Watch and Walk Away Angry: Ward v. Ward, A Documentary on Lesbian’s Custody Battle

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As the queer community increasingly gains mainstream visibility, it can be easy to forget that there are sometimes more pressing issues at hand than the right to marry. In the shadow of marriage equality remains a history of all the other ways queer people have been denied basic human rights—rights such as parental custody. Ex-spouses of newly out LGBTQ people have a history of challenging parental custody by claiming that queerness makes someone unfit to raise a child. While it can feel like that argument might no longer fly in today’s cultural climate, it wasn’t too long ago that an anti-gay bias of a court could lead to a parent losing their child.

Unfit: Ward v. Ward is a documentary about a shocking example of homophobia dictating a parental custody decision. In Ward v. Ward, a 1995 Florida case, the court ruled that an 11-year-old child would be better off raised by her father, a convicted murderer who had done jail time for killing his first wife, than by her devoted lesbian mother. The mother lost custody after requesting an increase in the meager $150 a month she received in child support. Though the judge claimed that the sexuality of the mother didn’t impact his decision, in his ruling he said, “I believe that this child should be given the opportunity and the option to live in a non-lesbian world.”


In addition to being a convicted murderer, the child’s father was so absent that he didn’t even know what grade she was in or where she went to school. He saw her one day every other weekend, and was behind in child support. He had a history of a bad temper in addition to his criminal record. According to the judge, though, life would be safer for the child in her father’s “non-lesbian world.”

Unfit: Ward v. Ward has been winning awards at film festivals across the country. Here’s the trailer:

In an interview with The Advocate, director Edwin Scharlau III said he was surprised at the number of people who came forward with similar stories that are currently happening. He continued, “I truly believe with all the mainstream visibility the LGBT community has recently experienced, there has been a backlash. And in some ways, I feel things are getting worse as the issues become more front and center.”

Scharlau said he hopes that audiences who watch the film “walk away mad  — so mad that it makes them stand up and be proud of who they are and who they love.” Executive producer and co-director Katie Carmichael added, “If this film can make a handful of people get more involved in the community, in assuring that all people are treated with dignity and respect and all have the same rights and privileges, then I would be more than satisfied.”

Visit Unfit‘s website to find out when it will be screening near you.

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Gabrielle writes facts and feelings from an old brick house in an outer borough of New York City. When she's not writing about lesbians, she's editing/writing/producing things at her day job in the beauty department of a well-known online style magazine. In her spare time, she helps organize the New York City Dyke March and makes up songs about her dog.

Gabrielle has written 96 articles for us.


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    People dream of having loving and devoted parents, and this little girl was taken from one and given to a unfit, absent parent. These are the times I want to go live in a lesbian colony.

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