After a 2023 that saw a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced across the country, where should LGBTQ+ parents and our allies put our efforts to advance equality in 2024? Experts at several leading LGBTQ+ organizations shared their thoughts with me.
Updating state parentage laws will be a key focus for many. Stacey Stevenson, CEO of Family Equality, explained, “Many states have parentage laws that are several decades old.” Updating them would “ensure that all children have equal access to legal parent-child relationships, regardless of the circumstances of their birth or the marital status, gender identity, or sexual orientation of their parents.” Several states updated aspects of their parentage laws in 2023 and others have efforts underway, including Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania. In 2024, Stevenson said, “We intend to capitalize on that momentum to protect LGBTQ+ families.”
Polly Crozier, director of family advocacy at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), concurred.
“It’s not a political issue, it’s a child issue, making sure all states have more paths to parentage for children,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of work still to be done.”
Jordan Budd, executive director of COLAGE, the national organization for people with LGBTQ+ parents, similarly noted, “All children, no matter who their parents are, deserve to feel safe and secure in their family.” COLAGE’s top priorities for 2024 will be “culture change and education around our families, what they look like, and how they form, as well as fighting for parentage reform in as many states as possible.”
“The good news,” he said, “is that a sizable number of states are already considering action on this topic for 2024.” He encourages LGBTQ+ families to get involved.
Other types of bills may warrant caution. Crozier warned of the “unintended consequences and tremendous dangers” of a national push to pass fertility fraud and gamete regulation bills, which began in 2019 with a narrow bill in Utah criminalizing doctors who use their own sperm to impregnate patients. While that in itself wasn’t bad, Crozier explained that we are now seeing “really broad bills criminalizing not only doctors who willfully do that but also gamete donors, for misrepresenting any information about themselves they should have reasonably known, which is problematic for many reasons.” Donors could be criminalized “because you didn’t realize that your mother had breast cancer when you were a baby, or whatever. It just puts the bar so high,” she said. This could reduce the donor sperm supply “to such an extent it is not available.”
While she is sympathetic to those who want “truth and transparency” in gamete donation, she nevertheless asserts, “Criminalizing donors does not get you truth or transparency. Transparency is a system where people feel able to fully disclose anything and not risk criminalization.” She urges those working at the intersection of reproductive justice and LGBTQ+ justice to make sure these bills are not “inadvertently shutting down an area of medicine that our families need to build themselves.”
For Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), “The single most urgent priority is getting rid of state laws that ban medical care for transgender adolescents. These laws affect only a very small group of young people, but their impact on the transgender youth who need this care is devastating. And they set a dangerous precedent of allowing the government to deny medical care to stigmatized minorities,” which “should not be permitted in any democratic country.” He noted that NCLR is petitioning the Supreme Court “to review the Sixth Circuit decision reversing our successful challenge to the ban on medical care for transgender adolescents in Kentucky.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization GLAAD, agreed that a focus should be “pushing back against bills banning healthcare for trans folks and ensuring the safety of trans youth at school, as well as their free and equal participation in extracurriculars like sports. And lastly, which is where GLAAD comes in, fighting misrepresentation and dehumanizing narratives around transgender people, while also providing the resources to accurately cover transgender people and issues.”
More broadly, she also sees “opportunities in accelerating LGBTQ acceptance in the business world.” She observed that “While Anheuser-Busch and Target suffered in the long run by caving to anti-LGBTQ extremists and backtracking on LGBTQ support, hundreds of companies, like Nike, Walmart, ‘Sesame Street’ and more, proudly incorporated Pride and other LGBTQ-inclusive marketing.” GLAAD has data, she said, showing that “Americans are twice as likely to buy or use a brand that publicly supports LGBTQ people and our rights.”
Ellen Kahn, senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign, stressed the need for local action, saying, “I think a top priority is for LGBTQ+ parents to organize locally with like-minded organizations to ensure that our school boards provide inclusive leadership, and protect and expand policies that support LGBTQ+ families, and this includes running for school board positions as well as fully vetting candidates and campaigning for those who are unwavering on our issues.”
She added that although opponents of LGBTQ+ equality have concentrated on “stripping rights away from trans youth, and to some extent, trans adults,” their goal is broader. “They do not want us to be married, to raise kids, to teach in schools, to have any power — so stay engaged at both the local and national level, vote, speak up and find a community that will have your back.”
And Crozier advised that despite the anti-LGBTQ+ actions and rhetoric that we’ve seen over the past year, “We’ve just got to keep believing in ourselves, because all this media attention, all these bills, all these court cases, are trying to tell us we are one thing — but we’re freaking awesome and our kids are awesome.”