Same-sex couples wishing to adopt often face uneven legal challenges. While a person's sexual orientation does not change his or her desire to raise a family, laws and policies concerning same-sex adoption have yet to be uniformly applied across all states. Proponents argue that adoption fulfills the desire to form a family unit, as well as provides stable homes to thousands of children who are left without parents each year. Opponents, however, argue that the traditional nuclear family - one including both a man and a woman - is more ideal for raising kids. This section explores issues facing same-sex couples wishing to adopt, including a primer on types of adoption, legal issues for gay and lesbian adoption, and life after adoption. Choose from the list of titles below to learn more.
When a heterosexual couple has a child both parents are automatically considered the child's "legal parents." Legal parents have the right to live with the child, make decisions about their education, well being, and health. Even if the couple divorces both parents remain "legal parents." The treatment of children born or adopted into same-sex relationships varies greatly depending on the state and rules are currently in a state of rapid change.
Decisions by the Supreme Court and other courts in recent years have tended to support the equal application of family laws to same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage has been made available in every state and courts have clearly stated that treating same-sex couples differently from heterosexual couples is a violation of the Constitution's Equal Protection clause. However, in some states resistance to same-sex rights has been impassioned and vocal, especially where children are involved and new legislation and legal battles seem likely, particularly where adoption and legal rights involving children are implicated.
The Second Parent
In many states only one parent in a same-sex couple may be acknowledged as the legal parent of a child. In these situations it can be useful for the other parent to petition to adopt the child as a "second parent." This can be particularly important if the couple subsequently divorce. Without status as a legal parent the partner who does not hold legal rights over the child might have difficulty requesting visitation or having a voice in important decisions in the child's life, though some states take the position that a second parent has no rights over the child regardless. Other courts treat a second parent as "de facto parents" with many of the same rights as a legal parent.
Issues and Concerns
In addition to the legal complications surrounding adoption, children, and same-sex relationships; there are a number of social issues and concerns that are frequently discussed. This section includes discussions about many of these topics.
Opponents of same-sex adoption and child custody raise concerns that children will be raised to become homosexual, that they may suffer social repercussions from their unconventional family, and that children may be exposed to sexual abuse. Studies have shown that many of these concerns are ill-founded. Children raised in same-sex households have the same incidence of homosexuality as those in heterosexual homes, studies show that children may experience teasing but that it does not have an appreciable impact on self-esteem, and child abuse statistics show that most abuse has taken place in households that are ostensibly heterosexual.