The Right to Be Parents

LGBT Families and the Transformation of Parenthood

248 pages

August, 2014

ISBN: 9781479803163



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Carlos A. Ball is Distinguished Professor of Law and Judge Frederick Lacey Scholar at the Rutgers University School of Law. An expert in family and constitutional law, he has written several books on LGBT rights, including Same-Sex Marriage and Children, and The Morality of Gay Rights.

All books by Carlos A. Ball

The Right to be Parents is the first book to provide a detailed history of how LGBT parents have turned to the courts to protect and defend their relationships with their children. Carlos A. Ball chronicles the stories of LGBT parents who, in seeking to gain legal recognition of and protection for their relationships with their children, have fundamentally changed how American law defines and regulates parenthood. To this day, some courts are still not able to look beyond sexual orientation and gender identity in cases involving LGBT parents and their children. Yet on the whole, Ball’s stories are of progress and transformation: as a result of these pioneering LGBT parent litigants, the law is increasingly recognizing the wide diversity in American familial structures.


  • "Ball's The Right to be Parents is the first book to examine how . . . LGBT parents have turned to the courts for protection of their relationships with their children . . . a clearly written, sympathetic, scholarly account of these developments. Recommended [for] all readership levels."


  • "Ball skillfully brings together the stories of gay and lesbian families spanning the country and the decades. The Right to Be Parents is a poignant look at the way the law has and continues to devalue and destroy the relationships between LGBT parents and their children."

    Harvard Journal of Law and Gender

  • "This book sheds light on the dark underbelly of hidden American history. I imagine that this book would be an amazing read for LGBT families. As a straight American, I learned a lot and have a whole new appreciation for the struggle of gay rights."

    —Jennifer Melville, City Book Review

  • "The book . . . can be used in the classroom in gender studies, women's studies, men and masculinity studies, and the study of law and sociology. . . . Surprisingly easy to read, and it is a very interesting read."


  • "The cases discussed in the book are not only of interest to gay-rights advocates. As Ball says so powerfully, 'Legal disputes involving LGBT parents make obvious the limitations that inhere in using criteria such as biology, marital status, sexual orientation and gender inequality as indicators of competent parenthood.' Each case presented is a vivid example of what happens when traditional legal rules are applied to technological and social realities that would have been unimaginable just a short time ago. As such, the personal stories and the resulting legal doctrines in the realm of same-sex parenthood are important to everyone who thinks about—or cares about—the legal treatment of the children in our increasingly diverse communities."

    —Frederick Hertz, California Lawyer

  • "Ball provides a solid reference for both those arguing in favor of LGBTQ parental rights and those seeking to understand the legal arguments advanced by those advocating for them."

    —Reba Kennedy, Library Journal

  • "If the adage is true that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, then Carlos Ball’s book will be a tremendous antidote to a hard and painful history. Uninformed and bigoted assumptions about sexual orientation had devastating consequences for many families. No one who reads this important work will fail to appreciate that the gains we have made in greater protection and security for our families came at a very high price for those parents and children who paved the way."

    —Kate Kendell, Esq., Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights

  • "Ball trains his keen, compassionate and judicious legal mind on heart-tugging, often precedent-setting cases that sought to divest parental custody, visitation and adoption decisions of centuries of gender and sexual bias in US family jurisprudence. This beautiful, wise book documents and helps to guide this momentous legal transformation in contemporary definitions of parenthood. An invaluable, engaging and eloquent contribution to family studies, legal thought, and public knowledge."

    —Judith Stacey, author of Unhitched: Love, Marriage and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China

  • "Unique and essential, Professor Ball’s book recounts compelling tales of lesbian and gay parents fighting in the courts for rights that most Americans take for granted. The narratives make little-known histories available even to readers with no legal training, and they also provide clear explanations of legal issues that have been at stake. A wonderful contribution, this volume should be of special interest to lesbian and gay parents and their children as well as to all those who care about them."

    —Charlotte J. Patterson, University of Virginia