First-ever FamilyPalooza highlights fun, community

By |2018-01-15T17:49:25-05:00September 21st, 2006|News|

By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman

Johanna Graine Mabry thought she was going to spend the past year planning this month’s FamilyPalooza.
Instead, she’s been spending the past eight months taking care of her 5-year-old son, Ari, who was diagnosed with Leukemia in February.
Mabry, her wife Deanna (who asked that her last name not be used) and their family are concentrating on supporting Ari through the next three years of chemotherapy, while the Coalition for Adoption Rights Equality and Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center makes her dream of an inclusive family festival a reality.
The event is set for Sept. 30 at Kensington Metropark in Milford.
Fortunately, Deanna is able to support the family and provide health insurance while Mabry stays home to care for Ari and for their other child, 17-month-old Hunter.
“Now, with a child who’s extremely ill and one parent unable to bring in an income, it brought to the surface for me even more how important it is for all parents to have legal rights regardless of their gender or sexual orientation,” Mabry said.
Mabry knows that other LGBT-headed families aren’t as lucky as hers. In fact, Michigan children being raised by LGBT and other unmarried couples run the risk of becoming legal orphans, in addition to facing many other social, legal and financial inequalities. That’s where FamilyPalooza, and events like it, come in.

Legal limbo

While enjoying Family Fun Day in Saugatuck last October, Mabry realized that there are a great many LGBT-headed families in Michigan, and that these families want and need more opportunities to connect and have fun together.
It would be even better if those opportunities were open to straight-headed families, too, and served to educate the larger community as well.
With that, FamilyPalooza was born. The event will have everything Mabry imagined: music, activities for kids, and opportunities for all sorts of parents to connect, share stories and learn from each other. More importantly, the event will highlight the legal limbo of children being raised by same-sex couples, and the need to pass second-parent adoption laws to protect those children.
While Mabry had to step out of planning FamilyPalooza to care for her son, the Coalition for Adoption Rights Equality and Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center have stepped in to make the festival a reality. Proceeds from ticket sales will go to both organizations.

Families connecting

Kat LaTosch is looking forward to enjoying FamilyPalooza with her partner, Jennifer, and their children Quinn and Donovan.
“I expect our kids to have fun – seeing so many people and so many sights and sounds, it’ll be a lot of fun. With kids at their ages, however, it’ll probably be more of use to Jen and I as we get to meet other families with similar makeups,” said Latosch, the marketing and special events director for Affirmations. Both children are less than one year old.
For the parents, the most important aspect of an event like FamilyPalooza is the opportunity to compare notes with other LGBT-headed families about everything from gay-friendly doctors to how other families have handled situations where, “Johnny came home and heard his teacher say that having two moms is not OK, and how did that family handle it?,” LaTosch said.
Because Michigan courts don’t recognize children’s legal right to second-parent adoption, LaTosch and her partner will have to sign guardianship papers every six months until their children are both 18 years old to try to assure LaTosch’s legal relationship with them.
LaTosch, Mabry and others hope that FamilyPalooza will help do something about the scary situation faced by theirs and so many other families across the state.
For Katie Jones, FamilyPalooza will be about fun and community.
“We’re going because it’s going to be a good time,” she told BTL over the phone while 2-year-old Walden and 4-year-old Loey claimed her attention in the background.
The event, “has a great lineup, it’s going to be a beautiful day, and the kids are going to have a blast – they’re going to sample their first cotton candy,” she said.
In addition, “It’s very important [to be around other same-sex headed families],” Jones said, “because, I mean we have lots of friends in the GLBT community, but I think it’s important for the kids to grow up with families that look like theirs, and families that don’t.
And indeed, FamilyPalooza will have lots of opportunities for fun. From Noon – 5 p.m. the event will feature children’s performers Gemini, Lori Fithian of Drummunity and Wild Swan Theatre. Arts and Scraps, a children’s art group, will provide hands-on creative fun. Lesbian Moms Network will host a “quiet room” for young ones needing a nap or simply some quiet space.

It’s about the kids

Ultimately, Mabry said, FamilyPalooza is about families – all families – and their children.
When she began planning the event, Mabry said, she hoped for “an all-day carnival concert style event open to all families – LGBT and heterosexual – to really come together and honor children and their need for two legally recognized parents.”
Ultimately, second-parent adoption would give children security in all realms of who they are – emotional, physical, spiritual – it’s not just recognizing them as having two moms, it’s about protecting the child’s best interest,” she said.

Come OUT for fun!

FamilyPalooza will be held from Noon – 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30 at Kensington Metro Park in Milford. Tickets are $5 per person, $25 per family or $50 for patrons. There is a $4 fee to enter the park. All families – LGBT and straight alike – are welcome. Tickets are available by phone at (248) 398-7105, ext. 29.

About the Author:

Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.