A just-released report, Securing Legal Ties for Children Living in LGBT Families: A State Strategy and Policy Guide, analyzes how existing state laws, like our marriage equality and adoption laws, support and protect children being raised in LGBT and other contemporary families.
The report shows that in almost every state, outdated state parenting laws still fail to protect children because of the lack of both parents ability to secure legal ties from the moment they join a family - even in Vermont.
Read the full report at lgbtmap.org/lgbt-families.
Vermont’s marriage equality law extended new protections to many of the children already being raised in Vermont’s lesbian and gay families. However, those same protections do not extend beyond our state’s borders. If a Vermont family headed by a married same-sex couple moves to, or even vacations in, a state that does not recognize the relationships of same-sex couples, that family is vulnerable to outdated state parenting laws.
Imagine if a trip to see the grandparents in Alabama meant ripping the family apart legally—that you were suddenly a legal stranger to your spouse and, for the non-biological parent, a stranger to your child under state law. That you had to pack all the paperwork and hope the other state respected it because, if your child had a medical emergency, the state might prevent you from making medical decisions or even just visiting your child in the hospital.
In Vermont, our marriage laws make it easier for children to be released from state care into qualified foster and adoptive families. Children living in families headed by same-sex couples can now receive health insurance through either parent’s employer, reducing reliance on public health programs. Children in blended lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families can more easily be adopted by stepparents, making daily family life easier in areas like signing school permission slips, authorizing medical care, and providing comfort and support during a child’s hospitalization. Finally, if crisis strikes and a parent dies, children can inherit from either parent and face far less risk of being wrested away from a loving parent and being placed, instead,with a distant relative.
Yet, even in Vermont, there is more work to be done. We still need to pass laws that expressly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation for: (1) foster children, (2) prospective and existing foster parents, and (3) prospective adoptive parents. Also, this is why a repeal of DOMA is so important—our families need access to crucial federal benefits such as social security benefits for our spouses and children, federal medical leave protections, and substantial tax savings.
This report confirms what we already know, Vermont is a leader in providing rights to and protections for LGBT individuals and families, but until our families are entitled to all of the same benefits and protections that are afforded to other American families, our work continues.