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Gay Foster Parent Debate in Texas; Comedian Lewis Black Visits

Aired April 21, 2005 - 13:35   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The state of Texas is poised to become the first in the nation to bar gays from becoming foster parents. That provision is an amendment that passed the Texas house in a 135-6 vote. As the bill heads to the Senate, gay foster parent and child advocates are lining up against lawmakers in a high-stakes debate.
Reporter Allie Rasmus with CNN affiliate News 8 in Austin has more from both sides of the issue.


ALLIE RASMUS, NEWS 8 REPORTER (voice-over): Over the past eight years, Eva Thibadeau has been a foster parent to dozens of children. She adopted four of them.

EVA THIBADEAU, PARENT OF ADOPTED CHILDREN: It ended up that these four children needed a permanent home, and they were not able to find one and so we stepped in.

RASMUS: But new legislation that just passed the House floor would prevent Thibadeau, and her partner Christina (ph), from ever becoming foster parents again. Representatives Robert Talton of Pasadena added a last-minute amendment to the Child Protective Services Bill that passed Tuesday night. It prohibits gay and lesbian from being foster parents.

ROBERT TALTON (R), TEXAS STATEHOUSE: We do not believe that homosexuals or bisexuals should be raising our children.

RASMUS: Representative Talton says his rationale for the amendment is based on his belief that homosexuality could be passed on from parent to child.

TALTON: Some of us believe they would be better off in orphanages than to be raised in the homosexual, bisexual, because that's a learned behavior.

THIBADEAU: He clearly doesn't know anything about attachment theory and how important it is for children to be able to attach to a loving, primary parent or caregiver.

RASMUS (on camera): While Representative Talton wrote the amendment, more than half of the house lawmakers voted to approve it, including 10 Democrats.

HEATH RIDDLE, GAY/LESBIAN LOBBY OF TEXAS: We're disappointed. We had hoped the vote would have turned out better and that more people would have voted with courage and voted more according to their principles.

RASMUS: Rebecca Bigler has researched child psychology at the University of Texas for 15 years.

REBECCA BIGLER, PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSOR: There's just no evidence whatsoever that being raised by gay and lesbians is harmful to children or puts children at risk.

RASMUS: She says what is harmful is having a child removed from a permanent home. If it becomes law, Talton's amendment would also require current gay and lesbian parents to turn their foster children back over to the state.

BIGLER: It is terribly disrupting for a child's life to be pulled out of their home and out of their family.

RASMUS: The amendment still has a few more steps to go before becoming law. A joint senate and house committee will work out the final detail of the CPS bill in the coming month. Eva says in the meantime, she's not giving up hope.

THIBADEAU: Our voices are going to be heard.


PHILLIPS: Well, Texas alone has more than 17,000 children in its foster-care system, and across the country there are more than half a million others. What's best for them, and should it matter if the foster parents are gay?

Joining us to talk about what makes a fit parent, Cathie Adams from the Texas Eagle Forum in Dallas, and in Austin, Randall Ellis from the Lesbian/gay Rights Lobby of Texas.

Great to have you both.

Cathie, I'll start with you. Considering we just mentioned the thousands of children in need of a home, why support a ban on gay foster parents?

CATHIE ADAMS, TEXAS EAGLE FORUM: Very clearly, we are interested in what is best for the children. And children do need two role models. They need a mommy and daddy, and the very best environment for children is an intact home, a family with healthy and natural, traditional lifestyles, and so we are concerned about the children's welfare and their futures, and the very best environment is with a mom and a dad, both genders.

PHILLIPS: Randall, is there any proof out there that sexual orientation makes an impact on how a child turns out?

RANDALL ELLIS, LESBIAN/GAY RIGHTS LOBBY: Absolutely not. Your other guest's argument is something we've heard many time. It's an absurd argument and it's archaic. All reputable and mainstream research, from the American Psychiatric Association, the American Pediatric Association, shows that there is absolutely no ill benefits for a child who is raised in a same-sex household.

And it's laughable that she would claim that this is really about the welfare and health of Texas children. Texas children are clearly being sacrificed...

ADAMS: This is about the children.

PHILLIPS: Texas children are being sacrificed here for an agenda that is aimed solely at discriminating against a group of people, a diverse group of people, based on one aspect of their personality.

ADAMS: There is clearly research...

ELLIS: This guy's absolutely -- this amendment to this bill absolutely does nothing to help the children of Texas. It's bad for the children of Texas. It's bad for the economy of Texas. It's bad for the people of Texas. It is bad policy, plain and simple.

PHILLIPS: Cathie, what...

ELLIS: And I can say again that there is absolutely...

ADAMS: Well, if Mr. Ellis would please...


ELLIS: ... has proven...

PHILLIPS: Cathie...

ELLIS: ... that what's important is loving, stable...

ADAMS: I'm waiting to speak.

ELLIS: ... families.

PHILLIPS: OK, Randall.

ELLIS: Loving, stable environments. This law would yank children, it would rip children out of these loving and stable homes and basically put them...

PHILLIPS: All right, well, Randall, you bring up an interesting point...

Cathie, let me ask you this. I think what made me gasp just a bit was hearing in the piece that led into this debate was the fact that individuals are coming out and saying an orphanage would be better than being with gay parents. And -- wow, I mean, that's a pretty bold statement. I've been into some orphanages that are pretty despicable and heartbreaking. Yet I've seen some really good ones, too. But it's hard for me to imagine that an orphanage could be better than being with two loving partners, whether gay or straight.

ADAMS: Well, I think, very clearly, that the issue here is what is best for children, to train them up in a home with a mother and a father, both genders. But we also have got to look at research that does show that children in same-sex couple homes are 11 times more likely to be abused sexually. And I think that that is not an issue that can be ignored. It is a proven fact and that was a research study done in the state of Illinois that has not, as the state of Texas has not, even asked that question. Who are...

ELLIS: That research is completely uncredible and it is completely absurd. I think...

ADAMS: ... taking care of these children. The children...

ELLIS: ... the supporters of this amendment have shown...

PHILLIPS: All right, hold on a second, hold on a second. Let Cathie finish her thought there. Randall, I should let you respond to that. I mean, 11 percent of kids...

ADAMS: No, 11 times more likely to be physically abused.

PHILLIPS: 11 times more likely. Randall, I got to let you respond to that. That's a bold statement.

ELLIS: Yes, well, I certainly have not seen that research, I've certainly never heard anything like that. No child healthcare professional that I have ever spoken to, no one who has access to any of the credible research being done on these issues has ever mentioned anything close to that.

ADAMS: That is because the American Psychiatric Association...

ELLIS: The people who support this amendment have repeatedly proven that their interest...

ADAMS: ... at one time said that homosexuality was an illness have now not only said it's no longer an illness, but also...

PHILLIPS: All right. Hold on. We're not accomplishing anything by talking over each other.


PHILLIPS: Cathie, let me ask you this. Are there enough families, in the first place in Texas, to adopt or to foster all these kids?

ADAMS: There are so many parents who are looking for children to adopt. There are many parents who are even going to China and to Russia. As soon as families see the need, yes, they will raise up. I know that we have had a lot of news stories about those precious children in those orphanages in Russia. And the American...

PHILLIPS: But we're talking about the kids here. We want to talk about the kid here in the United States...

ADAMS: Right.

ELLIS: We're talking about the children in Texas.

PHILLIPS: And let me ask you...

ADAMS: All parents have to know is that there is a need there and there are moms and dads who will embrace these children and train them up in the way they should go. And that's what every child deserves, in a healthy and normal lifestyle home, one that...

PHILLIPS: Cathie, I just -- but I want to know from you, how do you know that a gay couple isn't providing a healthy and a normal home? I just want to know from you how you know that.

ADAMS: Well, I think that I am not making the claim that there is not the possibility of a child not being abused. I said that they have an 11 times greater chance of being abused in the homosexual home than they do in a heterosexual home. But I think that what we have got to look at is not a politically correct, homosexual lifestyle. What we've got to look at is what is best for these children? Not what is good in politics, but what is good for these children?

PHILLIPS: And let's talk -- well let's bring up another point. And Randall, help me out on this. And I mean, just -- I know a number of gay couples, women and males, and basically they have told me they've wanted to adopt, they've wanted foster, have had trouble doing that, so they're going to go ahead and do in vitro or have a surrogate parent.

So I mean, it looks like -- wouldn't you rather, Cathie, have a child go into a home, versus no home? Both of your thoughts on that. Randall, why don't you start?

ELLIS: Well, I think what Cathie is talking about is -- you know, we are talking about the children of Texas. And we're talking about a special segment of the children of Texas. These are our most vulnerable children here in this state. These are our unwanted children. These are the children with the most specialized and special needs.

There is a huge backlog of cases. There is a terrible shortage and a terrible strain on the system that places these children with families in Texas. We're talking about further shrinking the pool of eligible, loving, supportive, healthy, families that will give these children the kind of upbringings that they need. By taking them out...

ADAMS: And I'm saying, just like the media...

ELLIS: By taking them out of these homes, we will be putting them in institutions. We will further training them for a future of institutional life.

ADAMS: I think that just like the media has done an outstanding job talking about foreign children who are in need of families, I think that they need to focus on the children who would be in foster care and...

ELLIS: I think to say that the media...

PHILLIPS: I got to tell you, we talked about the kid overseas, as well as domestically, and I tell you what, more than anything, I hate to say this, but we've got to wrap up. But I tell you what, we are going to follow what happens there in Texas. Cathie and Randall, when we have a decision, when a decision is made, will you please, both of you, will you come back and can we continue this conversation?

ADAMS: Be happy to. Look forward to it.

ELLIS: Certainly. We certainly hold out hope that what ultimately happens is in the best interest of Texas children.

PHILLIPS: Randall Ellis from the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas and also Cathie Adams from the Texas Eagle Forum in Dallas. It's been an interesting debate, a good debate. Thank you both very much.

ADAMS: Thank you.

ELLIS: Thank you very much.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, now I have some opinions about that story. You and I are going to share them during the commercial break.

PHILLIPS: We'll be talking about it, that's for sure.

LIN: Whoa.

PHILLIPS: It's interesting, it really is interesting, because it kind of seems like a no-win situation. I mean, it's hard to find a happy medium. We got to just -- we got to keep talking about it.

LIN: No, it's true -- you know, the morality argument, sure, it exists. But gay couples do adopt a lot of kids who just go unwanted. People go for foreign adoptions because they want a healthy child...

PHILLIPS: Right. And I have a hard time thinking that kids would be better off in an orphanage than in a happy home. So, anyway, we're going to talk about it more.

LIN: We will.

PHILLIPS: We're going on this. Two women, ranting and raving. Speaking of ranting and raving...

LIN: Yes. Kyra's not done. If you watch "The Daily Show," you're going to know our next guest. He rants, he raves, and we crack up. He's actually in the house.

PHILLIPS: We want to know what Lewis thinks.

LIN: The LIVE FROM interview with funnyman Lewis Black, straight ahead.


PHILLIPS: Well, you think you have problems. Well, you think you're sick of cell phones, and politics and stupidity of all stripes? Well, we've got your man. You've seen him on the "Daily Show," on HBO, on Broadway, and now in print with the brand-new book "Nothing's Sacred," and now America's foremost commentator on everything. He's very opinionated, shall we say? Lewis Black joins us live in the flesh.

Nothing sacred, really?

LEWIS BLACK, COMEDIAN/AUTHOR: Well, no, that means everything is sacred. That's what nothing sacred means, but if you wrote a book called "Everything's Sacred," who is going to buy it?

PHILLIPS: That's true. People would want to read about nothing is sacred.

BLACK: Well, the secret, but -- look patriotism, religion, when they get a little too full of themselves, things get out of control. So you kind of have to...

PHILLIPS: Are you full of yourself?

BLACK: Probably. I'm disturbingly so.

PHILLIPS: People say you're disturbingly a very angry man, but you don't cross me as a very angry man.

BLACK: If I was like the way I am on television all the time, I'd be dead, OK?

PHILLIPS: Are you behaving yourself right now?

BLACK: I'm being really good.

PHILLIPS: You're being really good.


PHILLIPS: And we're not going to use any bad four-letter words.


PHILLIPS: It's a challenge for both of us.

BLACK: I know. They're watching you, and they're thinking, oh, she's so sweet. I've been here a while, don't even think about it, OK? She's literally, two seconds away from a complete meltdown, all right? These story comes in, she acts like she's in control...

PHILLIPS: And I've meditated for two minutes, you know. You mediate that's how you relax, right?

BLACK: No, no, I do a different form of meditation, we can't discuss that, can we?

PHILLIPS: Do you ever relax?

BLACK: What's that mean? What's relax?

Yes, I do, I play golf. That isn't relaxing.

PHILLIPS: Oh, hello. That's probably the most stressful sport. I mean, I can't get through 18 holes without throwing a few clubs.

BLACK: Well, no, I've gotten pretty good at it. But really all that is, it's a game for obsessive compulsives.

PHILLIPS: That's true.

BLACK: It really is.

PHILLIPS: That would definitely be. I can relate to that.

BLACK: It distracts me.

PHILLIPS: Speaking of obsessive and compulsive, let's talk a few issue here. Do you watch CNN?



BLACK: I do.

PHILLIPS: What do you think of us?

BLACK: I like you.


BLACK: OK, here's something...

PHILLIPS: You like me or you like CNN?

BLACK: I love you, And Wolf is...

PHILLIPS: Oh, Wolf loves you. Don't even get me...

BLACK: I think Wolf's gay for me.

PHILLIPS: Really, I thought it was a I Jewish thing.

BLACK: And we're thinking of adopting.


BLACK: I'm only saying it here for the first time.

PHILLIPS: Wolf, I need you to call in. BLACK: This is what's got to be stopped and this is my opportunity to say it. See this thing at the bottom of the screen -- stop it!

PHILLIPS: In a black mood?

BLACK: New York City, 60, nobody cares. You're supposed to be looking at me, not San Francisco 70 -- where do you live who are you, huh, you're in Des Moines, do you care? No. Get rid of the scroll...

PHILLIPS: We lost the ticker.

BLACK: Thank you. Get rid it.

And do we need the Nasdaq, or whatever that is, Standard & Poor's? Why don't you remind me that we're broke?

PHILLIPS: You know what, we're losing that. Anything else we want to lose here?

BLACK: OK, I feel better now.

PHILLIPS: Do you feel all right?

BLACK: Yes, I do.

PHILLIPS: You want to lose in a black mood too? You want to lose that?

BLACK: No, that I can live with.

PHILLIPS: You can handle that.

BLACK: Yes, because obviously the audience needs to be told.

PHILLIPS: You told me you're ADD, your overly compulsive, and you don't want all the added -- we've got to take a break -- can we come back...

BLACK: How, what?

PHILLIPS: We got to make money, pal. You know what that means.

BLACK: Well, buy something.

PHILLIPS: We're going to a quick break.

We promise Wolf Blitzer is not gay.

We'll be right back.


PHILLIPS: Still having fun with Lewis Black, he's still here, he doesn't hate me, we haven't killed each other; we're talking about his book "Nothing is Sacred." We have about two minutes. Can we get deep, and in depth, and down in your soul and find out what really makes you tick in two minutes?

BLACK: Yes, sure, why not.

PHILLIPS: You went to Yale. That was pretty interesting.

BLACK: I went to the drama school, which is different. Yale is hard. The drama school is sissy, OK?

PHILLIPS: Why drama school?

BLACK: I guess I was this far away from being kind of fruity. I wanted to see what I was like -- I was a playwright...

PHILLIPS: Forty plays, right?

BLACK: Forty plays, and I guess I wanted to have the same sense of what it would be like if I made what a migrant worker makes in a year.

PHILLIPS: Am I ever going to see anything on Broadway?

BLACK: If I keep getting a name as comedian, maybe then they'll do one of my plays on Broadway. Right now -- they did one in Los Angeles last year. And doing a play in Los Angeles is much like standing around in Soviet Russia during the '30s and talking about freedom.

PHILLIPS: Speaking of freedom. You watch CNN.

BLACK: I watch CNN.

PHILLIPS: You were mentioning you were a great fan.

BLACK: I am.

PHILLIPS: What do you think of Fox News?

BLACK: I think Fox News -- you know, I am surprised, to be honest with you when -- Fox News is so much about being everything is OK, don't worry, it's like 1984, everything is all right, don't worry, keep moving, keep moving, don't look around. When the pope died, I actually thought they were going to come out with an announcement he was going to be alive again in three days. It's not a problem, he'll be back, we promise you. We're Fox, we never lie.

PHILLIPS: You would have been an interesting pope.

BLACK: I would have been a perfect pope. They need a Jewish pope, you know? Because basically...

PHILLIPS: Why is that?

BLACK: Well, because All of these people coming, complaining, and I would go, you think you had a bad day, live my life. PHILLIPS: Oy vey.

"Nothing Sacred" is the book. Obviously you and I could keep going and going.

BLACK: That would disturb the whole network.

PHILLIPS: That's right, and we don't want to do that. OK, no Wolf. Bummer. I tried to get Wolf on the line, but he says he's reading your book so he didn't have time.

BLACK: Very good.

PHILLIPS: Will you come back?

BLACK: I will, absolutely, whenever I'm back -- you guy can get me on a feed. You've got this new big building.

PHILLIPS: This is for you. I got you a special autographed edition. That's just for you.


BLACK: Excellent. I need this. He wouldn't give me a picture. He didn't want any evidence.

PHILLIPS: More LIVE FROM. I don't blame the guy. We'll be right back.



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