Gay families more common, but still legally unprotected
GAYBY BOOM, Legal protections lag
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.
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.”