Lesbian mothers say move to Calgary provided safety and security

StillFor the Yates-Laberge family the coverage of the Sochi 2014 Olympics was a reminder of the discrimination they once faced when raising children in the U.S.

“I guess we never understood the level of hatred,” says Anne Yates-Laberge. The couple resided in New Hampshire eight years ago.

Anne had adopted their son Andrew from Ukraine, while Claire had adopted Adam from the Republic of Georgia. Each woman worked through the respective adoptions individually because as a couple, they were not legally allowed to adopt children.

The children were enrolled in a Catholic school, as religion was important to the family. Anne grew up a Methodist while Claire was raised Roman Catholic.

The women say as soon as other parents at their boys’ school learned that Anne and Claire were married and raising the boys together, trouble began.

Produced by Laren Pritchard and Alexandra Rabbitte

“During circle time, I wasn’t allowed to play with the other kids because my parents were lesbians… I would have to sit in my own circle by myself,” says 11-year-old Adam Yates-Laberge, who experienced the discrimination first-hand. The children were told they were not to talk about their home or family life at school.

Anne and Claire says it got to a point to where some parents planned meetings to get the boys expelled.

“They thought we had some kind of disease or that we would hurt the other children,” says 13-year-old Andrew.

After Andrew began to show signs of fear and anxiety, Anne and Claire decided to take their child to a therapist. After the therapist noted signs of fear in Adam, the mothers pulled both boys out of school.

“We wanted the kids to feel safe, and to raise our family in a safe community. That was the most important thing,” says Anne.

The move to Canada

Because Claire was born in Quebec, the couple decided to explore the option of moving to Canada. With a quick change to Claire’s resume, stating they were open to relocating, she was offered several positions in her field as a tax accountant.

“It was so weird, I was invited out to a dinner from the company in Calgary that wanted to hire me and they actually encouraged me to bring Anne. It was the first time we got to openly be a couple, in public and just be us,” says Claire.

There were other signs of Calgary being a more open community.

The family recalls when Adam began playing soccer in Calgary, and asked the coach if he was allowed to talk about his two mothers. With the coach making it clear that the kids were most definitely allowed to talk about their two moms, the family says it was obvious they had made the right decision to re-locate.

 They also found a supportive faith community in Hillhurst United Church, one of several Calgary churches that embraces people regardless of sexual orientation.

While the Yates-Laberge family has not faced discrimination since the move, they say they know it still exists, both here and afar. The targeting of gay people during the Sochi Olympics was a reminder that safety for the LGBTQ community continues to be a real issue.

Anne gave a speech at a church vigil earlier this year, organized to support LGBTQ Olympic athletes in Sochi, as well as residents of Russia.

“I am happy that I stopped in my tracks when I saw the rainbow on the front of this beautiful church in Kensington,” she told attendees who held candles.

“It has big stained glass windows and creaky pews. It is now our home, a place to raise our kids, and without the flag, I would not be here.” 

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