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Research, recommendations on gay parents in custody disputes

The state of Georgia does not legally recognize either same-sex marriage or same-sex divorce. As we have previously noted, LGBT couples are certainly not well protected under state laws when it comes to family law matters.

A recent media article laments the lack of consideration given to gay and lesbian parents in many areas of the United States, especially regarding child custody issues. As a writer in The Guardian notes, the determining factor in a custody outcome for many non-straight parents “is too often the very fact of their sexuality.”

It shouldn’t be that way, say researchers from Drexel University, who offer advice in a new report on how psychologists should advise courts and legislators concerning what is best for a child caught in a family law dispute between a straight and gay parent.

Far too often, those researchers say, courts and lawmakers engage in a “false assumption’ that a child being raised by a gay parent -- especially when a heterosexual parent also exists -- will be harmed by that arrangement.

There is scant evidence of that, the Drexel researchers say. In fact, they note, there is no hard scientific evidence at all to buttress such an assertion.

And yet courts are certainly noted in a number of instances to make custody rulings against gay parents based solely on their sexual orientation.

There needs to be a better job done of convincing more judges that science does not support any view of parental fitness based primarily on sexuality, say the Drexel researchers in their report.

And that effort needs to be augmented, they add, by efforts to convince legislators in many states to pull back on judges’ discretion when considering sexual orientation in custody matters.

Source: The Guardian, “For gay and lesbian parents, equality is a myth when it comes to custody cases,’ Steven W. Thrasher, April 21, 2014

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