There is another report about mistreatment of LGBT people and our families. This time the focus was on our children.
Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council and Center for American Progress, “All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families (Full Report),” October 2011.
The report was the joint work of the Movement Advancement Project, the Family Equality Council, the Center for American Progress, COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere), the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, and the National Association of Social Workers.
Now there are those who believe that GLBT people just want to get children into our clutches so we can abuse then mentally and/or physically. To such people the harm that societal treatment of GLBT people perpetrates on our children is our fault for being GLBT. To such children we should not be allowed anywhere near children, even though all available evidence is that the vast majority of pedophiles are otherwise heterosexual. Not that it will do any good for such people, but maybe it means something to others to know that the Child Welfare League of America, which believes public policy should always serve to further the best interests of children, which is not exactly a radical idea, firmly supports gay and lesbian parenting.
The lingering bias against gay parents is problematic given that overwhelming social science research confirms that that gay and lesbian people are just as capable of being good parents as heterosexual people, and that their children are just as likely to be healthy and well-adjusted. Not a single reputable study has found that children raised by gay or lesbian parents are harmed because of their parents’ sexual orientation.
--Linda S. Spears, Vice President, Policy and Public Affairs, CWLA
The children are rather harmed by the public's reaction to their parents' sexual orientation.
There are no reputable child health and welfare organizations which do not support the suitability of gay and lesbians to be parents.
In 2009, there were 114,556 foster children awaiting adoption, yet we had people scrambling from state to state in an effort to pass laws to ban lesbians and gays from adopting or even being foster parents. We need more foster parents, not fewer.
But anti-gay policies adopted by your governments, federal, state and local harm more children than just those who have been traditionally neglected. Over 2 million children are being raised by an LGBT parent or two, in 96% of American counties. The report exams the full scope of damage this society does to those children.
The American image of a family is of a mommy and daddy together, raising their biological children together. This is an error of mythical proportions.
Fewer than a quarter of all US 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.
--Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council
Indeed the Census Bureau finds that only 22% of all household are made up of married heterosexual couples raising their biological children. Yet we as a society are all too willing to let the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many, so we pass policies and laws giving priority treatment to those few at the expense of the many.
What happens to children not living in the myth?
- More than 115,000 foster children are currently awaiting adoption into a forever home; yet some states and agencies still refuse to consider same- sex couples for foster placements or adoption, despite research consistently showing that children of LGBT parents fare just as well as other children.
- In fewer than 20 states can a child living with two loving parents of the same sex be assured that her relationship to her parents will be recognized by the law; as a result, she is vulnerable to being taken away from a parent who has raised her since birth.
- Currently, laws designed to protect children when they are at their most vulnerable (such as when a parent dies or becomes disabled) do not protect some children just because of who their parents are. As a result, a child’s access to health insurance, Social Security survivor benefits, inheritance and a host of other legal protections can be denied because the law values some children’s parental relationships over others’.
- Current law tells some families that a parent cannot take family leave when another parent is sick, while telling other families to go right ahead.
- It is still all too common for children to be bullied or harassed in school or elsewhere when their families do not look like other people’s families. Consider the elementary school student with two fathers or a transgender parent who regularly hears hurtful comments about his family from adults and children alike.
And the laws intended to stigmatize GLBT people and our families have more widespread damage than they intend, affecting also the children of unmarried heterosexual couples and children being raised nonbiological parents such as grandmothers, aunts and/or uncles, etc.
What should be the goals of government action in re: children? Any iota of thought about that leads to the following three items:
- Every child should be in a stable, loving home.
- All children should have economic security.
- All children should have their health and well-being ensured.
27% of the 74.5 million children in the US live with only one parent or with an unmarried cohabiting couple and 4% live with someone other than a parent, while 69% live with a married heterosexual couple. Between 14% and 15% of the children living with heterosexual parents are step-children. 41% of children born in 2009 were born to unmarried women. 72% of black women who gave birth in that year were unmarried, as well as 53% of Latina women who gave birth.
I note that my college age students, upon hearing that a young man had four children, asked him how many "baby mommies" he had, not if he was married.
MAP and the The Williams Institute numbers from different data sources estimate the current population of LGBT adults at 9 million (which is probably (undoubtedly?) an underestimate), who are collectively raising 2.0 to 2.8 million children. Additionally, more than 1/3 of lesbians who are currently childless want to have a child as well as 3/4 of bisexual women who do not have a child. 57% f gay men who do not have children want to have children, as well as 70% of bisexual men. 38% of transgender Americans are parents.
Same-sex couples live in 99.3% of American counties and 96% of counties have a GLBT couple raising children. IN an unfortunate turn of events, the states with the most bigoted anti-gay laws and policies just happen to be the states in which the highest percentages of same-sex couples are raising children. Mississippi leads that list, followed by Wyoming, Alaska, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, Montana, South Dakota, and South Carolina. In each of those states, at least one in 4 households headed by a same-sex couple includes children.
In 2010 22% of American children lived in poverty and the same percentage lived in households classified as "food insecure". Nearly 6 million children lived in "extreme poverty" (defined for 2011 as a family of four living on $11,175). Children being raised by same-sex couples are twice as likely to be living in poverty. Same-sex couples have significantly lower median and mean household incomes than different-sex couples raising children. It's less by $15,500 (20%). And same-sex couples are 1/3 less likely to own their homes.
Same sex people of color raising children are of course more likely to be poor than white same-sex couples raising children. 15% of transgender people earn less than $10,000 per year, a rate of poverty 4 times the national average. But transpeople with higher incomes are more likely to be raising a child (37% of transpeople earning more than $100k yearly, as opposed to 15% of transpeople with incomes between $20K and $50K).
There are 36,000 same-sex binational couples in the US, which is 6% of of same-sex couples. Only 4.6% of married heterosexual couples are binational. 46% of binational couples are raising children, compared to 31% of same-sex couples in which both people are US citizens.
Researchers have found that children raised by LGB parents are psychologically and socially healthy. Children of LGB parents have similar levels of psychological adjustment and are no more likely than their peers raised by heterosexual parents to report behavioral issues. In fact, several studies have even suggested that children raised by LGB families are better adjusted psychologically than their peers. For example, a 2010 study published in Pediatrics found that the 17-year-old children of lesbian mothers rated higher than their peers on academic performance tests. They also showed greater social competency, with fewer instances of social problems, rule breaking and other problem behaviors. Researchers have also found that children of LGB parents experience normal social development and do not differ in their relationships to their peers when compared to children raised in heterosexual families.
There is a note:
Unfortunately, studies of single and transgender parents are limited. While single LGB parents have been included in much of the broader research on LGB parenting, outcomes in these families have been systematically studied less often.
Now our detractors will point to studies that claim that a child needs both a mother and a father. One should note that not one of those studies even considers a comparison to same-sex couples raising children.
Jointly, the "archaic and discriminatory laws" and the social stigma imposed by local communities
deny stable loving homes
- Waiting children denied forever homes - Only 60% of adoption agencies accept applications from same-sex couples. Only 39% of adoption agencies have actually placed a child in a GLBT household. Only 19% of agencies actively recruit GLBT applicants. And those tend to be agencies trying to place children with special needs.
- Children denied legal ties to parents - The one-quarter million children living in households headed by same-sex couples mostly live in the majority of states that fail to recognize both partners as legal parents. Additionally, blended family status is denied because stepparent adoption is tied to marriage. Thus one partner in the couple is often a legal stranger to the children.
- Children lack protection when parents split up or a parent dies
- Children live in fear of a parent’s deportation
deny economic security
- Inequitable treatment under government safety net programs - Safety net programs often require that children live with a married mother and father.
- LGBT families face higher tax burden - A case study in the report showed that a same-sex couple raising two children over 18 years faces an additional financial burden of $219, 262 with no financial security, what with child tax care credits, social security survivor benefits, and health insurance coverage. An average income American family receives approximately $16,781 in tax benefits from the federal government each year, most often in the form of tax credits for raising children…credits not available to same-sex households.
- Children denied financial protections when a parent dies or becomes disabled - Family law has been updated to no longer deny "illegitimate" children from inheriting, providing the parents were heterosexual.
deny health & well-being
- Children denied health insurance and competent care - Same-sex couples are two to three times more likely to be uninsured than heterosexual couples. Partnered gay men were 42% as likely to get family insurance from an employer as heterosexual men. Partnered lesbians were 28% as likely to receive health benefits from the employer of a spouse or partner as as heterosexual women. Additionally, some employers who do manage to cover domestic partners do not cover the domestic partner's children. When we do get employer health benefits, the IRS considers that taxable income.
- Family members restricted in taking care of each other - While the federal government has recently instituted changes which would require most hospitals to allow patient visitation by same-sex partners, the same is not true with visiting the biological child of partner if one is the legal-stranger parent.
- Hostility in schools, community, etc - A 2008 study found that 42% of children with LGBT parents were verbally harassed at school over the past year because their parents were LGBT. Research finds that a surprising number of people believe that children raised by LGBT parents must themselves be LGBT and treat the children accordingly at a very early age, including asking highly inappropriate questions about their sexual orientation when they are very young. It is also the case that GLBT families tend to be more racially and ethnically diverse, with all the problems associated with that. So often it is the case that when something happens in the community which is detrimental to LGBT families, some of those families have needed to speak up. This politicizes the family, which does not always lead to emotional well-being for children.
Transgender parents can face particular difficulties. In most states, law and policy are silent on the issue of adoption and fostering by transgender individuals, yet those who are visibly gender non-conforming (or who are “discovered” to be transgender during home study and other checks) may face extreme hostility, even when adopting as individuals. Questions surrounding their gender and health can be particularly intrusive. Documents that flag someone as having changed their gender, for instance, can become weapons used to reduce the applicant’s chances of successful placement.
Re: government based aid/safety net programs
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides cash assistance ($509-763/month for a single parent with two children) to low-income families. It has a narrow definition of what constitutes a family.
SNAP, School Lunch and WIC fortunately treat LGBT couples the same as heterosexual couples and provide $524 per month in food assistance for a family of 3.
Public Housing/Housing Assistance (Section 8) provide $641 per month in housing vouchers per family.
Medicaid/CHIP provides $133 per month in health benefits per child but has a narrow definition of what constitutes a family.
SSI provides $499 per month in cash assistance for each disabled or blind person but has a narrow definition of what constitutes a family.
Child Care/Head Start provide $583 in child care assistance per child, but have a narrow definition of what constitutes a family.
Pell Grants provide up to $5550 per year for each student, but the program has a narrow definition of what constitutes a family which may affect the student's eligibility.
Tax Credits/Deductions provide $2215 in tax savings for an average family with two children, but the definition of "average family" precludes same-sex headed households because of DOMA. Often it is the case that the biological parent is the one making the least amount of income and may not be required to submit a tax form, so the household gets no tax deductions for children.
Social Security Benefits(OASDI) provide $751 per month in cash assistance to a child whose parent has died, unless that parent was GLBT and is defined to be a legal stranger to the child, of course.
Inheritance and Intestacy laws do not generally recognize LGBT families.
Wrongful death suits typically cannot be filed by the surviving partner or legal-stranger children.
The narrow definitions of family sometimes work to the benefit of LGBT families, but most often work to their detriment. As an example, TANF only considers the legal parents of a child to be part of the "assistance unit". Not counting the non-legal parent's income could decrease household income and thus increase qualification. But it would also decrease the number of people in the "assistance unit" and thus disqualify the family. On the other hand SNAP and other food assistance uses a broad definition of family: "a household can include a person or group of people living together who buy food and make meals together".