Could you use a pick-me-up this week? I could. Without denying the significant challenges that remain, here are a few recent wins for LGBTQ families on the federal, state, and local levelsproof that even in this era, we can still stand strong and make progress.
Adoption discrimination amendment defeated
First, the U.S. House of Representatives, on Sept. 26, followed the U.S. Senate in passing the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Defense, without an amendment proposed by Rep. Robert Aderholt ( R-Alabama ) that would have permitted taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies to cite religious beliefs as a reason to discriminate against LGBTQ prospective parents, LGBTQ children and youth in care, and others.
After the House Appropriations Committee had passed the amendment in July and the bill moved to the Senate, 40 senators led by Ron Wyden ( D-Oregon ) signed a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders in opposition to the amendment. And the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, a project of Family Equality Council, organized hundreds of child welfare, LGBTQ, faith and allied organizations to sign letters to committee members asking them to drop it. The final version of the bill removed the amendment and was passed by both houses, killing it for this session of Congress.
There are still unfortunately 10 states that have religious exemption laws allowing "Aderholt Amendment"-style discrimination in adoption and foster care. We're not out of the woods yetbut there's a little more light peeking through the trees.
Parentage law made equal
On the state level, California Gov. Jerry Brown ( D ) signed legislation on Sept. 28 that updates state law "to provide equal treatment to same-sex parents, transgender parents, and their children." Among other provisions, the new law says parents of any gender who used assisted reproductive technology to conceive may establish parentage, even if they are unmarried, simply by signing a no-cost form at the hospital.
At the same time, the new law will protect unmarried intended parents who didn't sign a written consent and allow courts to find that they were still an intended parent. It also updates genetic testing provisions, making them gender neutral and enshrining in statute the existing case law that says genetic testing cannot be used to challenge a nonbiological parent's parentage.
Additionally, the new law requires sperm and egg banks to allow children conceived through donated sperm or eggs to receive non-identifying medical information at any point ( their parents could receive it if the children are minors ), and if the donor agrees, to obtain personal identifying information at the child's option after 18 years of age.
The legislation is based on the Uniform Parentage Act ( UPA ), a model law developed by the Uniform Law Commission and intended as a guide for state laws. It was updated in 2017 with language to ensure equal treatment for the children of same-sex parents, among other things. California is the third state to adopt a version of the 2017 UPA after Washington in 2017, and Vermont this past May. Unlike the first two states, California explicitly names transgender parents as one of the groups targeted for equal treatment—though the other two have gender-neutral language that encompasses transgender parents.
Despite the new law, however, Cathy Sakimura, deputy director and family law director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told me, "We do still recommend second parent adoptions or parentage judgments. The form signed at the hospital ( which will not be available until 2020 ) should be recognized in other states, but we advise people to get court orders until more states have recognized this, as people are likely to face hostility in these early days of such laws."
At the same time, this law is a significant step forward. Sakimura explained, "We are proud to have worked on this legislation, which not only establishes key protections for LGBTQ parents and their children generally but particularly helps low-income parents who cannot afford to consult with an attorney and are less likely to have written agreements."
LGBTQ books retained on library display
On the local level, three pastors in Maine missed the point when they tried to remove children's and adult books they felt "promote homosexuality" and are "risque and immodest" from a local library display set up to honor Banned Books Week ( Sept. 23-29 ), the American Library Association's annual event focusing on the freedom to read and the harms of censorship.
In a letter to the library on Sept. 12, the pastors wrote that certain books on the display were inappropriate because "Children should not be subjected to an early sexualization." ( The display, however, was in the adult section on a different floor from the children's section. ) They felt that by showing them, the library was promoting "a far-left political view that sees homosexuality as acceptable."
At a Sept. 17 library board meeting, they presented their case. Members of the library staff and local community, including allies and one librarian who had been motivated to come out as a member of the LGBT community because of the incident, spoke in support of leaving the books. In the end, the board voted to retain them on the display.
We still have a long road ahead to full equality, inclusion, and acceptancebut it's heartening to see some signs of positive change. Kudos to all who helped make them happen.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian ( Mombian.com ), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.