How LGBTQ families can protect themselves now

The concurring opinion of Judge Clarence Thomas made it clear that the threat could be substantial. “In future cases, we should reconsider all of the substantive due process precedents of this Court, including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell,” Thomas wrote, referring to settled cases on contraception, sodomy and same-sex marriage, respectively.
But in his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito sought to allay fears about overturning additional precedents, writing: “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents which do not relate to abortion. “.

Nonetheless, many members of the LGBTQ community are struggling to identify how to protect their families if the court strikes down same-sex marriage or if states act alone to nullify rights or access to key services.

“We know our families are worried. Frankly, we are too. The court’s willingness to overturn nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent is truly alarming – and the decision contains language that signals imminent threats to other freedoms, like marriage, which are fundamental not only to people LGBTQ+ but for everyone,” said Shelbi Day, policy manager at Family Equality, an organization working to advance equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer families.

These are steps LGBTQ Americans can take now to help ensure their relationships and families are protected preemptively before any rights are overturned by the courts. There’s no guarantee LGBTQ rights will be taken away, but if they are, it’s time to plan, Day said.

Understand the landscape

It’s important to understand what the current laws are and what might happen after the recent abortion decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“What we urge LGBTQ+ families to remember is that while outrageous and concerning, Dobbs’ opinion – and Thomas’s invocation of Obergefell as ‘next’ – does not mean Obergefell will be knocked down,” Day said. “Marriage equality is still the law of the land.”

Additionally, leading legal experts have said they believe that if the High Court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that granted same-sex marriage federally, existing marriages could still be recognised.

“The consensus of opinion is that marriages that are valid at the time of entry should be secure and not subject to annulment,” said Denise E. Seidelman, founding partner of Rumbold & Seidelman, a legal practice that stands focuses on family and adoption. New Jersey and New York law. “Obviously, this gives little comfort to people who hope to marry in the future.”

According to Day, there are other looming legal threats that LGBTQ people need to be prepared for.

“The biggest issue will be the disputed parentage of the non-genetically connected parent who relies on their marital status to guarantee their parentage,” Seidelman said.

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This means that the names on a birth certificate or marriage license may not be enough to determine legal parentage.

“To protect themselves, it is very important for same-sex couples to secure their parentage by obtaining an adoption order or parentage order from a court, as court orders are entitled to full faith and credit” , Seidelman said. “Couples – especially in hostile states – should not rely on their marriage, or birth certificate, to guarantee their parental relationship with their child.”

Resources such as GLAD, or GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, track various laws that affect LGBTQ communities by locality, including marriage and parenthood, employment, and health care, and can help provide a foundational understanding of the protections available in a particular state.

Actions families can take

Once you understand the landscape, Day said, you can start taking steps to protect your family.

Seidelman noted that second-parent adoption, also known as step-parent adoption or parentage order, is a key avenue for LGBTQ parents, and especially those who do not have gestational or biological ties to their parent. child, to ensure legal protections.

Even if a state upholds same-sex marriage, there can be a patchwork landscape where some states recognize it and others don’t. Not to mention, you could also travel to countries where same-sex marriage is not legal, even before the court considers a case that could unravel that right.

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Court orders are an important, globally recognized legal document. The process of obtaining legal parentage in court varies by state. Groups such as GLAD and Family Equality offer primers and resources to help guide families through the process.

Some attorneys, such as Florida-based Ryanne Seyba, are also stepping up to offer pro bono services to help LGBTQ families with second-parent adoption legal services.

“We’re in this really unstable world where legal precedent doesn’t seem to matter, and we have judges who are going to rule with their values ​​and that’s scary,” Seyba said. “We don’t know where our freedoms will be in six months or a year. And so to protect you and your family, it’s an easy thing to do, and we’re just trying to provide as much help as possible. ”

People should also write health care powers of attorney, living wills, and advance directives to designate who can make health care and end-of-life decisions. It’s also important to create wills and designate beneficiaries for all assets, including 401(k), life insurance policies, stocks, and bank accounts.

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It may also be worth checking which employers offer domestic partner benefits for a continuum of health care coverage and related benefits if same-sex marriage is no longer recognized and couples and families need recognition. legal or health care coverage.

Organizations such as Lambda Legal offer many resources, including a Legal Helpline to guide questions and overviews of legal protections for LGBTQ people by state. Companies such as Pride Legal offer estate planning services aimed at the LGBTQ community and can help advise people in sensitive and nuanced environments.
“Many, like me, already have children, and there’s definitely a level of anxiety among us,” said Ron Poole-Dayan, executive director of Men Have Babies, a network of thousands of current and future dads who also provides resources for LGBTQ families.

“As always, this primarily affects families located in states where our rights are challenged,” Poole-Dayan said. “Anxiety also primarily affects those with more modest financial means, as it is frightening to think that protecting your family might require costly legal battles or relocation.”

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