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Public Policy Fails 2 Million Children With LGBT Parents

All Children Matter Report Documents How Children Have Become Collateral Damage of Anti-Gay Laws

October 25, 2011

Bryan DeAngelis

WASHINGTON, DC—A groundbreaking new report released today shows how two million children have become collateral damage of decades of ideology, laws and policies designed to hurt lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans.

All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families offers the most complete portrait to date of LGBT families in the U.S.—and paints a vivid picture of how antiquated and discriminatory laws fail and hurt children with LGBT parents. Driven by the need to respond to these pressing public policy failures, the report brings together a coalition of LGBT leaders, policy experts and child advocates that includes the Family Equality Council, the Movement Advancement Project, the Center for American Progress, the National Association of Social Workers, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, and COLAGE, —with a foreword by the Child Welfare League of America.

Full and condensed versions of the report are available online at


“All children matter, and we need our laws to affirm this,” said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council. “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.”

Currently, about two million children are being raised by LGBT parents:

  • Children of same-sex couples live in 96% of U.S. counties.
  • Same-sex couples living in the South are most likely to be raising children (Mississippi has the largest percentage of same-sex couples raising children).
  • LGBT families are twice as likely to be living in poverty as married, opposite-sex parents with children.
  • LGBT families are more racially and ethnically diverse than the population as a whole.
  • 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. All major child health and welfare organizations support parenting and adoption by gay and lesbian parents.


All Children Matter 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,” said 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.”

For example, current laws can:

  • 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.
  • Wrongly separate children from their parents in cases of divorce or death of a parent.
  • Tie children’s access to critical federal and state safety net programs to family structure, rather than need.
  • Deny children access to quality child care and early childhood education.
  • Deny children Social Security survivor benefits or inheritance when a parent dies.
  • Put a child’s legal ties to his or her parents in jeopardy if the family crosses state lines.
  • Deny forever 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,” said 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.”

Taken together, the policy solutions outlined in All Children Matter could virtually eliminate the legal inequities that hurt children with LGBT parents. Some of those solutions include:

  • Legally recognize LGBT families via parental recognition laws at the state level, marriage for gay and lesbian couples, and pathways to immigration and citizenship for binational LGBT families.
  • Provide equal access to government-based economic protections such as safety net programs.
  • Provide LGBT families and their children with equal access to health care and health insurance, as well as medical decision-making ability.
  • Protect LGBT families with non-discrimination laws and anti-bullying policies.
  • Expand research and data collection on LGBT families.

# # #

About Center for American Progress: 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."

About Family Equality Council: Family Equality Council is America’s foremost advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family equality. We represent the one million LGBT families raising two million children in the United States and are working to ensure full social and legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families.

About Movement Advancement Project: 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.

About COLAGE: COLAGE is a national movement of children, youth, and adults with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer (LGBTQ) parent/s. We build community and work toward social justice through youth empowerment, leadership development, education, and advocacy.

About the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute: The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is the pre-eminent research, policy and education organization in its field. Its mission is to provide leadership – through sound research – that improves the lives of everyone touched by adoption. Read the just-released report on Research-Based Best Practices in Adoption by Gays and Lesbians. 

About The National Association of Social Workers: The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with nearly 145,000 members. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

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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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