It’s a quiet Tuesday night at the Woodman Avenue home where Cynthia Sanchez lives. In the living room, her teenage son Parker – a Boy Scout — is tackling some homework.
Helping Parker through it is his other parent, Alice.
“Cindy and I are the same sex," says Alice Engelmann, who's Parker's biological mother. "We have been together 20 years.”
Engelmann says she and her partner Sanchez knew early on they wanted to make a family.
“We were together for three years and then decided that we were pretty committed and solid and we would be together and we decided to have a child," Engelmann recalls.
Parker says he's, "Very comfortable with that and not ashamed at all and I feel like they’re shaping me into a good man that has a bright future ahead. I’d hope so.” If Parker sounds older than his 17 years, there’s a good reason why.
“When my mom got breast cancer, I had step up and be the man of the house and I had to take on many of the things that she would usually do, I had to do," Parker remembers.
Sanchez has battled Stage 3 breast cancer for more than two years. Her illness meant Parker had to pick some home duties, like cooking. Parker says he learned to cook during scout camping trips and competitions.
"I’ve learned to do other household things that need to be done," he adds.
The family's good times with scouting
Parker started as a Cub Scout with Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village when he was in the first grade. For years, that troop has bucked the “no gays” policy of the Boy Scouts of America national board. It welcomes everyone, as it did when Alice served as a den mother for several years.
The national board of the Boy Scouts of America was supposed to meet this week in Dallas to discuss, among other things, whether to end the long standing ban on openly gay Boy Scouts or scout leaders. Now that vote has been delayed until the group's annual meeting in May.
Alice, Cindy and son Parker are hoping the board will drop the ban, as scouting is a huge part of their family’s life. Alice’s brother and father were scouts, which for her was reason enough to have Parker in scouting, even with the "no gays" policy in place.
“I hope that Parker will look back and remember the good, fun times we had with scouting," says Engelmann.
The fun times included campouts, hikes, rafting, sleepovers at the Natural History Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits, a trip to the Grand Canyon, and the list goes on and on.
"The testosterone blend"
Like any other family, there have been growing pains, too.
“Raising a child is not easy," says Engelmann.
Sanchez explains that the couple chose to enter Parker into scouting, "because we wanted to give him the focus of the testosterone blend."
Parker says he gets all that from football, soccer, T-ball and Boy Scouts. He's had plenty of male mentors and recalls when the leaders and scouts in his Cahuenga district troop brought meals over when his mom Cindy was at a low point during her cancer fight.
This family has been through a lot, like Alice’s legal struggle to make spouse Cindy Parker’s second parent. It took almost two years but it got worked out, just not as well as she hoped.
“It’s lovely that they want me to file my taxes and declare that we are a domestic partnership but I cannot marry," says Engelmann. "I don’t get a lot of tax benefits.”
The couple says that’s why the push to have the Boy Scouts open to everyone, straight or gay, resonates on a deep and personal level. Parker says he’s all for doing away with the Boy Scout policy that keeps out gay scouts and scout leaders.
“Recently in the news there’s been some bad stories about scout leaders but that should not reflect the integrity of the whole," Parker emphasizes.
Parker is working on becoming an Eagle Scout, the highest honor there is in scouting. He says thanks to the leadership he’s shown and received in working towards that goal, he’ll get there, he hopes, by summer. His mothers are very proud.