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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.


LGBT Families

LGBT families are part of the American fabric. Two million children are being raised by lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender parents. Children of gay and lesbian parents live in 96% of U.S. counties—and decades of research shows that those children grow up as happy, healthy and well-adjusted as their peers.

So why do our laws systematically stand in the way of allowing children of LGBT parents to thrive?

Current laws deny loving, forever homes to the 115,000 children awaiting adoption. They deny children of LGBT families legal ties to both their parents, meaning that families live in fear due to uncertain family ties. They can wrongly separate children from their parents in cases of divorce or the death of a parent. They deny basic government aid and safety net programs to children of LGBT parents simply because their family doesn’t meet a legal definition of family in a particular state. They can deny access to parents’ health insurance coverage, quality child care and early childhood education programs, Social Security Survivor benefits, inheritance, and more.

These outdated, harmful laws not only ignore and hurt the roughly 2 million children being raised by LGBT parents, they also hurt children in other family configurations, including those with unmarried heterosexual parents.

Public policy has not kept up with the changing reality of the American family. Without common-sense policy solutions that address the needs of LGBT and other families, our laws will continue to hurt children of LGBT parents and make it more difficult for them to reach their full potential.

Related Resources

Policy Brief

License to Discriminate: Alabama House Bill 24

March 2017 - Learn about Alabama House Bill 24, which would allow child-placement agencies to make placement decisions based on their own religious beliefs, hurting the more than 4,745 children in the care of the state of Alabama, including more than 1,020 children who are awaiting adoption. HB 24 would allow child-placement agencies to impose their beliefs on and discriminate against children and families while providing services paid for with taxpayer money.

Policy Brief

Talking About Religious Exemptions & Adoption Discrimination

March 2017 - To explain why the First Amendment Defense Act is so devastating and should not be re-introduced, this brief provides an analysis of the 2015 version of FADA and what it could mean for 10 million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, along with millions of others. The brief underscores how vigilant we must be to ensure that a license to discriminate is not written into our laws.

Policy Brief

License to Discriminate: How Religious Exemption Legislation For Social Services Agencies Harms Children

March 2017 - Read about religious exemption legislation that would allow child placement and adoption agencies to discriminate against loving families while providing government services paid for with taxpayer money. These laws enable adoption agencies and their workers to reject parents who don’t share the agency’s or worker’s religious beliefs, legally prioritizing those beliefs over the best interests of children.


Talking About Religious Exemptions & Adoption Discrimination

March 2017 - Some states have introduced legislation to create broad religious exemptions allowing discrimination in taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care services. Such laws would allow adoption agencies and child services workers to make decisions for children in their care based on their religious beliefs, rather than the best interests of the child. Learn how to talk about these harmful laws which deprive children of loving homes.

Policy Brief

License to Discriminate: South Dakota Senate Bill 149

March 2017 - Senate Bill 149 allows child-placement agencies to make placement and child treatment decisions based on their own religious beliefs, as opposed to following standards that advance the best interests of children. SB 149 would allow child-placement agencies to impose their beliefs on others and to discriminate against children and families, all while providing services paid for with taxpayer money.


Mapping Transgender Equality in the United States

February 2017 - To help make sense of the current policy landscape in the states, this report looks at legal equality for transgender people across the country. The gender identity tally is comprised of 25 state laws and policies in five key categories: Non-Discrimination, LGBT Youth, Health and Safety, Ability to Correct the Name and Gender Marker on Identity Documents, and Adoption and Parenting.


Medical Decision-Making Policies

August 2016 - Medical decision-making policies govern whether an LGBT person can make medical decisions for their same-sex partner or spouse, if their partner or spouse is incapacitated or otherwise not able to make their own decisions.


Family Leave Laws

August 2016 - State family leave laws covering same-sex couples govern whether an LGBT person can take leave from work to care for his/her same-sex spouse or partner.


Foster and Adoption Laws

August 2016 - Foster care non-discrimination laws protect LGBT foster parents from discrimination by foster care agencies and officials. Some states explicitly restrict foster care by same-sex parents. Other states ban adoption by unmarried couples, effectively resulting in a ban on foster care by same-sex couples if marriage for same-sex couples is not available in that state.


Other Parental Recognition Laws

August 2016 - Donor insemination laws apply when women in a same-sex relationship have a child through donor insemination, granting legal parenting rights to the non-biological mother as well as the birth mother. De facto parenting laws apply when someone is raising a child but is not a legal parent of that child. De Facto parenting laws provide these parents with some limited legal rights to the child.


Same-Sex Couples Raising Children

August 2016 - This map shows the percent of same-sex couples raising children based on data from the 2010 Census, conducted by the Census Bureau, and analyzed by The Williams Institute.


LGBT Families: Facts At a Glance

October 2012 - Access easy-to-navigate charts, maps and tables examining key population data on LGBT families, snapshots of how laws and policies hurt children with LGBT parents at the federal and state levels, and more in this companion document to All Children Matter.


Securing Legal Ties for Children Living in LGBT Families

July 2012 - Learn how the lack of legal recognition for LGBT families hurts children—and how state policymakers can draft, pass and enact laws that protect all children, including those living with LGBT parents and in other contemporary family structures.


Finding Children Forever Homes: LGBT Foster & Adoptive Families

June 2012 - MAP, Family Equality Council, the Center for American Progress, the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign report on how LGBT families can help fill the pressing need for loving, stable foster and adoptive homes for waiting children.


An Ally’s Guide to Talking About Adoption by LGBT Parents

June 2012 - Focus conversations about parenting, adoption and LGBT parents on how they create loving, stable homes for kids and help ensure that children have the nurturing environment that allows them to thrive and succeed.


Unequal Taxation and Undue Burdens for LGBT Families

April 2012 - MAP, Family Equality Council and the Center for American Progress report on the income tax inequities faced by LGBT families, and how they are denied tax exemptions, credits and deductions that help families ease the financial burdens of raising children.


Obstacles & Opportunities: Ensuring Health & Wellness for LGBT Families

March 2012 - MAP, Family Equality Council, the Center for American Progress and the National Coalition for LGBT Health examine the obstacles faced by LGBT families as they seek access to a range of health services, health insurance, and equitable tax treatment.


Strengthening Economic Security for Children Living in LGBT Families

January 2012 - MAP, Family Equality Council, the Center for American Progress and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) report on how inequitable laws hurt children with LGBT parents and contribute to higher rates of child poverty.


LGBT Families of Color: Facts at a Glance

January 2012 - Outdated laws that ignore contemporary families have a disproportionately negative impact on children of color. This brief looks at LGBT families of color and how they can be devastated by intersections of laws, stigma and race-based discrimination.


Issue Brief: How DOMA Harms Children

November 2011 - MAP, Family Equality Council and the Center for American Progress partner with the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Marry to examine how DOMA denies children basic rights and safety nets—just because their parents are gay.


All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families: Full Report

October 2011 - Read the comprehensive analysis of how our nation’s laws and policies fail to protect 2 million children with LGBT parents—and how common-sense solutions could end the inequalities that create barriers for children in LGBT families.


All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families: Condensed Version

October 2011 - This 34-page “digest” version of All Children Matter provides a high-level understanding of how legal and social inequalities hurt children of LGBT families—and how children have become collateral damage of laws designed to hurt LGBT people.


All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families: Executive Summary

October 2011 - This executive summary—featured in the Full Report of All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families—provides key findings in capsule form, as well as an overview of the report's policy recommendations.


Video: All Children Matter

October 2011 - This 60-second video highlights some of the specific legal and social inequalities—from the denial of access to a parent’s health insurance coverage to the denial of legal protections if a parent becomes disabled or dies—that hurt children of LGBT parents.

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