LGBTQ families live in every community in every state. According to the Williams Institute, there are over 6 million children and adults in the U.S. who have same-sex parents. 220,000 children are currently being raised by same-sex parents, and these children live in 96% of U.S. counties. Decades of research shows these children grow up to be just as happy, healthy, and well-adjusted as their peers.
In 2015, same-sex marriage became legal in every state. This is a landmark victory for LGBTQ people, who are now free to marry the person they know in their heart is right for them.
But LGBTQ families need support beyond having the freedom to marry who they love. Many policy changes would improve lives for LGBTQ Utahns and their families. These include:
- Ending the harmful practice of conversion therapy
- Advocating for inclusion within Utah’s existing public accommodations laws
- Providing more resources for LGBTQ parents and children
- Making representations of LGBTQ families more visible in public schools and the media
Marriage Equality in the U.S.: Obergefell v. Hodges
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. constitution requires states to perform same-sex marriages. Obergefell v. Hodges made marriage equality legal across the country. But it took years to make love the law, even though a majority of Americans supported same-sex marriage before the decision. In 2014 alone, judicial systems in different states heard 80 marriage equality cases.
On a national level, marriage equality ensures that LGBTQ couples have the same rights as any other couple. Marriage equality protects same-sex couples so they can receive tax benefits, make important health care decisions for their spouse, and have property and inheritance rights. Federally, LGBTQ couples also gain access to important, life-changing benefits like veteran’s spousal benefits and Social Security.
Marriage Equality in Utah
On October 6, 2014, the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal in a case that found Utah's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. This prompted the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to order Utah to recognize same-sex marriages again. Same-sex marriage briefly became legal in the "window" starting on December 20, 2013 and lasted for 17 days.
Sherrie Swenson, the Salt Lake County clerk, started performing same-sex marriages immediately around noon on October 6th, and same-sex couples started marrying again. Gov. Gary Herbert responded immediately in a press conference saying that he would respect the law and ordered Utah's county clerks to do the same.
Three days later, Utah dropped the Evans v. Utah case. In the case, the ACLU of Utah asked the state to recognize over 1,000 couples that got married in the window in December 2013/January 2014.
Adoptions in Utah
On October 23, 2014, the Supreme Court lifted the stay that prevented same-sex parents from adopting their non-biological children. Before this decision, many LGBTQ families lived in fear that their children could be taken away from them at any moment.
Because marriage equality is now a constitutional right, children are no longer wrongly separated from their parents if their biological parent dies, or if their parents get divorced.
Children are also now guaranteed access to important benefits and services. Children can no longer be denied basic government and safety net programs simply because their parents don’t meet a particular state’s legal definition of what a family should be. Children in LGBTQ households can now be covered under their parents’ health insurance; access quality childcare and early childhood education programs; and receive Social Security Survivor benefits, inheritance, and more. LGBTQ parents are also able to foster children and adopt them.
Conversion therapy is when someone tries to change an LGBTQ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. One monumental policy change that would protect LGBTQ families is to end it.
Besides being ineffective, we know conversion therapy is wrong. Every large medical and mental health association is against it. That’s because there’s no research or evidence that conversion therapy creates positive health outcomes. According to the American Psychological Association, conversion therapy is dangerous because it can lead to anxiety, depression, and self-harming behaviors.
In 2015, the White House recommended that conversion therapy be banned for minors.
Eight states have already made conversion therapy illegal for people younger than 18, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington D.C. These states publicly and legally recognize how harmful conversion therapy is, especially for youth and teens.
Conversion therapy is still practiced in Utah and in Salt Lake County. Several advocacy organizations have filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission, saying that conversion therapy harms consumers by using misleading and deceptive claims.
Many LGBTQ youth already say they feel unsupported by their communities. Decades of research show that rejection and social bias can harm mental and emotional health. Conversion therapy may be the strongest symbol of LGBTQ prejudice. It tells LGBTQ people they aren’t normal and uses abusive techniques to try to change LGBTQ people for being who they are.
Marriage equality is an amazing victory. We’re thrilled that love is now the law. We’re also ready to advocate for further policies that will ensure LGBTQ-led families can live richer lives.
- The Williams Institute: LGBT Parenting in the United States
- TIME: How Many Americans Are Gay?
- Human Rights Campaign: The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity
- Movement Advancement Project: Conversion Therapy Laws By State
- Human Rights Campaign Parenting Resources