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Lesbian and Gay Adoption Rights


About 80,000 foster children go unadopted every year. Thousands of childless same-sex couples want to adopt. The solution is obvious, but there's a problem...
Bush Signs Adoption Act

President George W. Bush signs the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003, intended to encourage more opposite-sex couples to adopt children. Same-sex couples, who cannot procreate and are therefore natural adoptive parents, receive no such encouragement.

Image courtesy of the U.S. White House.

The Big Question

Should lesbian and gay families be excluded from the adoption system?

Which States Allow Lesbian and Gay Couples to Adopt Jointly?

California, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island*, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Which States Ban All Gay Adoptions?

Florida is the only state with an across-the-board ban, a strict 1977 law that prohibits all "homosexual persons" from adopting children (even as individuals). New Hampshire once had a similar law, but it was repealed by the state legislature in 1999.

What is the Status of Gay Adoption in Other States?

Ambiguous. Other states allow adoption by single adults (regardless of sexual orientation), and joint adoption by married couples, but do not allow joint adoption by unmarried couples.

Is There Any Legitimate Reason to Deny Adoption Rights to Same-Sex Couples?

Not really. Opponents of gay adoption generally make three arguments, all of them rather spurious:
  1. "A child is better off with one father and one mother." Even if this claim were true (and there's no evidence that it is), it would be irrelevant. States allow adoption by individuals, and not just by married couples, precisely because they recognize that any healthy, stable family environment is a better option than the foster care system.
  2. "Gay men should not be allowed to adopt, because they are statistically more likely to be child molesters." Actually, according to a 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, only about 2% of convicted child molesters identify as gay. The confusion here rests in the fact that adult men are more likely to molest male children (after all, they're more likely to have unsupervised access to male children), but there is no established connection between pedophilia and adult male homosexuality.
  3. "Children who grow up in gay households are more likely to turn out to be gay themselves." There is no statistical basis for this belief, but it does stand to reason that adoptees who grow up to become lesbian women and gay men will be less likely to hide or repress their sexual orientation if they were themselves raised by lesbian or gay parents.

* Provided that the couple is married. Rhode Island does not allow joint adoption by unmarried couples, but it does recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
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