In a year like no other, LGBTQ families, like all others, struggled with the physical, mental, and economic challenges of the pandemic. And with children of LGBTQ parents much more likely to live in poverty than those with non-LGBTQ parents, the pandemic may have hit many LGBTQ families, like those of other marginalized groups, particularly hard. Pandemic aside, there were many political and legal challenges—and a few victories—directly related to LGBTQ parents and our children this year. Here are the highlights, good and bad.
The Trump Administration
In May, National Foster Care Month, the Trump administration stopped collecting data on the sexual orientation of youth in foster care and of foster and adoptive parents. The data is used to make decisions and track outcomes for youth in care.
The administration in June finalized a rule that says health care anti-discrimination protections do not cover discrimination based on LGBTQ identities.
In December, it finalized a rule that will allow federal contractors to cite religious or moral beliefs as a reason to discriminate against LGBTQ workers.
On the positive side, the U.S. State Department in October backed down in two cases where it had been denying the citizenship of children born abroad to married two-dad couples who were U.S. citizens. Two other similar cases are still pending.
The Biden Administration
The Biden administration has promised to push for Congress to pass the Equality Act during his first 100 days in office, and to reverse Trump’s anti-LGBTQ actions.
Additionally, two lesbian moms of color in November were named to Joe Biden’s all-women White House communications team. Karine Jean-Pierre, who was senior advisor to President-Elect Biden and chief of staff to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris during the campaign, will become principal deputy press secretary. Pili Tobar, who was the communications director for coalitions on the campaign, will become deputy White House communications director. And in December, two gay dads were also appointed: Guatan Raghavan, deputy head of presidential appointments for the Biden-Harris transition team, will become deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, and Stuart Delery, who was acting associate attorney general of the United States in the Obama administration, will become deputy counsel to the president.
The U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court surprised many in June with a landmark 6-3 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, written by Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, stating that people cannot be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Supreme Court in December refused to hear an appeal in Box v. Henderson, in which Indiana was trying to deny nonbiological mothers in married same-sex couples the right to be put on their children’s birth certificates. A 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in January said the state must allow nonbiological mothers to be on the birth certificates; the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case means that decision stands.
In July, the court upheld the Trump administration’s desire to allow almost any employer, even for-profit ones, to cite religious or moral beliefs as a reason to refuse to cover birth control for its employees. This is a queer issue because many LGBTQ people do have sex that can result in pregnancy and because birth control is sometimes used in fertility procedures even for same-sex couples (as was the case for my spouse and me).
The court in November heard Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case to determine whether taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies—and possibly any provider of government-contracted services—can cite religious beliefs as a reason to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others.
The court in December declined an appeal from Oregon parents who sought to prevent transgender students from using bathrooms and locker rooms aligned with their gender identities.
New Jersey in January enacted a law allowing married/civil unioned LGBTQ couples using assisted reproduction to avoid the intrusive, expensive, second-parent adoption process and simply file a few documents in order to get a court judgment confirming the nonbiological parent’s legal parentage.
In July, New Hampshire enacted a law clarifying that LGBTQ couples have access to second-parent adoptions but do not need home studies; expanding access to adoption by unmarried couples; and updating the state’s parentage laws in gender-neutral and inclusive terms.
The same month, Rhode Island also updated its parentage laws to provide stronger, more equitable protections for families formed via assisted reproduction. Among other things, parents using assisted reproduction can now establish legal parentage for the nonbiological or nongestational parent simply by filling out a simple, free a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form.
A South Carolina law banning any discussion of same-sex relationships in public school health classes (except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases) is unconstitutional, a federal district court said in March.
The State of New York passed the Child-Parent Security Act in April, legalizing gestational surrogacy and simplifying and strengthening the laws recognizing nonbiological parents and single parents in all families formed through reproductive technologies.
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in November that nonbiological mothers may be recognized as parents simply by acknowledging maternity at the time a child is born and showing that the birth mother consented to shared parenting.
Addressing Systemic Racism
The widespread attention to addressing systemic racism, sparked by the tragic killing of George Floyd in May, is as much an issue for LGBTQ families as for any others. Not only do we come in all colors, but Black and Latino same-sex couples are roughly twice as likely as White same-sex couples to be raising a child, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute. And 50 percent of children under 18 living with same-sex couples are non-White compared to 41 percent of children living with different-sex couples. (Statistics were not available for other LGBTQ identities) The numbers underscore just how many LGBTQ families are impacted by ongoing racism in our country, and one of the reasons that actively working to stop it remains a task for us all in the coming year.
Originally published with slight variation as my Mombian newspaper column.