The Schubert Center began its 2014-2015 Conversation Series Exploring Equity and Resilience in Childhood on September 23 with Charlotte Patterson, PhD, a University of Virginia Professor of Psychology and Director of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Program. Patterson visited Cleveland to share her research on lesbian- and gay-parented families and participate in local discussions about issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families.
The community and university partners for these events were:
Deputy Provost and Vice Present for Academic Affairs Lynn Singer introduced Patterson’s public lecture, “Sexual Orientation and Parenting: Research and Policy Issues.” Patterson presented some results of her recent study of lesbian, gay and heterosexual adoptive parents. She worked with parenting couples from 12 states with similar adoption laws to study parenting approaches, parental stress, child gender expression, and division of labor in parenting. The results demonstrated similarities between the three groups of parents in each of these areas except division of labor, where heterosexual parents tended to divide child labor less equally. The talk also addressed policy implications promoting equality and equity for lesbian and gay parents and their children. For example, states have varying laws and restrictions about second-parent joint adoption, marriage, whether LGBT-identified adults may adopt or foster children, and other medical and legal rights, which can cause significant challenges for LGBT parents and their families that heterosexual and legally married parents do not experience.
Gabriella Celeste, Child Policy Director at the Schubert Center, opened the panel discussion after the lecture by highlighting that United States Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner noted in a recent Seventh Circuit opinion, which held that the refusal of states to recognize same-sex marriages violated the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection, “…these cases are at a deeper level about the welfare of American children.” Two respondents joined Patterson after the lecture. Phyllis Harris, Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, spoke about her experience as a lesbian parent, as well as the work of the center to support families. Amy Przeworski, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology at CWRU, discussed preliminary results of her recent study of families of gender-variant children led by clinical psychology graduate student Jennifer Birnkrant.
Prior to the lecture, Patterson met with local stakeholders and parents at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland for “A Conversation Circle for Parents and Caregivers” on parenting and family well-being. The discussion provided a forum for parents, providers and advocates to share their stories and to learn about local resources. Topics discussed ranged from the legal barriers to LGBT parenting to creating positive relationships with children’s schools and teachers. Alana Jochum of Equality Ohio highlighted their statewide legislative advocacy and grassroots efforts to start positive conversations about same-sex marriage among faith-based organizations. Jeff Bixby from GLSEN discussed their work to make schools a safe place for LBGT students and parents. Pat Brandt from PFLAG also highlighted their meetings and support groups for families and friends of LGBT youth or LGBT parents. Phyllis Harris and Ryan Zymler of the LGBT Community Center contributed their hopes for continued and future programming to support families and challenges prospective parents may have.