How LGBTQ parents can protect their families in the wake of the disastrous SCOTUS ruling
Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down abortion rights, “people are freaking out” about its potential impact on LGBTQ families, said Polly Crozier, senior counsel at GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders ( GLAD). How justified are the fears and how can we best protect LGBTQ families after Dobbs? Crozier and Julie Gonen, director of federal policy for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, shared their thoughts with me.
Many fear that the June 24 court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health could also be used to override other basic rights. Gonen said that if Judge Clarence Thomas, with his agreement, was the only judge to say explicitly that this should happen, the reasoning of the majority “could easily be applied in a future case concerning sexual intimacy or equality. marriage. And we are already seeing officials in some states openly saying they want to return to a time when LGBTQ people were criminalized and banned from marriage.
At the moment, however, marriage equality “is the law of the land and we’re not going to back down an inch,” Crozier stressed. “I feel like there’s renewed strength and vigor to hold the line.”
Gonen said it was “highly unlikely” that a challenge to those other rights would come to court in his next term, as it would have to go through the lower courts first. Nonetheless, “we must take the threat seriously and be prepared to act aggressively in states that attempt to push us back.”
Right now, she said, “The most important thing LGBTQ parents can do to protect their families is to get an adoption or parentage order. [for the nonbiological/nongestational parent]. This is essential, even for married parents and even for parents listed on a child’s birth certificate.
A birth certificate is not a court order and does not confer parentage, but merely records it, as LGBTQ legal organizations have long explained.
“In some states,” Gonen continued, “LGBTQ parents can use voluntary parentage VAP acknowledgments, which have the same legal effect as a court order.” VAPs are free forms that can be completed immediately after the birth of a child. Gonen, however, cautioned, “It is important to consult with an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable in LGBTQ family law to ensure that you are eligible to use a VAP.”
(Texas offers a document called an acknowledgment of paternity, but no acknowledgment of parentage.)
Getting those protections is something LGBTQ couples “should have done all along,” Crozier said. She warned, however, that “there is still a lot of misinformation out there.” with some lawyers and states telling people they don’t need such court orders. If a court says you don’t need it, Crozier recommends asking a local attorney to file a motion for reconsideration. You can also have the attorney work with the local adoption bar to educate the court more systematically.
If you need a competent attorney, Crozier recommends searching the LGBTQ+ Bar Association’s Family Law Attorney Directory or contacting GLAD or NCLR for names. She said some lawyers are even willing to do “low bono” or pro bono work, adding, “I think the legal community is there to help people.”
You also need to protect your family through estate planning documents such as wills, powers of attorney, and health care proxies.
While these can sometimes be expensive, “some of them can be really easy,” Crozier said. In many states, a health care power of attorney is a form that can be printed and executed. These documents will protect couples of any sex or marital status.
“People need to use these tools” for parentage and estate planning, she insisted. “You could never count on marriage.”
Another fear is whether Dobbs will impact assisted reproductive technology. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, in a recent report, said Dobbs “does not necessarily restrict access” to ART, but “overly broad statutory language and definitions could, intentionally or not, imply and even prohibit such procedures”.
Gonen agreed that some state abortion bans could “[call] question some methods of assisted reproduction,” but added, “At this time, LGBTQ people who use assisted reproductive technology to conceive should continue to do so, while keeping an eye out for any potential legal obstacles. We will do our best to keep families informed and we will certainly take action to protect this essential means of creating families.
Crozier agreed, “We don’t see these restrictions on assisted reproduction now, and we will fight back very hard.” Such a fight would involve “a large coalition of people”, LGBTQ and not, because “so many people use assisted reproduction to build their families”.
Fertility groups like ASRM and RESOLVE are working “to ensure that any restrictions on abortion care do not imply access to fertility care and that we are all in this same movement.”
Either way, Dobbs already restricts access to abortion in some states. And while many LGBTQ people get pregnant with planning worthy of chess masters, academic studies show that LGBTQ people who have been pregnant are also more likely than heterosexual cisgender women to have had unwanted or mistimed pregnancies. and needing abortion services, according to a fact sheet. published in June by the HRC. Additionally, he said that LGBTQ+ people “may be at increased risk of pregnancy resulting from non-consensual dating.”
Currently, abortion remains legal in most states, note NCLR, GLAD, Family Equality, and COLAGE in “What LGBTQ+ Families Need to Know,” a guide they released July 1. The guide, available for free on all the organizations’ websites, also offers suggestions for finding LGBTQ-inclusive abortion care in your state or another, and goes into more detail on many of the topics above.
What more can we do? Crozier said, “There are ongoing efforts in states to expand parentage protections and this is a great practical, practical, child-centered way to make not only LGBTQ families safe, but all children safe.” .” She explained, “There is so much commonality” between LGBTQ people and others who want to start families through ART. “We want all of these people to have paths to parentage.”
“I don’t think people fully understand yet what it means for so many children to live in a completely unequal system,” Crozier said. She encouraged people to get involved in their state’s efforts to update parentage laws.
Additionally, she said, “It’s so powerful for people to share their families’ stories…. For people who can hang out, hang out, be happy and show the world how great your family is and that we’re neighbors like everyone else.
“We will find a solution,” she said. “The only way is to fight.”
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory with a searchable database of over 1,000 books, media, and more. on the LGBTQ family..