No one knows how many adopters are gay or lesbian, although some agencies openly welcome gay, lesbian, and bisexual applicants. It may well be that more gays and lesbians are seeking to adopt than in past years, as societal acceptance increases. But many people still don't reveal their sexual orientation to others, often because they fear that they'll be turned down by agencies (despite what they say) or because they want to retain their privacy.
Most state laws don't address whether gays may or may not adopt. Only one state—Florida—specifically bans homosexuals from adopting children. This law was challenged but was upheld by a federal court in 2004.
However, even if state law allows gays or lesbians to adopt children, many private adoption agencies and attorneys still turn away gay and lesbian applicants—often stating other reasons for their refusal. Some sectarian (religious) agencies oppose gays and lesbians adopting children outright. In addition, pregnant women in the United States who are considering adoption often choose an open adoption and select the adopting parents, and many prefer a married heterosexual couple. It's also true that some countries such as China specifically ban homosexual adoption, so agencies working with China are not allowed to knowingly place a child from that country with a gay or lesbian person.
As with single parent adopters, gay and lesbian adopters should understand—and be prepared to counter—the arguments made against their right to adopt. Here are some arguments made against gay and lesbian adoptions:
- They feel that only heterosexual couples should adopt.
- They see homosexuality as morally wrong.
- They believe that gays and lesbians may abuse their children.
- They believe that children will be embarrassed by having parents who are gays or lesbians.
Many people continue to believe that a two-parent, mother-and-father family is the best. Gays and lesbians who are in committed relationships argue that they can provide a two-parent family. One way to show commitment could be to state (if this is true) that you have been involved in a relationship with the same person for two or more years and that you both intend for this relationship to continue. If you co-own a home or condominium or share other important financial arrangements, this could be seen as another indication of a commitment—just as such traits are seen as a sign of stability in a heterosexual couple.
Another important point to make is that adoption is not a right, like the right to vote. Instead, the primary goal of adoption is, or should be, to place the child with the best possible parents. Those who object to homosexuality believe that the best placement is with a two-parent, heterosexual couple.
This is a matter of personal opinion. It's not surprising that people who hold such beliefs would be opposed to the idea of gays and lesbians adopting children. Others, who view homosexuality as an acceptable personal choice, will likely be more receptive to the idea.
Studies indicate that gays and lesbians do not abuse their children more than heterosexual parents (in fact, some studies suggest that heterosexual biological fathers and stepfathers are more likely to be abusive than gay fathers).
It may well be true that children of gay or lesbian parents might have trouble explaining their situation to friends, although supporters of gay and lesbian adoption argue that this doesn't mean we should institutionalize stigma. Of course, the main issue and point of adoption is to consider the best interests of children, rather than to destigmatize gays and lesbians.
Those who argue against the embarrassment argument cite the 1984 case of Palmore v. Sidoti. In this case, a noncustodial biological father opposed having his child (who was white) live with his wife, who had married a black man. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that although it might be difficult for the child to live in a mixed-race family, race alone couldn't be held as a constraint to child custody and that the courts couldn't sanction stigmatizing of race.
Some proponents of gay and lesbian adoption believe that the principle of not allowing racial stigma to prevail should also be extended to sexual orientation. Others argue that race and sexual orientation are two completely different issues. This particular argument is likely to continue.
- They believe that gay and lesbian parents will encourage their children to become gays and lesbians.
- Some foreign governments are opposed to gays and lesbians adopting internationally.
This suggestion is often made by people who object to homosexuality in general. However, all evidence runs counter to the notion that gay and lesbian parents somehow seek to transform their children into homosexuals. Also, most gays and lesbians point out that they were born and raised by heterosexual parents.
In that case, some gays and lesbians who want to adopt from those countries conceal their sexual orientation from the orphanage and foreign officials.
Some people take a halfway approach to the issue of homosexuals adopting. They believe that gays and lesbians should be able to adopt if they already have a relationship with the child. (For example, if they are related to the child or if they are a foster parent to the child.) In those cases, they believe it's preferable to reduce the losses the child has already suffered by keeping the child with someone familiar.
However, people who take the halfway approach are generally not in favor of placing a new child with a known gay or lesbian couple—for any or all of the reasons stated earlier.
Tips for Gay/Lesbian Adopters
Here are a few suggestions for gays and lesbians who seek to adopt:
Second parent adoption refers to the adoption of one person's biological child by his or her homosexual partner. So me people have compared it to stepparent adoption, in that one parent is a biological parent and the other seeks to create a legal relationship with the child. Usually, the person who wants to adopt has a parentlike relationship with the child already.
- Read about adoption in general as well as the experience of homosexual adopters. Several of my previously published books may help with general information: There ARE Babies to Adopt and The Encyclopedia of Adoption, a reference book.
- Locate adoptive parent groups sympathetic to gays and lesbians. How? Well, one way is to ask them whether they have any objection to gays and lesbians adopting children. But if the idea of asking outright makes you nervous, you could first question whether they have any single members. If they do, then the next question could be whether or not gays and lesbians are welcome in the group.
- Understand your state laws. In most states, if there are two homosexual partners, only one is allowed to adopt; the other is usually required to give up her or his parental rights for the adoption to happen. However, increasing numbers of states are now recognizing second parent adoptions, in which a homosexual can become the legal adoptive parent of his or her partner's biological child.
- Locate agencies or attorneys that will accept you as a potential adopter. As with parent groups, you may want to first ask the agency or attorney whether they accept single applicants. If they don't, they probably wouldn't be accepting of gays or lesbians adopting; so the questions can end there. If they do accept singles, the only way to really know whether they will accept gays and lesbians is to ask. You could be somewhat oblique: ask “Have you ever had any gays and lesbians apply?” and see what kind of response you get.