Advertisement

Sexuality Research and Social Policy

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 188–201 | Cite as

“The Law’s the Law, Right?” Sexual Minority Mothers Navigating Legal Inequities and Inconsistencies

  • Emily KazyakEmail author
Article

Abstract

LGB parents face a number of legal inequities and confront a legal landscape that not only varies drastically by state but also quickly changes. Research has shown that some LGB parents and prospective parents have inaccurate knowledge about the laws relating to parenting. Drawing on data from 21 interviews, I ask how sexual minority mothers gain knowledge about the law. I found that people were very aware of the legal inequities they face and sought to become knowledgeable about the law before they had children. Sexual minority mothers reported using four primary methods to learn about the law: doing independent research, relying on friends, relying on LGBT organizations, and hiring an attorney. The method upon which they relied was shaped by class. Notably, people received conflicting and at times inaccurate legal information depending on the method upon which they relied. Throughout the process of learning about the law, parents experienced anger, stress, and fear. These findings shed light on some of the inequities that sexual minority parents face insofar as they must expend added effort to gain knowledge about the law. The findings can also help efforts to ensure that legal knowledge is disseminated effectively, which is especially important given how quickly the legal landscape for LGB parents is changing.

Keywords

Sexual minority parents Law Legal knowledge Parenting Second-parent adoption 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Rachel Schmitz, Alexis Swendener, and Brandi Woodell for their research assistance, as well as Laura Hirshfield for her helpful feedback on an earlier draft. Finally, I am thankful for all the participants who were willing to share their stories and experiences with me. This research was financially supported by a Layman Award, awarded by the Office of Research and Economic Development at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The study received IRB approval (#20120812646) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This research was funded by a Layman Award, awarded by the Office of Research and Economic Development at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The study received IRB approval (#20120812646) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

References

  1. Abrego, L. J. (2014). Sacrificing families: navigating laws, labor, and love across borders. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Aizley, H. (Ed.). (2006). Confessions of the other mother: nonbiological lesbian moms. Boston: Beacon.Google Scholar
  3. Biblarz, T. J., & Savci, E. (2010). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 480–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boggis, T. (2001). Affording our families: class issues in family formation. In M. Bernstein & R. Reimann (Eds.), Queer families, queer politics: challenging culture and the state (pp. 175–182). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Brewer, M. (2005). GLBT family policy alert. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 1(4), 79–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Butterfield, J. & Padavic, I. (2014). The impact of legal inequality on relational power in planned lesbian families. Gender & Society, 1–23.Google Scholar
  7. Cherlin, A. J. (2010). Demographic trends in the United States: a review of research in the 2000s. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 403–419.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Connolly, C. (2002). The voice of the petitioner: the experiences of gay and lesbian parents in successful second-parent adoption proceedings. Law & Society Review, 36, 325–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Connolly, C. (1998). The description of gay and lesbian families in second-parent adoption cases. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 16, 225–236.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Coontz, S. (2000). Historical perspectives on family studies. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 283–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dalton, S. (2001). Protecting our parent–child relationships: understanding the strengths and weaknesses of second-parent adoption. In M. Bernstein & R. Reimann (Eds.), Queer families, queer politics: challenging culture and the state (pp. 201–220). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Emerson, R., Fretz, R., & Shaw, L. (1995). Writing ethnographic fieldnotes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Enos, S. (2001). Mothering from the inside: parenting in a women’s prison. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  14. Federle, K. H. (2005). When second-parent adoption is not an option. Adoption Quarterly, 9(1), 79–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gates, G. (2013). LGBT parenting in the United States. Los Angeles: The Williams Institute.Google Scholar
  16. Goldberg, A. E., & Smith, J. Z. (2011). Stigma, social context, and mental health: lesbian and gay couples across the transition to adoptive parenthood. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58(1), 139–150.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Goldberg, A. E., Downing, J. B., & Sauck, C. C. (2007). Choices, challenges, and tensions: perspectives of lesbian prospective adoptive parents. Adoption Quarterly, 10, 33–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goldberg, A. E., & Allen, K. R. (Eds.). (2013). LGBT-parent families: innovations in research and implications for practice. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  19. Hequembourg, A. (2004). Unscripted motherhood: lesbian mothers negotiating incompletely institutionalized family relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 21(6), 739–762.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hopkins, J. J., Sorensen, A., & Taylor, V. (2013). Same-sex couples, families, and marriage: embracing and resisting heteronormativity. Sociology Compass, 7(2), 97–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Joslin, C. (2005). The legal parentage of children born to same-sex couples: developments in the law. Family Law Quarterly, 39(3), 686–705.Google Scholar
  22. Joslin, C. G., & Minter, S. P. (2011). Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family law. Eagan: West.Google Scholar
  23. Kinkler, L. A., & Goldberg, A. E. (2011). Working with what we’ve got: perceptions of barriers and supports among small-metropolitan-area same-sex adopting couples. Family Relations, 60, 387–403.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mello, M. (2013, May 4). Iowa court: married same-sex parents must be on birth certificates. Los Angeles Times. Retrived from http://articles.latimes.com/2013/may/04/nation/la-na-nn-iowa-gay-marriage-birth-certificate-20130503.
  25. Moore, M. R., & Brainer, A. (2013). Race and ethnicity in the lives of sexual minority parents and their children. In A. Goldberg & K. Allen (Eds.), LGBT-parent families: innovations in research and implications for practice (pp. 133–148). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moore, M. R., & Stambolis-Ruhstorfer, M. (2013). LGBT sexuality and families at the start of the twenty-first century. Annual Review of Sociology, 39, 491–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. National Center for Lesbian Rights. (2014). Legal recognition of LGBT families.Google Scholar
  28. Nelson, S. K., Kushlev, K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). The pains and pleasures of parenting: when, why, and how is parenthood associated with more or less well-being? Psychological Bulletin, 140, 846–895.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. NOLO Law for all. (2014). Parenting for unmarried couples FAQ. http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/parenting-unmarried-couples-faq-29095.html
  30. Oswald, R., & Kuvalanka, K. (2008). Same-sex couples: legal complexities. Journal of Family Issues, 29(8), 1051–1066.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Padavic, I., & Butterfield, J. (2011). Mothers, fathers, and “mathers”: negotiating a lesbian co-parental identity. Gender and Society, 25, 176–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Patterson, C., & Riskind, R. G. (2010). To be a parent: issues in family formation among gay and lesbian adults. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 6, 326–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Powell, B., Bolzendahl, C., Geist, C., & Steelman, L. C. (2010). Counted out: same-sex relations and Americans’ definitions of family. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  34. Richman, K. D. (2008). Courting change: queer parents, judges, and the transformation of American family law. NY: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Riggle, E. D. B., Rostosky, S., Prather, R., & Hamrin, R. (2005). The execution of legal documents by sexual minority individuals. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11(1), 138–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Seidman, S. (2002). Beyond the closet: the transformation of gay and lesbian life. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Shapiro, D. N., Peterson, C., & Stewart, A. (2009). Legal and social contexts and mental health among lesbian and heterosexual mothers. Journal of Family Psychology, 23(2), 255–262.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shapiro, J. (2013). The law governing LGBT-parent families. In A. Goldberg & K. Allen (Eds.), LGBT-parent families: innovations in research and implications for practice (pp. 291–306). NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sterett, S. M. (2009). Parents and paperwork: same-sex parents, birth certificates, and emergent legality. In S. Barclay, M. Bernstein, & A. Marsh (Eds.), Queer mobilizations: LGBT activists confront the law (pp. 103–119). New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Stewart, S. D. (2007). Brave new stepfamilies: diverse paths toward stepfamily living. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  41. Tushnet, M. (1996). Defending the indeterminacy thesis. Quinnipiac Law Review, 16, 339–356.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Program in Women’s and Gender StudiesUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA

Personalised recommendations