One of the oft-repeated arguments for excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage is that it will somehow "protect children." People like Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage want Americans to believe that if only we lock the doors to marriage and don't let anyone but straight couples in, children will be healthy, happy and safe from harm. But a new report from our movement colleagues at the Center for American Progress, the Family Equality Council and the Movement Advancement Project makes clear that children are actually the victims of the laws and stigma that disadvantage lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults.
First, it's critical to acknowledge that LGBT people are parenting in large and growing numbers. Studies estimate that 2 million children are being raised by LGBT parents in nearly every county in the country. Interestingly, same-sex couples in the South are most likely to be raising children, and LGBT families are more likely to be racially and ethnically diverse. When you hear the Maggie Gallaghers of the world talk about doing what's best for children, remember that 2 million of this country's children are being denied what children of other families get.
One of the chief obstacles to children of LGBT families being protected is the federal Defense of Marriage Act. By limiting marriage to only one man and one woman for federal purposes, DOMA denies 1,138 rights, responsibilities and benefits to legally married same-sex couples and their children. These are things like the ability to take family and medical leave, receive social security survivors' benefits or take advantage of numerous tax provisions aimed at strengthening families. This is true even for families in the six states and D.C. where same-sex couples can legally marry.
Even opponents of marriage or other relationship recognition for same-sex couples agree that discriminating against gay parents hurts their children. During this summer's landmark hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy got Focus on the Family's Tom Minnery to admit under oath that when you have some families with fewer rights than others, it disadvantages kids.
This week we heard from Chairman Leahy that he is continuing to push this issue with a markup next month. In early November, the full committee will consider the Respect for Marriage Act -- the bill to repeal DOMA and level the playing field for all families. If you want to do what's actually best for the children of this country, tell Congress it's time to end discrimination against LGBT parents.