Fighting for every family

Growing up in rural America as a young lesbian woman, I never thought I would see the kind of progress we have recently made for the rights of LGBTQ Americans, let alone be in Congress representing Minnesota to vote on some of those historic steps forward. I had to fight for the life and for the family I have today, and I’m committed to working hard every day in Congress to make sure all of our communities are safe for every LGBTQ American.

Pride month is a time when we reaffirm this commitment as a community, a time for us to celebrate the progress we have made toward equality. It’s also a time to focus on all of the work we have left to make sure every member of our community is safe, supported and has the opportunity to build a good life.

While many may assume the fight for LGBTQ equality ended with the marriage equality decision, many members of our community still experience discrimination when trying to find housing, searching for a job, and, in my own personal experience, trying to become a parent.

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When I adopted my oldest son, Josh, now 21, I faced discrimination that launched me into a legal battle that went on for years. My ability to provide a loving home for my son was called into question simply because I was raising him with another woman. For three years, I didn’t know if the child I was raising every day would be there at the end of the day to tuck into bed.

No one should have to face this kind of discrimination when trying to build a family. Every child deserves a home that is stable, safe and loving. I ultimately won my case, which set the legal precedent for a lesbian’s right to adopt in the state of Tennessee. Unfortunately, too many families and children in this country aren’t as lucky.

My story is all too common among LGBTQ adoptive parents who face discrimination because of who they love or how they identify. Perhaps the most heart-wrenching are the stories of LGBTQ children in the foster system who are targeted with conversion therapy or otherwise face discrimination within the system. Taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies still refuse to place children with LGBTQ parents, and LGBTQ foster children often face mistreatment or discrimination from foster families and within the foster system.

That’s why I’m proud to champion the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, a bipartisan bill to end adoption and foster care discrimination.

This bill would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ adoptive parents and foster children by banning any child welfare agency that receives federal funds from discriminating against any potential adoptive or foster family based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. It would also ban discrimination or mistreatment of foster children based on their sexual orientation of gender identity.

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This is an issue that cuts across communities, families, and political parties. With a record number of children in foster care, we should all be invested in strengthening our families and the safety of our country’s foster youth. I am committed to the idea that no parent should be denied the opportunity to build a family because of who they love, and most importantly that every child deserves to feel safe and supported in their home, regardless of their identity.

I am proud of my wife and our four sons, and I am proud to stand with families like mine that make the LGBTQ community such a loving and accepting place. Let’s keep fighting together to end discrimination against LGBTQ parents and foster youth.

Craig represents the 2nd District of Minnesota. She is co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus.