A new study released by the Williams Institute found some surprising statistics on gay couples raising children. The highest concentrations of gay couples with kids are found in states that have constitutional bans against marriage equality. Salt Lake City has the greatest concentration of any large US city, with 26% of gay couples raising kids. Many smaller cities have an even higher concentration. For example, in Bismarck and Grand Forks, both in North Dakota, around 60% of same-sex couples are raising children. Mississippi has the highest statewide percentage at 26%.
And these are in states where these families cannot enjoy the legal benefits of marriage. States where children have often been invoked to support the bans on marriage equality. Yet these bans are negatively impacting the lives of so many children parented by lesbian and gay couples. It is unclear how many of the children were born in a heterosexual relationship before their parent came out and how many were had or adopted by the same-sex partners together. What is clear, however, is that these children are being largely ignored in politics and in the media.
When marriage for same-sex couples is debated in these states the media cannot ignore the families that are affected by such laws. All over these states there are families who function despite, in many cases, not being able to provide healthcare for their partners, have custody of their children or be at their partner's side in the event of a hospital stay.
For example the story of Matt and Ray Lees, interviewed by the LA Times. They have eight adopted children, some legally adopted by Matt and some by Ray. In Ohio, where they live, the other dad has been able to become custodian to the other kids. Outside of Ohio, however, that distinction has no bearing. The dad that did not legally adopt them can make no medical decision for a given child. They tote a pile of legal documents with them everywhere, just in case.
Stories of same-sex parents from throughout America need to be told so that the public can understand the harm that anti-marriage policies do to real parents and real children.