CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — We're just hours from the Nashville Pride Festival. Many will be there who have watched so much change for the gay community over these recent years. In fact, the pandemic may have played a role in encouraging some big changes in same-sex households.
As gay men growing up in small towns, there’s so much Michael and Travis VanZant never expected to see in their lives.
“When I was in the military, of course, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was at the stage it was being overturned,” Travis said.
“We met on Plenty of Fish," said Michael. “Almost immediately knew he was my person.”
Six months later came June 26, 2015.
“The Supreme Court had made it legal nationwide,” Michael remembered.
They headed straight to the county clerk to become the first gay couple to be married in Montgomery County. Now comes something else Michael and Travis never expected in their lives.
“I told Travis, 'I think I want kids now. It took him 10.10 seconds to be on the phone with every foster agency within a hundred-mile radius,'” Michael continued.
Through Youth Villages, they've adopted brothers Andrew and Lucas. They also provide a home for an 18-year-old who's just aged out of foster care in addition to another foster child.
“Very scary at first," Travis smiled. "Course, going from no kids to having kids, that’s like every couple.”
With people isolated, agencies across the country report the number of calls of interest from potential parents slowed at the start of COVID. That's when unemployment rates were up and many were just hesitant to bring someone new into their home. Michael and Travis saw this as the right time to become parents, just like so many other gay couples.
According to the U.S. Census, there are more than 181,000 same-sex households with children in the home. Of those numbers, nearly 21% have adopted children in them. The American Adoptions agency says about 4% of adopted children and 3% of foster children are with same-sex parents.
“There’s agencies that deny same-sex couples the right to adopt when there’s always kids needing homes,” Travis said. “I don’t understand it.”
Michael and Travis will be at the Nashville Pride Festival, working a booth with Youth Villages to tell other same-sex couples about fostering and adoption.
There’s so much two men from small towns thought they’d never see, never experience. Together, they say they’ve watched the world change.
“When I was younger, I never thought these things would be possible," Michael said. "It feels great, feels fantastic. I love being a dad.”