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Legislating the Family: The Effect of State Family Laws on the Presence of Children in Same-Sex Households

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Faced with legal animus or outright legal prohibitions on adoption, fostering, or surrogacy, gay men and lesbians could be deterred from family formation. In this article, we use 2000 U.S. Census data to assess the validity of this assumption by examining the effect of positive and negative family laws on the presence of children in the households of same-sex unmarried partners. In doing so, we seek to assess whether formal law plays a central role in family formation outcomes for gay men and lesbians. Employing a multilevel analysis, we find that formal law, particularly negative formal law, appears to play little role in outcomes involving family formation. Formal law might, however, play a greater role when defining property or other legal rights, such as through second parent adoption. These findings are compatible with the notion that individuals are less likely to consult formal law in their everyday lives—particularly with regard to family matters—but are more likely to do so with regard to family issues concerning wills and estates, transfers of property, or other “business” matters.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of New Orleans

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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