Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of GLBT Family Studies (2015), doi: 10.1080/1550428X.2015.1011818


Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Used by permission.


Gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) parents are increasingly common and visible, but they face a number of social and legal barriers in the United States. Using legal consciousness as a theoretical framework, we draw on data from 51 interviews with GLB parents in California and Nebraska to explore how laws impact experiences of parenthood. Specifically, we address how the legal context influences three domains: the methods used to become parents, decisions about where to live, and experiences of family recognition. Law and perception of the law make some pathways to parenthood difficult or unattainable depending on state of residence. Parents in Nebraska, where laws are less supportive, discussed having to “work within the system” available to secure their families while those in California described living in “a bubble” that gave same-sex parents legal protections less available in other parts of the country. Policy and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.