Achieving LGBT Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

Family & Relationships: Overview

Family and relationship laws have been the cornerstone of the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ legal work since its inception in 1977. We were among the first to pioneer the concept of second-parent adoption and since then, we’ve worked to protect our families and relationships one state at a time. Our resolve remains strong and, in spite of such adversity, we have made key civil rights advances on nearly every front in the areas of family protection.

Over the past three decades, we have partnered with talented attorneys across the nation to advance the rights of and protections for LGBT parents and families. In 2003, NCLR convened a group of experienced family law and estate planning attorneys from around the country to discuss family formation and protection issues, evaluating national trends and cases in each state. The meeting proved invaluable to both NCLR and the private practitioners involved in addressing the ever-evolving legal challenges LGBT families face. The group continued to meet and to grow, and in 2006, was formally formed as NCLR’s National Family Law Advisory Council.

While we are proud of our tremendous success, our work is far from over. Less than half of the nation’s states permit second-parent adoptions, and even where they are available, many families are not able to take advantage of these protections. Each year thousands of children are denied visitation rights and vital financial benefits—like a child’s social security survivor benefits—because their relationship with their second parent is not legally recognized. To bring an end to these tragic stories, we are working to ensure that both members of same-sex couples, as well as transgender parents, are recognized as legal parents. In Florida, we are working tirelessly to overturn a discriminatory adoption ban which prevents LGBT people from adopting or becoming foster parents. And in 2006, NCLR launched the Family Protection Project, which works to improve access to family law services for low-income same-sex parent families, with a focus on serving families of color.

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