Home' South Florida Gay News : SFGN 010616 Contents 01.06 .2016 • 23
What a year. It’s tempting, in a year-end
wrap-up, to put a big bow on what we
put a ring on and call it a day. While
marriage brought us many advances, however,
it also highlighted other issues that we still
need to tackle in order to bring full equality and
inclusion to LGBTQ parents and our children.
Marriage equality is, of course, a big deal.
The win in Obergefell v. Hodges not only
brought marriage to same-sex couples, but
put same-sex parents and our children front
and center in the case and in the public eye.
Most of the plaintiffs were parents. And Justice
Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority
opinion, showed he understood the importance
of marriage for our children, saying, “Without
the recognition, stability, and predictability
marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of
knowing their families are somehow lesser.
They also suffer the significant material costs
of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated
to a more difficult and uncertain family life.
The marriage laws at issue thus harm and
humiliate the children of same-sex couples.”
He wisely cautioned, though, that marriage
is also meaningful even for those who cannot
or choose not to procreate—thus addressing
one of the leading arguments against marriage
equality, that marriage is entirely about
Marriage equality expanded parental rights
in some states. Twelve states (Alabama,
Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan,
Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota,
Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas) did not permit
same-sex couples to adopt children jointly
before Obergefell, according to a report from
the Pew Charitable Trusts, citing the Human
After Obergefell, however, that restriction
has crumbled in all but Mississippi. Four
couples are now challenging the Mississippi
ban in federal court with the help of attorney
Roberta Kaplan (a lesbian mom herself), who
successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme
Court in 2013 to bring down part of the Defense
of Marriage Act.
Our equal access to adoption and fostering
is threatened, however, by “religious freedom”
laws in North Dakota, Michigan, and Virginia
(and under discussion in several other states).
These laws permit child welfare agencies
receiving state money to refuse to place
children with same-sex couples or other
LGBTQ people if doing so conflicts with their
And Kansas State Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita)
has requested that legislative auditors
investigate the state’s Department of Children
and Families over what he calls “systemic”
discrimination against LGBT people in
adoption and foster care.
Same-sex couples have also had to file
lawsuits in several states in order to have both
parents’ names put on their children’s birth
certificates. In October, a couple in Utah was
awarded $24,000 in legal fees after they won
their case, but cases from couples in Arkansas,
Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, and
Wisconsin are still pending or being appealed.
A note of caution: While accurate birth
certificates are necessary for enrolling a child
in school, getting a passport, and applying
for various other benefits, they are still not
sufficient for someone to be recognized as a
parent in all jurisdictions and circumstances,
many LGBTQ legal organizations have said
(and the judge in the Arkansas case himself
indicated). Second-parent adoptions or court
judgments of parentage are still recommended.
Even adoptions, however, are under attack
(though I have great hope the threat will fail).
The Alabama Supreme Court in September
refused to recognize three second-parent
adoptions done in Georgia by a lesbian mom
living in Alabama. The U.S. Supreme Court on
December 14 granted an emergency stay of the
order, giving the woman visitation with her
children until the U.S. Supreme Court either
rules on the case or refuses to take it. The
whole situation is ugly, with one mom trying
to deny her ex-partner any parental status and
calling into question the validity of adoptions
from state to state.
A similar case of parental breakup shows
that we still are not equal when it comes to
recognizing unmarried parents. In September,
a Maryland court upheld a ruling denying
parental standing (and thus visitation rights)
to a non-biological mom because she and the
biological mom were not married at the time
of their child’s birth—even though they had
planned and were raising the child together,
and eventually married. The judge indicated
that in the same circumstances, the father in
a different-sex unmarried couple would likely
have been recognized, but current law did not
allow recognition of a non-biological mother.
We also lack full equality in other areas. Lack
of non-discrimination protections means that
people can still be fired or denied housing in
many states for being LGBTQ. Transgender
people, married or not, are still in much
earlier stages of legal recognition and social
acceptance. These inequalities negatively
impact children of LGBTQ parents as well.
Additionally, respect does not necessarily
follow legality. There are still places in this
country where I would be afraid to hold hands
with my spouse. Kids still get bullied for being
LGBTQ or having LGBTQ parents. LGBTQ
families of color remain at a disadvantage
because of the systemic racism in our society.
And despite advances, we need even more
representation in books and other media of
LGBTQ families in all our diversity—of family
structure, race, religion, socioeconomic class,
This year will stand as a watershed year,
however. Our work towards LGBTQ equality
is not done, nor is the work of social justice
in other arenas done — but 2015 gave us one
shining example of what progress looks like.
2015: A yeAr oF Progress, with More to do
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media
Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.
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