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Gay Adoption Gains, Children Win

 

This week, an Arkansas bill to ban gay adoption collapsed in the House, after passing the state Senate earlier this month.  In New Hampshire, the state House overwhelmingly passed a bill affirming the right of gay couples to jointly adopt children.  Earlier this month, the Colorado House approved a similar "second-parent adoption" bill in a bipartisan vote.

The Arkansas bill followed a state Supreme Court decision last year that a state board's ban on gay foster parenting had overstepped its powers. While right-wing social groups like the state's Family Council campaigned to have the legislature step in, even allies in the House like Republican House leader Rep. Johnny Key rejected the idea: “Just on an institutional basis, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”?

In New Hampshire, where individual adoption by a gay parent is allowed, legislators were responding to inconsistent treatment of joint adoption, where probate judges in six counties allowed gay couples to adopt jointly, while judges in four other counties blocked such joint adoptions.  In Colorado, current law blocks joint adoption altogether.

Advocates for gay adoption in the Arkansas debate cited the fact that 4000 children are languishing in state care-- and only 2088 even have foster homes.  This parallels national numbers which show 518,000 children were in the foster care system by 2004. Last year, over 119,000 foster children waiting to be adopted were not able to be placed with permanent families. With so many children without any family at all, those advocating the ban on gay adoption are advocating that more children have no family at all-- a stance that loses support even among many socially conservative legislators.

Gay Adoption Laws in the States:   Florida is the only state with explicit policy banning all gay people, even if single, from adopting children.  Michigan, Mississippi and Utah prohibit all unmarried couples from adopting, de facto barring gay couples.  In many other states, administrative decisions may bar gay couples from fostering or adopting children. 

The other large issue is whether, even if adoption is allowed, a second parent in a gay or lesbian relationship can jointly adopt the child.  Nine states and D.C. affirmatively allow such second-parent adoption; if the New Hampshire and Colorado bills become law, those states would join this group.  

Encouraging passage of "second adoption" bills is their benefit to other family situations, such as where a grandparent can jointly adopt a child with the mother.

Support for Gay Adoption: Pubic opinion has shifted significantly on gay adoption in the last decade: where 57% of the public in 1999 opposed allowing gays and lesbians from adopting, today the public nationally is evenly divided (46% support, 48% opposition). 

Institutionally, most mainstream children's health care welfare organizations support gay adoption, including the Child Welfare League of America, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

Under current policies, a new Urban Institute study found, 65,500 adopted children and 14,100 foster children currently live with gay and lesbian parents, while expanding adoption rights in more states would help make inroads in finding places for children currently without a foster or adopted family.  With 20,000 children "aging out" of foster care each year without ever having a family, more and more states are recognizing that barring any family from adopting a child in need is a betrayal of the family values most Americans prize.

 

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