As social science research over the past three decades confirms, children of same-sex parents are as healthy and well-adjusted as those raised by opposite-sex parents. And, as U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker noted in his 2010 opinion striking down California's Proposition 8, “[t]he children of same-sex couples benefit when their parents can marry.”
But the national legal landscape does not reflect either reality. Marriage is not an option for gays and lesbians in the vast majority of states, including several, such as Mississippi and Alaska, where more than 25% of same-sex couples are raising children, according to the Williams Institute.
And a report released Tuesday further illustrates how enduring discriminatory laws, both state and federal, create barriers to adoption, treat gay partners as legal strangers in medical decision-making situations, and impose greater tax burdens on LGBT families, among other inequities.
An estimated two million children raised by LGBT parents are negatively affected as a result, according to the report, coauthored by Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council, and the Center for American Progress.
Often the focus of the marriage debate is on LGBT adults, said Family Equality Council executive director Jennifer Chrisler. “But here you have a comprehensive set of data and recommendations that focus on those who are impacted most," she said. "One cannot ignore the fact that these two million children exist, and that laws and regulations haven’t kept pace [with LGBT families]. … It’s very important that we engage in a deeper discussion with our elected officials and policymakers.”
Among the challenges faced by LGBT families as cited in the report:
-Five states — Utah, Louisiana, Mississippi, Michigan, and North Carolina — effectively ban joint adoption by LGBT parents. The law is unclear in another 28 states.
-Children of LGBT parents can be denied benefits from government safety net programs, most of which define family based on marital status.
-Children of LGBT couples are twice as likely to live in poverty.
Both the condensed and full version of the report, “All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families,” are available here. Key legal and socioeconomic facts from the report are included below and on the following pages.
Joint Adoption Laws
Discriminatory tax burden faced by LGBT families
Medical Decision-Making Laws
Children of LGBT parents living in poverty
Donor insemination and parental recognition