Achieving LGBT Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

Issues: Families

When NCLR was founded over 33 years ago, nearly all the cases on our docket were about ensuring LGBT parents could keep custody of their children after they came out.

Our 30 years of legal victories have changed the legal landscape for all LGBT parents and families. But we know there is still so much more to be done. State by state, NCLR is making sure that all children raised and parented by LGBT people—regardless of whether those parents are single, in a relationship, have legal paperwork in place, or are biologically related to their children—are provided with the legal protections that all children need.

news & opinion

Press Release

Federal Court Rules That Widow Is Entitled to Survivor Benefits From Deceased Wife’s Employer Plan
7.03.13 (Philadelphia, July 29, 2013)—Late Today, Judge C. Darnell Jones II of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ordered payment of death benefits to Jennifer Tobits, the widow of Sarah Ellyn Farley, under a profit-sharing plan administered by Farley’s employer, the law firm Cozen O’Conner P.C. The court held that because the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was recently struck down as unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, federally-regulated retirement and benefit plans must recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples for purposes of spousal benefits such as those due to Tobits.

Press Release

Kansas Supreme Court Rules to Protect the Interests of Children in All Families, Regardless of Parents’ Sexual Orientation
2.22.13—Today, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that when a same-sex couple has a child together, both parents can be fully recognized as parents under Kansas state law. The court explained that Kansas parentage laws apply equally to women and non-biological parents, and that courts must consider the reality of who a child’s parents are in order to protect the interests of children. The court also ruled that an agreement to co-parent and share custody can be enforceable.

Press Release

CA Governor Brown Vetoes Bill that Would Protect Children with More Than Two Parents
9.30.12—Today, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have protected children who have more than two parents. In his veto message, Governor Brown explained that he was sympathetic to the need to protect children in these families but wanted more time to consider the issue. Authored by Senator Mark Leno, Senate Bill 1476 was co-sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Children’s Advocacy Institute, University of San Diego School of Law.

Press Release

CA Senate Approves Bill Ensuring Equal Access to Fertility Services for Same-Sex Couples
8.28.12—The California State Senate today voted 26 to 10 to approve a bill that would ensure that women in same-sex relationships and single women can access fertility services on the same terms as women in different-sex relationships. Assembly Bill 2356, authored by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner and co-sponsored by Equality California (EQCA) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), would allow women using known donors to access certain fertility procedures that are less expensive and more effective. Previously approved by the Assembly, the bill will proceed to the Governor’s desk after a routine vote in the Assembly to concur in amendments made in the Senate.

Press Release

CA Bill to Advance Children’s Best Interests Passes State Assembly
8.27.12—Today, the California Assembly voted 51-26 in support of Senate Bill 1476, which will allow judges to recognize the reality that some children have more than two parents. This bill makes it possible for a third parent—such as a gay father who is raising a child with a lesbian couple—to have legal rights and responsibilities to protect and provide care for the child.

from the docket

Pending (Florida)

Florida Department of Children and Families v. M.J.H.
V.A., a lesbian who lives in Florida with her partner, has been raising a baby boy, E.L.A., since nine days after he was born. He was placed with V.A. in part because she is a relative. After Florida’s Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) terminated the parental rights of E.L.A.’s birth mother, V.A. applied to adopt E.L.A.

Victory! (Iowa)

Johnson v. SooHoo
Marilyn Johnson and Nancy SooHoo raised two children together while living in Minnesota. When the couple broke up, Johnson unilaterally cut off contact between SooHoo and the children. The Minnesota Supreme Court held in 2007 that SooHoo was a person “in loco parentis” who had a parent-child relationship with the children, and found that it was in the children’s best interest to have visitation with SooHoo, whom they called “mommy.” In 2008, Johnson moved the children to Iowa and later filed a petition in Iowa in an attempt to end SooHoo’s visitation with the children.

Victory! (Ohio)

In re J.D.F.
T.L. and D.F., a lesbian couple, planned to have a child together. D.F. gave birth to their child, J.D.F. In order to protect the child’s relationship with both parents, the couple entered into a court-approved joint custody agreement. Several years later, T.L. and D.F. separated and agreed to share custody.

Victory! (Florida)

L.E. v. K.R.
L.E. and K.R. are a female couple who had two children together in Washington. Each partner gave birth to one child, and each adopted her non-biological child through a second-parent adoption in Washington. The couple moved to Florida, and their relationship ended several years later. They entered into an agreement and successfully shared equal custody and visitation with both children until K.R. broke the agreement.

program highlights

Recognizing and Responding to the Needs of Low-Income Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Clients
By Lisa Cisneros and Catherine Sakimura

Legal services for low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people have changed markedly in the last twenty years. Expanding legal protections have increased opportunities for attorneys to make a positive difference in the lives of LGBT people. New programs are now providing direct legal services to low-income LGBT people.

read the article from Clearinghouse Review (pdf)

State Policy Advocacy: Virginia Foster and Adoption Non-Discrimination Regulations
By NCLR State Policy Director Liz Seaton

In the spring of 2011, the Virginia Board of Social Services had the chance to enact a broad set of non-discrimination categories in proposed child placement agency regulations. While the Board initially approved regulations that included race, color and national origin essential categories to be sure the Board did not include language to protect gay and lesbian parents. During a public comment process in fall of 2011, NCLR worked to ensure that the Virginia Board of Social Services received substantive comments that squarely addressed this problem.

Filing comments on behalf of NCLR was Eva N. Juncker of Zavos Juncker Law Group, PLLC, a Virginia attorney who is also a member of NCLR’s National Family Law Advisory Council. Filing comments at NCLR’s request was Tanya Washington, Associate Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law.

Unfortunately, the Virginia Board of Social Services declined to adopt regulations against anti-LGBT discrimination. NCLR is continuing its advocacy in Virginia in partnership with Equality Virginia.

read Eva N. Juncker's comments (pdf)

read Tanya Washington's comments (pdf)

publications & downloads

California Transgender Family Law (pdf)

A fact sheet for transgender spouses, partners, parents, and youth.

What Does the Florida Adoption Decision Mean for Me and My Family? (pdf)

On September 22, 2010, the Third District Court of Appeal issued a unanimous decision declaring that Florida’s law prohibiting lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from adopting children is unconstitutional. The State of Florida announced that it will not appeal that decision to the Florida Supreme Court. Click the link above to read our FAQ about the decision.

Legal Recognition of LGBT Families (pdf)

This publication provides an overview of the legal rights of LGBT parents and their children in the United States.

Lifelines: Documents to Protect You and Your Family(pdf)
English Español

California Public Benefits Issues for LGBT Clients: A Guide for Attorneys and Advocates (pdf)

This publication is a guide for attorneys and advocates in California who are representing LGBT clients seeking public benefits.

This publication contains information about essential documents that will help you protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of illness, disability, or death.

Parents who are LGBT, Same-Gender Loving, or Two Spirit: Protect Your Rights!
English | Español

A brochure for LGBT parents about how to protect their rights.

view all publications & downloads for this issue

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