Father's Day Resource Kit | January 2009
Every year on Father’s Day, the media give considerable attention to our fathers, our grandfathers, our brothers and our sons by highlighting the contributions they make to their families and communities. The lives of gay, bisexual and transgender parents and their families are often absent in Father’s Day coverage since print and electronic press reports often focus solely on straight parents. GLAAD encourages journalists to include gay and transgender families in their coverage of Father’s Day. This toolkit provides story ideas and suggestions on how to make coverage of Father’s Day more inclusive.
NUMBER OF FAMILIES WITH GAY PARENTS GROWING
Over the past decade, gay male parents have become increasingly visible. Father’s Day gives us an opportunity to recognize the growing profile of gay fathers and share their personal stories. There are thousands of children living in households headed by gay male couples – the 2000 U.S. Census reports 22 percent of such households already have at least one child under the age of 18 living at home. These numbers are growing in spite of the fact that some states explicitly ban gay and lesbian couples from foster parenting and adopting children.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people are also more visible and look to their parents for support and guidance during the coming out process. The role of accepting fathers and father-figures is important in the lives of gay and transgender young people and should be included in Father’s Day stories.
LEGAL COMPLICATIONS FOR GAY AND TRANSGENDER PARENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES
As the number of gay fathers grows, so too does our understanding of the challenges facing their families. On Father’s Day, journalists should share the stories of gay parents whose struggles to create a secure environment in which to raise their children often go unnoticed.
Lately, the landscape of marriage in America is evolving. Although many states still have anti-gay legislation on the books, others are working towards allowing committed couples to take care of each other and their families. California recently became the second state behind Massachusetts to allow marriage for gay and lesbian couples. The ruling goes into effect June 17, just two days after Father’s Day, pending a November ballot initiative that would take away marriage. Governor David Paterson of New York also issued a directive that the state recognize marriages between gay and lesbian couples performed elsewhere. These occasions mark an opportunity for journalists to highlight the changing, and often uncertain, status of gay and lesbian families living in these regions and elsewhere.
Adoption rights are also a key issue for many gay and lesbian couples. According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, approximately 65,500 adopted children are living with a gay or lesbian parent. While some states have blanket policies on adoption by gay or lesbian parents, the laws vary in other states depending on whether or not the adoption is by a single parent, a couple adopting a non-biological child or a parent adopting the biological child of his or her partner. In some cases, adoption policies can prevent fathers from having legal rights that empower them to create a stable and secure environment in which to raise their children. Father’s Day coverage provides an occasion to highlight local laws and how they affect gay parents in the community.
In the case of some adoption agencies, decisions are left to caseworkers and directors who may have varying policies and personal viewpoints. Catholic Charities of Boston decided to close its adoption program altogether rather than comply with the Massachusetts anti-discrimination policy for gay and lesbian couples who want to adopt. Additionally, most states do not specify orientation or gender identity in laws and policies that govern foster care because adoption candidates are screened on an individualized basis for their ability to care for a child.
There are few cases that address the rights of transgender parents, although the most pressing issue facing transgender parents who have transitioned and come out after getting married and having biological children is maintaining the right to custody or visitation. For transgender people who become parents after transitioning, an important issue is the legal status of their marriages, upon which their parental ability to take care of their children sometimes rests.
Father’s Day provides a chance to share the stories of gay and transgender fathers and grandfathers and how they work to provide loving, nurturing and successful homes for their children. While adoption and foster care policies in some states deny those children the security that comes with having two legally recognized parents and strong legal ties to those parents, media coverage of Father’s Day can address these important issues while discussing the contributions that fathers make in every community.
Laws that govern bi-national families – with couples that include one citizen and one-non citizen – create many challenges for families headed by gay and transgender couples. The 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) bars gay and lesbian couples from marriage, which includes the ability to sponsor an immigrant spouse for permanent residence or citizenship. On Father’s Day, journalists should consider addressing the legal and personal hardships bi-national couples face in trying to keep their families together in the face of immigration policies that do not recognize for their relationships.
A study on the 2000 U.S. Census by the Williams Institute at UCLA found that more than 35,000 of the gay and lesbian couples that were counted included bi-national couples. (Immigration advocates say such couples probably underreported themselves because of fears about their immigration status.) The study also demonstrates that bi-national couples are very likely to have children at home; more than a third households headed by gay male couples report raising at least one child under age 18. Father’s Day presents an important opportunity for media outlets to address the challenges faced by such couples.
Many bi-national families hope that change will soon come from Congress. Under the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which was re-introduced last year, foreign partners of gay and lesbian citizens could obtain permanent resident status in a similar way as married couples do. Rather than emigrate to a country with inclusive immigration policies, bi-national couples could preserve the lives they have built in the United States. The bill, however, is currently in committee in both chambers of Congress, leaving gay and lesbian bi-national couples to continue the struggle to protect their families. (For more information, check out Immigration Equality’s UAFA info page).
More and more, media depict the stories of people worldwide living openly and honestly as gay or transgender. These stories are often inspiring and speak to the growing support (polling data) for gay and transgender people in America. Journalists should consider including coming out stories of fathers and stories of children coming out to fathers, uncles, grandfathers and brothers to highlight the important role these men play in their families.
- Include a gay or transgender father as part of a composite profile of how fathers in the region enjoy the holiday.
- Profile a gay couple’s journey to adopt (either locally or abroad).
- Report on the legal difficulties faced by gay couples as they try to become parents.
- Marriage: This year, Father’s Day is two days before gay couples can legally marry in California. Profile gay fathers in California as they prepare for their big day.
- Profile a father who has come out as gay, bisexual or transgender to his children, spouse/partner or extended family.
- Profile a child who has come out to his or her father or grandfather.
- Discuss Father’s Day greeting cards, flowers and gifts for gay dads: How children buying greeting cards for his or her two dads can be a fun experience (“We get to buy two sets of gifts!”) or disheartening (“I can’t find greeting cards that celebrate both my dads”) experience. Another angle might be a last minute gift story (“I have two days and two dads to buy gifts for!”).
- Father’s Day family events and celebrations: Talk to different families who plan to go out to celebrate, whether at a picnic, a restaurant or at home, and include families headed by gay and transgender parents.
- Speak to local businesses that find ways to cater to the gay and transgender community on Father’s Day.
- Examine the economic impact of losing skilled U.S. citizens who choose to relocate with their families to countries with gay- and transgender-inclusive immigration policies.
- Tell the stories of those who have sought or are currently seeking asylum in the U.S. after fleeing persecution for being gay or transgender.
- Focus on the agonizing decision individuals in gay and lesbian bi-national relationships must make between caring for elderly parents and legally living abroad with their partners.
- Pride: Father’s Day falls during Pride month – discuss the ways that families participate in Pride celebrations.
LOCATING COUPLES FOR INTERVIEWS
For assistance in finding gay and transgender couples for interviews, contact us.
Last updated May 2008