Updated: Apr 1
In the midst of tracking RSVPs and second-guessing every detail of our wedding this past August, my partner and I would often reflect on the fact that our union would not have been valid across the country just three years ago.Thanks to the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, 2015 was a monumental year for the LGBTQ community. Same-sex marriage was declared legal in all 50 states. Although this year will mark the four-year anniversary, we still have a long way to go in terms of true equal rights for the LGBTQ community, something Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) and I are both extremely passionate about. In many cases, following a marriage, couples contemplate having children, but for the LGBTQ community, this milestone can prove to be much more difficult than expected, particularly when it comes to adoption. Prior to Obergefell, some states protected same-sex couples’ right to adopt children, while others expressly prohibited lesbians and gay men from adopting (or had no laws on the subject). Although the 2015 ruling didn't explicitly address adoption, some of the plaintiffs in the case raised adoption- related issues and it was explicitly recognized that many LGBTQ couples want to adopt children. But we aren’t quite out of the woods yet; discrimination remains against same-sex partners who wish to adopt, despite the abundance of data proving how the LGBTQ community is active and instrumental in fostering and adopting children. The Williams Institute at UCLA reports that same-sex couples are four times more likely than heterosexual couples to have an adopted child in their household and are six times more likely to raise foster children in their household. Studies show that banning gay and lesbian foster care would cost the U.S. $87 to $130 million in lost child care, with individual states losing as much as $27 million. Less than one-fifth of adoption agencies are actively attempting to recruit LGBT adoptive parents. Another problem working against these parents is religious exemption laws – or laws that allow child placement agencies to deny LGBTQ prospective parents based on religious beliefs. A recent article from NBC News reports that, at present, ten states in the U.S. (Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota,Texas andVirginia) have laws allowing religiously affiliated placement agencies to turn away LGBTQ would-be parents, and even refuse to take in or place LGBTQ children. Turning qualified capable prospective parents away only adds unnecessary stress to an already stressed and challenging system. Just two years ago, there were approximately 443,000 children in foster care in the U.S. according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). And although 50,000 children are adopted yearly, 20,000 others “age out” before being placed.These staggering numbers alone should be enough to justify, and even encourage, any willing parent to be able to adopt a child in need. Lawmakers are working tirelessly to make overdue changes to the adoption policies in the U.S., but it’s up to the community to make moves as well. For example, BCBSRI offers a substantial adoption benefit to all employees, including those in the LGBTQ community. Since adoption can be so costly, the company provides employees with $10,000 to put toward adoption fees and reimbursement (increased in 2018 from $5,000).This is the third year BCBSRI is offering this amazing benefit and as someone who is considering adoption, I hope to take advantage of it myself soon. Additionally, BCBSRI covers In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) for both members and employees, as that process is increasing in popularity as well. Members and employees have access to three infertility treatment cycles per plan year with a total of eight infertility treatment cycles covered in a member’s lifetime. Both benefits are still rather unique for a company. I’m proud to be part of a company that has made these benefits a priority.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is the state’s leading health insurer and covers more than 450,000 members. The company is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, visit www.bcbsri.com, follow us on Twitter @BCBSRI, and like us on Facebook at fb.com/bcbsri.To learn more about Safe Zones, visit bcbsri.com/safezones.