thumbnail of Woman; 424; Lesbian Mothers and Child Custody. Part 2
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🎵 Definitely implementing aïoxidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoclidoc Good evening and welcome to woman. Tonight our topic is lesbian mothers and the custody of their children. With me is Mary Jo Rischer, Mary Jo is from Dallas, Texas. She is a lesbian
and is involved in a custody case over her 10-year-old son. Also here is Ann Foreman, Ann is from Dallas, Texas. She is the mother of a 12-year-old daughter and in her daughter live with Mary Jo. Mary Jo, did you lose custody of your son because you're a lesbian and because you are therefore considered an unfit mother? Sandra, the former of the jury, Tony Lucio, who is a former Dallas Cowboy football player, voted for me in the court decision, along with another gentleman. The verdict came in 10-to-2. He did mention to the press afterwards that in the jury room they could never let the lesbian issue out. In other words, anything they talked about, someone would say, but she is a lesbian. In the court room, at no time did they ever prove that I was an unfit mother. Doctors went on the stand, educators, babysitters, relatives, friends, psychologists
and psychiatrists. At no time did they prove that I was unfit. In essence, what Tony Lucio said was the jury took Richard Calvin from my home, a good home and put him in what the jury considered a little better home. As far as I, to my understanding, the court was not to take Richard from a good home. He was to be taken from what they considered an unfit home and that they never proved. So you really feel your sexual preference was the deciding factor in the case? That would be the conclusion I would come to, yes. Gay custody has become a very controversial issue these days. Is it more usual for a court to decide against the mother than for the mother in this kind of case? I definitely feel it is. As a matter of fact, most parents, as a lot of lesbian mothers,
we run across during our travels and also have known in the past when it comes to the final time and it's time to go in the courtroom. Sometimes they just relinquish custody without even going to court because they can't take the pressures of it. So it's not only just a court situation, but people have lesbians so and also gave men so afraid of society that they would rather not put themselves through that kind of trauma. Mary Jo, your case has gotten an awful lot of publicity both locally and nationally. Was that a hard choice to make to decide to fight? Well Sandra, it was not my intention for the public to know my sexual preference, to begin with just like I don't think the heterosexual people really care whether someone identifies them as a heterosexual. I did not ask for a jury trial. To my understanding, we found out that it was the first jury trial in the history of the United States against a lesbian
mother which brought it national attention and has kept it still in the public's eye. Have you always been openly gay? I mean you were married at one point in divorce. At that time were you openly gay? No, in fact until Ann and I went into the courtroom in December of 75 we still maintain a fairly closet type situation. How long was that between the time between the time you went into court and the time of your divorce? It was almost five years. I had custody of the two boys for almost five years. And at that time were they aware that you were gay? My oldest son was Jimmy. Richard to my knowledge is still unaware that I am a homosexual. You led a very conventional life. You were a chaplain of the Eastern Star. You were involved in the Dallas PTA? Well yes I was a president of the Dallas County Council of PTAs which consisted of the largest council in the state of Texas. I'm an honorary
member of the state of Texas parents and teachers association. I guess you might say and I'm a past woman Sunday school teacher in the Southern Baptist Church and past junior born girls Sunday school teacher. Sounds so I have led a very active life and my life has been evolved around children working in for the betterment of all our boys and girls. And you didn't have problems did you getting custody of your daughter, Judy? No, my ex-husband as a matter of fact testified in Mike and Mary Jo's behalf. I think he somehow had grown with the situation and is a little well. Mike is a very intelligent man and I feel like that somehow he's managed to deal with the situation in a much more rational way. So really he's very supportive of my daughter and he gives her all the support she needs and I somehow feel like this has made it much easier for her. She does know we're gay
and she has a strong support for us. So I think that all this love and understanding within the groups of her favorite people are important. There's a 1974 Texas law that really has caused a lot of problems for you. What is that one? Well until the summation of the jury I didn't realize that just prior to that that the state of Texas had passed this family code law in that in the family code it states that in a section of it that a child will be brought up in a religious environment. I was pretty taken by that when the lawyer from my ex-husband said it and it is true it is in there and I might add it could be you know a lot of parents could be you know start getting pretty concerned about a statement like that. Well it's also such a broad statement. What do you consider religious?
In that particular area it had to be Southern Baptist. Anything else might not be acceptable. You are Southern Baptist though? That is my religion yes. So my faith. And when did you come out? Oh I guess about I have to think about 10 years in 1969. Not about 10 years ago. Were you married at that time? Yes for a brief period of time when I finally well let's say I started realizing that I should indeed live the lifestyle that I wanted to and I was married but I then got a divorce so I could feel like I was free enough to live my own lifestyle. A minute ago you mentioned that your daughter knows that you were both gay. Did you tell her? Well we didn't have to tell her. I haven't been really closed. You know it's not something it's just something she's lived around and
she has some positive reinforcement and I think she has just kind of accepted the fact that we are. She realizes there's a love relationship like her father and his present wife more or less in the constant support of each other so it was just something she knew. One day she just started talking about it. It was just kind of there. It wasn't something that really you know she I'm open and she talks to me about things that maybe doesn't. She doesn't understand at that point but it's just kind of a gradual thing and she sees things and she just fits it into place like a puzzle as she's growing older. What are the articles I read about your case? I read that your daughter had had some psychological testing and that was one of the things that major husband feel comfortable about allowing her to stay with you. Right that was as a matter of fact separate apart from the psychologists and psychiatrists we had. It was about a year or so before the trial and it was a psychiatrist in Dallas and we felt like it was we'd see just have her evaluated and see what the situation was. And the evaluation as usual came out that
there are both both the children and my daughter included is well balanced age appropriate normal healthy happy. And I think that's probably what parents should strive to have in a child. Was that something you were concerned about at the time? I mean were you worried about her? No not really. She was going to a private school for a reading problem. She was a little she had she was just a slow reader and we had her in a private school and we wanted to make sure she didn't have any mental blocks or any problems not necessarily considering that case but anything like a trauma traumatic experience she had in the first grade in public school so it just kind of evolved and came in with it. It wasn't something particularly happened. During the trial one another thing that I read in the newspaper clippings was that the testimony of your son Jimmy who was then about 17 really overrode the testimony of the experts who tended to say it was all right that there was nothing horrendous
wrong with it with the situation. What was that all about? Well I guess one of the the remarks that Jimmy made and it seems to have been publicized a lot is the fact that the statement that he was embarrassed about my lesbianism. I'm not saying that Jimmy wasn't embarrassed as possibly to my lifestyle anymore that I would say that as a teenage boy or even a teenage girl would be embarrassed as to the overweight of the mother. Their father might be a dominant force that they would be embarrassed about you know especially if they were around their friends what have you. I cannot wait Jimmy saying that he was embarrassed about my lesbianism anymore than I would say that you know I don't think a teenager is happy about anything that their parents are does or says and I think he was going through a period of his own growing and it was just it was just another phase
that maybe mother was an exactly like he wanted or maybe father was an exactly like he wanted. I didn't I didn't worry too much on Jimmy saying he was embarrassed and then to we did have some of Jimmy's teenage friends to call us and actually volunteer to go on the stand in that they knew Jimmy was not embarrassed about my lifestyle. But he had been living with you. Jimmy knew about Anne and my relationship that you know we were going together and everything probably about three months before we moved in together and he encouraged and was happy at the move when we moved in with Anne and her daughter and remained with us for almost ten months. I'm curious to know it seems to me that some of the questions that were brought up during the trial really didn't have as much bearing on the cases as the base issue of your being a fit mother or not. It seems like motherhood
was on trial being a wife was on trial all kinds of other things and also you were asked many what seemed to me very embarrassing questions during the trial. I was thinking of one particular question would you give up your homosexuality for your child. Talk about the trial and that experience a little bit. Well they did ask me you know would I give up my homosexuality. It was put in to me in a hypothetical question if you knew at this present time that you could keep Richard would you give up your homosexuality. I did not think it was a fair question to ask me because as I put it back to the attorney I wouldn't have thought that a court would have loud an attorney to ask any member of that jury would they give up their husband or wife for their child. Another thing the psychologist that evaluated or we were in consultation with and what have you said
that individual people adults have to you know be happy themselves before they can make those around them happy and removing Anne and I from one another we were happy with one another. Removing us from one another would to me only create unhappiness for two children that loved Anne's daughter who loves me and Richard who adores Anne and not only would I be unhappy and be unhappy but two children would be unhappy also. And again I'd like or are we going to ask our children to be taught to give up everything for their children and the continuous thing where none of our none of the next generations are going to be happy to. Somewhere we have to start allowing our children to think about themselves also as well as other people and I think it will be a much better society in the future.
Young girls today are taught by their mothers who sacrifice everything for them and their husbands then again they have to sacrifice for their their taught they have to sacrifice for their children and their husbands and it's a continuous cycle and that child needs to have an opportunity to think too and make decisions on what it's worth giving up and what isn't and where you can if you have the love and understanding like Esmerit Joe and I have together then we can offer together a child maybe much more than we could if we had to give up or if we had to. Yeah no I understand what you mean. And what role did you play in the trial? The other woman I guess that's what I was called so many times. I actually get testified. Yes Mr. Richards returning call Mary Joe and I both as hostile witnesses and so we both testified at the very beginning of the trial before our side came on but I think really the reason I was there was to
inflame the jury that's my personal opinion I really have no earthly idea but there was many questions there that were probably not necessary in deciding on any one individual 's ability to be apparent but somehow we were managing to we we had to deal with these questions such as the one Mary Joe was asked and I was at the same thing and religious questions that may or may not have been important which on homosexuality which I believe does not have anything to do in reading a child. So I don't know there's lots of things going on in the trial and it's a very lengthy trial but I feel like that there were many things that the psychologist pointed out that were not needed to be asked from Mary Joe and I. At one point the close that Richard were on a couple of occasions became an issue. What was that all about? Well the court appointed psychologist stated on the stand that on an occasion he viewed Richard in a YWCA T-shirt and a blue gene western suit
that had belonged to Judy Ann which she had outgrown which Richard had really admired and which Judy Ann handed down to him which was a boy's blue gene outfit. Actually it was Judy Ann if the psychologist was trying to say that Richard was in drag then Judy Ann was the one in drag because she's the one that had the boy's blue gene outfit but he made the comment that under cross examination by my attorneys that if it had been any other person heterosexual mother that it would have not made any difference but that I was a lesbian and I could never allow Richard to wear any garment that had been identified belonging
to a girl you know and so and as far as the YWCA T-shirt Richard was in advance gymnastics at the YWCA in a class with boys and girls just like the YMCA in the country has program setup for boys and girls. It just so happened that Richard was very fortunate in being and belonging to probably one of the best YWCA centers in Dallas and we were very happy that in fact my older son belonged to the YWCA. So there was really an attempt to sensationalize wasn't there? That's a possibility I felt like there was. Mary Jo I wanted to ask you about Judy Ann I suppose the thing that people want to know
most is you know what kind of lifestyle you have now what kind of home life do you have do you see yourself as like any other family? Yes I'd say we do. We try to keep a family situation to say the least a lot of the time we're gone but not not that much we've always managed to retain what we call a close family unit even though we feel like we're missing one part of it right now we're still trying to. Is Richard? Yes right and we also I guess even Judy when just makes it a point to be at home when Richard's there on his one weekend out of every two weeks so that I don't know I think they need the reinforcement from each other as well as us there together it's a warm feeling form a sense of security that's just an necessity right now. Not only that but Richard almost insists that Judy Ann be there. So I think he is looking for reassurance that everything is still the same and will be the same you know when
he returns and it's not like you know he's coming back just to Ann and I to adult people he's coming back into the family situation that he was taken from and so we maintain the family situation we maintain it all the time you know with Judy Ann there because we still have a youngster there that still needs the reinforcement of us but we make sure we're all there you know together the weekend he's with us. Were you able to both keep your jobs through all of this Mary Jo you're a nurse and you're in a count no not an assistant assistant to the bank auditor he is. Well we now have her own business I would say what did you lose your jobs because of this? Well we resigned I don't think that you can say that we were fired but when you become public you know in a controversial subject such as you know came out in the trial and then after that
there are some follow up some publicity especially you know myself being a nurse and coming in contact with you know with people directly. I suppose the institution that I worked for you know being small likes to keep their name their image up and maybe I was putting a little blemish in that image and I had one you know at a period of time you have to pick priorities and at that time I was fighting to get Richard back and still am and I couldn't be fighting two things that of the place where I was working and trying to get my son back and and be able to function right with both with both things. So of course I chose you know to put all my energies towards getting Richard back. You're a very religious person Mary Jo. Yes I am. Are you bitter about the reaction from some of the religious organizations
and so on and so called Christian people toward your situation? I can't say that I am you know really bitter. I am a little ashamed in a sense that people that you know consider as their says Christian can sometimes be and portray to and has portrayed to me some hypocritical type of nature. You know my personal opinion is that religion and Christianity is love that neighbor and to try to have compassion and understanding for each other and somewhere I feel like that this was all lost and the religious aspects are wonderful and I am a religious person and I still believe the same theories I did in the beginning
but sometimes it makes me a little bitter toward the people that seem not to be able to grasp what they preach so much. You can say a lot of things but if you don't live up to what you're saying then you're worse off than anyone that you feel might be worse. According to some of those people what tremendous harm are you doing? Are they mostly concentrating on the harm you're doing to the children? I think that one of the things that was discussed in the jury room was the fact that some of the jurors were afraid that with Richard living with Anne and I or evidently any child living within a homosexual relationship but of course this being the case with me that if Richard remained with me he would become a homosexual. Is there any evidence to support that? Well my mother and father are heterosexual. They have a son and two daughters that are heterosexuals and I'm a homosexual. I don't
see where Richard living with me is going to make him heterosexual homosexual. The issue was really whether your sexual preference is contagious or not. The psychologists and psychiatrists try to make that fairly plain that there's no way that they could ever say that if anything because the majority of homosexuals are from heterosexual homes. Well I think the psychologists have said there has been no research and psychiatrists into actually why a person is homosexual but in the same token there has been no research in saying why a person is heterosexual so we don't know. What about another one of the issues that I read and again in the clippings was the stigma for the kids and the kind of damage that might do that your lifestyle might hurt them because of other people's responses to that. How do you answer that? Well I guess the
way we can answer them primarily right now is by watching Judy Ann living in our home now that we're public and if anything my daughter is very supportive and she gets positive support from the people she's around such as her school teachers and her friends and the people that know and her relatives and she's got tons of confidence and support for us so if it's the case that the children are going to have a stigma it's not showing yet with my daughter and I doubt that it will. Mary Jo one of the questions that I had was that your husband brought this back to court right so there was a change of circumstances so therefore it should be looked at again and you had to prove you were fit rather than him having to prove you were unfit how did that twist come about? Well of course you know he was stating that I was in the subpoena that I was unfit because I was a homosexual. I went into the court to prove
I was fit and to show it with five years that I had had the responsibility of the boys. I didn't cherish the thought that when I went in that court room I knew I was a fit mother and yet with all the testimony that came out I was never approved unfit and yet that's the implication the court generated that. How far are you going to go with this? We will pursue it to the U.S. Supreme Court if we have to. Thank you both very much for being here. We're out of time. Thank you for watching. I was going to watch you. This program was produced by WNEDTV which is solely responsible for its content. Major
funding was provided by public television stations. Additional support was provided by unrestricted general program grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Ford Foundation.
Series
Woman
Episode Number
424
Episode
Lesbian Mothers and Child Custody. Part 2
Producing Organization
WNED
Contributing Organization
WNED (Buffalo, New York)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/81-91fj70pn
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Description
Episode Description
This episode features a conversation with Ann Foreman and Mary Jo Risher. Mary Jo Risher is from Dallas, Texas. She is a lesbian involved with a custody case over her 10-year-old son. Mary Jo lives with Ann Foreman and Ann's 12-year-old daughter.
Series Description
Woman is a talk show featuring in-depth conversations exploring issues affecting the lives of women.
Created Date
1977-01-12
Asset type
Episode
Genres
Talk Show
Topics
Social Issues
Women
Rights
No copyright statement in content.
Media type
Moving Image
Duration
00:29:05
Embed Code
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Credits
Director: George, Will
Guest: Foreman, Ann
Guest: Risher, Mary Jo
Host: Elkin, Sandra
Producer: Elkin, Sandra
Producing Organization: WNED
AAPB Contributor Holdings
WNED
Identifier: WNED 04425 (WNED-TV)
Format: DVCPRO
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:28:48
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Citations
Chicago: “Woman; 424; Lesbian Mothers and Child Custody. Part 2,” 1977-01-12, WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 1, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-81-91fj70pn.
MLA: “Woman; 424; Lesbian Mothers and Child Custody. Part 2.” 1977-01-12. WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 1, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-81-91fj70pn>.
APA: Woman; 424; Lesbian Mothers and Child Custody. Part 2. Boston, MA: WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-81-91fj70pn