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The 8 Places It's Safe For My Family And Me To Live In The U.S.

8 U.S. Places Safe For Gay Families to Live

So much goes into the planning of a family, and I’m sure all parents would agree that your concerns change and focus more on what’s best for your children than anything else. What hospital has the best delivery unit? Which daycare will be best? Which school is best? The list of “bests” goes on and on, and it seems we all want to do what’s right for our families. But the majority of American families have one less thing to worry about — aside from the obvious — than gay couples do when planning their families: Where does my family have rights?

It’s a little something that’s actually not little at all. And while most of you have likely considered where you’re family is going to live, I think it’s safe to say you’ve done so for entirely different reasons than why gay families do. If you’re a straight parent, your rights abound (unless, of course, some legal battle has placed limits on those rights, but that’s another topic). Gay parents continuously face obstacles in the legal system and bureaucratic red tape that can force them to adopt their natural-born children — which is exactly what a friend of mine is currently doing. And countless gay parents aren’t even legally considered parents to their children.

While America remains to be one of the safest places in the world for gay people, 42 of our 50 states deny gay families full rights. Some of my fellow Americans say that we (gays) should be happy with what we’ve got, that civil unions are the same as marriage (they are not, by the way — not by a long shot), and even that we shouldn’t be raising children (which, of course, is also absurd.

I ask you to think about what’s best for your family. What would you do if you weren’t recognized as your children’s mother? What if — God forbid — you and your children were in an accident that left you incapable of making medical decisions for them, and your spouse — your children’s other parent — wasn’t legally allowed to? What would happen to your children? What if you suddenly died and the person with whom you’ve raised your children for the past 10 years had zero legal rights to them?

Rights are a serious thing. And it’s maddening when people fight so hard to deny others something they themselves lay claim to, especially when granting those rights would have zero effect on their own lives. So the next time you think or hear someone say that marriage equality doesn’t matter or shouldn’t be legal, remember that — just like you — we are parents who want what’s best for our children, and legal recognition of our family helps us get there. It matters.

While I comfortably live in a state that grants me full rights, it’s only one of eight places in America that does. And that scares me, because when my family and I travel across state borders, we have to keep our fingers crossed that nothing happens there that could threaten our family — and I’m not talking about hate crimes, though that is a very real threat. I’m talking about finding ourselves in a situation that denies Sara or myself of the rights to our child or children, like the accident scenario I mentioned earlier.

Some other states recognize my marriage (and will eventually recognize my wife’s parental rights just as soon as she becomes a mother), some states have had marriage equality only to see it taken away, and others are fighting hard to make and to not make equality a reality for all couples. But as I write this, there are only eight places in the U.S. that grant full equality to all families through legalized marriage equality. And no matter what other separate-but-equal laws might be on the books elsewhere, these are the only places my family’s legal safety is guaranteed.


  • NEW YORK 1 of 8
    NEW YORK
    My great home state. I was so proud the night when New York State passed the Marriage Equality Act of 2011 and became the largest state in the union to allow all loving couples to marry. In the past year, roughly 8,000 gay couples have married in New York including my wife and me!
    Source: USA Today
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photo
  • VERMONT 2 of 8
    VERMONT
    There was a short time that I thought about moving to Vermont. It is undoubtedly my favorite neighbor-state with its beauty and kick-butt Senator Bernie Sanders. Gay couples and their families have enjoyed full equal rights since 2009, and Vermont was the first U.S. state to legalize marriage equality through legislative action.
    Source: Human Rights Commission of the State of Vermont
    Photo via Flickr: Creative Commons
  • MASSACHUSETTS 3 of 8
    MASSACHUSETTS
    I've been vacationing in Massachusetts with my family since I was three years old. Every summer, we go to Martha's Vineyard the most magical place on the eastern seaboard. My wife and I considered marrying there, but we were pleasantly surprised by New York's vote to legalize marriage equality and where beyond happy to marry in our own home state. Gay couples in Massachusetts have been legally allowed to marry since 2004, when that state's Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to not permit it.
    Source: Massachusetts Trial Courts Law Libraries
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photo
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE 4 of 8
    NEW HAMPSHIRE
    New Hampshire's state motto is, "Live Free or Die." And this state sure does honor that! Gay couples there have enjoyed marriage equality rights since 2009, and just this year successfully avoided a repeal of the law with a 211-116 vote.
    Source: The New York Times
    Photo via Flickr: Creative Commons
  • CONNECTICUT 5 of 8
    CONNECTICUT
    It was a court case in Connecticut that lead to the state permitting gay couples to marry in 2008. I have a good amount of family in Connecticut, and I'm proud that they live in a state that grants all families full rights.
    Photo via Flickr: Creative Commons
  • WASHINGTON, D.C. 6 of 8
    WASHINGTON, D.C.
    Of course Washington, D.C. is on this list what an all-out shame it would be if it was not! But D.C. was far from being the first to do so. It wasn't until 2010 that marriage equality became a reality for gay couples living in our nation's capital.
    Source: New York Times
    Photo via Flickr: Creative Commons
  • IOWA 7 of 8
    IOWA
    Iowans might be upset that I chose a photo of a cornfield to represent their great state, but c'mon! Iowa cornfields are a classic American image. And thanks to a 2009 court decision there, Iowa is well on its way to making images of happy and healthy gay couples and families part of the national landscape. And the mid-west state beat New York to it Go Iowa!
    Source: NBC News
    Photo via Flickr: Creative Commons
  • WASHINGTON STATE 8 of 8
    WASHINGTON STATE
    I was hesitant to put Washington State on this list. Even though marriage equality is technically legal there since February of this year, it has yet to go into effect and faces a public vote this November. But I'm confident that the voters in our most northwesterly state will do the right thing and grant full equality to all its residents. The whole notion of voting on rights is preposterous, though. I don't vote on your right to hunt. Why do you get to vote on my right to marry?
    Source: Huffington Post
    Photo via Flickr: Creative Commons

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