Mother's Day Resource Kit | January 2009
On Mother’s Day, the media give considerable attention to our mothers, our sisters, our daughters and our grandmothers by highlighting the contributions these women make to their families and communities. The lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents and their families are often absent in Mother’s Day coverage since print and electronic press reports often focus solely on straight parents. GLAAD encourages journalists to include lesbian and transgender families in their coverage of Mother’s Day. This toolkit provides potential story ideas and suggestions on how to make coverage of Mother’s Day more inclusive.
NUMBER OF FAMILIES WITH LESBIAN PARENTS GROWING
Over the past decade, lesbian parents have become increasingly visible. Mother’s Day gives us an opportunity to recognize the growing profile of lesbian and transgender mothers and share their personal stories. There are thousands of children living in lesbian and transgender couple households – the 2000 U.S. Census reports 33 percent of lesbian and transgender couple 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/or adopting children.
LEGAL COMPLICATIONS FOR LESBIAN AND TRANSGENDER PARENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES
As the number of lesbian and transgender mothers grows, so too does our understanding of the challenges facing their families. On Mother’s Day, journalists should share the stories of lesbian and transgender mothers whose struggles to create a secure environment in which to raise their children often go unnoticed.
Adoption rights are 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 lesbian or gay 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 their non-biological child, or a parent adopting the biological child of his or her partner. In some cases, adoption policies can prevent mothers from having legal rights that empower them to create a stable and secure environment in which to raise their children. Mother’s Day coverage provides an occasion to highlight local laws and how they affect lesbian mothers in the community.
In the case of some 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 state anti-discrimination policy for gays and lesbians who want to adopt. Similarly, 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.
Mother’s Day provides a chance to share the stories of lesbian and transgender mothers and grandmothers and how these women work to provide loving, nurturing, successful homes for their children. While discriminatory 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 Mother’s Day can address these important issues while discussing the contributions that mothers 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 lesbian and transgender couples. The 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) bars gay and lesbian couples from all federal benefits conferred by marriage, including the right to sponsor an immigrant spouse for permanent residence or citizenship. On Mother’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 discriminatory immigration policies.
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; 58 percent of the lesbian bi-national couples reported that they have children under 18 years old in the household. Mother’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 reintroduced 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 gay-inclusive immigration policies, bi-national couples could preserve the lives they have built in America. 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.
LESBIAN AND TRANSGENDER PARENTS COME OUT
More and more nowadays, we hear about people worldwide living openly and honestly as gay or transgender. These stories are often inspiring and speak to the growing support for lesbian and transgender people in America. Journalists should consider including coming out stories of mothers and stories of children coming out to mothers, aunts, grandmothers and sisters to highlight the important role these women play in their families.
- Include a lesbian or transgender mother as part of a composite profile of how mothers in the region enjoy the holiday.
- Profile a lesbian couple’s journey to adopt (either locally or abroad).
- Report on the legal difficulties faced by lesbian couples as they try to become parents.
- Profile a mother who has come out as lesbian, bisexual or transgender to her children, spouse/partner or extended family.
- Profile a child who has come out to his or her mother or grandmother.
- Discuss Mother’s Day greeting cards, flowers and gifts for lesbian moms: How children buying greeting cards for his or her two moms 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 moms”) experience. Another angle might be a last minute gift story (“I have two days and two moms to buy gifts for!”).
- Mother’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 lesbian and transgender families.
- Write a story in which a mom has come out to her family and introduced them to her partner, expanding the number of loving mothers in the family.
- Speak to local businesses that find ways to cater to the lesbian and transgender community on Mother’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.
- Spotlight how lesbian and transgender couples are forced to separate or to move abroad in order to not break the law.
- Tell the stories of those who have sought or are currently seeking asylum in the U.S. after fleeing persecution for being gay, transgender or HIV-positive.
- 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.
LOCATING LESBIAN AND TRANSGENDER COUPLES FOR INTERVIEWS
For assistance in finding local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples for interviews, visit our press contacts page.