As of the last census, only about 1% of households in America had same-sex couples in them. This number has surely grown in recent years, but the fact is that gay and lesbian parents remain in the minority. The law was built to accommodate heterosexual relationships, and as a result, same-sex parents face some challenges that other parents do not.
Teaching about sexuality
As The Atlantic reported recently, sexual education in school is still lagging behind when it comes to the LGBTQ community. Only 5% of health classes have a positive representation of same-sex relationships, and only 12% covered the topic at all. Many students are taught that homosexuality is “not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.” Parents that want to teach their kids about healthy LGBTQ relationships are having to overcome negative information from schools.
Finding inclusive activities
Same-sex couples are often subject to discrimination when it comes to children’s activities. The most obvious example is the Boy Scouts of America, one of the most popular organizations for young boys. The organization has been against “homosexual conduct” for most of its existence, largely because of the influence of Christianity. The ban on LGBTQ members ended in 2013, but gay adults were still not allowed to participate. In 2015 former Defense Secretary Bob Gates helped end that restriction, and transgender individuals are allowed to participate now as well. Even though the national organization is more open now, many same-sex couples still find that their local groups are not very welcoming.
Gendered parenting roles
American society still imposes the heterosexual norms onto families in too many situations. Kids often have “father’s day” and “mother’s day” events at school, for example. This can be both confusing and unfair for children with same-sex parents. A child may get invited on a mother-daughter trip to the spa or a father-son baseball game. These situations can be unnecessarily uncomfortable, and parents needs to work with their community to build an inclusive environment.
The law on parenting and adoption has still not fully caught up with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have made same-sex marriage legal across the country. LGBTQ people can still be legally discriminated against in workplace in many states, and adoption rules are not friendly to same-sex couples in all states.
For example, oftentimes only one person in a same-sex relationship will legally adopt a child. A woman may have a child with a man she was dating, but then later get legally married to a woman. In that case, the birth mother would be a legal parent, but her wife would not actually have any legal relationship with the child. If something were to happen, the wife may not be able to ever get custody or visitation rights for the child that she once co-parented. The law can also vary widely between the states. For this reason, same-sex couples simply need to be extra careful about the legality of their adoption and how it may be viewed differently across state lines.