Tatiana Quiroga of the Family Equality Council (right) with her partner Jen West and their son Lukas West-Quiroga. They are one of the many families that live in the south and say they need better protections in Florida.
Op-ed: Who Is Sticking Up for Southern LGBT Families?

By Gabriel Blau

Originally published on Advocate.com April 22 2014 6:45 AM ET

A few weeks ago, a man set fire to the home of a lesbian couple and their children in Miami. After he was arrested for the crime, he told police he despised lesbians and thought they did not deserve to have children. As I'm the head of a national organization that looks out for the interests of families with LGBTQ parents, this incident reminded me just how much work we must do to promote "lived equality."

The LGBTQ equality movement has made great progress of late. It seems like every week another marriage ban is ruled unconstitutional in yet another state. But our families, particularly in the South, continue to encounter not only legal inequalities but often real social inequities. In a part of the country where people value family so highly, our families still encounter immense obstacles.

There is a higher percentage of LGBTQ families raising children in the South than in any other part of the country, yet they are the least protected. You can be fired for being LGBTQ in every southern state, and same-sex couples still face barriers to adoption across the region. There are legal roadblocks at many turns, preventing families from taking care of one another and denying children in need the chance to find a forever loving home. Mississippi just passed a so-called religious freedom bill, which opens the door for even more discrimination against LGBTQ people in that state. This is the climate our families still face in much of the South.

To overcome these challenges Family Equality Council is expanding our work across the region. Last week a full-time staff member began work on the ground in southern states. Through partnerships and raising the voices of families and local leaders, we are committing to changing not just laws, but lives.

We know that making these inroads in the South will take work. The hurdles confronting our families in states like Alabama and Mississippi can feel extremely daunting. But we are rolling up our sleeves and working even harder to support deeply committed local organizations, leaders and families who are already making change.

Legal equality alone can’t stop the kind of discrimination and intolerance we’re witnessing. But as we tell our stories, grow and strengthen our communities, and raise our voices, the laws will begin to change in our favor and we will see a shift in consciousness towards acceptance and celebration of our families. We will not stop until all families can live, love, and work everywhere in this country. We will not stop until every one of the millions of LGBTQ parents and their families has full and true equality under law and in our communities.

GABRIEL BLAU is executive director of Family Equality Council, an organization that connects, supports, and represents the 3 million parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer in this country and their 6 million children.