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Two Million Children Threatened by Inadequate Access to Healthcare and At Risk of Health Disparities

Social Stigma Acts Against Health, Well-Being of Children Living in LGBT Families

WASHINGTON DC, MARCH 26, 2012 -- Due to inequitable laws and social stigma, as many as two million children living in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families face significant challenges accessing basic healthcare and may suffer from health disparities, according to a report released today.

Obstacles and Opportunities: Ensuring Health and Wellness for LGBT Families outlines how LGBT families face substantial obstacles as they seek access to a range of health services, health insurance, and equitable tax treatment. In partnership with the National Coalition for LGBT Health, the report was co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council and the Center for American Progress.

The report’s release is timed to coincide with the 10th Annual “National LGBT Health Awareness Week,” which runs from March 26-30, 2012 and engages individuals, organizations, schools in communities across the country in outreach and education activities that promote LGBT health equity. In Washington, D.C., the National Coalition for LGBT Health, Family Equality Council and the Center for American Progress will present at two Congressional Briefings on the Health and Well-Being of LGBT families on Wednesday, March 28.

“Several provisions of the ACA will certainly help improve overall LGBT health and wellbeing. However, the health reform law does not solve many of the unique and harmful legal challenges confronting LGBT families when they seek quality and affordable healthcare,” said F. Joseph Jefferson, Senior Policy Associate for the National Coalition for LGBT Health.

The report finds that:

  • LGBT families have reduced access to health insurance. Under federal law, most employers are not required to offer health benefits to the same-sex partners of LGBT workers, nor the partner’s children, even if the couple is legally married in their state. When coverage is offered, LGBT families must pay additional taxes. For transgender family members, insurance plans may contain exclusions that create obstacles to coverage for even the most basic care.
  • LGBT families face restrictions on caregiving and medical decision-making. Under federal and state laws, LGBT parents may be denied leave to take care of one another or establish a legal relationship to their child, limiting the ability to make medical decisions.
  • LGBT families encounter unwelcoming healthcare environments. Professional caregivers, including physicians, counselors and support staff, may be uninformed, hostile, discriminatory, or refuse to treat LGBT people and their families.
  • LGBT families have increased health disparities. Key disparities between LGBT adults and the general population can be seen not only in access to health insurance, but also in access to care, which together lead to higher incidences of chronic health conditions.

“LGBT equality is often thought of in terms of marriage and workplace nondiscrimination. Those are two hugely important issues, but they often overshadow the challenges LGBT people face when they're trying to get health insurance for themselves or their families, or even access basic healthcare services,” said Jeff Krehely, Vice President of LGBT Research and Communications Project for the Center for American Progress. “This report shows the specific health problems confronting LGBT people and also offers the policy solutions needed to solve them.”

“Repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and federally recognizing LGBT families is just one of the solutions that would help achieve health equity,” said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of the Movement Advancement Project. “The report also includes a number of other recommendations to increase access to health insurance, foster welcoming healthcare environments, and eliminate restrictions on caregiving and medical decision-making.”

“The release of this report is so critical, coming at a time when country is engaged in a serious dialogue about affordable and accessible healthcare for American families,” said Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director of the Family Equality Council. “Any prescription for the ills that exist in our healthcare system must take into account the fact that LGBT families are suffering more because of the legal and economic disparities they face.”

Obstacles and Opportunities: Ensuring Health and Wellness for LGBT Families is available online at or

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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.

Celebrating its 30th Anniversary, Family Equality Council connects, supports, and represents the one million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents in this country and the two million children they are raising. Learn more at

The Center for American Progress (CAP) is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. The Fighting Injustice to Reach Equality Initiative (FIRE) at CAP explores the intersections of race, sexual orientation, economics, and public policy. Learn more at

The National Coalition for LGBT Health is committed to improving the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals through federal advocacy that is focused on research, policy, education, and training. Learn more at

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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.

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“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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