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Remarks from Rich Llewellyn and Chris Caldwell: The Adoption Institute

Thank you. We are very proud to be here tonight to represent David Bohnett and the Bohnett Foundation. David is very sorry that he could not be here himself.

At the outset, let me introduce ourselves and tell you why we have such passion for the work of the Adoption Institute.

We live here in Los Angeles and have been friends with David Bohnett since long before he was an Internet mogul. We have served on the Foundation’s Board of Advisors since its establishment more than 10 years ago. Setting up the Foundation was one of the first things that David did after his success in the business world, because David knew that he wanted to start giving back and using his money to effect positive social change.

We met in law school and celebrated our 30th anniversary as a couple last month. Not long thereafter, we decided we wanted to have kids – even though we honestly didn’t have many role models.

But we started exploring adoption – and took classes at Vista Del Mar including a class led by Ruben Panner, co-author of The Adoption Triangle with Annette Baran whom you also are honoring tonight.

And 20 years ago this past summer, we officially became early gay and lesbian pioneers by adopting infant Latino twins in Peru. Rich actually adopted Robbie and Rosie as a single parent in Peru because there was nowhere in the world at that time where same sex couples could adopt together. Two years later, Chris became a legal second parent in one of the first such cases here in Los Angeles.

By the way, we are pleased to say our kids are in college and doing well – our daughter back east at Sarah Lawrence and our son here at Whittier.

We’d like to tell you a little about our friend David Bohnett.

David Bohnett is best known for founding GeoCities – the first social successful social network on the Internet. Long before Facebook, there was GeoCities and David Bohnett. David came up with this idea to let people put their own web pages up on the web – with their pictures and their stories and their kids and their hobbies. David was convinced that people would go to the web to look at these personal histories of total strangers. Well, we thought it was crazy. And Internet professionals – there weren’t many then but a few – were telling him he was either too late or too early with this idea. Guess who got the last laugh? David was exactly right in timing and GeoCities quickly became one of the web’s busiest sites.

David eventually sold GeoCities to Yahoo in one of the largest Internet transactions at the time.

And with that, David turned his attention full time to philanthropy and political activism.

As we mentioned at the outset, we are members of the Board of the Bohnett Foundation. In that capacity, we have been part of the reviewing process for two significant grants to the Adoption Institute.

In the past ten years, gay and lesbian family issues, sadly, have been the wedge issue of politics. Gays and lesbians wanted to get married and have kids – not for political reasons but for the same personal, religious, emotional and societal reasons as everyone else. State after state pushed back, saying particularly that gays were unfit parents. Many states enacted or considered laws prohibiting same sex parents from adopting or fostering; many court cases wrestled with custody issues where the central charge against the allegedly unfit parent was his/her sexual orientation; and there remained every election season the possibility of yet another ballot initative against gay parenting or gay marriage.

Seeing this landscape and believing that adoption policy should be child and family centered and not politically motivated, the Adoption Institute made a daring stand for a non-gay family agency. The Institute determined that it was going to have a glbt focus as one area in its research and advocacy. And the Institute has done some of the most important work in the country to demonstrate with social science research, rather than political rhetoric, that the adoption doors should be opened to gay and lesbian families.

As adoptive gay parents, we cannot thank and salute you enough.

We need straight allies to make straight legislatures and straight judges and straight adoption agencies understand that we can make wholesome loving families as well.

The Bohnett Foundation has been proud to fund your work in this area, and is extremely proud to be receiving this award for its small contribution to this work.

One last note. David Bohnett was successful in business in part by being a bit hard nosed when he had to be. And David remains a bit tough in his charitable giving. He and the Foundation staff only give to organizations that deliver important service at a lean and mean price. The Adoption Institute has passed this rigorous process with flying colors.

So in closing, I know everyone here is already a supporter of the Adoption Institute. But if you can, do a little more tonight. It will be a good investment.