Gay fam­i­lies more com­mon, but still legally un­pro­tected

GA Voice - - News -

GAYBY BOOM, Le­gal pro­tec­tions lag

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While at­ti­tudes to­ward LGBT par­ent­ing have evolved along­side the dis­cus­sion of same­sex mar­riage, Gates points out that laws have not kept pace to en­sure that LGBT par­ents are pro­tected — es­pe­cially in the South, which cites a higher per­cent­age of same-sex cou­ples rais­ing chil­dren than other re­gions.

“The ge­o­graphic data sug­gest that many same-sex cou­ples rais­ing chil­dren live in states with le­gal en­vi­ron­ments that at best are not sup­port­ive and at worst are openly hos­tile to­ward LGB in­di­vid­u­als and their fam­i­lies,” he noted.

Na­tion­ally, ad­justed num­bers from the 2010 Cen­sus showed 17 per­cent of same-sex cou­ples rais­ing their “own” chil­dren (de­fined as kids un­der 18 who are sons or daugh­ters of one part­ner by birth, mar­riage or adop­tion). In Ge­or­gia, the 2010 Cen­sus showed 20 per­cent of same­sex cou­ples rais­ing chil­dren.

Gay cou­ples are banned from mar­ry­ing in Ge­or­gia. State law is silent on the topic of adop­tions by gay par­ents, leav­ing de­ci­sions in the hands of in­di­vid­ual judges.

An­other force that doesn’t seem to be keep­ing pace with so­ci­etal changes is the mar­ket. Whereas in­sem­i­na­tion and sur­ro­gacy op­tions have gone from niche to al­most main­stream, the price of as­sisted fer­til­iza­tion has ex­panded as well.

“This ser­vice costs money,” con­ceded Panacci of the Fem­i­nist Women’s Health Cen­ter. “We’ve tried very hard as a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion to keep our costs to where it’s ac­ces­si­ble to as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.”

The ris­ing cost of health care and pre­scrip­tion drugs, as well as an al­most tripling of sperm bank prices over the past 15 years, makes donor in­sem­i­na­tion too costly for some.

“We had a few friends who had gone be­fore us, so we knew the costs were really ex­pen­sive,” said Jamie Ferg­er­son, who is the par­ent of a 7-month-old son along with her hus­band, Max, who is trans­gen­der.

“And so we had been sav­ing money for a cou­ple of years be­fore we started try­ing to get preg­nant,” Ferg­er­son said. “The cost is cer­tainly pro­hib­i­tive for some peo­ple, and a stretch for a lot of peo­ple.”

Wil­liam Kin­nane and John Petersen, a gay cou­ple in Sandy Springs, spent more than $35,000 over four years try­ing to adopt a child. They now have a three-year-old daugh­ter, Ri­ley, and are think­ing about ex­pand­ing their fam­ily.

“We might do sur­ro­gacy or through fos­ter care,” said Kin­nane, who added that they are also con­sid­er­ing an in­ter­na­tional adop­tion.

Find­ing sup­port

De­spite the gayby boom that is seen in pub­lic and pop­u­lar me­dia, the ma­jor­ity of LGBT in­di­vid­u­als and cou­ples re­main child­less, ac­cord­ing to Gates’ re­search.

Petersen and Kin­nane were among the LGBT par­ents at­tend­ing the 4th an­nual MEGA Fam­ily Con­fer­ence hosted by the MEGA Fam­ily Project Nov. 3, and Kin­nane said the or­ga­ni­za­tion helps con­nect them with other fam­i­lies.

Fer­gu­son be­lieves par­ent­hood can be par­tic­u­larly iso­lat­ing for LGBT and queer cou­ples whose peers are child­less, and con­sid­ers her young fam­ily for­tu­nate to have a broad sup­port group.

“Most of our friends don’t have kids, but we’re lucky that we’ve built a friend com­mu­nity that loves chil­dren, and they love our child,” Ferg­er­son said. “We’re also lucky that our fam­i­lies of ori­gin are pretty sup­port­ive now. I wouldn’t say that it’s al­ways been that way or that it was easy for them to come to the place where they’re happy and sup­port­ive, but ev­ery­one loves a grand­child.”

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