This blog was written as part of the LGBTQ Families Day
Three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, and, in doing so, married same-sex couples–and the estimated 300,000 children they are raising—gained important legal protections and recognition. However, in the years since, there has been a coordinated effort in the form of stigma, discrimination, and systematic attempts to undermine marriage equality, jeopardizing the safety and security of children. Most recently, two states passed laws that restrict fostering and adoption placements for LGBT parents, reflecting a disturbing trend in states across the country towards religious exemptions to nondiscrimination laws, putting children at risk.
Out today, MAP’s newest report, Putting Children at Risk: How Efforts to Undermine Marriage Equality Harm Children, was co-authored with Family Equality Council. The report shows how these coordinated efforts pose a profound threat to the children in LGBT families.
One of the primary efforts that is gaining traction involves individuals, businesses, government contractors, and even government employees claiming they have a right to discriminate against LGBT people, including the children of LGBT people. These license to discriminate efforts, reflected in legislation, court cases, and agency guidance around the country, attempt to allow discrimination by government officials, child welfare providers, healthcare providers, and even private business owners. This has an especially harmful impact on both existing LGBT families and LGBT parents seeking to adopt or start a family.
Just this year, two states—Oklahoma and Kansas—have passed laws allowing child welfare agencies to discriminate against prospective families, leaving the nation’s most vulnerable children with fewer prospective parents.
The report also highlights the states that have refused to fully recognize the marriages of same-sex couples, as well as the legal ties between those parents and their children, including failing to issue accurate birth certificates to children born to same-sex couples or denying recognition to a same-sex parent as a parent in a custody dispute. By refusing to recognize these marriages, opponents of LGBT equality are actively trying to deny same-sex couples the rights and protections that flow from marriage, making it harder for LGBT parents to ensure their children get the care and security they need.
Any day now, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. This case has the potential to undo decades of nondiscrimination laws by allowing businesses to pick and choose which customers to serve. For children raised by LGBT parents, in particular, the stakes are high. A same-sex couple could be refused pregnancy and birth healthcare services, a child with two mothers could be denied entrance to their local preschool, a child could be refused critical medical treatment because she was denied an accurate birth certificate listing both parents, or a qualified, loving same-sex couple could be rejected from fostering a child in need.
These aren’t hypotheticals, unfortunately. As detailed in the report, in states without nondiscrimination laws and in states where legislatures have pushed license to discriminate legislation, children are harmed.
All children deserve the right to a stable, secure family. Efforts to undermine marriage equality jeopardize the security and safety of children raised by same-sex couples.