2015 Annual Report

Family Equality Council is changing attitudes and policies to ensure all families are respected, loved and celebrated – especially families with parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ).

Making Breakthroughs

Advancing Modern Families

Family Equality Council is harnessing our influence within the institutions that shape United States society.
Hover below to see some of the ways we raised the visibility of our families in 2015.

Our work fighting RFRAs

Since achieving nationwide marriage equality, a slew of so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) have been proposed in states across the country. These pieces of legislation are nothing more than LGBTQ-discrimination disguised as religious liberty. Our team works to fight these discriminatory bills when introduced, and works with state partners to analyze and anticipate where new RFRAs will be proposed. In 2015, we worked tirelessly to defeat four adoption-specific RFRAs, succeeding in those efforts in TX, AL, and FL. We’ll keep fighting for equality each and every day.

Guiding the National Conversation

We stay on top of current events and react swiftly when issues regarding LGBTQ-led families hit the media. We are regularly called upon by journalists for commentary and context in these cases. For example: on November 11, 2015, a Utah judge ordered child services to remove a baby from the home of a lesbian couple who’d been fostering the one-year-old girl for three months. The judge cited “studies” that claim the child would be better off with different-sex parents—but when pressed to specify what studies he was referring to, he refused. Very quickly, Family Equality put out a statement on the subject and within hours, Director of Public Policy Emily Hecht-McGowan was interviewed for a number of stories on the matter. Within a week, the Utah judge rescinded the removal order and recused himself from the case after facing calls for his impeachment. Eventually, he resigned from the bench. Today the baby remains in the loving care of her two moms.

National Adoption Month

In November 2015, we launched our annual Allies for Adoption campaign, coinciding with National Adoption Month. Our public education and outreach resulted in the addition of six new cosponsors for the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. Learn more about the ECDF Act. Our ECDF web portal contains information and fact sheets about the federal bill as well as stories of families formed through adoption, including this inspiring essay by the Duddy-Burke family, a Boston lesbian couple who fought the system to become parents.

Lawsuit against the state of Mississippi

Family Equality Council was a plaintiff along with four same-sex couples and the Campaign for Southern Equality in a lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s ban on same-sex couples adopting in the state, the only state left in the nation where gay couples were banned from adopting. **NOTE ON RESOLUTION OF THE CASE: On April 1, 2016, the Federal Judge in MS issued his ruling in the case, striking down the MS adoption ban, stating that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

What is family? Some of our incredible supporters lent their voices to share what family means to them.

Family Values Forward

The US Supreme Court has found that same-sex couples now have the right to marry nationwide. This is a tremendous step forward for the LGBTQ movement, but there are many more challenges on the path to full legal and lived equality for LGBTQ people and our families. Family Equality Council’s Family Values Agenda, detailed below, moves us towards a world where all families are recognized, respected and protected.

We must ensure that married same-sex couples have equal access to parenting rights that have traditionally flowed directly to married couples.
We must secure stable and loving homes for children and ensure protections for LGBTQ families.
We must ensure broad non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ headed families.
We must protect our children by ensuring that schools are safe and inclusive.
We must ensure security for working families in the United States, particularly those headed by LGBTQ families.
We must expand legal and lived equality nationwide.

Changing Laws and
Transforming Communities

Family Equality Council’s team developed deep and strategic relationships with coalition partners and our families and together mobilized as a force for LGBTQ equality, generating groundbreaking legislative momentum and numerous victories in 2015. We also sponsored a record number of events to build support and connect families in communities across the United States.

This map represents just a sampling of our 2015 successes. Learn more about our state policy work and local events at familyequality.org.

  • Provided a free Legal Clinic for LGBTQ families and individuals in Birmingham
  • Conducted Second Parent Adoption Seminar in Birmingham
  • Defeated religious-based adoption refusal bill
  • Presented “Why Marriage Matters’ town hall in Mobile
  • Prepared and distributed the Alabama Family Law Guide
  • Working with state partners, advanced the ability of children born to married same-sex couples to obtain accurate birth certificates
  • Co-hosted Families on the West Coast event in Sanger
  • Participated in a Families Through Surrogacy Conference in San Francisco
  • Held Family Weekend at Gay Days Anaheim at Disney
  • Presented a caucus session, Families Like Ours: Volunteer Leadership at the Regional Level, at the Creating Change Conference in Denver
  • Commented on Application for Family Unity Benefits (I-817), Affadavit of Relationship (DS-7656), Application for Naturalization (N-400), Request for Deceased Individual’s Social Security Record
  • Provided Federal Regulatory Comments
  • Reintroduced the Every Child Deserves a Family Act
  • Held Family Weekend in DC
  • Presented “Our Tomorrow” Town Hall and Discussion
  • Advocated for the passage of surrogacy laws
  • Defeated religious based adoption refusal bill
  • Hosted a Maybe Baby panel in Orlando
  • Participated in Orlando Pride
  • Published a statewide Family Law Guide in partnership with Equality Georgia
  • Hosted a Maybe Baby panel in Atlanta
  • Held a Family Halloween Party in Atlanta
  • Hosted an event at Good Pitch Chicago
  • Provided technical assistance to state and local activists
  • Advocated for the passage of surrogacy laws
  • Helped lead the campaign to defeat the state’s religious based adoption refusal bill (which passed, unfortunately)
  • Defeated religious based adoption refusal bill
  • Provided a community legal information session
  • Conducted 2nd Legal Clinic in the state
  • Drafted non-discrimination ordinance language for various cities and counties
  • Worked with state leaders to ensure accurate birth certificates for LGBTQ parents and their children
  • Worked with state leaders to produce a Governor’s Executive Order implementing the full scope of marriage equality
  • Working with state partners, advanced the ability of children born to married same-sex couples to obtain accurate birth certificates
  • Worked with state partners to advance second-parent adoption bill (which failed)
  • Challenged state legislature to pass legislation protecting LGBTQ adults seeking to serve as adoptive or foster parents, in light of Governor’s decision to stop enforcing policy banning LGBTQ people from serving as foster parents
  • Advocated for the passage of surrogacy laws
  • Co-hosted the LGBT Family Building Expo on LGBT Parent Rights in the Workplace in NYC
  • Particpated in the LGBTQ in the South Conference in Asheville
  • Hosted a Maybe Baby panel in Durham
  • Hosted a Southern Family Stakeholder Summit in Asheville
  • Participated in Charlotte Pride
  • Presented at The Carolina Coastal University in Conway
  • Participated in Charleston Pride
  • Held an International Family Equality Day event in Nashville
  • Defeated religious based adoption refusal bill
  • Co-hosted a Dallas Pride Pool Party
  • Participated in Dallas Pride in partnership
  • Held an International Family Equality Day event in Austin
  • Advocated for the passage of 2nd Parent Adoption
  • Working with state partners, achieved the ability of children born to married same-sex couples to obtain accurate birth certificates

Federal Work

In 2015, we worked with more than ten federal agencies to broaden the definition of family and expand access to various federal programs, benefits and services for LGBTQ parents and their children, including: Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Social Security Administration (SSA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of State, Department of Defense (DoD), Indian Health Service (IHS) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS), to broaden the definition of family and expand access to various federal programs, benefits and services for LGBTQ parents and their children.

In addition to our advocacy, we submitted 25 written comments to proposed federal rule changes. Among the most notable were the following:

HHS – Health and Human Services Acquisition Regulation parts 301-370

On May 1, 2015, we submitted comments to HHS in response to a request for feedback regarding a proposed portion of the Health and Human Services Acquisition Regulation (HHSAR). We urged them to push against policies and provisions that would make room for entities to withhold healthcare services on religious or moral grounds.

We advocated for the inclusion of a “Non-Discrimination in Service Delivery” clause in HHS contracts, which would prohibit discrimination against individuals accessing services through HHS-supported programs. This clause was included in the final rule and provides protections on the basis of race, national origin, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

HHS – Affordable Care Act, Section 1557

On November 12, 2015, in a response to a request for feedback from HHS regarding a proposed rule protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in healthcare under the Affordable Care Act, we submitted multiple comments requesting changes to the rule as originally proposed. Although we agreed that there should be protections from discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity, we also felt strongly that there must be inclusion of protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We also argued against the inclusion of a broad religious exemption to these protections. The following recommendations were incorporated from our comment into the final rule:

  • Protections from discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity.
  • Although protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation were not explicitly included in the final rule, HHS made it clear that complaints of this kind of discrimination will be heard and assessed as allegations of prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex stereotypes.
  • The religious exemption was excluded from the final rule.

Gathering Support

Voices of Children

Family Equality Council’s “Voices of Children” amicus briefs have been powerful tools in the fight for lived and legal equality. These briefs tell the stories of the children of LGBTQ parents, and the harm that discrimination causes their families. We have submitted sixteen amicus briefs since the Windsor case in 2013, which marked the rapid expansion of marriage equality nationwide, culminating in the exhilarating decision in June 2015 legalizing marriage equality nationwide.

We filed a 40-page amicus brief in March 2015, the month before the Court heard arguments in Obergefell v Hodges, illustrating how families are affected by marriage bans. And we celebrated with all our friends and allies on June 26, reaching a huge milestone in the fight for equality. But that fight is far from over.

In December, we responded to a request to file a new “Voices” brief for the Supreme Court focusing on children who have been impacted by discrimination in adoption. In the brief, filed on December 17, children describe what it means to have and not have a definitive legal tie to their parents, and what it would mean to them if that legal tie were jeopardized.

The brief is being filed in support of an adoptive parent, identified as V.L., seeking visitation and custody rights to her three children. V.L. and their ex-partner, identified as E.L., were in a long-term same-sex relationship. They planned for and raised three children together via donor insemination. V.L., the non-biological parent, adopted the three children in Georgia in 2007, with E.L.’s support and written consent. When the couple split, E.L. denied visitation to V.L. and argued that the Georgia adoption was not valid in Alabama, where E.L. now lived. In September 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an order refusing to recognize the Georgia adoption, declaring it “void.”

When we talk about adoption and securing legal ties for children, this is the next frontier.

Our advocacy is changing the world. By raising the visibility of families with parents who are LGBTQ and ensuring that our families were represented in public discourse, we have seen a giant shift in the opinions of millions of Americans, including leading state and federal officials.

Extraordinary growth, powerful impact

Our rapid growth continues as donors, foundations and corporations committed to progress recognize Family Equality Council as the place to invest.

Growth in Income
  • $3,500,000
  • $3,000,000
  • $2,500,000
  • $2,000,000
  • $1,500,000
  • $1,000,000
  • $500,000




Treasurer, Board of Directors

Family Equality Council

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Building Communities Where Families Thrive

One of the pillars of our work is our programming—through a variety of in-person and online methods, we are building structures of support for families to access at their point of need.

Our Webinars

Our monthly webinars help to educate parents, prospective parents, and allies on topics that affect their families, such as creating inclusive environments in schools and workplaces, parenting skills, and transgender issues. Recorded live, with interactive question and answer sessions, each webinar is archived on our website so that curious parents and prospective parents can access when they want, where they want. Since adding the webinar library to our site, we have more than tripled the number of people reached through this platform.

Celebrating families together

Our signature events continued to grow in 2015 as over 33,000 people converged at Family Week, the Family Weekend in the Midwest, Families on the West Coast and other community celebrations across the country.

In 2015 we particularly expanded our Pride events, targeting new cities in the Midwest and the South, reaching more families than ever.

Our Program team also worked hard in 2015 to provide additional safe spaces online so that especially parents in rural communities could connect and come together, overcoming more barriers of isolation.

Expect to see Family Equality Council at more events nationwide and make your family’s plans NOW to celebrate Family Week and other community events with us!

Moving Forward

Bringing real family
values to the national conversation

Families with LGBTQ parents are largely working families, and in addition to sharing the same concerns about economic security as their straight friends and neighbors, many face high risks of job discrimination with no adequate remedy under federal law. Family Equality Council is addressing these needs by expanding our federal portfolio to include advocacy on behalf of working families. We participate in national coalitions working on behalf of women and families to ease the burdens for all families, especially those who are headed by LGBTQ parents.

Supporting families at all stages of life

Modern families can be found at every stage along the arc of life. Anyone contemplating starting a family, parenting a child of any age, transitioning to an empty nest, or relishing life as a grandparent has a place in the Family Equality Council community.

Family Creation
Outspoken Generation
Pearls of Wisdom

Family Creation

Family Equality Council is breaking down barriers that inhibit family creation. Our policy team fights discriminatory legislation and actively promotes practices that are inclusive of LGBTQ parents, including leading the coalition to pass the federal Every Child Deserves a Family Act. Additionally, we work with experts across many fields to provide parents with the tools and information they need; see what they have to say.


Family Equality Council supports parents who are LGBTQ and their children by providing educational and advocacy resources to meet their unique needs and by connecting modern families to nurturing communities across this country. Find or start a parent group near you.

Outspoken Generation

Thirty years into the LGBTQ family movement, there are many children coming of age as thriving adults and eager to share the success stories of their families. Outspoken Generation is empowering these people with LGBTQ parents with a platform to advocate for equality as they speak out on growing up in loving families with parents who are LGBTQ. Read the stories of our Outspoken Generation members or nominate someone you know to join by clicking here.

Pearls of Wisdom

Family Equality Council’s Program team runs the Pearls of Wisdom program, which empowers grandparents to share their experiences, show their support across generations and change the national dialogue on family values. Read more.

Entering a new era

Family Equality Council was founded 37 years ago as a group of three gay dads meeting to support each other. Since then, we have grown into a national organization focusing on LGBTQ family rights and issues. LGBTQ families celebrated some of the most significant victories in the history of the movement in 2015, but we still have work that must be done in order to achieve lived equality for LGBTQ parents and families. Many of our families still struggle to find acceptance and support within their communities. Many live in states that still have laws that directly prevent them from accessing the legal protections that other parents enjoy. Family Equality Council works to ensure full legal and social equality for all families. Together we can create a world where all families are respected, protected and celebrated.

Thank you!

We hope that you have enjoyed reading about our 2015 accomplishments. Every contribution of every size has a nationwide impact on families with parents who are LGBTQ. Together we can achieve a world where all families are respected, protected and celebrated. Please click the links below to learn how you can get more involved and support our work.