I am starting a new series called “Reasons why” where we talk about controversial topics, both ongoing and in the news. I want these posts to be a place where both sides of an argument are presented with as little bias and as much factual information as possible. In the end, I will present my opinion and why I feel that way. I encourage you to share how you feel and any additional resources you might have in the comments. Today we will be discussing same-sex parent adoption.
I also want to encourage you to go into these with an open mind, ready to learn, and ready to question your current stance. Whether or not you think you are on the “right” side, we can all learn by understanding the “other sides” reasoning and thought process. You may not change your mind, that is fine, my goal here is not to get everyone to see the way I do. I simply want a place to share my thoughts, and give as much information as possible to those who are willing to learn.
As always I implore you to do your own research as I am only one person. All sources are listed at the end of the article. Be sure to follow me on Instagram for more conversation and to vote on the topic of the next post.
A brief history of adoption in the United States
Prior to 1851 adoption practices were largely motivated by the needs of adults rather than ensuring the welfare of the child. For example: children were adopted by childless parents who needed an heir or as workers for the household. This was common practice up until the Massachusets Adoption of Children Act was passed in 1851. This changed the motivations behind adoption to be the care and welfare of the children, making it so that judges were appointing caregivers based on their ability to care for and provide for the child.
It wasn’t until 1912 that the federal government took some responsibility and formed the US Children’s Bureau under the Department of Labor agency and appointed Julia Lathrop as chief, making her America’s first woman to head a federal agency. The USCB was adamant to “educate the public about the importance of regulating adoption” and “encouraged reforms in state adoption laws, disseminated original research, and sponsored conferences on child placement issues and priorities.” Today the USCB is located in the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families.
“Baby farming” became popular in the 1920s, which were essentially unregulated, overpriced, abusive daycares for single women who needed child-care. Baby farms would also take children from mothers who could no longer support them and sell them to people at outrageous prices. The practice of baby farming eventually lead to more political support for regulations on child welfare.
The Child Welfare League of America was largely responsible for creating, regulating, and upholding these regulations. They would work hand in hand with the USCB to get more widespread regulations in place across the country.
Throughout the majority of the 20th century the practice of “matching” was popular in the majority of adoptions. “Matching required that adoptive parents be married heterosexual couples who looked, felt, and behaved as if they had, by themselves, conceived other people’s children.” The purpose behind matching was to essentially create an environment that made it seem like the child was biological. This, of course, excluded interracial and international adoption as well as adoptions between religions. Many defend matching, to this day, especially in regards to the LGBT community and in regards to race, insisting children be adopted only within their own race, by heterosexual parents.
In 1948 the first interracial adoption took place in Minnesota where a black child was adopted by two white parents. But it wasn’t until 1953-1958 that there was any effort towards specifically getting black children adopted. This of course challenged the idea of “matching” for the first time.
Matching was again challenged in 1958 through 1967 with the Indian Adoption Project, which sought to place Native American children from the reservations in the West in the homes of white parents out East. The intentions of the project were to fight racial prejudices within adoption and hopefully open up more people to the idea of interracial adoption.
However, in the late ’60s and early ’70s the project was protested by Native American’s and their allies for being just another way the American people have tried to override and eradicate the Native people. It was said that these children were essential to the survival of the future of these tribes and their culture and that this was just another way to assimilate the Native American’s into America’s society, which would eventually erase Native culture forever. This lead to The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 which makes it almost impossible for children of Native descent to be adopted by anyone who does not have tribal affiliation. This remains in place today and is a source of controversy between civil rights and children’s advocates.
Adoption in the LGBT+ community
There is very little information on the history of adoption within the LGBT+ community prior to the 1970s. The most you hear of LGBT+ peoples before that were when they lost custody of their children for “coming out” as LGBT+. It wasn’t until the 70s that they were allowed, in a few cases, to maintain custody of their child, but with the rules that they were not allowed to live with a same-sex partner OR “engage in homosexual activities.”
For a long time the conversation was centered around LGBT+ parents wanting to continue parental custody over a child after a divorce in which their partner was different sex and the child was biologically theirs. The first single father who was “out” as a gay man to legally adopt a child took place in California in 1968.
1973: A Colorado court issues the country’s first known opinion involving a transgender parent, upholding his right to retain child custody. And the following year in New Jersey a judge ruled that a father’s sexual orientation is not in itself a reason to deny him child visitation, the first time a U.S. court has acknowledged the constitutional rights of gay fathers.
It wasn’t until 1976 that Washington, D.C. became the first jurisdiction to prohibit judges from making custody decisions based solely on sexual orientation. Two years later the Supreme Court ruled the country’s first grant of custody to a lesbian couple.
A year after that, in 1979, California is the first state to allow a same-sex couple to adopt jointly. This wasn’t established anywhere statewide until 1997, when New Jersey ruled that same-sex couples were allowed to file for adoption together; and it wasn’t until 2010 that the last state, Florida, overturned legislation opposing joint custody for same-sex couples. However, due to many states still having laws that prohibited single parents from adopting as well as laws that prohibited same-sex marriage, many couples wouldn’t be allowed to adopt until 2015 when the federal government upheld same-sex marriage across the country.
All this being said, LGBT+ adoption is still very new, though not for lack of trying or desire to have a family. Same-sex couples have long been creating families via unofficial surrogacy and at-home artificial insemination. Sexuality, in no way, influences the desire to have a family.
When it comes to same-sex parent adoption it is important to understand that very few laws exist that strictly and explicitly prohibit LGBT+ rights. What mostly predominantly happens is the lack of laws in place prohibiting discrimination towards the LGBT+ community. What this means is a state might not have a law that says “gay people can’t adopt children” but won’t have any laws stating that “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” can be protected from discrimination. Meaning that adoption agencies are free to legally discriminate against LGBT+ partners explicitly for being LGBT.
In 2016 a federal regulation declared that sexual orientation and gender identity were protected classes for discrimination under the federal government. Meaning that businesses and institutions were federally banned from discrimination against someone solely based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot discriminate based on skin color or religion.
This is the closest the LGBT+ community has to federal protection with adoption rights.
In 2019 the Trump administration proposed to roll back that legislation, and no longer protect sexual orientation and gender identity as a basis of discrimination. This was proposed on the basis that religious-based institutions were being forced to allow LGBT+ members even if it went against their religious beliefs, which was an infringement on their religious rights.
As it stands there are very few policies protecting the LGBT+ community at a federal level and it is mostly up-to individual states on how they interpret legislation and how they define sexual orientation. There is zero federal legislation explicitly allowing LGBT+ members to adopt.
In the case of adoption, currently, there are 24 states that have laws explicitly prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. There are 22 states (and 3 territories) that have zero laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The states of Montana, Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio have laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation only and does not extend to gender identity.
See the map here for more details on which states have which laws. This website is also a useful resource for all different types of anti-discrimination laws across the country in regards to LGBT+.
However, in terms of state-licensed welfare agencies, there are currently 11 states which allow for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity within religious institutions where LGBT+ practices conflict with religious beliefs. These states are North and South Dakota, Michigan, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina, and Alabama.
Should same-sex parent adoption be allowed? Gay rights versus religious freedom.
I know that was a lot of information maybe it wasn’t interesting, but it is important to understand where the law currently stands on the issue. We will now move on to how society stands, and what their case is.
The case for same-sex parent adoption
Those that are in favor of same-sex parent adoption are, those within the LGBT+ community and their allies. The argument being that same-sex parents are equally as willing and able to raise children as “traditional” parents are.
They believe they are able to love their children the same and provide a safe and nurturing environment. There have been many studies done that conclude that same-sex parenting is in no way detrimental to a child. And predict that these children will grow up to be the same as “traditionally raised” children.
While the intent is the same as traditional parenting, the results of being raised by same-sex parents are still unknown. The majority of children that have been adopted by same-sex couples are STILL children, so whether or not their childhoods prove detrimental to their success in adulthood is still yet to be seen. The few adults who have been raised by LGBT parents claim that their parents sexuality had little to no effect on how they were raised.
Adoption is usually the easiest and sometimes the only way for LGBT+ couples to have a family. Which means if you exclude LGBT+ parents, you would be excluding thousands of potential children a loving home. It has been shown that LGBT+ couples are 4 times as likely to adopt than heterosexual couples.
Researchers in the Netherlands found that same-sex couples are often wealthier, older and more educated than the typical different-sex couple. Which argues the point that these children are being set up for success in ways that traditionally raised children are not. Adoption is expensive and candidates have to prove their ability by showing they have the money, housing, and stability to be good caregivers.
Same-sex parents need a certain amount of wealth to both afford adoption which means that children raised by same-sex parents are more likely to succeed since, “Research shows that socio-economic status positively influences the outcome of children.”
It is also argued that children raised by same-sex parents are raised knowing their parents chose to have them and are much more likely to be in a stable environment than children who are being raised by parents who “accidentally” had a kid. Both children are equally as loved, but one set of parents were financially stable and prepared to have a child, therefore starting “ahead” of the other family.
The case against same-sex parent adoption
Those that are opposed to same-sex parents largely base their opinion on their faith. While not all do, we will first start with those that do.
In most cases, it’s not that LGBT parents are inherently bad that prevents agencies from allowing them to adopt. It’s simply the fact that homosexuality doesn’t align with their faith and therefore removes same-sex parents from eligibility. For example: Catholic agencies intend to give children to families who align with their own Catholic beliefs. Meaning parents of different faiths could also be rejected. For example, Jewish parents with the intent to raise a Jewish child could be rejected because they aren’t Catholic.
It comes down to religious based agencies and their right to refuse any couple that does not align with their religious beliefs, not explicitly highlighting same-sex couples. They feel they their right to freedom of relgion is being infringed upon due to new laws prohibiting LGBT discrimination. Due to new anti-discrimination laws, many religious based adoption agencies have been forced to choose between closing their doors or betraying their faith by catering to LGBT parents.
Here comes into question what needs more governmental protection? The right of religion? or the civil rights of LGBT+ persons? Whose freedoms does the government need to protect more?
In addition, there are those that argue that a child needs both a mother AND a father figure to succeed. There is an argument claiming that “parenting” doesn’t exist and there is only ‘mothering’ and ‘fathering’. It claims that men and women each bring a different perspective to the table and children need both perspectives. If a child is raised by a lesbian couple, then the child will only have the perspective of women, which can be detrimental to navigating their place in society. When it comes to parenting, each sex has a certain parenting gift and children need both sets for optimal development.
What I think
While doing research for this post I tried my best to keep an open mind, so that I could truly understand each side and the motivations behind each stance. To be honest I almost wrote this section first because I thought I knew my stance and knew what I was going to say. However, I ended up writing it last because I wanted to get the facts straight before I put my opinion out there and now I am struggling with what to say.
I don’t agree that same-sex parents are fundamentally bad parents, nor do I believe that a child needs both sexes in the household in order to be successful. I do think it is important for children to be exposed to all types of people, all genders, sexualities, races, and religion in order to be the most educated they can be. I believe this will set them up to be able to think freely for themselves and make decisions based on their own knowledge instead of what their parents or teachers might tell them.
Where I have a hard time is the religious aspect, I don’t feel that it is right to force a religious person or institution to do something that inherently goes against their belief. It just comes down to their belief being wrong, that I think is the root of the problem. I have discussed this in another blog post linked here where I talk about being a Christian and my thoughts on being “gay” as being a sin. I have recently had my stance challenged since writing that post, but for the most part what I said still stands.
I cannot speak for any other religions, but I firmly believe that if my Jesus was standing in front of me with an orphaned child and told me I had to choose between no parents or gay parents for this child. If I chose no parents, that he would be disappointed in me. I know it is more complex than that, since of course in their mind it is the decision between Gay parents and Straight parents, and the child will surely end up with straight parents, right?
Unfortunately not, the sheer amount of children currently in foster care or waiting to be adopted is far beyond the amount of parents willing to adopt. Why should we take away from an already small list of willing parents?
I also beg the question “if these religious organization won’t allow same-sex parents to adopt children on the basis of it violating their religion will they allow divorcees to adopt?” People get remarried, want to have kids, but divorce is a sin and against their religion, specifically the Catholic faith is heavily against it. What about people who have had sex before marriage? Or those who have bad relationships with their parents, those that actively hate and disrespect their own parents (4th commandment).
Or is it only because, with homosexuality, you can see the sin being committed. The rest of these things, as with most sins, happen behind closed doors so it doesn’t really matter if you get a divorce, or are abusive to your spouse, cheat on them, lie to them, or run away with the freaking milk-man, all while your children watch, because it’s not homosexuality therefore you can still be a good parent.
In the end, I firmly believe same-sex parenting can be as good or as bad as different-sex parenting, because it isn’t your sexual identity that makes you a good or a bad parent. I think all potential parents who are good candidates should be allowed to adopt, sexual identity should have nothing to do with the process.
As always I want to remind you it is important to do your own due diligence and research everything for yourself. I will list all my sources here with links to the pages so that you may read them and form your own opinion. I highly encourage you to have an open mind when receiving new information, you may not change your opinion, but it will allow you the compassion and understanding to see it from a different point of view.
The Adoption History Project by the University of Oregon – Click here
A Very Brief History of LGBT parenting by Family Equality- Click here
Milestones in LGBT Parenting History by mombian.com- Click here
Adoption Groups Could Turn Away L.G.B.T. Families Under Proposed Rule by The New York Times- Click here
Foster and Adoption Laws by LGBT Movement Advancement Project- Click here
In good faith? U.S. legal battle over gay adoption intensifies by Reuters- Click here
Adoption agency should be able to reject gay couples, Trump administration argues by NBC News- Click here
Kid’s Don’t need two parents, they need a mom and a day by The Daily Signal- Click here
Let me know what you think in the comments. I am eager to hear what you have to say, do we agree? Do you disagree? Did I leave something important out you want known? Let’s talk!
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