Lesbian/Gay Parents Need a New Green Book

Today’s NYT has a story about the Green Book.  (It was called this because its author was named Victor H. Green.)   Though I had never heard of it before reading the article, I knew something like it must have existed.  

The Green Book, first published in 1936 and regularly updated until 1964, was a guide aimed at African-Americans telling them where they would be welcome to stay around the United States.    Remember that during this time many establishments (hotels, restaurants, gas stations) all over the US refused to serve African Americans.   This conduct was perfectly lawful.   

African-Americans who wanted to travel in the US during these decades  needed to know where they would be welcome, particularly if they were travelling with their children.   Unsurprisingly, parents wanted to shield their children from the pain of discrimination as well as the threat of violence.   As Lonnie Bunch, Director of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture said: 

 “The ‘Green Book’ tried to provide a tool to deal with those situations. It also allowed families to protect their children, to help them ward off those horrible points at which they might be thrown out or not permitted to sit somewhere. It was both a defensive and a proactive mechanism.”

The Green Book ceased publication with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which barred public accommodations from discriminating based on race.

Now I do not mean to draw broad analogies between the plight of African Americans in those decades and the plight of lesbian and gay parents today.   There are many differences as well as some similarities.   But reading this article called one similarity to mind. 

Lesbian and gay families travelling with children need something like the Green Book.  I know there are lots of travel guides that identify places that are “gay-friendly,” but I wonder if they really cover all that you need to know. 

It’s not just that in some places, a same-sex couple with children will not be welcome (and can legally be excluded).   In some states same-sex couples could find they aren’t even recognized as parents any more.    (I mean that both socially and legally.)

I’ve written about this in the past–it’s a problem of portability:  Can you carry your status as a legal parent with you to another jurisdiction, which is to say, is it portable.    It’s clear that adoptions, including second-parent adoptions, are portable because they are entitled to recognition under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution.   But other bases for claiming legal parentage may not be portable. 

For example, a woman married to another woman in Massachusetts is legally recognized as a parent when her spouse gives birth.   But if this family travels to Virginia, say, she may not be recognized as a parent because her status depends on her marriage, and Virginia will not recognize the marriage.  

So sad to say, like African American families a generation ago, lesbian and gay families on the go need to think not only about the possibility of encountering social discrimination, but also the consequences of legal discrimination.     I know many do (and therefore travel with sheafs of legal documents), but of course I could equally well say many do not.


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