End State Antigay Adoption Policies

State policies banning gay men and lesbians from fostering or adopting children hurt everyone involved.

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A Florida appeals court unanimously decided last month that a state ban on adoption by gay men and lesbians was unconstitutional (Florida Governor Charlie Crist also said that the state will stop enforcing the law). This is a reminder that the struggle for LGBT equality extends far beyond the headline issues of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” passing the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, and achieving marriage rights for gay couples.

Several states still unfairly target gay men and lesbians who want to adopt or foster children.These policies should be overturned. They do nothing to serve our nation’s foster children and have high economic costs. What’s more, evidence shows that gay men and lesbians make just as good parents as their heterosexual counterparts, and the public increasingly supports gay adoption rights.

The Family Equality Council finds that only six states have laws or policies that expressly prohibit discrimination against gay and lesbian adoptions (California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York). The Florida appeals court’s ruling now decreases the number of states that expressly restrict adoption by same-sex couples to three—Michigan, Mississippi, and Nebraska.

Three states (North Dakota, Utah, and Arkansas) currently have laws or policies on their books that may effectively restrict adoption by gay men and women. North Dakota allows social workers to make decisions about potential adoptive parents on the basis of their moral or religious convictions. Utah passed two provisions on adoptions in the last 10 years. The first, in 2000, prohibited unmarried cohabiting individuals from adopting. The second, in 2007, gave preference to married heterosexual couples over single adults in placement decisions. Finally, Arkansas prohibits unmarried, cohabitating individuals from adopting.

These states’ policies make it nearly impossible for gay men and women to adopt children even if the law doesn’t specifically single them out. Fundamentally, these policies are based on nothing more than antigay bias. They shortchange children who need permanent homes and cost states a lot of money.

State policies banning gay men and lesbians from fostering or adopting children hurt everyone involved. State governments bear discrimination’s economic costs, same-sex couples are denied the ability to build a family, and, most importantly, children in need of loving and permanent homes are left in unstable caregiving situations.

During a time of state budget crunches it makes no sense to continue these discriminatory policies. Such laws and regulations are based on animus toward gay men and women, not on sound economic or social science. It’s time to erase them from the books.

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