MANHATTAN — Senator Kirsten Gillibrand will introduce legislation into the U.S. Senate that would help eliminate discrimination against against LGBT families who want to adopt.
If passed, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act would help eliminate roadblocks to LGBT couples adopting children, particularly in over 30 states that either ban them from adopting, or have no laws in place preventing discrimination based on a couple's sexual orientation.
"New York is a leader on ensuring that any family can adopt children and sets a great example for the rest of the country," Gillibrand said in a statement. "This legislation would open thousands of new foster and adoptive homes to children ensuring they are raised in loving families."
The act would prohibit any agency involved in adoption or foster care that receives federal dollars from discriminating against prospective adoptive or foster parents solely because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
Gillibrand's office said that by removing barriers for LGBT families to serve as foster parents, the state has increased its foster parent pool by 128,000.
New York's LGBT community reacted with jubilation at the news, and expressed support for the act's passing.
Since gay marriage passed in New York over the summer, married LGBT couples could adopt like any others, though that hasn't always been the case. In many states, one half of the couple often has to legally adopt their partner's biological child to get custody rights.
Cathy Marino-Thomas, Board President of Marriage Equality New York, experienced those difficulties firsthand when she and her wife, Sheila, had their daughter Jacqueline in 2000.
Their daughter was biologically Cathy's, but the couple had to move from Conneticut to New York in order for Sheila to adopt Jacqueline and legally become her parent.
"If she didn't and something happened to me, a relative would have more right to our daughter than my wife," Marino-Thomas said.
But such adoptions aren't recognized in every state, which means that Marino-Thomas and others fear bringing their children outside of New York.
"State-level marriage doesn't protect our children if we move out of the state or go on vacation," she said. "Every time you pass through the tunnel into New Jersey, your family would be at risk."
Marino-Thomas noted that many LGBT couples that vacation out of state have had medical emergencies where one parent is not allowed to see their child in a hospital. Marino-Thomas and other LGBT advocates said that this was only a small part of a greater national fight for gay rights.
"What Senator Gillibrand is trying to do is a great step," she said. "But federal marriage equality would give us all of these things. That's what we need."