Theoretically, a parent’s rights and responsibilities are the same across the board, regardless of whether that parent is in a traditional heterosexual relationship or a same-sex marriage. But with all of the legal controversy surrounding gay and lesbian unions, the truth is that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered parents face some uphill battles when it comes to establishing parental rights.
Gay and lesbian individuals can become parents through a number of different methods including adoption, donor insemination, surrogacy and foster parenting as well as biological parenting from a previous heterosexual relationship.
However, because same-sex marriages are not recognized as a legal union by the federal government and even by most States, parental rights are not immediately established for the second parent as they would be in a heterosexual marriage. The result can be a lengthy and painful court battle as the second parent tries to pursue custody and/or visitation without any real legal standing.
The solution is to make sure that both parents have established parental rights through a legal adoption.
Currently, Floridais the only state that specifically prohibits same-sex adoption, whether by gay and lesbian individuals or couples whereas Mississippi permits individual adoption but does not allow joint adoption by same-sex couples. Utah on the other hand, prohibits any adoption by a person who may be cohabitating with the guardian or parent but is not legally married.
These laws presents a unique challenge to gay and lesbian couples wishing to adopt so it pays to know the laws in your state before you begin an adoption process.
Once a parent has obtained legal guardianship of a child, their rights are the same as a heterosexual parent. Gay and lesbian parents have the right to make major decisions for their child regarding schooling, religion and medical care and are also responsible for the day-to-day decisions that make up a child’s upbringing.
As in the case of a heterosexual parent, LGBT parents also assume certain responsibilities when they obtain legal guardianship of a child. These include the duty to provide basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter as well as the duty to protect the child from harm. Children of LGBT parents have the same rights as children of heterosexual parents, such as the right to aneducation and the right to parental support until they reach the age of majority.