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Celebrating Pride: Couple helped change Florida adoption laws

Melanie and Vanessa Alenier were forced into a legal battle against the state of Florida for their child.
Melanie and Vanessa Alenier were forced into a legal battle against the state of Florida for their child.

As we continue our Pride Month series celebrating the progress made in the fight for equal rights in South Florida, Local 10 News features two women who helped change adoption laws in the state.

Melanie and Vanessa Alenier say it was like fate intervened.

“I think it was pretty much a stereotypical relationship. We started dating, we fell in love and after being together for about three years, I just knew that I wanted to be a mom,” Melanie says.

“All of the sudden we get a phone call and it’s a relative, and my relative was giving birth to Ethan, and she couldn’t take care of him,” Vanessa says.

But when the time came to fill out the adoption paperwork, they were hit with the cruel reality.

One of the questions asked “Are you a gay or a homosexual, are you bisexual?’”

“It was a check box like back in you know, ‘Do you like me?’” Vanessa says.

Adds Melanie: “Right, you had to check it off. Are you white, are you Black, are you gay, are you homosexual and if you were, you were not allowed to adopt in the state of Florida.”

Melanie says that “to lead by example for our son, we were not going to lie.”

So they were forced into a legal battle against the state of Florida for their child.

They say it was the scariest time of their lives.

“We were fighting the state to just have Ethan call us mom,” Vanessa says.

Their case — along with that of Martin Gill, also from south Florida — was historic.

In 2010, the courts ruled in their favor, effectively overturning the state’s decades-long ban on adoption by gay parents.

Florida was the last state in the nation to allow gays and lesbians to adopt.

“He was so little and didn’t know anything about any struggle that we might have gone through,” Melanie says of their son Ethan, who is now 12. “And raising our son has been so wonderful.”

The Aleniers were also plaintiffs in the legal fight that ended Florida’s ban on gay marriage.

They tied the knot in 2015.

Today they say there’s still work to be done.

“There’s a lot of America that still would like to see us not together and not near them or around their family,” Vanessa says. “It’s just sad you know. That hurts.”

She adds: “I hope to see the younger generation reap the benefits, enjoy everything that we worked hard for and that they deserve because that’s what they deserve. But always remember that you also have to give back to the community too and make sure you get involved and make sure that you keep fighting for our rights.”

ALSO SEE

Celebrating Pride: Ruth Shack laid groundwork for anti-discrimination laws

Celebrating Pride: Pedro Zamora fought stigma on our TV screens


About the Author:

Christian De La Rosa joined Local 10 News in April 2017 after spending time as a reporter and anchor in Atlanta, San Diego, Orlando and Panama City Beach.