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Michele Hobbs and Amanda Broughton

Publicly challenging the issue of custodial rights for homosexual couples

By Maija Zummo · June 26th, 2013 · Pride
pride_amanda&michele_jilliantellepPhoto: Jillian Tellep
Michele Hobbs and Amanda Broughton have been together for almost five years, married for two, and during this time they’ve accomplished everything they set out to do as a couple, including a romantic engagement, wedding in Provincetown, Mass.; opening an independent business; and having their twins.

“We kind of had a track,” Hobbs says. “When we got together, (Amanda) knew where I was with family and so when we started talking, we almost had a step-by-step of what we wanted to do in our relationship, which included her changing careers, a family, marriage — in a specific order. We pretty much set our goals and we’ve achieved them.”

And when Hobbs says Broughton knew where she was “with family,” she’s referencing a very public custody battle she had with her previous partner, Kelly Mullen, the co-parent of her first child, Lucy. Hobbs and Mullen (who carried Lucy to term) separated in 2007 and began a landmark court case, which debated the parental rights of homosexual couples. In 2011, after almost four years of legal battles, Hobbs’ rights to Lucy were terminated in a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled that Mullen never fully ceded custody of Lucy to Hobbs despite her being listed as a “co-parent in every way” on various legal paperwork.

So when the time came for Hobbs and Broughton to start family, it was imperative that the couple made sure the paperwork was in place. “We’ve got so much legal paperwork,” Hobbs says. “Our attorney, Scott Knox, he basically learned — a lot of attorneys learned — after my case to rewrite and adapt things. Because I had a lot of paperwork with Lucy.

I had documents signed by Kelly (Mullen) saying I was a co-parent and then the judge … he said basically what I had was worthless. But it wouldn’t have been worthless when I was at the pediatrician. It’s not worthless had she died, or had my child been in a car wreck. It was fine then. So, from that, when we walked into (Knox’s office), it was like, sign, sign, sign.”

Broughton and Hobbs’ boys, born about four months ago and carried to term and delivered naturally by Broughton, have hyphenated last names. And they’re about to become Hobbs’ legal children. But, just like their marriage, the couple has to go outside the state to make sure their parental rights, naturally granted to heterosexual couples, are legal.

“In Ohio, if she adopted them, then I would have to give up all my rights to them,” Broughton says. “So we have to go to another state.”

“It’s like getting an abortion in the ’60s,” Hobbs adds. “Sneak and have a back-room abortion — I’m having a back-room adoption.”

To do the adoption, the couple has to undergo hours-long home visits, FBI background checks, fire department inspections and more. The same process a couple adopting an unrelated child would have to go through but, as Hobbs says, she’s adopting her own children. But once the adoption goes through, Hobbs’ rights will be recognized by both the federal government and the state of Ohio.

“I can claim them,” she says. “(Broughton’s) a stay-at-home mom, so I’ll be able to claim them as dependents. I’ll be able to put them on my insurance plan, all these different things start to be able to happen that I couldn’t have done before.”

And while Hobbs, who has been openly out for a long time, hasn’t had many negative experiences because of her sexuality, the boys have added a new level of visibility to her lifestyle. 

She tells the story of a couple who used to buy birdseed every Saturday at PetWants but stopped coming in once they realized Broughton and Hobbs were a couple — and parents — after seeing them with their sons.

“I’ve seen them walk by our store since,” Hobbs says. “Now, it doesn’t mean shit to me that they don’t come buy my birdseed. But I would love one time to stop them and say, ‘I know you don’t come in. Let’s talk about why.’ If they say, ‘We don’t support gay business,’ I’m totally fine with that. But if they’re going to say, ‘Well, we don’t feed the birds anymore.’ These people who choose to discriminate, if they tell me the truth, I have respect for them even if they don’t respect me. But if they lie to me, that is so telling about who they are.”

But regardless of anyone else’s opinion, Hobbs and Broughton know who they are and continue to progress on their predetermined trajectory, becoming a legal family — and the unintentional poster children for the rights of homosexual parents — whether or not state and federal laws feel like keeping up. ©



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