Michigan Acts to Protect LGBTQ+ Families With Updated Parentage Law

On April 1, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the Michigan Family Protection Act, a law that will ensure that children born through assisted reproduction and to LGBTQ+ parents have equal access to a secure legal relationship with their parents and the essential rights that accompany it. 

Governor Whitmer, sitting center at a table in a library in front of a crowd of seated individuals while professionally-dressed people stand behind her. Two women behind her to her right commemoratively hold up a piece of paper and lean into each other.
Governor Whitmer signs Michigan Family Protection Act

A patchwork of outdated laws across the country continues to leave LGBTQ+ parents and their children, and all families formed through assisted reproduction, vulnerable. Updating those laws to include LGBTQ+ families is a GLAD priority. With bills similar to the Michigan Family Protection Act pending in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, we hope Michigan will be an inspiration for other states to follow.

GLAD’s Director of Family Advocacy, Polly Crozier, worked closely with grassroots local advocates at the Michigan Fertility Alliance as well as attorney Courtney Joslin, who is Reporter for the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) of 2017, to advance the Michigan Family Protection Act. The UPA is nonpartisan model legislation that ensures state parentage laws are constitutional, child-centered, and inclusive of all families no matter the gender or marital status of the parents or how the family is formed. Michigan is the first state in the Midwest and the 7th state in the country following Maine, Washington, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Colorado to comprehensively update its parentage laws to protect LGBTQ+ families based on the UPA 2017. 

“Michigan has shown us what strengthening families should look like in 2024: making it more accessible for all families, including LGBTQ+ families, to obtain the safety and stability that comes with legal parentage,” says Crozier. 

Last June, GLAD worked with the Movement Advancement Project, COLAGE, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Family Equality to release a report on the state of parentage laws. Relationships at Risk: Why We Need to Update State Parentage Laws to Protect Children and Families detailed how the current patchwork of parentage laws across the country – many of which haven’t been updated in decades – leaves LGBTQ+ parents and their children vulnerable. 

Nearly 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ adults in the U.S. are raising children under the age of 18, many of them in states that still have outdated laws. This means that far too many children in LGBTQ+ families are potentially at risk, and that LGBTQ+ parents must navigate costly, time-intensive, and invasive legal obstacles to protect their families. 

Outdated parentage laws can mean children don’t have their parents when they need them most, like during a medical crisis, or can lead to a parent without legal security under their state’s law losing their connection to their child in circumstances such as the death of a legal parent or the end of the parents’ relationship.

Michigan’s new law also comes in the wake of aggressive efforts around the country to restrict Americans’ ability to make personal decisions about whether, when, and how to build their families, as well as efforts to undermine equal rights for LGBTQ+ people and families.

A woman in a suit jacket and red dress and a woman in a grey suit with her arm around the other woman stand next to each other, smiling.
Governor Whitmer and Director of Family
Advocacy Polly Crozier

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that there is no federal constitutional right to abortion, efforts have escalated to restrict not only abortion but contraception and access to family building like IVF. Earlier this year an unprecedented Alabama Supreme Court ruling effectively shut down IVF access in that state before lawmakers rushed in with a partial and problematic fix. 

The national outcry in response to the Alabama ruling made it clear that IVF and other forms of fertility treatment and assisted reproduction are important family building options for many people. Yet even in many states with strong protections for reproductive freedom – like Massachusetts where the Massachusetts Parentage Act is pending – children born through assisted reproduction still lack vital protections.

“In many states, parentage laws are decades out of date and haven’t kept pace with how families are formed,” says Joslin. “Critically, that leaves many children born through assisted reproduction – including IVF and surrogacy – without clear legal ties to their parents. When children lack legal relationships with their parents, they are extremely vulnerable; they may not be entitled to child support or to important government protections.”

“Amid efforts to restrict Americans’ reproductive freedom and roll back protections for LGBTQ+ people and their families,” adds Crozier, “the Michigan Family Protection Act is an inspiring example for other states where gaps in parentage laws continue to leave families vulnerable.”

This story was originally published in the Summer 2024 GLAD Briefs newsletter. Read more.