Children in the United States with at least one LGBT parent have to endure social stigma and unfair legal, economic, and healthcare treatment due to misguided public policies, according to a recent report.
The report, “All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families,” was written by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), a think tank that focuses on LGBT issues, and the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank. NASW is a partner in the report, which was released in October.
“It was important for NASW to take part in this report because social workers have always advocated for equal rights for diverse and vulnerable clients and communities,” said Evelyn Tomazewski, a senior policy adviser at NASW’s Human Rights and International Affairs division. “This report will educate the public about the issues LGBT households face due to a range of inequities perpetuated by public policies and laws, as well as individual and institutional practices.”
The report found that about 2 million children are being raised by LGBT parents. These families are widespread, living in 96 percent of United States counties.
Research has repeatedly found that children raised in LGBT households are just as well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents. However, children in LGBT households face hurdles that put them in an unequal footing with children in heterosexual families, the report said.
State and federal laws and practices often deny children legal ties to loving, responsible LGBT parents, the report said. For example, some states and agencies refuse to place foster and adoptive children with same-sex couples. Other states do not legally recognize the partner of a birth mother who may have had the child through artificial insemination.
Children in LGBT families may also be at an economic disadvantage when they are denied safety net program benefits because their family does not meet the definition of a traditional family.
Laws and stigma may negatively affect the mental health and well-being of these families.
For example, many professional caregivers, including healthcare personnel at medical facilities, are not accepting of or trained to work with LGBT families, the report said. And because LGBT parents often lack legal recognition, they may be denied visitation rights or not be able to make medical decisions for their children.
The report urged states and the federal government to recognize LGBT families and provide them equal access to government-based economic protections and healthcare. LGBT families should also be protected by anti-discrimination and anti-bullying laws and given access to education and services support, the report said.
“We hope policymakers will take these recommendations to heart and make changes in federal and state laws and regulations to eliminate disparities towards LGBT families to ensure what the report so simply states: that every child deserves a stable, loving home; economic security; and health and well-being,” Tomaszewski said.
NASW commends expanded LGBT health data collection.
NASW praised the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for its proposal to expand data collection on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, saying such a move could improve healthcare services offered to these populations.
“Developing high-quality data on the diverse LGBT population is essential if federal, state, local and nonprofit agencies are to serve LGBT communities and individuals effectively,” NASW Executive Director Elizabeth Clark, said in an Aug. 1 letter to Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health Garth Graham.
HHS has the opportunity to collect additional information on LGBT populations under the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama in March 2010. Department officials hope the new data will help them address healthcare disparities in the LGBT community.
HHS is seeking public comment on LGBT data collection and plans to test and implement new data collection on sexual orientation in 2013. NASW recommended that in data collection the word gender should be expanded to represent female, male, or transgender and sexual orientation should include bisexual, gay, heterosexual, lesbian or other. “Asking questions about gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation are necessary for scientific, practical and policy purposes,” Clark said in the letter.
NASW Utah Chapter Creates Tom Mulder Fund.
The Utah Chapter of the NASW has established the Tom Mulder Memorial Fund to provide free LGBT-related continuing education courses for chapter members.
The fund was named in honor of Tom Mulder, a popular Salt Lake City landscape and street scene artist who died in 2008.
Mulder was very active in the Utah LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities. His family donated several of his early paintings to the Utah chapter. The Utah chapter board’s vice president Don Austin took charge of selling the paintings. Austin is now chair of the fund.
“The money raised from the sale of these paintings ostensibly started the fund,” NASW Utah Chapter Executive Director Emily W. Bleyl said. “Since then, individual members of NASW have donated to the fund.”
Get more information from MAP on LGBT families.