Building a Family on Equal Ground
Capital One urges passage of the Equality Act to ensure equal treatment for children and families
At Capital One, we strongly support the passage of the Equality Act — federal legislation that would update and harmonize the existing patchwork of state level LGBTQ+ protections to prevent discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The most recent iteration of the bill was passed by the U.S. House in late February of this year and is slated for a hearing in the U.S. Senate this week.
Millions of LGBTQ+ Americans are still subject to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Equality Act would remove the inequity faced by people in the LGBTQ+ community at the federal level and prevent people like Jenn Jackson, a Risk and Process Officer on Capital One’s Legal team, from having to travel to different states to be guaranteed equal protections.
Nearly a month before her first child was born in 2013, Jackson, and her spouse Rachel Leyco found themselves carrying suitcases and loading dogs into their car for the two-hour drive from their home in Richmond, Virginia, to the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
While most expectant mothers are advised to stay as close to home as possible in the weeks leading up to their due date, the couple knew they didn’t have that option if they wanted to both be legally recognized as their child’s parents.
As a same sex couple living in Virginia, they knew that delivering their baby at their hometown hospital meant risking a legal battle over the parentage of their child. Even though Jackson had undergone in-vitro fertilization using her wife’s eggs, which meant the baby would be Leyco’s biological child, the laws in Virginia at the time would not have recognized Leyco as the parent.
So in the homestretch of her pregnancy, Jackson and her wife rented a hotel room in Northern Virginia so that their first son could be born in Washington, D.C. — where their marriage would be legally recognized.
Having their child in Washington, D.C. would ensure that both parents would be included on their child’s birth certificate. Leyco would then be able to second parent adopt their child in Washington, D.C.’s courts, in turn leading the state of Virginia to recognize Leyco’s parentage via state reciprocity laws.
While the process of temporarily relocating during the homestretch of her pregnancy was stressful, Jackson felt supported by her team at Capital One. She had conceived her child with the help of the fertility benefits she received as a Capital One associate, and was able to work out of Capital One’s McLean, Virginia, location outside of Washington, D.C. while she was waiting to deliver her first child, Elijah.
“We had to invest a lot in the journey we had so Capital One’s benefits and fertility coverage came into play big time for us,” Jackson said. “The fact that I could be out in the open with all of my teammates about what we were going through and not have any fears that it would be detrimental to my career took all of the stress out of worrying about work. I was instead able to focus that energy on building a family.”
While Jackson and her wife had to temporarily relocate to ensure legal recognition as the parents of their child, just two years later, a key decision by the U.S. Supreme Court served as an important first step toward protecting LGBTQ+ couples from having to take similar actions.
In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the case Obergefell v. Hodges struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalized it in all fifty states and required states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses. This was a critical step forward in advancing protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community and yet there is still more work to be done in ensuring true equality.
Unfortunately, in many states across the country it’s still legal to deny a person basic services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s because the U.S. doesn’t currently have federal civil rights laws that extend to the LGTBQ+ community.
Given that many LGBTQ+ couples still seek second-parent adoptions to protect their parental rights is a sign of the work ahead to assure all individuals and families receive equal treatment under the law.
The Equality Act is the next step in that journey.
This legislation would specifically:
- Federalize civil rights protections that would provide for public accommodations to prevent someone from needing to travel to a different state for equal treatment.
- Prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in a wide variety of areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing and credit.
“No couple should have to worry about the legitimacy of their family being called into question because of how they identify,” says Matt Cooper, Capital One’s General Counsel and the Executive Sponsor for the company's LGTBQ+ Business Resource Group OutFront. "The beauty of the Equality Act is that it would do so much more than simply codify basic rights for individuals. In cases like Jenn's, it would have a profound impact on children and families by ensuring equal treatment under the law across all critical dimensions, including health care and family creation."
For Jackson, Capital One’s long-standing commitment to advocating for positive change on behalf of LGBTQ+ associates, customers and communities has played a key role in her decision to work at the company for more than 20 years.
Capital One is proud to have been an early adopter of policies promoting equality and belonging in the workplace, as one of the first major companies to offer same-sex partner benefits back in 1997.
“The Equality Act is a really big step in making sure that queer families are protected, particularly with respect to employment and housing,” Jackson said. “I’ve always felt really supported by my workplace at Capital One, especially through our anti-discrimination policy and seeing that who I am is valued and included there. No person should have to fear losing their job because of who they are.”