Declared a public health emergency by the federal government, the opioid crisis often places children in foster care when parents fatally succumb to their addictions. To unburden the foster care system and to accommodate family members who want to care for these children, Pennsylvania enacted Act No. 21 on July 3, 2018, to expand custody standing to include certain third parties. However, because the legislature has not expanded the legal definition of “parent,” Act No. 21 poses a threat to the legal rights of nonbiological LGBTQ parents.

This Comment begins by explaining how the opioid crisis motivated the Pennsylvania legislature to amend the statute. This Comment then explores the negative ramifications of expanded standing on LGBTQ families. After examining the current rights of LGBTQ parents in Pennsylvania, this Comment demonstrates how the amendment impacts these rights. Legal scholars have analyzed how LGBTQ familial structures can become increasingly vulnerable when the localized nature of family law allows community morality to inform custody decisions. This Comment adds to this line of scholarship by placing the law within the larger scholarly discussion about LGBTQ parental rights. This Comment finally concludes with two suggestions to help protect LGBTQ parental rights: statutory recognition of “de facto parenthood” and offering proactive legal assistance to low-income LGBTQ parents so they can memorialize their parental intentions.



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