Phil Zwickler Charitable and Memorial Foundation
c/o Allen Zwickler
First Manhattan Co.
437 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022
April 15, 2014
Dear Mr. Zwickler:
Thank you very much for the Phil Zwickler Memorial Research Grant to conduct archival research at Cornell University. The grant allowed me to make use of Cornell's Human Sexuality Collection, which is proving invaluable to my dissertation research. I originally planned on spending one week at Cornell in June 2013, but after discovering a trove of interesting documents, I ended up returning to Cornell to conduct a second week of research in March 2014. The Phil Zwickler Memorial Research Grant not only gave me access to a number of incredible sources, but also led me to change the direction of my project. The archive contained such a wealth of information on gay and lesbian parenting that I have decided to focus my dissertation primarily on this issue.
The documents from Cornell's collections will be central to three of my dissertation chapters. The first, which I wrote using documents I found during my weeklong visit in June, addresses lesbian mother and gay father custody cases from the 1970s to the 1990s. My research uncovers how these custody disputes spurred research in the psychological impact of homosexual parents on their children, creating a dialogue between social scientists, courts, and gay rights groups. The research that emerged from these court cases resulted in conservative scholars undertaking their own studies, which later became central to debates over gay and lesbian adoption rights. Documents from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Records allowed me to reconstruct the development of research on gay and lesbian parenting and its dissemination through the courts.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Records, along with the Paula Ettlebrick Papers and the Human Rights Campaign Records, will also inform my chapter on adoption rights, which I plan to write this summer. The studies that emerged from custody litigation were debated at length in cases challenging gay and lesbian adoption bans, and ultimately convinced courts to overturn these laws. Legislatures considering adoption bans also reviewed these studies, with experts on both sides testifying about their validity and implications. I have conducted a number of oral history interviews with lawyers and researchers involved in these cases, which I will use to supplement the documents from the Cornell collections.
During my March visit, I focused my research on documents concerning anti-gay ballot initiatives of the 1990s, which I will analyze in a third chapter in my dissertation. The Human Rights Campaign Records, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Records, and the PFLAG Records all contained numerous folders and boxes of relevant documents. When I began looking into the subject, I suspected that the religious right relied on many of the anti-gay parenting studies to make their claims against gay rights. The documents I found confirmed my hunch, and have helped me think through the various ways in which politics, science, and sexuality intersected in the 1990s.
I cannot thank you enough for awarding me a Phil Zwickler Memorial Research Grant, which has helped me discover invaluable archival materials for my dissertation. I also want to thank you for supporting research in the history of sexuality and gender more broadly, and look forward to working with the Phil Zwickler Charitable and Memorial Foundation in the future.
Ph.D. candidate in History