"Certainly children in any household arrangement need to be protected — need full support and love," said Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Maryland. But she said such protections should be provided without redefining the traditional concept of marriage as between a man and woman.
Many of the obstacles and inequities outlined in the new report would be addressed if same-sex marriage — now legal in six states and Washington, D.C. — were legalized nationwide and recognized by the federal government. However, the report includes numerous recommendations for less sweeping changes that would benefit children with gay parents, such as:
—Broadening the definition of "family" to allow LGBT families to benefit fully from government safety-net programs, and revise the tax code to provide equitable treatment for these families. At present, even legally married same-sex couples who can file joint state tax returns must file separate federal returns.
—Enacting state-level parental recognition laws that would allow joint adoption by LGBT parents. Even with about 110,000 children in foster care who are eligible for adoption, some states and agencies refuse to place children with same-sex couples.
—Ensuring that LGBT families have access to health insurance on equal terms with heterosexual families, and eliminate inequitable taxation of these benefits.
—Ensuring that hospital visitation and medical decision-making policies are inclusive of LGBT families.
—Expanding education and training about LGBT families for social workers, health care providers and other professionals.
Jeff Krehely, director of the Center for American Progress's LGBT research and communications project, said the report is part of an effort to counter arguments that same-sex marriage is a threat to children.
"People who oppose marriage equality have used and exploited children in a very scare-mongering way," said Krehely, who hopes the report will increase public understanding and empathy.
The report, titled "All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families," is being presented Tuesday at event in Washington drawing some high-level government officials.
Bryan Samuels, commissioner of the federal Administration on Children, Youth and Families, is scheduled to be part of a panel discussion, and the opening speech will be given by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, a staunch gay-rights supporter in a state where lawmakers will be considering a bill to legalize same-sex marriage next year.
"Same-sex marriage is a pro-family measure," Gansler said in a telephone interview.
Lisa Polyak, chair of the statewide gay-rights group Equality Maryland, says there will be a concerted effort during the legislative debate to highlight the challenges facing children of gays and lesbians.
"If you care about children, you should care that the parents don't have the legal tools to take the best care of them," she said.
Polyak and her partner of 30 years, Gita Deane, were married earlier this year in Washington. They have two daughters, Devi, 12, and Maya, 15, who testified before lawmakers last year in support of same-sex marriage in Maryland.
"The root of my activism is denial of equal treatment of my children," said Polyak, citing instances where her daughters had been hurt by other people's comments.
"One child told my daughter she was not allowed to come over to our house because we weren't really a family," Polyak said. "For them, it's a constant source of sadness and hurtfulness."
The "All Children Matter" report: http://www.children-matter.org
Family Equality Council: http://www.familyequality.org/
Center for American Progress: http://www.americanprogress.org/
David Crary can be reached at http://twitter.com/CraryAP
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