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Parental Recognition Laws

Legal recognition of the parent-child relationship ("parentage") is important for many reasons, from healthcare decisions and school settings to economic security, everyday life, and much more. But for both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people alike, families are made in many different ways, and so there need to be multiple ways for the parent-child relationship to be legally secured. These maps illustrate some of the pathways to parental recognition that are especially important for LGBTQ families.

 There are multiple types of adoption that can either establish a legal relationship between parent and child, formally confirm such a relationship, or both. Stepparent adoption is available in every state to someone who is married to a child’s legal parent; as a result of marriage equality, this type of adoption is available to married same-sex couples nationwide. A co-parent or second-parent adoption is available in some, but not all, states, and it does not require the parents to be married. Separately, a confirmatory adoption is a streamlined adoption process established by law to confirm a parent's existing legal relationship to a child. Click "Citations & More Information" for more details about each of these types of adoption. 
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 offers confirmatory adoption process (8 states)
  • State offers second-parent or co-parent adoption, regardless of parents' marital status (20 states , 1 territory + D.C.)
  • State offers stepparent adoption to parents in legally recognized relationships; relies on access to marriage or relationship recognition (50 states , 5 territories + D.C.)
See also MAP’s June 2023 report, Relationships at Risk: Why We Need to Update State Parentage Laws to Protect Children and Families, for further discussion of the importance of legal recognition of parent-child relationships, the many pathways to legal recognition of parentage, recent examples of modernized parenting laws, and policy recommendations for all states.

Recommended citation for this set of maps:
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Parental Recognition Laws."
www.mapresearch.org/equality-maps/recognition/parenting. Accessed [day of access].

Recommended citation for this specific map:
 Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Types of Adoption." www.mapresearch.org/equality-maps/recognition/parenting/adoption. Accessed [day 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.

24%

24 % of LGBTQ adults live in states that provide confirmatory adoption process

49%

49 % of LGBTQ adults live in states that provide second-parent or co-parent adoption to parents regardless of marital status

100%

100 % of LGBTQ adults live in states that provide stepparent adoption to parents in legally recognized relationships

Legal recognition of the parent-child relationship ("parentage") is important for many reasons, from healthcare decisions and school settings to economic security, everyday life, and much more. But for both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people alike, families are made in many different ways, and so there need to be multiple ways for the parent-child relationship to be legally secured. These maps illustrate some of the pathways to parental recognition that are especially important for LGBTQ families.

This map shows the states in which all intended parents, regardless of marital status, can be recognized as legal parents if they consent to assisted reproduction with the intent to parent the child. For example, when a woman consents to have a child with her wife through donor insemination, the non-gestational, non-genetic mother is also a legal parent (just as a woman’s husband would be a legal parent of a child they have using donor insemination, even though he is not the genetic father). These laws are often referred to as assisted reproduction statutes or intended parent provisions
While most states have statutes specifically governing the parentage of children born through assisted reproduction, most of these statutes only apply to married couples. This map shows states that have expanded assisted reproduction statutes to apply regardless of the marital status of the intended parents.  (Note: this map does not refer to laws governing surrogacy.)
United States Map
Note: State laws differ in their requirements (e.g., regarding written documentation). Please seek legal advice specific to your state, as needed.
  • State recognizes an intended parent as a legal parent, regardless of marital status, if they consent to the conception of a child born using assisted reproduction (17 states + D.C.)
  • State recognizes an intended parent as a legal parent only if they are married (33 states, 5 territories)
Please note that this map does NOT refer to laws about surrogacy. This map is not legal advice. Even if assisted reproduction laws do not exist or apply, other laws may protect married or unmarried parents, depending on the state.

See also MAP’s June 2023 report, Relationships at Risk: Why We Need to Update State Parentage Laws to Protect Children and Families, for further discussion of the importance of legal recognition of parent-child relationships, the many pathways to legal recognition of parentage, recent examples of modernized parenting laws, and policy recommendations for all states.

Recommended citation for this set of maps: 
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Parental Recognition Laws." 
www.mapresearch.org/equality-maps/recognition/parenting. Accessed [day of access].

Recommended citation for this specific map: 
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Assisted Reproduction.” 
www.mapresearch.org/equality-maps/recognition/parenting/assisted_reproduction. Accessed [day 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.

37%

37 % of LGBTQ adults live in states that recognize an intended parent as a legal parent, regardless of marital status, if they consent to the conception of a child born using assisted reproduction

63%

63 % of LGBTQ adults live in states that only recognize an intended parent as a legal parent if they are married

Legal recognition of the parent-child relationship ("parentage") is important for many reasons, from healthcare decisions and school settings to economic security, everyday life, and much more. But for both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people alike, families are made in many different ways, and so there need to be multiple ways for the parent-child relationship to be legally secured. These maps illustrate some of the pathways to parental recognition that are especially important for LGBTQ families.

This map shows "functional parent doctrines" or policies, reflecting how some states recognize and extend parental rights to a person based on their relationship with a child, even if that person is not genetically and/or legally related to the child. This can include, for example, a person who helps raise their partner’s child, but who is not legally married to their partner or genetically related to their partner’s child. These doctrines are also commonly used for people who are related to the child, such as grandparents or other family members. Note that these doctrines can vary in important ways beyond what is shown on this map, including who qualifies as a functional parent and what potential proof or evidence may be required. This map is not legal advice, and other rights may exist. Please reach out to legal experts such as the LGBTQ Family Law Institute or legal advocates such as GLAD and NCLR.
United States Map
  • State functional parent doctrine grants full legal parentage (15 states)
  • State functional parent doctrine grants standing to seek custody (15 states , 1 territory + D.C.)
  • State functional parent doctrine grants standing to seek visitation only (3 states)
  • No case law or statute recognizing functional parents, but other pathways to parental recognition may exist (17 states, 4 territories)
For more information, please refer to the research of Professors Courtney Joslin and Douglas NeJaime (available by clicking "Citations  & More Information" beneath the map legend), as well as to legal advocacy organizations, including GLAD and NCLR.

See also MAP’s June 2023 report, Relationships at Risk: Why We Need to Update State Parentage Laws to Protect Children and Families, for further discussion of the importance of legal recognition of parent-child relationships, the many pathways to legal recognition of parentage, recent examples of modernized parenting laws, and policy recommendations for all states.

Recommended citation for this set of maps: 
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Parental Recognition Laws." 
www.mapresearch.org/equality-maps/recognition/parenting. Accessed [day of access].

Recommended citation for this specific map: 
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Functional Parent Recognition.” 
www.mapresearch.org/equality-maps/recognition/parenting/functional_parent. Accessed [day 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.

40%

40 % of LGBTQ adults live in states that grant functional parents full legal parentage

22%

22 % of LGBTQ adults live in states that grant functional parents standing to seek custody

4%

4 % of LGBTQ adults live in states that grant functional parents standing to seek visitation only

34%

34 % of LGBTQ adults live in states that have no case law or statute recognizing functional parents, but other pathways to parental recognition may exist

Legal recognition of the parent-child relationship ("parentage") is important for many reasons, from healthcare decisions and school settings to economic security, everyday life, and much more. But for both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people alike, families are made in many different ways, and so there need to be multiple ways for the parent-child relationship to be legally secured. These maps illustrate some of the multiple pathways to parental recognition that are especially important for LGBTQ families.

All states have a marital presumption of parentage. This means that when a married person gives birth to a child, the person’s spouse is also treated as the child's parent. Because this pathway to parentage depends upon being legally married, and the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell granted the right to marry to same-sex couples nationwide, the marital presumption is available to all married same-sex couples nationwide. For more on current state marriage laws, see MAP's 2022 report: 
Underneath Obergefell: A National Patchwork of Marriage Laws.
United States Map
  • State extends the marital presumption of parentage to children born to married couples, including married same-sex couples (50 states , 5 territories + D.C.)
  • State does not extend the marital presumption of parentage to children born to married couples (0 states)
See also MAP’s June 2023 report, Relationships at Risk: Why We Need to Update State Parentage Laws to Protect Children and Families, for further discussion of the importance of legal recognition of parent-child relationships, the many pathways to legal recognition of parentage, recent examples of modernized parenting laws, and policy recommendations for all states.

Recommended citation for this set of maps:
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Parental Recognition Laws." www.mapresearch.org/equality-maps/recognition/parenting. Accessed [day of access].

Recommended citation for this specific map:
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Marital Presumption of Parentage.” www.mapresearch.org/equality-maps/recognition/parenting/marital_presumption. Accessed [day 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 adults live in states that extend the marital presumption of parentage to children born to married couples

0%

0 % of LGBTQ adults live in states that do not extend the marital presumption of parentage to children born to married couples

Legal recognition of the parent-child relationship ("parentage") is important for many reasons, from healthcare decisions and school settings to economic security, everyday life, and much more. But for both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people alike, families are made in many different ways, and so there need to be multiple ways for the parent-child relationship to be legally secured. These maps illustrate some of the multiple pathways to parental recognition that are especially important for LGBTQ families.

For most children born to unmarried parents, legal recognition of parentage is established through the “voluntary acknowledgment of parentage” (VAP), a legal document typically completed at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth. There are no costs associated with it, and once it takes effect, it is the legal equivalent of a court decree of parentage and, under federal law, must be respected across state lines and in all jurisdictions. However, in many states, only men who are believed to be the genetic father of the child in question are permitted to sign VAPs. As a result, many LGBTQ families face obstacles to this pathway to parental recognition. Now, a growing number of states are updating their parenting laws to ensure that any parent—regardless of their marital status, gender, sexual orientation, or genetic relationship to the child—can sign a VAP and have their parental relationship legally recognized and protected.
United States Map
  • State has Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage (VAP) that is explicitly available to non-genetic and LGBTQ parents (12 states)
  • State has not yet expanded access of Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage (VAP), but other pathways to parental recognition may exist (38 states , 5 territories + D.C.)
See also MAP’s June 2023 report, Relationships at Risk: Why We Need to Update State Parentage Laws to Protect Children and Families, for further discussion of the importance of legal recognition of parent-child relationships, the many pathways to legal recognition of parentage, recent examples of modernized parenting laws, and policy recommendations for all states.

Recommended citation for this set of maps:
For this set of maps:  Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Parental Recognition Laws." www.mapresearch.org/equality-maps/recognition/parenting. Accessed [day of access].

Recommended citation for this specific map:
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage.” www.mapresearch.org/equality-maps/recognition/parenting/vap. Accessed [day 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.

33%

33 % of the LGBTQ population lives in states where Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage (VAP) is explicitly available to non-genetic and LGBTQ parents

67%

67 % of the LGBTQ population lives in states that have not yet expanded access of Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage (VAP), though other pathways may exist

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  • State has this lawIndicates state law or policy
  • ,
  • State has this lawPartial recognition
For more detail on each policy, please see each corresponding map.
State Stepparent Adoption Second-Parent Adoption Confirmatory Adoption Assisted Reproduction, Regardless of Marital Status Functional Parent Recognition Marital Presumption Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage (VAP)
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Data current as of 05/16/2024
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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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