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In Kids & Family

Samantha Hansen, Alisha Hunt, and their son, PJ.

In Kids & Family

Scott Lone, Joe Maddalena and family.

In Kids & Family

Brendan Barrett, Vance Skinner and their biological twin daughters.

Love is all you need: Milwaukee's gay families unite with pride


Although they sometimes face discrimination and hardships, Milwaukee's "rainbow families" continue to thrive, and, in most cases, they offer their kids the same love, support and amenities as hetero-headed families.

Because gay couples don't have a legal record to document their bond -- and because some gay families are still underground -- it is difficult to get an accurate number of same-sex families living Milwaukee. However, the 2000 U.S. Census was the first to note an increase in the number of households led by same-sex partners, showing that gay couples live in 99.3 percent of all counties across America.

Many of these couples hope they can soon legally marry their life partners so they have the same parental rights and respect as straight people, but whether or not gay marriage is legalized in the future isn't stopping some Milwaukeeans from forming the families of their dreams.

OnMilwaukee.com spoke to many local "rainbow" families, and here are a few of their stories.

Scott Lone and Joe Maddalena

Lone and Maddalena have been together for two years, and the couple now live together in Grafton where they are raising their two children, ages 5 and 9. The kids are biologically related to Lone, who fathered them during a previous marriage to a woman.

Lone, a teacher, and Maddalena, a non-profit director, say they plan to have a commitment ceremony within the next year, both for themselves and to show their children that they are together forever.

At an early age, their kids noticed that their family was special. "Our son and daughter began asking questions about the diversity of our family shortly after we met," says Lone. "We shared with them that families come in many shapes and sizes -- some are led by one parent, some by two, others led by parents of the same sex."

Lone says, so far, his kids haven't been upset by the idea of their family being led by two men. Their son has helped to educate his friends about the situation, and provides appropriate language for them to use when talking about his family.

Lone and Maddalena say they get a lot of support from the Rainbow Families Milwaukee organization. "It offers our children a unique opportunity to gather and socialize with families in similar environments," says Lone.

The couple is also fortunate enough to have support from their friends, who are both gay and straight. Some of their family members, however, are less enthused.

"We have encountered resistance, disapproval and subtle ridicule, but we believe that as adults, we're both much happier living our lives together and it has made a significant positive impact on our children -- they're happy, achieving high marks in school and seem to be well-adjusted," says Lone.

Samantha Hansen and Alisha Hunt

Hansen says she has been attracted to girls since grade school, but because she lived in a small town where nobody was openly gay, it wasn't until much later in her life that she came to terms with her orientation. After a five-year marriage that produced her son, PJ, Hansen accepted the fact she was a lesbian, and today, the 30-year-old lives in Franklin with Hunt, who has been "out" for 13 years.

Hansen says, at first, Hunt was a bit daunted by the prospect of motherhood. "Originally she thought I was kidding when I told her about my son. She was a little nervous," says Hansen. "But she warmed up to PJ very quickly, and now treats him as her own."

Seven-year-old PJ has already started to ask questions about the family dynamic and at one point asked for definitions of "gay" and "lesbian," which he now defines as "when two girls are in love or when two boys are in love."

On Mother's Day, PJ makes cards for both of his moms.

Hansen and Hunt are not completely sure how they will handle the future, or the possibility of people making fun of their family. For now, they have told PJ to ignore the negative and to be proud of who he is.

"His friends have sometimes looked at him weird and said, 'You have two moms?' and he says, 'Yeah, so?' He thinks it's natural," says Hansen.

As for the school setting, Hansen says she makes a point of telling PJ's teachers about their family very early in the year so they are not surprised when two moms show up for conferences and performances. She says only one of his teachers has seemed slightly disturbed by their family.

"I am very active in volunteering in the classroom, and PJ thinks it's neat that I know all of his classmates names," says Hansen.

Like the Lone/Maddalena family, supportive friends surround Hansen and Hunt -- and luckily their families have accepted the situation as well.

"My family has seen that I am a much happier person since I came out and that I am in love," says Hansen. "Alisha and I are very excited in hoping that we will be allowed to be married legally in our state."

Wendy Pologe and Mary Thoreson

A few years after Pologe and Thoreson had a "joining ceremony" in 1985, they began to discuss the possibility of raising a child together.

"Mary actually brought it up in 1988, totally out of the blue, and as we talked about it we agreed we had a lot to share with a child and that a family with children was the way we wanted to go," says Pologe, 50.

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Talkbacks

straight_ally | April 7, 2009 at 8:13 p.m. (report)

Jim - Exactly what is your point? Ordained or not, love is love. But, wait, in your mind, love can only be exhibited a certain way. Your narrow-mindedness clearly gives evidence of your faith - certainly the faith Jesus calls all Christians to be narrow-minded. Go grind your axe somewhere ese and practice the love that Jesus has shown you.

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Jim99 | March 1, 2009 at 6:39 p.m. (report)

What the reporter neglected to mention is that Joe Maddelena was and is an ordained Catholic priest. I guess the devil got to him since he must know what the consequences are for his current lifestyle. We can only pray that he changes his ways and ask the Almighty for forgiveness.

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OMCreader | Aug. 29, 2006 at 8:07 a.m. (report)

Mary Elizabeth said: The comment about teeth and surgery and walking when God gave you legs is valid...as long as some people keep using a word like "unnatural." Open heart surgery, artificial limbs, and yes, even things like flying in an airplane are "unnatural" if you apply the bible to those concepts from 2000 years ago! I keep thinking back to Reggie Whites comment about homosexuality being..."unnatural" too. Then he went on to say that certain groups are good at stuffing large numbers of a certain race in one house, & breeding multiple extended families. And then they put him into a hall of fame. Go figure. Can you imagine a police officer, teacher, or elected official saying that those concepts are "natural?" If you want to use the word "immoral" go ahead...but unnatural doesn’t cut it. At least I can argue with you on an even plain when we talk about morals as compared to what is or isn't natural!

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OMCreader | Aug. 27, 2006 at 1:41 a.m. (report)

Cozen Beguile said: WOW! Not only did they stop teaching history in school, they must have stopped teaching science all together. What the hell are kids learning today? Some opinions here are seriously ignorant. Did they stop teaching asexual reproduction in 3rd grade science class? Male and female is not the only "natural" way to reproduce. Other forms of "natural" reproduction are: budding, fragmentation, regeneration and gemma. You can find this in BILLIONS of living things. Clams, tanaids, starfish, sheephead fish, fornicats, cleaner fish, clownfish, wrasse fish, plants, cells, worms and on and on. Hundreds of animals species have already been studied and have proven "gay" behavior. All the negative opinions here are based on religious ignorance and phobias you are taught as a child. Put down that Bible some time and pick up a book that has more facts than faith. You might learn something new. PEACE!

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OMCreader | Aug. 27, 2006 at 1:41 a.m. (report)

Cozen Beguile said: WOW! Not only did they stop teaching history in school, they must have stopped teaching science all together. What the hell are kids learning today? Some opinions here are seriously ignorant. Did they stop teaching asexual reproduction in 3rd grade science class? Male and female is not the only "natural" way to reproduce. Other forms of "natural" reproduction are: budding, fragmentation, regeneration and gemma. You can find this in BILLIONS of living things. Clams, tanaids, starfish, sheephead fish, fornicats, cleaner fish, clownfish, wrasse fish, plants, cells, worms and on and on. Hundreds of animals species have already been studied and have proven "gay" behavior. All the negative opinions here are based on religious ignorance and phobias you are taught as a child. Put down that Bible some time and pick up a book that has more facts than faith. You might learn something new. PEACE!

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