ACLU History: Advocacy on behalf of LGBT Parents

The ACLU has been at the forefront of the battle to defend the rights of LGBT parents, not only in custody and visitation arrangements but also by challenging discriminatory laws that restrict the rights of LGBT people to parent.

Misconceptions and stereotypes about gay people are especially harmful when they are used to deny children the chance to grow up in a loving, secure family. Thanks to years of hard-won advocacy by the ACLU and others, most states now recognize that it is wrong to use sexual orientation as an excuse to deny parents custody and visitation, and many states now allow both partners in same-sex relationships to adopt the children they are raising together. New Jersey was the first state, in 1997, to expressly authorize joint adoption by gay couples, in the case Gallucio v. New Jersey, brought by the ACLU of New Jersey and the national ACLU.

Currently, Florida is the only state with a law that bans all gay people from adopting. The ACLU is challenging that law on behalf of Martin Gill, who wants to adopt the two young brothers he has fostered with his partner since 2004. In November 2008, a Florida juvenile court judge ruled that Gill should be able to adopt the boys. However, the state of Florida appealed this decision and the family is now awaiting a decision from Florida's Third District Court of Appeals.

After the ACLU successfully challenged an Arkansas policy barring lesbian and gay people from foster parenting, anti-gay opponents passed an initiative in 2008 barring cohabiting couples from adopting and fostering. The ACLU won a challenge to that law in the trial court and the case is now before the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Recognizing that the path to equality requires not just legal advocacy but public education and activism, in 2002, the ACLU issued the book Too High a Price: The Case Against Restricting Lesbian and Gay Parenting, which compiled decades of social science research and government data to show how children are hurt by restrictions on parenting by lesbian and gay men. An updated second edition issued in 2006 further debunked the misinformation being spread by opponents of parenting by gay people and included a foreword by the head of the Child Welfare League of America.


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