By Lauren Keiper
BOSTON (Reuters) - Children growing up in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families are more likely to live in poverty and may be denied legal ties to one of their parents, a report released on Tuesday showed.
A lack of federal recognition of same-sex marriages means such families face higher tax burdens and unequal access to health insurance and government safety net programs, said the report entitled "All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families."
The report was released online and authored by groups advocating for gay rights including Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council and Center for American Progress.
"The reality is if you look at today's modern families, they come in all shapes and sizes," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of Family Equality Council.
"The laws and policies we have in place haven't kept pace with that changing reality," she said.
An estimated two million children are being raised in such households, the report said. They live in 96 percent of U.S. counties in racially and ethnically diverse families, it said.
Their children are as happy, healthy and well-adjusted as their peers raised by heterosexual parents, it said.
But such families are more likely to live in poverty than married heterosexual households, the report said.
In 31 states, it is very challenging for same-sex parents to establish legal ties for their children to both parents, Chrisler said. Thus a child could be left vulnerable if a parent dies or the relationship dissolves.
For example, Naz Meftah and Lydia Banuelos were legally married in California and are parents to three young children.
Banuelos is not recognized legally as their parent, cannot sign medical releases for them at the doctor and is not listed on their birth certificates.
The couple participated in the release of the report.
"It's not just sentimental and heart breaking. It has a real impact," Meftah told Reuters. "We are legally married and Lydia is a stranger to her own kids by law."
Tax implications and medical expenses are just a few of the problems Meftah and Banuelos have dealt with in Arizona, where the children were born, and in California.
The couple is now working through the court system in an effort for Banuelos to adopt the children.
The report detailed more than 100 state and federal policy recommendations, including ensuring access to health insurance and care, educating doctors and schools about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families and revising medical decision-making laws.
It also highlighted legalization and federal recognition of same-sex marriage as an important step to protecting children raised in those homes.
Maggie Gallagher, a co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes legalization of same-sex marriage, said a change in the federal marriage law would not better protect children.
Marriage between a man and woman best protects children by having a mother and father in the same family, she said.
(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)