New Democracy Maps

Children with Gay Parents Denied Equal Protections

State Parenting Laws Protect Some Children, Exclude Others

Washington, D.C., JULY 17, 2012 – Current state laws put many children in our country at risk and undermine their family stability, according to a new report released today.

Securing Legal Ties for Children Living in LGBT Families: A State Strategy and Policy Guide shows how in more than 30 states, discriminatory state parenting law 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. The report 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 best interests of children should always be paramount," said Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. “With more than 400,000 children in foster care and more than 100,000 children awaiting adoption, it simply makes no sense—and certainly isn’t to their benefit—to deny children a forever home with qualified and loving parents simply because those parents are gay or unmarried.”

Securing Legal Ties for Children Living in LGBT Families details these and other concrete harms of archaic and discriminatory family law—harms that affect the two million children raised by LGBT parents, children awaiting adoption and, often, the millions of children being raised by relatives, family friends, or unmarried parents.

  • Laws deny children loving families. When LGBT families are banned from being foster parents or adopting, children are denied permanent homes and remain in state care instead.
  • Laws put children’s health at risk. When the law prevents a parent from securing legal ties to his or her child, that child is also denied coverage under the parent’s health insurance, and the parent can be prevented from making medical decisions or visiting their child in the hospital.
  • Laws undermine children’s security and place children in jeopardy when a parent dies or when parents’ relationships dissolve. When a parent raising a child is not recognized under the law, that child can be wrested away from the parent best suited to care for them, be denied child support, or lose inheritance and other protections designed to keep them safe during times of crisis.

“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. “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.”

“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 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. It also includes recommendations for amending, repealing or overturning discriminatory laws that leave children without the security of legal ties to their parents.

Securing Legal Ties for Children Living in LGBT Families expands on the content from All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families, a report which provides one of the most comprehensive portraits to date of the wide range of obstacles facing LGBT families in America. For more information, visit, or

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MAP's mission is to provide independent and rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all. MAP works to ensure that all people have a fair chance to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, take care of the ones they love, be safe in their communities, and participate in civic life.

Celebrating its 30th Anniversary, Family Equality Council connects, supports, and represents the one million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents in this country and the two million children they are raising. Learn more at

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is the pre-eminent research, policy and education organization in its field. The Institute is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that works to improve the lives of everyone touched by adoption and foster care through the development of and advocacy for knowledge-based laws, policies and practices.

Equality Federation|Equality Federation Institute is the national membership and support organization for independent state LGBT advocacy organizations. Since the state organizations began to come together more than 15 years ago, Equality Federation|Equality Federation Institute has become the only organization concentrating solely on LGBT equality at the state level. At this critical moment in our history, every moment counts on the road to equality. Our mission is to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans in every state and territory by building strong and sustainable statewide organizations in a state-based movement.

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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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