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Families First: GLBT Family Issues and Resources (February 2015): GLBT Families

By Ellen Bosman

GLBT Families

Edited by John Hawley, LGBTQ America Today: An Encyclopedia covers adoption and child custody, GLBT parents, same-sex marriage, immigration, and domestic violence—though the latter is grouped with rape and sexual assault and is primarily concerned with legalities. Useful for its international perspective is The Greenwood Encyclopedia of LGBT Issues Worldwide, edited by Chuck Stewart. Each country’s entry in this geographically arranged three-volume set addresses a myriad of issues, including family and community, politics and law, and education, through the GLBT lens. The country-by-country approach brings together information normally found in disparate sources and facilitates quick access. Although somewhat older, The Gay & Lesbian Marriage & Family Reader, edited by Jennifer Lehmann, is a comprehensive collection of essays about motherhood, stepfamilies, how family dynamics affect coming out, psychotherapy with GLBT families, adoption, custody, and other topics. The financial and legal essays are dated, but the discussions of the implications of same-sex marriage, the nature and quality of same-sex families, and the acceptance, or lack thereof, by families and society at large are still relevant. Although other compilations about GLBT families are available, this is the most reader friendly. The Russell Sage Foundation provides Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family by Brian Powell and others. Libraries seeking pertinent original research will find the Journal of GLBT Family Studies helpful. This widely indexed publication began in 2005 and claims to be the “first journal to address the unique experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals in the context of the family.” Parenting, family therapy, and same-sex marriage are a few of the topics addressed in this peer-reviewed journal. The practicalities of everyday life for the GLBT community mean that libraries have a need for general guidebooks. The legal situation for GLBT families in the United States is indeterminate, with a patchwork of laws that vary by state. Works specific to legal aspects of same-sex marriage appear later in this essay. The works discussed here provide guidance concerning the law as it applies to GLBT couples more generally. Prior to 1980 GLBT families were lucky to find a pamphlet such as Nan Hunter and Nancy Polikoff’s 1976 Custody Rights of Lesbian Mothers, issued by the Lesbian Mothers National Defense Fund. The situation improved in 1980 when A Legal Guide for Lesbian & Gay Couples, published by Nolo, appeared. An annual publication, most recently authored by Frederick Hertz and Emily Doskow, the Guide contains forms, sample agreements, lists, links to GLBT legal organizations, and an index. This comprehensive and groundbreaking publication covers every conceivable legal issue, including living together, medical considerations, money, benefits, immigration, and having a child, among others. Librarians should be aware of Nolo’s complementary publication by the same authors, Making It Legal, which includes a historical summary of GLBT political movements and, in general, looks at marriage from a structural and philosophical point of view while providing the same legal advice as the aforementioned title. After dominating the legal guide sphere, Nolo now has a competitor in Carrie Stone and John Culhane’s recently published Same-Sex Legal Kit for Dummies. The “Dummies” series is easily recognized, and readers know to expect checklists, tips, warnings, and reminders. Accompanied by a CD containing forms and sample letters, this work covers much of the same ground as the Nolo titles and is priced comparably. The Dummies book, however, contains information about becoming an activist for GLBT equality, tips for dealing with in-laws, and a list of ten ways the laws in general harm the GLBT community.

Two web-based resources are also useful. Comprising more than 2,000 signed entries with illustrations, the glbtq online encyclopedia is an excellent starting point for nearly any matter concerning the GLBT community. Entries regarding the social sciences, arts, and literature are this resource’s strength. Signed articles, complemented by bibliographies on family, parenting, children of GLBT parents, civil unions, violence in domestic partnerships, adoptions, and same-sex marriage are a few of the family-relevant entries. The site also supports a current events blog with links to related encyclopedia entries. Another useful website, sponsored by The Williams Institute of UCLA’s law school, is dedicated to producing reputable research on GLBT issues. The Williams Institute website is easy to navigate, and offers a vast array of family-related reports on topics including demographics, marriage, and employment issues.