A new report shows that children in LBGT families of color face higher levels of discrimination and stigma. “LGBT Families of Color: Facts at a Glance” is co-authored by the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, the National Latina/o Lesbian, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT), the Human Rights Organization (UNID@S), the Fighting Injustice to Reach Equality (FIRE) initiative, the Family Equality Council, the Movement Advancement Project and the Center for American Progress.
The report outlines the challenges that children face simply because they have two parents of the same gender. Outdated laws are to blame for the disparate impact on these children.
Generally, LGBT couples who have children are considered de facto parents, where in many instances only one parent has a legal or biological tie to the child. Current laws make it quite difficult for the non-biological parent to adopt the child.
According to the report, these outdated laws, “undermine families’ economic strength by denying access to safety net programs, family tax credits and health insurance simply because families do not fit within expected norms. Antiquated laws can leave children destitute when parents who lack legal ties die or become disabled. These laws can also wrest children away from parents when custody is awarded based on inflexible definitions of family as opposed to what is in the best interest of the child. Children of color, in particular, are more likely to be raised in diverse family configurations that include de facto parents and are more likely to be raised by LGBT parents.”
Sharon Lettman-Hicks, the executive director and CEO of The National Black Justice Coalition, says that “Contrary to popular stereotypes, both black and Latino gay and lesbian couples are more likely to raise children than their white counterparts….Gay and lesbian couples of color are also more likely to become foster parents.”
Forty-one percent of LGBT couples with children are people of color, whereas only thirty-four percent of married heterosexual couples with children are people of color. Thirty-two percent of children in black LGBT couples live below the poverty line, whereas thirteen percent of children being raised by black, married heterosexual couples live below the poverty line.
Under current laws these children can be denied health insurance, financial protections if one or both parents pass away, protection if a parent becomes disabled and legal rights for both of their parents to visit them in the hospital.
The report states that, ”[b]ecause most employers are not required to offer health benefits to the partners of LGBT workers (or the unmarried partners of heterosexual workers), LGBT families are often faced with purchasing health insurance privately (at a much higher cost) or doing without. As a result, LGBT adults have much lower rates of health insurance coverage than heterosexual adults.”
With higher rates of HIV/AIDs, diabetes and obesity within communities of color, sufficient access to health insurance is a must for these families. Children in LGBT families also face added challenges at school. Many schools are unwelcoming towards them, and these children are frequently harassed and bullied by classmates.
The report addresses these issues with policy proposals, which include passing comprehensive parental recognition laws at the state level, which allows for easier joint adoptions and second parent adoptions. This would grant de facto parents the legal status necessary to access the advantages that heterosexual parents enjoy.
The report also addresses pathways to citizenship for immigrant LGBT families through the creation of a “permanent partner” status as well as comprehensive immigration reform.
New laws could also provide equal access to government-based economic protections including safety net programs such as Medicaid, Social Security, disability and also federal income tax credits.
The report also calls for the broadening of the definition of “family” under the Family Medical Leave Act so that LGBT families are included. Lastly, the report suggests new anti-bullying legislation to protect children whose ability to learn is suffering from constant in-school harassment. The goal of the report is to highlight these legal disparities in order to create public awareness and support for new legislation, which can address these challenges, some of which are unique to LGBT families of color.
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