HRC Blog

HRC Celebrates Fathers’ Day, Recognizes “Fathers of the Year”

We received many submissions for our “Father of the Year” award, meant to raise the visibility of all the amazing every day LGBT and ally dads across the country. With all of the nominations we received, there was no way we could pick just one “Father of the Year.” HRC’s Family Project is proud to present “Father of the Year Awards” to six of our nominees.

These dads are truly an inspiration – one is 91 and helped establish a PFLAG chapter in his hometown; another led a support group of other gay dads. Yet another is a retired military officer and devout Christian who supports his lesbian daughter.  Others have committed their lives to raising their children in the face of daily adversity. After receiving hundreds of great nominations, the judges narrowed it down to the following dads:

Nelson N Harper, Columbus, OH, age 91, was nominated by his son.  Nelson endured the heartache of losing two children—a son to AIDS in 1994, and a daughter to cancer earlier this year.  Nelson and his late wife helped to establish the PFLAG chapter in Columbus, Ohio, and spent many hours supporting other parents who were struggling to find acceptance for their LGBT children.  As former Director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio, Nelson has advocated for his children and all LGBT people within his religious community, and has worked hard to face down religious-based bigotry. Nelson stood by his son’s side as he cared for, and ultimately lost his partner of 34 years to Lou Gehrig’s disease.  As his son states, “My father is the most utterly selfless person I know.”

Kergan Edwards-Stout, Orange, CA, was nominated by his partner of nine years. Kergan always knew he wanted to be a dad. When his partner met him in 2002, he was a single dad, leading a support group for other gay dads, and balancing his family, a full-time job, and his passion for social change.  Since then, Kergan and his partner adopted a second child in 2004 through California’s Fost-Adopt program.  When they first met their second son, he could barely walk or communicate, but today, at age 8, he is a healthy and vibrant child.  Kergan’s main focus has always been on the children—supporting them in school, doing laundry, cleaning, and making sure they always have a home-cooked family dinner. This should come as no surprise: when Kergan and his partner first met nine years ago via match.com, his user name was “ProudToBeDad!”

Thomas Bowden, Little Rock, AR, was nominated by his son who reflects that his dad taught him how to throw a perfect spiral, tie his shoes, how to be a good friend and be true to himself.  After many years of struggle, Thomas came out of the closet about seven years ago, and since then he has provided support and been a “father figure” to many members of the LGBT community who were rejected by their own families.  Thomas is a great example of what a gay parent can be; he has courage, he is generous, and he loves and supports his son unconditionally. As his son shares, “I can only hope to be as good a father to my children as my dad has been to me.”

Philip Reitan, Eden Prairie, MN, was nominated by his wife, and by his son, Jacob.  A father of four, Philip has been Jacob’s number one supporter since he came out 12 years ago.  Philip has worked for Equality in many ways, from appearing in the groundbreaking documentary “For The Bible Tells Me So,” to joining the Board of SoulForce, to attending HRC events.  With the forthcoming marriage amendment battle shaping up in Minnesota, Philip is once again ready to be on the front lines, fighting for his son and all those in the LGBT community who are now “like family” to him. 

Rob Parke, Harrisonburg, VA, was nominated by his daughter, Lauren.  Most folks wouldn't immediately assume that Rob, a retired military officer and devoted Christian, would turn out to be the incredible ally that he is. As his daughter shares, “Rob Parke is the kind of person that I wish every young LGBTQ person could have in their corner.” When Lauren participated in HRC's 2006 Youth College, her dad proudly affixed the blue and yellow equal sign to the back of his car and then drove to Pennsylvania for the final GOTV push that ultimately got Patrick Murphy elected to Congress. When the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy finally came into question, he wrote a letter to the Joint Chiefs of Staff to advocate for its repeal. When his own siblings reacted negatively to his daughter's coming out, he stuck with Lauren. When his church decided for the first time in their history to call an openly gay man to be their pastor, he called Lauren to celebrate. “I'm so lucky, grateful, and proud to call him my dad - I wouldn't be the person I am today without him by my side.”

Jose Genis, San Diego, CA, nominated by his close friend is now raising three beautiful kids on his own. Jose is a very loving and caring father to these children who had a very rough start in life. Jose had to move out of his one bedroom apartment and find an affordable three bedroom home so the social workers could place the children with him. He spent most of his savings furnishing the place, buying school supplies and other necessities. Jose’s routine is now: wake up, cook breakfast, get kids ready, drop off kids at school, drive to work, leave work, pick up kids, cook dinner, homework, shower, repeat. He has very little time for himself due to the needs of his children and a demanding job that often requires him to work weekends. His day is committed to the happiness of his kids. When his kids were behind in school, Jose spent most his nights helping them catch up to their grade levels. His friend adds, “Jose always has a smile on his face and at age 26 with three kids and single he needs and deserves to be father of the year.”

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