By clients Todd Vesley and Joel Bush
Over eight years ago we began our journey to open our home to children in need. We knew there were many kids who desperately needed a safe place to stay during the difficult times when they were separated from their families and in the child welfare system. One of the ways that we knew we could help was to become foster parents. We bought a bigger house so that we could have extra rooms for the kids, hoping to provide space for sibling sets. We successfully completed ten weeks of foster care classes in 2007 and were soon devastated to find out that the State of Nebraska and DHHS would not license us to become foster parents because we are gay. We were hurt by this rejection because we knew our hearts could offer the same kind of love and compassion to children in need as other foster parents. We were hurt by this discrimination because we knew our home could offer the same sanctuary and security to children in need as other foster parents.
We quickly realized that other potential foster families and LGBT Nebraskans were being rejected. We decided to fight back because we knew this discrimination was hurting Nebraska kids in need. With the help of the ACLU and support from our families and friends we joined with two other couples to challenge the laws and policies that allowed for this discrimination in Nebraska.
On the day we were married in Iowa in 2015 we testified in front of the Nebraska Legislature about why we joined the lawsuit. We are thankful to the Senators who cared about us – and children in need – enough that they proposed changing the law to give us an opportunity to be foster parents. Despite our best efforts and a chorus of supportive wonderful citizens and advocates the Legislature failed to take action on this important legislation and the discrimination persisted. But we did not give up and neither did the ACLU.
In addition to working in the Legislature the ACLU also kept fighting for our rights in court. In August 2015 our prayers were answered when the court ruled in our favor and clearly stated that there was no good reason to deny gay and lesbian people the opportunity to foster children. In October of this year we once again undertook foster classes and in December 2015 we were officially licensed!
At times, it felt like we would never see the end of the process but our determination kept us going. It was frustrating at times not hearing anything from the courts or the senators for months on end. Patience was crucial in this case. The people we met along the way gave us support and made the hard parts worth it. We were both surprised and touched when people would stop us to share their story or provide words of encouragement after we appeared in court or in the media talking about our case. If we had to do this all over again, we would in a heartbeat. This isn’t just a win for us; it is a win for the kids needing love and support during their time of need and for our fellow LGBT Nebraskans.
In closing, we are looking forward to meeting our future foster children and we encourage everyone to never give up fighting for something they believe in no matter how hard it is or how long it takes. We are grateful for the ACLU for the gifts of justice and dignity they helped provide this holiday season and extend our well wishes to all Nebraska families.