When Rosie O'Donnell, the famous talk show host and actress, came "out of the closet" with her homosexuality about a year ago, a whole new question concerning homosexual rights has taken center stage. Namely, should homosexuals have the right to adopt children? Ms. O'Donnell has adopted several children and is challenging the Florida law banning homosexuals from adopting after her experience in attempting to adopt another child.
Because of prejudices and preconceived notions, homosexuals have always had difficulty with the adoption process. Take the case of this gay couple:
Two young brothers, Jackie and Todd, age six and seven, were in a foster home waiting to be adopted. As usual, I [a social worker] checked to see where the case was being transferred from and why it was being contracted to my agency. At first, what I read puzzled me[...] I did not understand why there was a change in [social] workers[...] As I read on, things became clearer: an adoptive resource had recently been identified for Jackie and Todd- an upstanding and loving couple with a beautiful home, a lot of energy, and a great big extended family and support network[...] Oh yeah, and they were gay. Apparently, the referring agency was having trouble swallowing this information[...] as the proposed outcome was "incompatible with its mission" (Crawford 103).
This outcome is typical of the response given to homosexual couples seeking to adopt. Homophobia
and false notions regarding homosexuality
plague adoption agencies. This must end immediately; over 125,000 children
are in need of adoption and the homosexual community is willing to help. Homosexuals are no worse, or better, at being parents than their heterosexual
counterparts. Therefore, laws must be created sanction
ing homosexual adoption and thus giving these hundreds of thousands of children a chance at a adoption and a better life.
Homosexuals fit into two groups when attempting to adopt children. The first possibility is that one partner of a couple is the biological parent of the child who is, in most cases, the product of a past heterosexual marriage. The partner will pursue legal adoption in order to be fully recognized as a parent. Doing this will ensure custody of this child if the partners separate later in life. It will also allow the partner to receive other rights granted almost exclusively to parents, such as the ability to be the caregiver of the child if the biological parent is incapacitated or dies. This kind of adoption is known as "second parent adoption" and is usually easier to obtain because one partner already has custody of the child in question (Crawford 105).
The second possibility is that neither of the two partners is related to the child, who is up for adoption in most cases. This type of adoption, known as "co-parent adoption" is the more difficult of the two to achieve because, by definition, neither prospective parent has any previous rights regarding the child. It is also considered the more taboo of the two because it deliberately allows two non-related homosexuals to raise a child, instead of possibly giving the child to another couple (Crawford 105).
The opposition of homosexual adoption rights comes largely from so-called "moralists," who question the morality of homosexual adoption. Such critics argue that homosexuality is a sin and a traditional nuclear family consisting of husband, wife, and child is what "God intended." For example, take the response of Sandy Rios, the president of Concerned Women for America when asked about homosexual adoption: "That's [traditional nuclear families] are the way God designed [us]" ("Interview With Sandy Rios and Wayne Besen"). This excerpt shows that criticism of homosexual adoption usually comes in the form of emotional comments, lacking any real proof. Instead, anti-homosexual adoption activists attempt to convince the public of their idea that homosexuality is immoral and, accordingly, homosexuals should be kept away from children.
Another argument often used is that being raised by two same-gender parents creates confusion of so-called "gender roles" and enforces the idea that homosexuality is morally permissible. Because children emulate their parents and model their behavior after them, this emulation might cause children to become confused about their sexuality or become homosexual later in life. According to Lynn D. Wardle, a law professor and author of several publications regarding homosexual marriage and children's rights, there was a case report recently published that discovered support for this position. Apparently, the daughter of a homosexual mother
had experimented with homosexual practices and also indulged in heterosexual promiscuity, anxiously driven by her awareness of her mother's homosexual relations (Wardle 117).
Dr. Wardle also goes on to mention a report conducted by Ghazala Javaid that studied New York children raised by homosexual mothers, usually in pairs. The report concludes that "[t]here is a possibility that rearing [by a homosexual parent] might influence [the child's] sexual partner choice, temporarily or permanently" (Wardle 117).
Advocates also argue about the "dangers" of growing up in a homosexual family. Because most homosexuals are unmarried, it is believed that children raised by homosexuals will have their faith in the values of marriage destroyed. It is also argued that promiscuous behavior by homosexuals will put a child in danger of contracting diseases and stress sexual gratification over responsibility and fidelity. According to Dr. Wardle:
Parental extramarital relationships wound children, shaking, perhaps even destroying, their faith in marriage and in personal commitments of fidelity and intimacy. It hurts a child to learn that one parent has been unfaithful to the other[...] Parental extramarital relationships provide a dangerous model for children, serving to pass intergenerational self-destructive behavior on to children[...] In these days of so many harmful, even deadly, sexually transmitted diseases, the risks may be physical as well as emotional (119-200).
While some of these opinions may have some validity, for example the argument about promiscuity being dangerous, on the whole, the concerns against homosexual adoption rights are mostly based on ignorance
. For example, the whole idea that "God intended" some families to be "better" than others is neither scientific evidence
nor does it have any bearing on the upbringing of a child. If one looks at the facts objective
ly, it becomes obvious that homosexuals should, even must
, have the right to adopt children.
The Need for Adoption Rights
The first thing to consider is the sheer number of children up for adoption. 125,000 children in the United States alone need to be adopted ("Interview with Sandy Rios and Wayne Besen"). For better or worse, homosexuals are the only "group" that actively seeks out adoption of the "undesirables:" minorities, HIV positive babies, girls, and children older than infants. According to Wayne Besen, a spokesperson for Human Rights Campaign
The choice [between homosexual adoption and traditional nuclear family adoption] is a false choice. The choice is almost always adoption, not between a mother and father versus same-gender family but a same-gender family versus being bounced around in foster care[...] ("Interview with Sandy Rios and Wayne Besen").
Now, looking at this rational
ly, it is obvious that almost any family unit
is better than no
family, and, in this case, homosexual families are usually the only choice if a child is up for adoption ("Interview With Sandy Rios and Wayne Besen").
Another reason why homosexual adoption should be legally sanctioned is the general support the idea has received from the child-care and medical community. The American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Child Welfare League of America all support homosexual adoption rights ("Interview with Sandy Rios and Wayne Besen"). For example, according to the official policy of the Child Welfare League of America:
[Adoption] [a]gencies should assess each [potential adoptive parent][...] from the perspective of what would be in the best interests of the child. The interests of the child are paramount[...] All applicants should have an equal opportunity to apply for the adoption of children and receive fair and equal treatment and considerations of their qualifications as adoptive parents[...] Applicants should be fairly assessed on their abilities to successfully parent a child needing family membership and not in their appearance, differing lifestyle, or sexual preference. Sexual preferences should not be the sold criteria on which the suitability of the adoptive applicants is based. Consideration should be given to other personality and maturity factors and on the ability of the applicant to meet specific needs of the individual child (Crawford 105-6).
According to these group
s, it is most important for a child to develop
in a loving, stable family; the sexual orientation of the foster parents plays no role in their love
for their foster children ("Interview with Sandy Rios and Wayne Besen").
One of the greatest fears of opponents to homosexual adoption is that children raised in a homosexual environment will become homosexuals. However, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, along with many other advocacy groups and leading medical experts, it is untrue that children raised by homosexuals will later become homosexuals. Sexual orientation is most likely determined at birth or very soon thereafter, the sexual orientations of the foster parents plays no role in this aspect of their foster children's lives. As proof of this assertion, the proportion of homosexuals coming from heterosexual versus homosexual families are almost identical (Harris 187).
It is morally wrong that homosexuals should be barred from adoption because of the dangers of homosexual promiscuity. Sexual promiscuity from authority figures of any orientation is damaging to a child: "extramarital sexual behavior is associated with such harm to children as the breakup of their parents' marriage and the destabilizing, child-harming consequences of divorce" (Wardle 119). A promiscuous heterosexual parent is just as dangerous to a child as a promiscuous homosexual parent; both circumstances must be avoided in order to preserve the safety and moral foundations of the child. However, 40-70% of gay men and 40-80% of lesbians are in monogamous relationships that rival the length of their heterosexual counterparts. The reason why most homosexuals are unmarried is because they can not marry under most states' current laws (Cullum 118).
No matter what anyone wishes, homosexuals will still end up raising children, either through adoption or as the result of sexual relations. Actually, it is estimated that more than two million homosexual parents are currently raising more than six million children (Cullum 118). It would be impossible to even attempt to separate these millions of children emotionally attached to their parents. Accepting this given fact, it is even more necessary than ever to give homosexuals parental rights through adoption. Such rights range from deciding where a child will go to school all the way up to making a decision on medical treatment. These rights also ensure the child involved will live in a secure household. For example, if the biological parent of a child dies and the other one also has custody, household continuity is ensured; no family member can contest the partner's right to take care of the child, creating a costly and traumatizing court battle in the middle of an already difficult time in the child's life (Crawford 121-2).
Take the following example of what happens when one partner does not have legal custody of a child that both homosexual parents have raised. In Florida, a lesbian decided to have a child through in vitro fertilization. The biological mother died, leaving behind her partner to care for their daughter. Because the partner had no legal custody, the child's biological grandparents applied for, and obtained, custody of the child without the knowledge of the deceased's partner. The partner only obtained custody after a protracted legal dispute, causing further trauma to the innocent child during an already incredibly difficult time in her life (Cullum 120-1).
Another positive of sanctioning co-parent adoption between homosexual partners would be the increased economic security afforded to the child. If both partners of legal custody of him/her, then he/she is eligible to receive work benefits from both parents, including health insurance and social security benefits. The child would also be entitled to child support from both partners if they, at some later time, decide to separate (Cullum 121-2).
What You Can Do to Help
Out of all 50 states, only Florida and New Hampshire specifically ban co-parent adoption between known homosexuals. However, this number is misleading because only several states have actually granted co-parent adoptions because there are hardly any laws sanctioning homosexual adoptions. Instead, the choice is usually left to uninformed family courts, struggling to make decisions in an area with almost no past legal precedent (Crawford 122-3). What is needed is a specific legal sanction of homosexual adoptions. Only with specific and clear-cut legislation will co-parent adoption be granted. Such legislation will cut through all the rhetoric and prevent homophobes from imposing their beliefs on the majority. Therefore, I ask you to write, e-mail, or call your local Congressman, Senators and state legislators, urging this legal sanction. Remember, for every child left in this country's adoption system, the more money it will cost you in taxes to support him/her. Most important of all, we must remember the words of Justice Brennan from a 1989 Massachusetts Supreme Court decision:
We are not an assimilative, homogenous society, but a facilitative, pluralistic one, in which we must be willing to abide by someone else's unfamiliar or even repellent practice because the same tolerant impulse protects our own idiosyncrasies. Even if we agree, therefore, that "family" and "parenthood" are part of the good life, it is absurd to assume that we can agree on the content of those terms and destructive to pretend that we do (Crawford 111).
- Crawford, Jill. "Gay and Lesbian Couples Should have the Right to Adopt." Opposing Viewpoints. Espejo, Roman. San Diego, California: Greenhaven Press, 2002. 102-112.
- Cullum, Carole. "Gays and Lesbians Should Have the Right to Adopt Children." Adoption: Opposing Viewpoints. Bender, David, Leone, Bruno, Harnack, Andrew. Sand Diego, California: Greenhaven Press, 1993. 117-125.
- "Interview With Sandy Rios and Wayne Besen." Hannity & Colmes (FOX News). 14 March 2002: EBSCO 4 Apr, 2002 <http://ehostvgw2.epnet.com>.
- Wardle, Lynn. "Gay and Lesbian Parenting May Not be Beneficial." Opposing Viewpoints. Espejo, Roman. San Diego, California: Greenhaven Press, 2002. 102-112.
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