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Foster and Adoption Laws

Foster care nondiscrimination laws protect LGBTQ foster parents and families from discrimination by foster care agencies and officials. Some states permits state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families, including LGBTQ people and same-sex couples, if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs.
United States Map
Washington New York U.S. Virgin Islands Puerto Rico Guam Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands American Samoa New Hampshire Vermont Virginia Pennsylvania New York Maine West Virginia Ohio Kentucky Indiana Michigan Illinois Wisconsin North Carolina South Carolina Tennessee Georgia Florida Mississippi Missouri Arkansas Louisiana Iowa Minnesota Oklahoma Kansas Nebraska South Dakota North Dakota Texas 33 Colorado Wyoming Montana Idaho Arizona Utah Nevada Oregon California Hawaii Alaska Massachusetts Rhode Island Connecticut New Jersey Delaware Maryland Washington D.C. New Hampshire Vermont
  • State statute, regulation, and/or agency policy prohibits discrimination in foster care based on sexual orientation and gender identity (25 states, 0 territories + D.C.)
  • State statute, regulation, and/or agency policy prohibits discrimination in foster care based on sexual orientation only (5 states, 1 territory)
  • No explicit protections against discrimination in foster care based on sexual orientation or gender identity (20 states, 4 territories)
  • State permits state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families, including LGBTQ people and same-sex couples, if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs (11 states, 0 territories)
*Alabama permits discrimination only by child service agencies that do not receive government funding.
*Michigan permits discrimination only by child service agencies that do not receive government funding, but a recent
federal injunction means that a trial will be held to address this law.

Utah prohibits unmarried couples from fostering. Only legally married couples or single individuals can foster.

For additional information, contact Family Equality Council, Human Rights Campaign, or American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Recommended citation:
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Foster and Adoption Laws." https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/foster_and_adoption_laws (date of access).

Percent of Adult LGBTQ Population Covered by Laws

*Note: These percentages reflect estimates of the LGBTQ adult population living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Estimates of the LGBTQ adult population in the five inhabited U.S. territories are not available, and so cannot be reflected here.

53%

53 % of LGBTQ population lives in states which have statutes, regulations, and/or agency policies prohibiting discrimination in foster care based on sexual orientation and gender identity

8%

8 % of LGBTQ population lives in states which have statutes, regulations, and/or agency policies prohibiting discrimination in foster care based on sexual orientation only

39%

39 % of LGBTQ population lives in states which have no explicit protections against discrimination in foster care based on sexual orientation or gender identity

20%

20 % of LGBTQ population lives in states permitting state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families, including LGBTQ people and same-sex couples, if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs

Adoption nondiscrimination laws and policies protect LGBTQ parents and families from discrimination by adoption agencies and officials. Some states permit state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families, including LGBTQ people and same-sex couples, if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs.
United States Map
  • State statute, regulation, and/or agency policy prohibits discrimination in adoption based on sexual orientation and gender identity (25 states, 1 territory + D.C.)
  • State statute, regulation, and/or agency policy prohibits discrimination in adoption based on sexual orientation only (4 states, 1 territory)
  • No explicit protections against discrimination in adoption based on sexual orientation or gender identity (21 states, 3 territories)
  • State permits state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families, including LGBTQ people and same-sex couples, if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs (11 states, 0 territories)
* Note: Alabama and Michigan permit discrimination only by child service agencies that do not receive government funding.

Utah prohibits unmarried couples from adopting. Only legally married couples or single individuals can adopt. 

This map is based on analysis by MAP in consultation with
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

Recommended citation:
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Foster and Adoption Laws."
https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/foster_and_adoption_laws (date of access).

Percent of Adult LGBTQ Population Covered by Laws

*Note: These percentages reflect estimates of the LGBTQ adult population living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Estimates of the LGBTQ adult population in the five inhabited U.S. territories are not available, and so cannot be reflected here.

53%

53 % of LGBTQ population lives in states which have statutes, regulations, and/or agency policies prohibiting discrimination in adoption based on sexual orientation and gender identity

7%

7 % of LGBTQ population lives in states which have statutes, regulations, and/or agency policies prohibiting discrimination in adoption based on sexual orientation only

39%

39 % of LGBTQ population lives in states which have no explicit protections against discrimination in adoption based on sexual orientation or gender identity

20%

20 % of LGBTQ population lives in states permitting state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families, including LGBTQ people and same-sex couples, if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs

For many couples or families, one individual may wish to adopt their partner’s child and become a legal parent of that child, giving the child an additional legal parent and giving each parent legal rights. This is especially important for parents who are not biologically related to the child. For that individual to adopt their partner's child and become a legal parent of that child, the individual can either apply to adopt through stepparent laws or second-parent adoption laws. Stepparent adoption laws require the parents be legally married, while second-parent adoption laws do not.  As a result of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell, all same-sex couples can now access marriage, including the option for stepparent adoption. Only some states offer second-parent adoption independent of marriage status.
United States Map
  • Parents in legally recognized relationships can petition for stepparent adoption statewide; relies on access to marriage or relationship recognition(50 states, 5 territories + D.C.)
  • Parents can petition for second-parent adoption statewide, regardless of marital status (15 states, 1 territory + D.C.)
Based on analysis by MAP and consultation with American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). This map indicates availability of second-parent adoption for unmarried couples or individuals in relationships that are not legally recognized.  Availability of stepparent adoption is limited to couples who enter into legally recognized relationships.

Recommended citation:
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Foster and Adoption Laws."
https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/foster_and_adoption_laws (date of access).

Percent of Adult LGBTQ Population Covered by Laws

*Note: These percentages reflect estimates of the LGBTQ adult population living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Estimates of the LGBTQ adult population in the five inhabited U.S. territories are not available, and so cannot be reflected here.

100%

100 % of LGBTQ population live in states where parents in legally recognized relationships have access to stepparent adoption statewide

44%

44 % of LGBTQ population lives in states where parents can petition for second-parent adoption statewide, regardless of marital status

Child welfare nondiscrimination laws protect youth in the child welfare system from discrimination based on the youth's sexual orientation and gender identity.
United States Map
  • Statute, regulation, and/or agency policy that prohibits discrimination against youth in the child welfare system based on sexual orientation and gender identity (31 states, 0 territories + D.C.)
  • Statute, regulation, and/or agency policy that prohibits discrimination against youth in the child welfare system based only on sexual orientation (7 states, 0 territories)
  • No statute, regulation, and/or agency policy on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in child welfare (12 states, 5 territories)
  • Explicit guidance about transgender youth in the child welfare system being placed in housing according to their gender identity (12 states, 0 territories)
  • Requires LGBTQ-inclusive cultural competency training for child welfare staff and/or foster parents (12 states, 0 territories)

This map shows where explicit state-based statutory, regulatory, and policy-based non-discrimination protections in the nation’s child welfare system. These protections prohibit discrimination against youth in the child welfare system based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In addition to these explicit policies, several states have policies that prohibit discrimination based on “sex.” Although such policies do not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and are therefore not included on this map, advocates may be able to utilize these protections to protect transgender youth as case law evolves.

This map also includes the states in which there are laws or regulations that require current and prospective foster parents and child welfare staff to receive training about LGBTQ youth in areas like cultural competency and legal requirements, as well as the states with laws requiring that transgender youth be placed in accordance with their gender identity. Only states with explicit legal requirements for transgender youth placement are included to the exclusion of those with recommendations and those that consider housing placements on a case-by-case basis. These laws and regulations are designed to improve the safety and outcomes for LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system.

For more information, please contact Lambda Legal.

Recommended citation:
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Foster and Adoption Laws." https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/foster_and_adoption_laws (date of access).

Percent of Adult LGBTQ Population Covered by Laws

*Note: These percentages reflect estimates of the LGBTQ adult population living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Estimates of the LGBTQ adult population in the five inhabited U.S. territories are not available, and so cannot be reflected here.

63%

63 % of LGBTQ population lives in states that have statute, regulation, and/or agency policy that prohibits discrimination against youth in the child welfare system based on sexual orientation and gender identity

10%

10 % of LGBTQ population lives in states that have statute, regulation, and/or agency policy that prohibits discrimination against youth in the child welfare system based only on sexual orientation

26%

26 % of LGBTQ population lives in states that have no statute, regulation, and/or agency policy on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in child welfare

Key
  • State has law that only covers sexual orientationLaw covers sexual orientation
  • State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identityLaw covers sexual orientation and gender identity/expression
  • State does not have this law Religious exemptions in child welfare system
State Foster Care Adoption Second/Stepparent LGBTQ Youth
in Child Welfare
Religious Exemptions
in Child Welfare
  Citations Citations Citations
Alabama State does not have this law
Alaska
American Samoa
Arizona
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
Arkansas
California
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Colorado
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Connecticut
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Delaware
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
District of Columbia
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Florida
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Georgia
Guam
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Hawaii
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Idaho
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Illinois
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Indiana
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Iowa
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Kansas State does not have this law
Kentucky
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Louisiana
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
Maine
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Maryland
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Massachusetts
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Michigan
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State does not have this law
Minnesota
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Mississippi
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State does not have this law
Missouri
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
Montana
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
Nebraska
Nevada
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
New Hampshire
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
New Jersey
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
New Mexico
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
New York
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
North Carolina
North Dakota
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
State does not have this law
Northern Mariana Islands
Ohio
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
Oklahoma
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State does not have this law
Oregon
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Pennsylvania
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Puerto Rico
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
Rhode Island
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
South Carolina State does not have this law
South Dakota
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State does not have this law
Tennessee
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State does not have this law
Texas State does not have this law
U.S. Virgin Islands
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Utah
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Vermont
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Virginia State does not have this law
Washington
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
West Virginia
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
Wisconsin
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
Wyoming
State has law that only covers sexual orientation
Data current as of 09/30/2020
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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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