This past year has been full of eventspositive and negativethat have impacted the struggle for equality of LGBT parents and our children. Here are some highlights.
Marriage equality in eight new states: LGBT parents were active in all of them ( California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island ) to make this happen.
The U.S. Supreme Court's repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act's ( DOMA's ) ban on federal recognition: This was a boon to all same-sex couples, but had an immediate impact on binational couples with children, who can now keep their families together. Cathy Davis, an Irish mom raising three children with her American spouse Catriona Dowling, was the first same-sex spouse to receive a marriage-based green card, just a week after the ruling.
Increasing recognition for same-sex couples not legally married: In another repercussion of the DOMA ruling, the U.S. Department of Education said in December that it will consider the finances of both parents in a legally married same-sex couple when calculating their child's college financial aid. The department had, however, announced last April that it would consider a dependent student's legal parents regardless of the parents' marital status or gender, as long as the parents live together. And U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced same-sex couples and their children can complete a customs declaration as a family, even if the couple is not legally married or if the parent is not related by blood or adoption to the children.
The passing of two lesbian mothers who had been fighting for marriage equality: Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charlie Morgan of the New Hampshire National Guard, who was raising a child with her spouse Karen, died in February from breast cancer. Morgan was a plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by Outserve-SLDN challenging the constitutionality of DOMA and pushing for spousal recognition from the military. Karen finally received a military ID in October.
Jennifer Neuman-Roper, mother of three and a plaintiff in the ACLU marriage lawsuit in New Mexico, died in November of brain cancer. She and her spouse Angelique had won an emergency court order that allowed them to marry in August, several days before a district court judge ordered the Santa Fe County clerk to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act reintroduced in both houses of Congress: The bill, which failed to make it out of committee in the last two sessions, aims to find more permanent homes for children by withholding federal funding of foster care and adoption organizations that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Same-sex parents recognized in President Obama's proclamation of National Family Week: The president wrote, "Whether united by blood or bonds of kinshipwhether led by a mother and father, same-sex couple, single parent, or guardianfamilies are the building blocks of American society."
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act ( ENDA ) passed the Senate for the first time: ENDA would give job security to many, including families with children. House Speaker John Boehner ( R-Ohio ) will not, however, let it come up for a vote in his chamber.
The ban on gay and lesbian leaders upheld by the Boy Scouts of America: This includes both former scouts and parents of existing ones, even though the organization decided to allow gay scouts.
Differing family structures recognized in California: Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to allow a child to have more than two legal parents, and another that requires health insurers to offer fertility coverage to all plan holders, regardless of sexual orientation or marital status.
Adoption and foster care equality still a struggle: In Nebraska, three same-sex couples, along with the ACLU, brought a lawsuit challenging the state ban on gay men and lesbians becoming foster parents. Over in Michigan, however, a House committee passed three bills that would give taxpayer-funded adoption agencies the right to deny an adoption based on the agency's moral or religious beliefs. Equality Michigan is urging House leaders to kill the bills.
Child custody cases increasingly recognized nonbiological parents: In Kansas, when a biological mother tried to prevent a nonbiological mother from seeking custody, the state Supreme Court ruled that a nonbiological parent may be recognized as a parent and has the right to seek custody. The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled similarly in a case there. In an Indiana Court of Appeals case, however, the court said a nonbiological mother may seek visitation, but does not have full parental rights. The Court noted, however, that it would welcome clearer legislation on the matter.
And the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in the case of a divorced gay dad with a new, male partner that the state does not automatically ban t he presence of a nonmarital partner during child visitation. Instead, it should weigh evidence of whether the children are likely to be harmed by the partner's presence.
Increased visibility in mainstream media: The continuing success of the Emmy Award-winning Modern Family, along with new shows The Fosters and Sean Saves the World, put gay- and lesbian-headed families on millions of television screens each week.
Mixed news from abroad: Russian legislators introduced a bill that would let the state take children away from parents who are gay or lesbian. On the good side, Northern Ireland lifted its ban on same-sex and unmarried couples applying to adopt children. And Germany's highest court ruled that same-sex partners may adopt children already adopted by their partners. Previously, they could only adopt the partner's biological children.
Overall, I'd say it was a year of progress, aided by the ever-increasing visibility of LGBT parents and our children in our neighborhoods and communities. Here's to a great 2014 for all of us.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian ( mombian.com ), an award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.