Discriminatory parenting laws in more than 30 states means it is likely that children being raised in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families will be legal strangers to at least one of their parents, according to a new report released Tuesday.
The study — Securing Legal Ties for Children Living in LGBT Families: A State Strategy and Policy Guide — details how current state laws put many children in the U.S. at risk and undermine their family stability.
“There are two million children being raised by gay parents, most of whom live in states where they are excluded by family law,” said Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council Executive Director.
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“The impact of these laws is wide-ranging: our children are denied health insurance coverage; we face higher economic burdens that put our families at risk; our families aren’t protected when a parent dies; and our children live with the insecurity of knowing that one of their parents isn’t considered a parent under the law.”
According to the report, the lack of legal recognition for LGBT families “harms children and threatens their ability to thrive”
Children may go without health insurance or a parent may be limited in making healthcare decisions for them. Children in foster care are denied permanent homes, even when there are qualified, loving LGBT families ready, able and waiting to adopt.
Children may be wrested away from the only parents they know when relationships dissolve or a parent dies or becomes disabled. And they may be unable to access financial lifelines and safety net programs designed to support families during family crisis.
The study examines the outdated state laws — particularly in the areas of marriage and parenting — that largely ignore and routinely harm the roughly two million children being raised by LGBT parents, and provides a framework for state policymakers to draft, pass and enact new laws that protect children living in LGBT families and other contemporary family structures.
The report also includes recommendations for amending, repealing or overturning discriminatory laws that leave children without the security of legal ties to their parents.
“We must act now to change the laws that place children in jeopardy,” said Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of the Equality Federation. “Parenting and family laws needs to protect all children, not just some children, and this report serves as a roadmap for policymakers who want to address and update harmful laws in their state.”
“Securing Legal Ties for Children Living in LGBT Families” was co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council and the Center for American Progress in partnership with Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and the Equality Federation.
The report can be downloaded here.