Mom's Apple Pie: The Heart of the Lesbian Mothers’ Custody Movement

2006 | Activism / Documentary / Human Rights / Lesbian / Parenting/Family / Relationships / Representation / Social Issues / Women's Studies | 60m | USA
Directors: Jody Laine, Shan Ottey, Shad Reinstein

While the fight for LGBTQ Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum, the 1970s witnessed horrific custody battles for lesbian mothers. Mom's Apple Pie: The Heart of the Lesbian Mothers’ Custody Movement revisits the early tumultuous years of the lesbian custody movement through the stories of five lesbian mothers and their four children.

Narrated by Kate Clinton, the documentary interviews the sons and daughters who were separated from their mothers, the mothers themselves, and one woman who made the difficult decision to flee with her children. Founders of the Lesbian Rights Project (now the National Center for Lesbian Rights, NCLR) and the Lesbian Mothers’ National Defense Fund recount the founding of their organizations in response to the bevy of court rulings granting custody to grandparents, fathers and distant relatives based on the belief that lesbians would be unfit parents. Rich with archival photos from JEB (Joan E. Biren) and Cathy Cade, the documentary also features music from iconic lesbian musicians Margie Adam, Alix Dobkin, Mary Watkins, and Cris Williamson.

Reviews and Awards

“… useful in both personalizing the controversy and placing it within the more general context of gender and civil rights, it’s impossible not to be moved by the manner in which families were needlessly torn apart by antiquated ideas that—as the film makes clear—have been overruled to a large extent, at least in terms of the legal system. RECOMMENDED.”—Video Librarian

“This film evokes painful memories of the legal systems’ treatment of mothers who are lesbians as well as the transformative nature of women’s resistance. The lesbian and gay legal movement was built on the backs of these women.”—Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, former Legal Director of Lambda Legal, Policy Director of National Center for Lesbian Rights