Sunday, April 21, 2013
Same-Sex Couples and Adoption: The Path to a More Progressive Society?
For this project, I was most interested in researching a bit more about the current legislation and public policy concerning the rights of same-sex couples to adopt. In my opinion, this is one of the most important issues that affect not only the basic rights of same-sex couples, but also the many children in need of homes and parental guidance.
The Lambda Legal website is a useful tool in understanding the legal rights of same-sex parents in different states. According to the Lambda Legal website, there are around 250,000 children in the US today that are being raised by same-sex couples. According to US Census Bureau data, this number has doubled since 2000. Despite the growing prevalence of same-sex parent-child relationships, the rights of same-sex couples to have families are still very limited, and differ among states. While approximately half of the states in the US allow second-parent adoptions by an unmarried partner of the first legal parent, many state courts have ruled that these types of adoptions are not in accordance with state laws. My home state of Massachusetts is one of the more progressive in terms of these rulings; the state permits same-sex couples to marry, recognizes marriages from other jurisdictions, and has approved of second-parent adoptions. However, in more conservative states such as Texas, none of these rights are guaranteed, and second-parents adoptions have been only been approved in some small courts. Rulings against second-parent adoptions mean that many same-sex spouses or partners remain legally unrecognized as parents, which has detrimental effects on custody wars with ex-partners, ex-spouses and relatives. According to Lambda Legal’s website, their legal victories ensuring legal ties between same-sex parents and their children have had “a profound impact on the emotional and economic stability of LGBT and HIV-affected families.” (http://www.lambdalegal.org/issues/adoption-and-parenting)
One of the reasons that the rights of same-sex parents are still limited can be attributed to the work of anti-gay activists who promulgate the idea that families with a biological mother and father are best for society. This idea stems from their fear and resentment; they are afraid of what will happen when the typical nuclear family model is deconstructed. The link I chose to include in my blog post directs us to a post on the Human Rights Campaign Blog. The article, titled “Myth versus Fact: Anti-Gay Opposition Can’t Get Its Story Straight on Adoption,” discusses the remarks made by John Eastman, the Board Chairman of the National Organization for Marriage. He refers to Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision to adopt as “by far the second-best option,” despite the fact that expert witness David Blankenhorn (in 2010 Perry case) stated in his testimony that “children raised by gay or lesbian adoptive parents did just as well, if not better, than those raised by their biological parents.” (http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/myth-versus-fact-anti-gay-opposition-cant-get-its-story-straight-on-adoptio)
I chose this piece because I believe it illustrates the narrow mindedness of a portion of anti-gay activists. It shows that limitations on basic human rights, such as the right to adopt, often stem from fear and an inability to accept change. Just as traditional marriage has evolved over the years to become less oppressive of women, family models must change as well to become less oppressive same-sex couples. I did not grow up in the conventional nuclear family model. I was raised by my biological mother and father separately, as they divorced when I was in Kindergarten. I do not believe that this put me at any disadvantage during my development; in fact, I believe it taught me valuable lessons of compromise, independence and nontraditional gender roles that I would not have learned if my parents had remained together.
For my Psychology of Women course at Scripps, we learned that children of same-sex parents often times hold less traditional gender norms than those of opposite-sex parents. If these “unconventional” families, same-sex and otherwise, can help move our society towards more progressive values of equality, then they may very well be the answer to our society’s still rigid views of traditional gender roles more generally.