Social and Legal Obstacles of Gay and Lesbian Parenting

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Social and Legal Obstacles of Gay and Lesbian Parenting

In the last decade there has been a rise in the number of lesbians and gay men forming their own families. Many do this through adoption, foster care, artificial insemination, and other means. Today, researchers have estimated that the number of children living with one gay or lesbian parent is six to fourteen million. Some have described this current period as a lesbian and gay “baby boom”. However, lesbian and gay parents face many social and legal obstacles (Lambda Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 1997).

In the past, most gay and lesbian parents lived secretive and protective lives. Not only did gay parents have to face his or her coming out issues and separation from spouse, but also face coming out to their children. Because more and more lesbian and gay families choose to have children, they are also more out about whom they are. “This means that they are showing up in fertility clinics for information about attempting pregnancy, they are coming to adoption agencies stating clearly the nature of their family, they are going to attorneys for information on second parent same-sex adoption, and they are going to PTA meetings and little league games with the same enthusiasm as other parents” (Lev, 2002 p.2).

Many of the children parented by lesbians and gay men were born to them when they were in a heterosexual relationship or marriage. Often, when the child’s non-gay parent discovers the sexual identity of the other parent, he or she may attempt to limit their parenting roles. Other challenges have been brought upon by other relatives or government agencies, thus causing prejudice towards gay and lesbian parents and denying custody and visitation rights (Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, 1997-2002).

The child custody and visitation legal standards vary from state to state. For example, twenty-one states have granted second-parent adoptions to lesbian and gay couples. This enables the child to have the equal opportunity of having two legal parents, especially if one dies. Today, the majority of states no long deny custody or visitation based on sexual orientation. Now, courts apply the notion “best interest of the child”, when it comes to deciding cases based upon this. Thus, one’s sexual orientation cannot be the basis for denying or limiting parent-child relationships,...

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...oral environment” (American Civil Liberties Union, 1999, p.3-4).

All of the research to date has come to the same conclusion about lesbian and gay parenting. “The children of lesbian and gay parents grow up as successfully as the children of heterosexual parents. In fact, not a single study has found the children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged because of their parent’s sexual orientation” (American Civil Liberties Union, 1999, p.2). Other findings show that there is no evidence to state that lesbians and gay men are unfit to be parents. Home environments of lesbian and gay parents support their child’s development just as heterosexual parents. Good parenting is influence by a parent’s ability to create a loving and nurturing home. Finally, children of lesbian and gay parents grow up as happy and healthy as children of heterosexual parents. In addition, the lesbian and gay “baby boom” will have a tremendous effect on the next generation. In reality, they will be raising their children who will be attending the same schools, playing in the same playgrounds, and leaving us to deal with this new level of diversity (American Civil Liberties Union, 1999, Lev, p.2).
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