This piece is an op/ed and does not reflect the opinion or research of 429Magazine or staff.
Like many US states, South Carolina does not have any legal protections specifically for LGBT people in regards to discrimination or hate crimes; Renée Quijano doesn’t even live there, instead being a resident of Massachusetts, but the ex-husband she describes as abusive does—and the state has ordered her to “return” her five-year-old son to a man he barely knows.
Despite Quijano having evidence of her ex-husband’s history of violence—she was able to obtain a restraining order against him due to continued emotional abuse, harassment, and death threats—he filed for emergency custody of their son, whom he has never lived with, from South Carolina. In a post on her Tumblr, Quijano said, “I am not being allowed to bring evidence to my defense, I am not allowed to see my son for a month, I am not allowed to contact him regularly and we have NEVER spent this much time apart.
“The judge and attorneys have made it clear that my queer, ‘immoral lifestyle’ is worse than being with an abusive father and that I should prepare myself for the worst.
“I need help.”
Specifically, Quijano needs a lawyer, and to give her case the best possible chance, she needs one with experience in LGBT rights issues and family law. However, attorney fees are generally between $5,000 – $10,000, and the total cost of fighting the family court, due to many things that have gone wrong already, has been estimated to be somewhere between $15,000 – $20,000. As a single mother, she can’t afford that, and so far hasn’t been able to get a response from any of the LGBT rights groups she’s tried.
She told me, “It’s one thing to do what’s in the best interest of the child and another to claim that as your reason for discriminating against a parent’s sexual orientation. Right now I am afraid for my son, I miss him so much it hurts, and I have no idea when I will see him again as there has been no date set by the judge.”
To raise the funds, Quijano started a GoFundMe page: Keep us together! with a goal of $15,000.
And the results so far have been amazing. Just a day after posting her plea on Tumblr, the post has gotten over 30,000 notes, the fundraising page has been shared over 700 times—and she’s raised over $6,000.
“The outpour of support and kindness… has been absolutely incredible,” Quijano told me. “Everyone is in disbelief that this is happening and I’ve been receiving emails from adults who experienced this as children, being taken away from the only parent they knew… I’ve heard stories of adult survivors who’ve experienced extreme discrimination in South Carolina, teenagers who are encouraging me to fight on and who tell me I’m an inspiration. It’s overwhelming and keeping me afloat at the moment.”
In an update on her fundraising page, she added, “I could not have asked for a better response than what I received (and continue to receive) from all of you.”