Family and Relationship Recognition

LGBTQ families are diverse. Many LGBTQ people create non-normative family structures called chosen families, which extend beyond blood and legal relationships. It is essential for the State to recognize and support these families. Marriage equality was a positive first step in providing legal recognition to LGBTQ families. However, LGBTQ families continue to face discriminatory provisions, especially in parental rights and custody determinations. Moreover, unexplored areas of family law as they apply to LGBTQ chosen families leave partners and parents with a great deal of legal uncertainty.

Why is this important?

State policies should recognize and support non-normative family structures, especially the parent-child relationship between LGBTQ parents and their children. According to a 2018 study by the Williams Institute, there are 198,000 LGBTQ adults in Maryland, and approximately 20% of them raise children.

Maryland has instituted multiple policies to support LGBTQ families, including marriage recognition, medical decision-making authority for married same sex couples, stepparent adoption for married same-sex couples, join adoption for married same-sex couples, and adoption and foster care non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ parents. Formal recognition of a parent’s “legal parentage” protects all aspects of a parent‐child relationship such as ensuring that their child will be able to access that parent’s health insurance, Social Security, and other benefits as the parent’s beneficiary; whether the child will inherit after their parent’s death; or whether the parent’s relationship with their child will be legally recognized in states other than Maryland.

However, LGBTQ families continue to face non-recognition and discrimination. Specifically, Maryland does not have expansive parental leave and childcare policies. This affects all parents, but particularly LGBTQ ones.

What are the Issues and What Can We Do?        

Second Parent Adoption

  • During the 2018 legislative session, FreeState successfully advocated for second parent adoption. The bill eliminated complex procedures and technicalities to simplify the process of unifying and recognizing families and ensuring children’s safety. First, it made the process of second parent adoption less financially burdensome, reducing financial strain for parents to meet children’s other needs. Second, it protected the parent‐child relationship, ensuring children have access to support, inheritance, and benefits. It also secured rights for families and parents of all genders, ensuring the family relationship of LGBTQ+ parents and their children in Maryland is legally recognized in all states. For the children of LGBTQ+ and other diverse families, formal recognition that your parent is your “legal” parent is a lengthy, at times invasive, and expensive process.