Amidst the marriage merry-go-round of late (North Carolina votes to ban marriage for same-sex couples, Obama comes out in support of marriage for same-sex couples), one issue that is frequently raised is how children of LGB parents will be affected by marriage equality or inequality. This begs the question: What do kids of LGB parents think about marriage and marriage equality?
In my recent research on young adults with LGB parents, I found that many young adults emphasized that their lives would have been quite different if their parents were allowed to marry. They felt that marriage equality would push others – teachers, peers, etc. - to recognize their parents’ relationships as real, and possibly eventually decrease the stigma to which children of LGB parents are exposed. As one young man with two mothers shared with me: “I was just thinking about this with a couple of friends and just was in tears thinking about how different my childhood might have been had same-sex marriage been legalized 25 years ago. . . .The cultural, legal status of same-sex couples impacts the family narratives of same-sex families – how others treat us, and see us, and also how we see ourselves in relation to the larger culture, whether we see ourselves as accepted or outsiders.” Many young adults also emphasized how access to the many practical benefits associated with marriage would have significantly affected their lives while they were growing up. For example, many noted how their parents were unable to cover each other under their health insurance, forcing both parents to work full-time in order to obtain health benefits. Young adults with lesbian mothers frequently had no legal relationship to their nonbiological mother (i.e., because their nonbiological mother had been unable to adopt them in their state of residence), and so they also could not be covered by their nonbiological lesbian mothers’ health insurance (or dental insurance, or car insurance, etc.)
Regardless of what we as individual members of US society think about marriage in general (i.e., whether we think it is an outdated or valuable institution), the current reality is denying same-sex couples the right to marry places undue stress on families and children. As the Family Equality Council notes, “Contrary to stereotypes, children being raised by same-sex couples are twice as likely to live in poverty as those being raised by married heterosexual parents.” In part, this is because of marriage inequality: “The federal government provides important tax credits and deductions that are designed to ease the financial burdens of raising children,” which are not eligible to same-sex couples who cannot marry. To learn more about the ways in which marriage inequality disadvantages children and their families, read the full report: All Children Matter, by the Movement Advancement Project, the Family Equality Council, and the Center for American Progress.