Gay men, lesbians and bisexual people have been parents for a long time. Some have children from a previous heterosexual relationship, some adopt and others become foster parents. More recently, LGB people have entered into surrogacy agreements and co-parenting arrangements. Stonewall has worked hard to ensure that all lesbian, gay and bisexual people have the same legal rights to parenthood as everyone else because we know that gay people are just as capable of creating loving and supportive families. With our guide for gay men on starting a family, A Guide for Gay Dads, and our guide for lesbians on how to get pregnant, Pregnant Pause, Stonewall want to make sure that LGB people know parenting is an option for everyone – regardless of their sexual orientation.
In the UK it is legal for lesbian, gay and bisexual people to both adopt and foster children. According to the British Association for Adoption & Fostering, growing numbers of gay men and lesbians have been entering into joint adoption proceedings since adoption for same-sex couples became legal in 2005 (lesbian, gay and bisexual people have always been able to adopt as individuals). The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 and the Civil Partnership Act 2004 have made it easier for lesbian couples to secure parental rights for any children they conceive through artificial insemination. Surrogacy legislation restricting both the advertisement of surrogates and the ability of any agreement to be legally binding has made this an unpopular option among many gay men.
In 2010, The Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge conducted interviews for Stonewall with 82 children and young people who have lesbian, gay or bisexual parents to learn more about their experiences both at home and at school. The study, Different Families, found that very young children with gay parents tend not to see their families as being any different to those of their peers. Many of the older children said they saw their families as special and different, but only because all families are special and different - though some felt that their families were a lot closer than other people’s families. The report found that children with gay parents like having gay parents and would not want things to change, but that sometimes they wish that other people were more accepting.
The research revealed problems faced by some children of gay parents at school – such as widespread use of homophobic language, homophobic bullying and the exclusion of their families and LGB people in school. But the children interviewed had very clear recommendations for schools in how to tackle these issues. Full findings are detailed in the report.
Stonewall played a key role in lobbying for important legislative changes for gay and lesbian parents. These include: securing adoption rights for same-sex couples (Adoption and Children Act 2002), ensuring equal access to services for lesbian, gay and bisexual people (Equality Acts 2006 & 2010), and negotiating parental rights for lesbians in civil partnerships conceiving through artificial insemination (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008).
Stonewall has also conducted research into the experiences of the children of gay and lesbian parents (Different Families) and has produced a detailed guides for lesbians and gay men on how to start families (Pregnant Pause and A Guide for Gay Dads).
Through the Education for All campaign and the Education Champions programme Stonewall is tackling homophobic bullying and promoting greater equality for LGB people and their families in Britain’s primary and secondary schools. For more information on our work in education please visit our Education for All site or the policy and research education pages.
Through our Information Service we advise individuals on their rights on parenting. For further information, please visit our information pages.