Justice Anthony Kennedy invoked the children of gay parents this week during the Supreme Court hearing on Proposition 8, California's gay marriage ban.
"They want their parents to have full recognition and legal status," he said. "The voice of those children is considerable in this case, don't you think?"
There are millions of children in the U.S. being raised by same-sex couples, and many of them live in states that don't recognize their parents' relationship or make it difficult for both parents to claim legal ties to the child. Discriminatory laws cause these children "immediate legal injury," Kennedy said.
In states where same-sex relationships are not legally recognized, children who are born to or adopted by one parent must be adopted by the other in order to have two legal parents. Only 13 states and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex parents to petition for "second-parent adoption" statewide, while the availability of the practice is uncertain in most states and filled with legal obstacles in others, according to the Family Equality Council. When same-sex couples use donor insemination to have a child, most states do not give the non-biological parent legal ties to the child. All of these barriers can cause children "legal injury" — including but not limited to instances when both parents can't make medical decisions, provide health benefits, claim custody or be obligated to pay child support.
Justice Antonin Scalia's recent claim that having gay parents could harm children is not supported by research. It's hard to argue that having legal ties to both parents would not benefit them.
This story appears in Issue 46 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, April 26.