Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out

Homosexual Adoptions


									    Homosexual Adoption: It Takes More Than Making Babies To Make Families - 4/26/89

The Massachusets Department of Social Services recently removed two young boys in the foster
care of Donald Babets and David Jean, claiming that the gay couple posed a threat to the well-
being of the child. When applying for foster children, the men told the department that they
were gay and all factions admit that the emotional and physical heath of the two boys improved
dramatically under the care of the two men. The sole reason for removing the boys from the care
of the couple was the law passed limiting foster placements with people "whose sexual
orientation presents no threat to the well-being of the child."

The question facing policy makers today is, with the advent of the gay rights movement and the
increasing social concern with equality for people of all sexual orientation, how do we still justify
this unequal treatment? Presently, the legal hurdles facing homosexual couples wishing to adopt
are sizable and quite often insurmountable. If we, as a society, wish to maintain consistency
between our ideals and our legal system, significant progress must be made in the area of
homosexual adoption. Homosexual couples ought to be afforded the same ease of adoption
available to heterosexual couples.

                                       Background Information

It is estimated that nearly 10 percent of the American population is homosexual [Harris&Turner
pp102]; and many of these people have decided to have children and even marry despite their
sexual preference. At least 1/5 of all lesbians and 1/10 of all gay men today have
children.[Riddle pp49] A recent estimate is that 1.5 million lesbians live with their children as a
family [Hoeffer pp536]. From these figures it is apparent that not only is the issue of homosexual
couples having children a theoretical issue, it is a real situation in American society today.

There are many options facing gay/lesbian couples wishing to have children. Many couples
homosexuals have children from previous marriages. For lesbians, there is artificial insemination
and for gay men there is surrogacy. ( The former much more common than the latter.) Adoption
and foster care are also becoming more and more and option for these couples. Because the legal
restraints for the other first three options are more cut-and-dry, and societies role less
instrumental, adoption and foster care will be the only options dealt with in this paper.

The scene is not all gloomy for prospective homosexual adoptees. "In California, an adoption by
an avowedly gay man, a partner in a gay couple, was recently approved by the superior court.

Some foster parent agencies in major cities consciously try to place 'gay identified' teenagers with
gay foster parents."[Curry pp144]

Nevertheless, many complications do exist. If a gay/lesbian couple wishes to adopt a child, only
one parent can become the legal "parent" of the child [Curry pp145], and most courts today won't
award custody to gay/lesbian couples, claiming that the best interests of the children are at stake.
In fact, in custody cases involving lesbians, the mother has only a 15 percent chance of winning
the case, and a gay father has virtually no chance at all. [Maddox pp68]

                                     What is the Goal of Adoption?

An obvious goal of adoption is to maximize the welfare of the children by placing them in a
loving surrounding which facilitates their intellectual, physical, and emotional growth. The
primary interest of the placement agencies is to ensure the welfare of the child. The child should
be in a surrounding that, of course, provides for his/her basic needs of food, shelter and clothing.
A child should have loving supportive parent(s). The home environment should be stable and
the parent(s) should be dependable and consistent.

The role of the family as accepted by most social scientist is one, as defined by Malinowski as
consisting of "(1) a bounded set of people who recognize one an other and who were
distinguishable from other like groups; (2) a definite physical space, a hearth and home; and (3) a
particular set of emotions family love." [Collier, Rosaldo, and Yanagisako pp27] This carries no
reference to the sexual preference of the parents and is certainly feasible within the scope of
homosexual couples. The legal requirements for placement of children should be homes that
fulfill these basic, family responsibilities, regardless of sexual orientation of the parents.

A further goal of adoption is to afford homosexuals the option of parenting. It is a telling fact that
the desire to raise children seem to be one which cuts across all lines, even across lines of sexual
orientation. Homosexual couples desperately want to raise children. As illustrated by Hallem
Tennyson, a writer and broadcaster, "My children are to me the miracle of all time. Ros and
Jonny are straight, but, perhaps because I'm gay, they have a natural identification with the
handicapped of society. I loved bringing them up. My nostalgia now is not for my own
childhood, but for theirs: It was one of the happiest times of my life. " [Maddox pp66]

A lesbians desire to parent is no less strong. The passion with which they fight to maintain
custody of their children and the lengths they will go to to produce children is illustrative of this
fact. As Amy, one half of a lesbian couple says referring to her child, "I love her. I even love her
when she shits on my cowboy boots."[Van Gelder pp214] Unconditional parental love is not one

which is tied up in sexuality. " A mother is a mother. Who cares what she does in bed after she
has gotten up four times during the night? Motherhood desexualizes sexpots as well as
lesbians."[Maddox, pp66]

                            Arguments in Support of Gay and Lesbian Adoption

The American Family Shift

The American family norm has transformed from one of a nuclear family to one of and "alternate"
family lifestyle. While the ideal of the family still permeates the American culture, the reality is
quite different,

In 1977, of all U.S. households, only 16 percent included a father as sole wage earner, a full time
homemaker mother, and at least one child... 30 percent of all households included married
couples who were either childless or had no children living at home.Other households included
single-parent families headed by women (6 percent) or men(.6 percent); unrelated persons living
together (2 percent); people living alone (21 percent); and households with relatives other than
spouses or children (5 percent). [Thorne pp5]

Acceptability for adoption placements should not be based the myth of nuclear family, but on the
reality of the American situation. The minority of children today are brought up in "normal"
families. Death, divorce, the feminist movement, and the high rate of teenage pregnancy have
escalated the number of "alternate" family lifestyles. The average child has a slim chance of being
born into a "normal" family, there is no reason to place the adoptive child in solely "normal"
families either.

It is reasonable to say that no one is dealt a perfect hand in life. All members of society have to
deal with unusual situations in their lives. Coping with the fact that one's parents are
homosexual is not much more difficult than dealing with being illegitimate, and is certainly easier
than dealing with a death in the family. In fact, studies show homosexual families deal more
flexibly and creatively with the difficulties of life. As explained by VanGelder, "Gay families are
also made up of people who are painfully used to having no blessing from church and state-and
therefore become more adept at inventing their own ways to affirm them."[pp150]

A Mother is a Mother, a Father is a Father

The overwhelming conclusion of studies of gay/lesbian parents, is that all things but sexual
orientation being the same, the nurturing potential of the parents is equal. More surprising than

the differences, are the similarities. "Outside of the difference in sexual preference, gay people
tend to be more similar to heterosexuals than previously thought."[Lance, pp335]

With regard to all significant aspects, studies show the parenting capabilities of homosexual
fathers to be equal to those of heterosexual fathers:

Two studies have compared parenting by gay and heterosexual fathers. These studies have found
no differences between the two encouraging autonomy (Scallen, 1982), or dealing with problems
gay fathers, more than heterosexual fathers, demonstrate greater themselves as significantly more
positive in the paternal role (Scallen,1982). [Harris & Turner. pp103]

Similar conclusions have been arrived at in the study of lesbian women: "Within the population
studied, and with the constraints of the measures used, the investigator could not differentiate a
child or group of children as to their mothers sexual object choice." [Smith, K.V.] And, "more
striking than any difference between the two groups of children on acquisition of sex-role
behavior, or between the two groups of mothers on encouragement of sex-role behavior, were the
similarities."[Hoeffer, pp543]

The Advantages of Gay/Lesbian Role Models

Sometimes the placement of children in gay/lesbian households is the optimum setting possible.
For example, many "gay oriented " youth cannot find satisfactory placement in "normal" families
and they suffer from abuse and taunting from other children in group homes and shelters. Also,
the gay/lesbian household is better prepared to deal with the special concerns of a homosexual
youth than a homosexual household and are usually more open and accepting of the situation.

Further, because the gay/lesbian parent understands what detrimental effect societal oppressions
and restrictions can have upon a person, these households tend to be more accepting of a variety
of issues. Teenagers not only feel more comfortable talking to their gay/lesbian parents about
orientational concerns, but they also feel more comfortable with their heterosexual concerns, their
concerns with drugs, abortion, etc. As concluded by Maddox, "Once they know that their parent
has faced the problem of a taboo kind of sexuality, they may fin it easier to bring up their own

Studies show that gay role models actually have a positive effect on persons self-esteem. As
stated in "Relating to Children", "The Morin (1974) study suggests that gay role models have a
positive effect on how persons feel about themselves, and therefore, might have a similar positive
effect on how persons relate to each other." Morin attributes this raise in self esteem with

becoming more comfortable with the part of oneself which is capable of same-sex attraction.
[Riddle, pp52]

Also, the focus in American households is shifting from "mothering" and "fathering" to
"parenting" [Eiduson & Alexander, pp156]. Similarly, the children in gay/lesbian families are
exposed to androgynous behavior instead of sex-typed behavior. Boys have role models who are
strong as well as nurturing and girls learn that women can be strong and independent, while at
the same time tender. Children learn to isolate positive traits for sex rather than cling to sex-
stereotyped roles. "Children growing up around openly self-identified gay adults have the
opportunity to observe a mode of interpersonal relating which focuses on the quality of the
relationship rather than on the sex of the partner or the social role to be played."[Riddle pp53]

These differences in role modeling is reflected in these children's treatment of their peers. The
Reiss study in 1961 states that gay role models help decrease young boys' "queer baiting". The
discriminatory practice of making fun of feminine behavior. Gay role models also help to
encourage male-male affection and remove stigma from "sissy" behavior. [Riddle, pp52] The
Oakley study of 1972 concludes that lesbian role models help girls become more comfortable
shedding the repressed sexual standards of the past. Girls learn to define for themselves their
sexual ethics and standards in thoughtful, reflective manner. [Riddle, pp52]

                                     Objections to a Reformed Policy

The State has a Burden to Protect these Children

Some objectors to gay/lesbian adoption claim as their defense the fact that the state has a
responsibility to protect these children. While it is true that the state is required to protect
potential adoptive/foster children, and that the state must take caution not to place these children
in an environment that is harmful to their well-being, underlying this defence is the biased
assumption that homosexuality is bad and children should be protected from it. Maddox
soundly defeats this position, "No evidence has turned up that the children of homosexual are
more mixed up, disturbed, or for that matter, homosexual, than the children of divorced parents
in general. Second generation homosexuals are rare."[Maddox, pp68]

Another assumption is that gay/lesbian couples are unstable and unable to provide a constant
household.. Granted, in some homosexual communities, monogamy is not the norm; but many
gay/lesbians have "coupled" together for decades.(In mainly straight communities monogamy is
not the norm) These monogamous couples are the people looking to adopt children. Children in
gay/lesbian homes would be no more susceptible to a breakup that in a heterosexual home.

Divorce/breakup is a factor inherent in relationships, not in solely homosexual relationships.
Presumably, any perspective adoptive family would be examined for stability of the relationship
prior to adoption anyway.

One last objection is that the state ought to ensure that the children have proper role models. As
shown from many different angles by the studies above, gay/lesbian couples not only provide
open, loving households, but they proved androgynous role models which incorporate both male
and female character traits. Also, just because both parents are same-sexed doesn't mean that
children will be isolated from all contact with other-sexed role models. There will always be
teacher, priests, and other family members to serve these functions. Nungesser's study reports
that 80 percent of children of lesbians have male role models in their lives. [Nungesser, pp184]

In actuality, with the states present policy of not allowing homosexual adoption it is not fulfilling
its responsibility to the children. Instead of putting hard-to-place children (minorities,
handicapped, "problem", and older children) in loving homes that desperately want them, they
are holding the children in state institutions which are clearly inadequate in fulfilling even the
most lenient definition of family life. A good example is the well-known case of Rev, John
Kuiper. In 1979 the homosexual minister from New York who was granted custody of a thirteen-
year-old boy who had been shunted from institution to institution all his life and was delighted to
be finally placed in a home.

It Will Make These Children Homosexual

Underlying this objection is another prejudiced assumption: that homosexuality is bad and
undesirable. Despite the fact that it would not be harmful in any way to society or to the children
if there were an environmental factor which would make them "turn out gay" from living in a
gay/lesbian household, it is not a factor to worry about. It is counter-intuitive to reason that gay
parents would produce only gay children when it is obvious that the vast majority of
homosexuals grew out of heterosexual families. As "Doug" a gay father says, "The first thing
children do without your permission is to pick their sex, and probably the second thing is to pick
their sexual preference."[Van Gelder, pp214]

Clinical data almost universally supports the conclusion that the rate of homosexuality among
children of gay/lesbian couples is no higher than among heterosexual couples. "Parents' sexual
preference appears to have no negative effect on children(Bell, 1973), and children of gays are no
more likely than other children to have emotional problems, adopt opposite sex-typed behaviors,
or become gay themselves(Kirkpatrick, Roy, and Smith, 1976)." [Riddle, pp49]


In 1976, the American Psychological Association declared that, "'the sex, gender identity or
sexual orientation of natural or prospective adoptive or foster parents should not be the sole or
primary variable considered in custody or placement cases'"[Morin,S.F. & Schultz,S.J. pp138] The
vast majority of clinical studies support the fact the gay/lesbian parents are equally capable to
provide a loving, nurturing environment for the upbringing of children.

It's time that the legal community make equal strides with the APA and stop denying conclusive
clinical evidence in support of gay/lesbian adoptions and foster homes. Three steps suggested by
Donna Hitchens, J.D. are: (1) lawyers and judges should be educated to the realities of
homosexuality (This country cannot be ruled by myth alone, (2) increases in social science
research directed at combatting societies prejudices and homosexual's fears, (3) development of
interdisciplinary support systems to aid gays and lesbians in their legal battles.

It is true that gay and lesbian couples desire to raise children, it is equally true that we have no
more clinical evidence on which to base our prejudiced laws . We have made great strides in gay
equality over the past few decades, but as the ACLU definitively states, it is "imperative for the
complete legal equality of lesbians and gay men." We must repeal these biassed and uninformed
rulings and allow for complete equality of all American families.


To top