North Dakota Media Shines Spotlight on Fargo Lesbian Parents

“It’s like having a mom and dad. It’s normal. There’s nothing different. It’s just … (he pauses) family,” says 13-year-old Matt, featured in the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead today with his moms Rhea Goss and Barb Thielbar.

The article, “Local lesbian couple navigates life’s daily challenges as parents,” by Najla Amundson appeared on today’s INFORUM news website, North Dakota’s #1 News website.

Amundson frames the story of this couple raising a family in the context of their community. North Dakota is the state with the fewest number of gay and lesbian couples counted in the recent Census, and in 2004, a constitutional amendment that denies gay and lesbian couples the ability to marry was passed.

Articles like Amundson’s which shine a light on families like Barb, Rhea and Matt are an essential reminder of everyday families in our community and help to move hearts and minds for full equality. Amundson illustrates some of the concrete harms that Barb and Rhea have faced in their efforts to protect their family in the eyes of the law and from threats of violence.

In a state with no protections in the workplace against discrimination, Barb counts herself lucky to work at UPS. Amundson highlights UPS, which extends partner benefits that allow for their entire family to access health insurance and is one of the top-ranked gay-friendly corporations on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index of 2010.

Like all parents, Barb and Rhea’s biggest concern is their son – what would happen if something happened to Rhea, Matt’s legal mom? The couple continues to face legal challenges when it comes to a second-parent adoption, which Amundson takes the time to illustrate as a unique challenge that families like theirs face.

As a family, they have worked hard to develop networks of support through their extended family, the school district where Matt attends, and with their local church community at First Congregational in Moorhead. Barb adds, “We’ve been going there for a year now, and they are an open and confirming church, and it’s just wonderful. We’ve never been so accepted anywhere.”

When asked about how he goes about telling people at school about his family, Matt responds, “Most of the time I talk to my friends, and they get used to me, and since I’m not bad at all, they know it’s OK that I have two moms.”

Words and images matter. It takes courage for families like Barb, Rhea and their son Matt to tell their story. By featuring this family, the Forum of Fargo Moorhead allows more people to connect with the everyday challenges of gay and lesbian families and begins to change hearts and minds for full equality. GLAAD applauds the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead along with Barb, Rhea and Matt for sharing their story. Take a moment to read the original piece here. If you see other shining examples of local news outlets that have featured stories of gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people, let us know!