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Laws Jeopardize Economic Security for LGBT Parents and Their Children

New Report Shows Children Struggling Economically Because of Laws and Policies Targeting Their Parents

WASHINGTON DC, JAN. 30, 2012 -- The latest in a series of groundbreaking reports shows how children are suffering because of laws and policies intended to hurt lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans.

Strengthening Economic Security for Children Living in LGBT Families describes how antiquated and discriminatory laws increase poverty for children with LGBT parents, and can be especially harmful for children living in low-income households. Today's release is the latest in a series of reports co-authored by Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the Family Equality Council, and the Center for American Progress, in partnership with the National Association of Social Workers. It is a companion report to All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families, which paints one of the most comprehensive portraits to date of LGBT families in America and how outdated laws make it harder for children with LGBT parents to achieve three major needs: economic security; stable, loving homes; and health and well-being. Both reports are available online at

"Our laws and economic policies need to reflect the reality of today's families -- especially those families led by parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council. "Overall, LGBT families are twice as likely to be living in poverty as married, opposite-sex couples."

Current trends also show the following:

  • Approximately 2 million children are being raised by LGBT parents.
  • Children of same-sex couples live in 96% of U.S. counties.
  • Gay and lesbian couples are most likely to raise children in the South, with the highest percentage of families in Mississippi, followed by Wyoming, Alaska, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, Montana, South Dakota, and South Carolina.
  • LGBT families are more racially and ethnically diverse than the population as a whole, and same-sex couples of color raising children are more likely to be poor than white same-sex couples raising children.

Strengthening Economic Security for Children Living in LGBT Families illustrates how LGBT families face economic burdens that most families do not.

"Public policy should be based on reality. Our nation's reality is that gay and transgender people are forming families and raising kids. It's time for our laws to reflect this fact and make sure LGBT families do not face unnecessary obstacles to achieving their economic security," said Jeff Krehely, director of the LGBT Communications and Research Project at the Center for American Progress.

Some of the most common extra economic burdens faced by LGBT families include:

  • Lack of legal protections. Because same-sex couples cannot marry, children in LGBT families often have legal ties to only one parent. Although legal documents can help create some protections, they are costly and usually inadequate.
  • Higher taxes. LGBT families cannot file joint federal tax returns and are often denied child-related tax deductions and credits. As a result, many LGBT families pay higher taxes.
  • Reduced access to health benefits. Because employers are not required to extend coverage to children without legal ties to their parents, LGBT families may be forced to buy coverage privately for their children or go without.
  • Lack of access to safety net programs. Programs designed to support families during difficult economic times often treat LGBT families inconsistently or exclude them completely. As a result, children fall through the safety net when they most need help, including when a parent dies or becomes disabled.

"This report again clearly details how children have become unintended collateral damage of anti-gay policies," said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project. "There is a lot that can be done to ensure all children are treated equally under the law."

Strengthening Economic Security for Children Living in LGBT Families details several policy recommendations that would help reduce the extra financial burdens faced by LGBT families, including:

  • Strengthening the legal ties of the entire family by legalizing and federally recognizing same-sex marriage.
  • Allowing joint adoption by LGBT parents, and recognizing LGBT parents and recognizing LGBT parents through other avenues such as second-parent adoption and de facto parenting that allow children to gain full legal ties to their parents.
  • Revising the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax code to provide equitable treatment for LGBT families.
  • Ensuring equal access to health insurance and health care.
  • Modernizing archaic wrongful death and intestacy statutes.

The report also supplements the 100+ policy recommendations included in All Children Matter with 20 practical "in the field" steps that governmental agencies, community-based organizations, advocates and funders can take to assist and support all LGBT families, including those in crisis, low-income LGBT families, and LGBT families living in poverty. These steps include:

  • Expanding outreach to, and documenting the unmet needs of, low-income LGBT families, LGBT families of color and LGBT families living in rural communities.
  • Expanding training to organizations serving low-income LGBT families, including adoption agencies, child welfare and government agency workers, judges and schools.
  • Creating guidebooks to help LGBT families navigate the economic hurdles they face and, if needed, help them access safety net programs.

For a complete list of recommendations, download the report at

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About the 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 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 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."

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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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