Post submitted by Bo Suh, HRC Digital Media Intern
Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs are two Texas fathers who are both biologically related to their twin sons. But in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, neither of them have legal protections over their children.
Despite strides toward marriage equality taking place in the U.S. and internationally, LGBT families here at home still face a serious threat. For many same-sex families, only one parent may have legal connections to their child. This creates the need for second parent adoption, in which the second parent has to go through an often lengthy, expensive process in order to become a legal parent to the child. However, not all states allow second parent adoptions, forcing same-sex couples to rely on guardianship, co-parenting, or custody agreements, none of which carry the same legal security as adoption.
Without legal protections over their children, same-sex couples can’t ensure that their children will be cared for by the non-legal parent if something happens to the legal parent. If one partner passes away, for example, and the other partner does not have legal rights to the children, then the surviving parent may not be able to make healthcare decisions for the child, or attend school meetings on the child’s behalf. The non-legal parent can’t include their children in their health insurance plans. In worst case scenarios, a non-legal parent can face a custody challenge in the event of a separation, or if a hostile family member comes forward following the death of the legal parent. Marriage equality doesn’t just give LGBT couples the same rights that every couple deserves – it protects families from being financially disadvantaged or broken apart.
But equally as important is the message that it sends to the children of same-sex parents; not only are they reminded of their family’s second class status, but the children of same-sex couples could also grow up not feeling secure in their own households. Without the right legal protections, LGBT families are vulnerable and jeopardized. In order for children of same-sex couples to grow up in the safest, most secure environments possible, LGBT parents need be able to establish a legal connection to their children.