Not long ago, I wrote about the ways in which lesbian and gay families live on patchwork quilt when it comes to legal recognition of their families. If you look over last few posts you can see what I meant: The legal entitlements of lesbian and gay parents vary enormously depending on the location of the family in question.
But of course, on several levels, where a lesbian or gay parent lives is the result of chance. First there is the chance of where you were born or grow up or where your home turns out to be. You could read the cases about lesbians mothers living in Louisiana and you can wonder what they are doing there–couldn’t they guess Louisiana would be rather inhospitable? But Louisiana might be where they were born and/or raised, where the rest of their family lives, where they call home.
And even assuming you want to move to that better state, there’s being able to do so. For starters, that means having the money. (And of course, whether you have money may depend, too, on the accident of your birth.) But I think it means more than money. Not everyone who lives in Louisiana can simply pick up and move to Massachusetts (or whatever more hospitable jurisdiction you might wish to name.) Will you be able to get a job there? Do you have obligations where you live now?
Of course, you might run into legal troubles in a state where you don’t even live–you might be attending a convention in New Orleans, bringing the family for a vacation, when someone gets sick. The chance that your convention was in Louisiana rather than Boston could make all the difference in the world.
It’s easy to say that our lives are ruled by this sort of chance anyway. If I had been born in Dafur or any of a thousand other places, you wouldn’t be reading this blog. But it seems to me it is very rare to find such enormous variation in family law rights in a single country.
As I read the cases that trickle in from all over the country, I find this increasingly troubling. The accident of living in Louisiana, the good fortune of having enough money to complete a second-parent adoption, these are not the factors that should determine whether or not parents and children get legal rights.