing, much to the wife’s sorrow. But Judge Deiz’s admonishment stung; I felt all my defenses roiling.
“But Your Honor,” I protested, “Her lawyer…”
“Don’t speak to me about that idiot,” she hissed. “Don’t we all know how incompetent he is? Didn’t you?
Yes, I had known.
“Fix it.” She commanded, and walked back into her courtroom for the next hearing.
I did. I called an attorney I trusted. I told her what had happened. I gave her my client’s phone number, and the number of an interpreter. I forwarded to her all of the money I had received from my client. She got right on it, called and met with the wife., offering to represent her for no charge, and filed a motion for a new hearing, which Judge Deiz granted and then assigned to a different judge for trial. I refused to represent the husband.
A fair order was rendered at the new trial: the wife was awarded the house, the children, substantial alimony, division of the assets (including the hidden savings) and what remained of her attorney fees was to be paid by the husband; to the father–excellent visitation, a lien on the house and half the assets.The husband unsuccessfully appealed.
Judge Deiz never said another word to me about that case. Nor did I ever discuss t with anyone. I could have been disbarred for betraying my client. I never did anything like that again.
But I am not sorry I did it then.
Eager to know if and why Judge Deiz was “striking, I asked Ted, Judge Deiz’s clerk, “Could I see the judge for a moment
He led me into chambers.
“Ms. English, how are you?”
“I have a hearing with you this afternoon,” I said.
“I have a hearing with you this afternoon,” I said.
“One of your gay custody gambits?” she laughed.
“Well, yes, actually. Just a valuation issue, however. The men are separating and can’t agree on the value of the house.”
“Well, I’m not available. It will have to be reassigned.”
I paused, wondering whether to ask or not; then, daring, “I hear you are refusing to sit, in some kind of protest?”
“That’s right.” She leaned back, calling out to Ted. “Ted, bring us some coffee, would you?”
We chatted about the weather, the dockets, and then, coffee in hand, Ted lingering to listen, she said, “I’m protesting the fact that Oregon’s Pubic Employees Retirement System is investing in corporations that do business in South Africa.”
“I have nothing to do today,” she laughed, “so have a seat and listen.” She took a sip of the coffee. “Too strong, Ted,” she grimaced, and poured it into the philodendron plant on her desk. She tuned back to me. “Maybe you’ll get a feel for why I’m so sympathetic to your gay clients.” I had a lot to do, but I wasn’t about to pass up this curious opportunity.
“Today actually began in South Africa in the forties,” she began.
So I listened to her tell me history of the National Party’s development and enforcement of apartheid in South Africa from 1948 to present,; to the “resettling” of segregated blacks into “homeland” townships, crowded and fetid ghettos of tin shacks; to the slow erosion of all the remaining rights—voting, travel, work—for black Africans, about the Sharpeville massacre of 69 township blacks in 1960; the murder of activist Steve Biko (“black is beautiful”) in prison in 1977. She explained her current loathing of Americans cand corporations that dealt in So. African gold Krugerrands, and her complaints about the Reagan administration failing to address the increasingly brutal results of apartheid.
She explained how the international disapproval of apartheid was growing. The movement for US divestment had begun in the ‘60s (while I was oblivious in high school,) and she had been asking for divestment of Oregon’s PERS retirement funds in South Africa since the early ‘70’s. She had finally decided that she must do something more concrete in protest of South Africa's system of apartheid, and so she joined a growing number of protesters in the 1980’s including the local Urban League, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Bishop Tutu, and the Congressional Black Caucus.
“So I am conducting a ‘won’t-sit-in,’ she chuckled.
This was 1983, so Judge Deiz was far ahead of the United States in general, which did not begin a national campaign until the following year. Those protests culminated in federal divestment legislation enacted in 1986. Protesters credited the campaign with pressuring the South African Government to embark on negotiations ultimately leading to the dismantling of the apartheid system in 1994.
We don’t think of judges as political. In fact, judges are required to “maintain the appearance of neutrality.” I was so stunned, and so moved, by Mercedes Deiz’s knowledge, bravery, and action, that 10 years later, I took from her the courage to request a leave of absence from the bench in the ‘90s to fight publicly against the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance’s virulent anti-gay legislation.
I am not surprised that a member of an oppressed group, African Americans, could care so deeply about other members of her group, even those in a far off country. Nor was Judge Deiz surprised that I cared so fervently about the rights of LGBT people. The surprise is that, until then, I had not made the connection between her passion and mine..
Not long after that, my friend and lawyer colleague, Cynthia Cumfer, represented another friend, Dr. Chris Arthur, in her attempt to adopt the artificially inseminated child of her life partner, Kay Sohl. Cindy took the unusual Motion and Order into Judge Deiz, unaware of my connection with the judge, expecting the case to require a short hearing. I was to appear as a witness on her clients’ behalf. Although the statutes did not allow gay adoptions, nor did it prohibit them—the law was silent on the matter—Judge Deiz not only did not require a hearing, she barely batted an eye before she signed the Order. Cindy recalls a detail I had forgotten: when I appeared shortly thereafter, expecting to offer evidence, Judge Deiz looked up, and commented wryly to Cindy, “I see you brought the big gun.”
Joyfully for our community, without our having to fire a shot, the protests having been waged by so many of us in the five years prior, the first Oregon gay adoption was signed by the only sitting African American judge.
I imagine after doing so, she smiled and chatted with us, and then took her cup of now-cold coffee and poured it into the new philodendron plant on her desk.
Monday, July 18, 2016
Ch. ___ Motorcycle Mamas
From my early years of practice, I represented lesbians seeking custody of their children during a divorce. One such couple was Jessica and her partner and long-time family friend Paula. Each woman fit the then-stereotype of the typical lesbian – stocky, short-cropped hair, dressed casually in plaid shirts and comfortable boots. They rode Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Jessica was married to Rufus, a gentle man gone crazy by the fact that his wife was leaving him. He followed her around, begged her to stay, invited Paula to move in with them, and finally got mad, insisting that he would fight her for custody of their six children, ages 2-12, “all the way to the Supreme Court.”
In preparation for trial, I deposed her husband. Rufus. I had expected to expose his flaws, his lack of fathering skills, and his prejudices, but he was a difficult deposee. For one thing, he was nice. For another, he knew all of the children’s names, birthdays, favorite colors and TV characters, the last time they were immunized, and whether or not they were having trouble in school and with which subjects. So did Jessica. Amazingly, so did Paula, who had developed a strong bond with the kids during her several years’ friendship with the family. All three seemed to be good parents. The children loved both parents and Paula, according to teachers and the experts who were hired to evaluate them.
This was going to be an uphill struggle. No lesbian or gay man had ever won custody of a child in a contested divorce trial in Oregon. In fact, there was case law indicating that homosexuality, by itself, was enough reason to deprive a parent of custody, even visitation. In recent years, our women’s law firm had been hard at work trying to educate the judges, most of whom were well-meaning, intelligent men and women, open to learning. All but one. Judge Harvey Leonard. To whom we were assigned.
I prepared Jessica and Paula well. We went through several hours of mock trial. I interviewed and prepared witnesses, wrote legal memos, and prepared exhibits. I told Jessica and Paula, “Dress in your very best, please. This judge will not talk about how you look, but he will notice, and he will care. Nothing sleeveless, no sandals or halter-tops, that sort of thing.”
I had experience with Judge Leonard. I had appeared in front of him many times. He was an old codger, near retirement, who seemed to view it as his obligation to render to litigants not only his judicial decision, but alsoto list his thesauric opinion of them. “You are supine,” he lectured a quiet or passive man, “limp, flaccid, torpid, and utterly ineffectual,.” To a woman who had cheated on her husband he railed “You are a harlot, a trollop, a concubine!”
I sat down with Paula and Jessica, Thesaurus in hand, and guessed all the adjectives we thought the judge would hurl at them. Then, in Court, we would secretly check off each adjective as he used it. In this way I tried to minimize the sting of his words, though they would be felt.
The morning of trial, I waited for Jessica and Paula in the crowded hall outside the judge’s courtroom. I was nervous, I confess., though I had lined up my my experts, summoned neighbors and teachers to testify, and prepared multiple exhibits. The father had subpoenaed the two eldest children.
Rufus had, by far, the best chance of winning, even though Jessica had never worked outside the home and had devoted herself to her six children, sewing, cooking, attending PTA, reading stories – all of the things good mothers do. She was heartsick in fear that she might lose custody to Rufus, whom she had supported emotionally all the sixteen years of their marriage, making his lunches, rubbing his feet, sore from standing, listening to his union stories, giving sex when it had been her duty to do so. Although he was a kind father who loved and paid attention to his children. She was the primary parent. The mother.
I waited. I paced. Then I saw them, coming up the stairs. Jessica saw me, broke into a wonderful, trusting smile, and took Paula’s hand. They raised their hands together as they strode up the stairs, shouting a loud “Hey there!”
I was stunned. Silence fell over the hallway as people turned to stare, transfixed by the sensational oddity of their looks.
They were dressed entirely in black leather –motorcycle jackets, long tight pants, gloves. Jessica had a black long billed cap on her head, and Paula wore a
leather headband. Their jackets were studded, the bright silver dots gleaming. Each wore thick leather boots polished to a brilliant shine. Several Harley Davidson pins adorned their jackets. Silver chains hung around their chests, over their hips.
“Well,” Jessica said, brightly, “We dressed up like you said. You like us?” Rufus walked over to Jessica and said, “Oh, honey, you look ravishing. And Paula, you too.!” Then, unbelievably, he gave them both a hug. “Well, good luck,” he said. “Here we go!”
Here we did NOT go. This was an instance when all my ethical duties collided with my responsibility to my client’s case. Lawyers cannot lie to the Court. Lawyers cannot manipulate the system, or “judge shop” for a judge who will more likely render a favorable decision. I was scheduled to take this case to trial today. Yet I couldn’t. To do so would result in a phenomenal loss. I knew it. My colleagues knew it. Rufus’s lawyer, Nancy, knew it. The lawyers all stood there speechless while Rufus, Jessica, and Paula talked to their friends, their eldest children, as though this were a company picnic. I could not believe what was going on.
Nancy approached me. “Katharine,” she began, sympathetically. “I know,” I said. “I’m thinking.” And there I stood, in the halls of justice, thinking.
Finally, I went over to my clients. “ Jessica and Paula - you, too, Rufus - wait here. Nancy and I have something to do first. We’ll be right back.” I returned to Nancy - “Come with me,” I said. She nodded, and followed me into the courtroom, trailed by my law partners.
“We have some preliminary business with the court,” I told the bailiff.
“Wait here,” she said, and she went to get the judge who came huffily to the bench.
“Your honor,” I said, and my voice shook. I felt a trickle of sweat on my temple. “I cannot proceed with this case today. I would like to resume tomorrow.”
The judge scowled. He eyes narrowed. “And why is this, counsel.”
“I am not at liberty to say, your Honor,” I replied.
Oh,” he mimicked sarcastically, “ ‘I’m not at liberty to say.’ Well, counselor, you will tell me or I will force you to go to trial anyway. I may do so even if you do tell me.
“I can’t, Your Honor, and I won’t. I’m sorry.”
The judge berate d me, lectured me on the waste of court time, the inconvenience to witnesses. He accused me of manipulation, subterfuge, and disrespect to the court. He told me I’d never be a respected lawyer, calling me names, a walking Thesaurus of insults.
But I was saved. Nancy interrupted, “Your Honor, if I may?”
“You certainly may, Ms. Snow,” he said. “I’m sure you are as outraged as I am.”
“Yes, of course, your Honor,” she said smoothly, “But I am aware of Ms. English’s reasons for the unusual and highly unprecedented request. And my client and I are not opposed to a continuance. “
Irritated, he leaned over the bench and was about to snarl.
“I am aware this is a serious waste of your time, but also I know that you work many long hours on your opinions, and perhaps this will give you a window of extra time in which to construct them.”
He pulled back.
“Then you needn’t spend your personal time, which we all know you so often do.”
After this day, the judge’s renewed respected for Ms. Snow was unalterable. And after that day, I knew that there were lawyers like Nancy, who cared more for the fairness of a fight than for the victory.
We went on to trial the next day. Paula wore a suit and tie. Jessica wore a lovely paisley dress and pumps. Rufus, as it turned out, wore a lime green shirt and yellow tie. Nancy and I saw them all in the hall the next morning, and smiled at each
The parents fared well in trial, though there were surprises. Rufus, when asked if he objected to his wife’s lesbianism, turned to the judge and said, “Oh, no, Your Honor. In fact, sometime I think I am one.” As for Jessica, I foolishly asked her a question to which I didn’t know the answer. “Now, you don’t strap your children, do you?” “Not any more I don’t, she answered.”
In the end, the judge was quite beside himself. “I have to choose between two very bad alternatives,” he lamented. “If I had the power to take the children away from both of you today and give them to the State for placement in foster care,” he spat, “I would.” He lectured them both on every fault, calling them both “sexually depraved,” “slothful,” and “narcissistic.” Jessica and Paula were prepared for this onslaught, but Rufus began to cry softly.
“So,” the judge concluded, “I am giving the three eldest children to the father and the three younger children to the mother, on the condition they have no contact with the mother’s concubine. Nancy did not put that prohibition in the order, “accidentally” forgetting to do so, and the judge did not notice.
As it turned out, Rufus moved next door to Paula and Jessica, and the children ran back and forth between houses. When Jessica was killed in a motorcycle accident two years later, Paula and Rufus
continued to raise the children to adulthood. I stayed in touch.
Judge Leonard retired a year later, none too soon. He was worn out, decayed, unworthy, vitriolic, and opprobrious. Or so I told him on my farewell card.
Thus it continued – the quiet revolution for gay parents, whereby we formed our families by legal challenge or by passive aggressiveness, by open subterfuge or by secret trickery, with the help of each other and the kindness of strangers, by refusal to be shamed, and pledges to love.