Two Million Kids are at Risk
There are almost 10 million people living in Pennsylvania. And of these, more than 300,000 are openly LGB or T. Twenty percent of same-sex couples are also raising children in the state. A groundbreaking new report – “All Children Matter” – released this week suggests that as many as two million children have become collateral damage thanks to anti-gay discrimination. Not only does the report show that discriminatory laws fail, but they also hurt children with LGBT parents.
“All children matter, and we need our laws to affirm this,” says Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council – one of the groups that sponsored the study. “Fewer than a quarter of all U.S. households are made up of married heterosexual couples raising their biological children, yet public policy is consistently failing those children whose families do not fit into this certain mold.”
Currently, about two million children are being raised by LGBT parents in 96 percent of U.S. counties. And in the South, for instance, same-sex couples are most likely to be raising children (Mississippi has the largest percentage).
LGBT families are also twice as likely to be living in poverty compared to married, opposite-sex parents with children. And they are also more racially and ethnically diverse than the population as a whole.
“LGBT-headed families are a thriving part of our community. While in many ways acceptance is growing, there continue to be many legal, societal and access barriers for our families,” explains Judy K. Appel, executive director of Our Family Coalition.
Decades of social science research show that children of gay and lesbian parents grow up to be as healthy, happy and well-adjusted as their peers. And all major child health and welfare organizations support parenting and adoption by gay and lesbian parents. But the study takes a detailed look at how children with LGBT parents are failed by society, government and the law.
“Many Americans don’t realize how anti-gay laws and policies hurt children,” says Jeff Krehely, director of the LGBT Communications and Research Program at the Center for American Progress. “For example, the Supreme Court of North Carolina just invalidated all second parent adoptions, undermining family security and leaving children as legal strangers to the LGBT parents who have raised them since birth. Similarly, when states like Minnesota and North Carolina advance ballot initiatives to deny marriage to same-sex couples, it can have serious consequences, such as denying children access to a parent’s health insurance.”
Current laws can also deny children legal ties to both of their parents – which affects everything from custody to a parent being able to make emergency medical decisions for his or her child. They can also wrongly separate children from their parents in cases of divorce or death of one of the parents, denies them inheritance and Social Security benefits, and denies children access to quality childcare and early education. They can even put a parent in legal jeopardy if the family crosses a state line.
And by denying a same-sex couple or LGBT the right to adopt, it also denies homes to 115,000 children awaiting adoption.
“Our nation’s laws and policies simply have not kept pace with the changing reality of America’s families,” says Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project. “’All Children Matter’ outlines common-sense recommendations that should be looked at very seriously by anyone claiming to fight for children’s well-being. Many of these solutions would serve the needs not only of children with LGBT parents, but also those in other families as well, such as children of unmarried heterosexual parents.”
One proposal is to legal recognize LGBT families on the state level. And this means allowing same-sex couples to marry. LGBT groups are also asking that gays and lesbians have equal access to government-based economic protections that would provide LGBT families and their children equal access to healthcare and health insurance, as well as the power to make medical decisions.
“Committed gay couples are raising children across America,” says Jon Cowan, president of the Third Way, “and their aspirations are the same as any parent – to give their children a stable and loving home that can enable them to thrive.”
Joe Solmonese, president of HRC, adds, “While much progress has been made toward full LGBT equality, the fact remains most LGBT families are subject to discrimination in many aspects of our daily lives.”
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