New Democracy Maps

Issue Brief: How DOMA Harms Children

The Bottom Line

National and public policy discussions around marriage for gay and lesbian couples often completely overlook a critical element: the impact that the denial of marriage has on the two million children being raised by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents in the United States today. These children have become collateral damage of ideology and laws—like the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—designed to hurt LGBT people and families.

How DOMA Harms Children, an issue brief distilling facts documented and sourced in All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families, examines and explores specific ways in which DOMA unfairly denies children basic rights and safety nets, just because their parents are gay.

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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