By Jeffrey Hartinger
Originally published on Advocate.com December 18 2013 2:50 PM ET
A few weeks ago, I attended an LGBT adoption event in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The mixer, which was hosted by the Family Equality Council, helped open my eyes to some shocking information: There are actually gay guys my age who are in long-term relationships, and some of them are actually thinking about adoption. Wait, nobody wants to sleep around anymore?
A majority of my time in New York City is spent trying to track down what bar I left my credit card at, or trying to trick someone into dating me, so it was great to see successful relationships and growing families firsthand.
It appears that many gay and lesbian Millennial couples already have children or are beginning to think about the process. Over the next few years, many more will begin to settle down, similar to our straight counterparts. Well, except that our kids will be a little better dressed.
But, in all seriousness, there is shocking news when it comes to adoption and how it impacts the LGBT community. I’ll give you a small hint: we’re not equal.
As a 24-year-old who has spent my college and post-grad years fighting for acceptance and marriage equality, it seemed as if adoption equality was something that I never really considered. It certainly wasn’t something that I advocated for while I was getting my footing as an activist, unless it was lumped with LGBT rights as a whole.
Sure, I always knew that I wanted children, but it was something that was always down the line.
Now that I am navigating the waters of becoming a full-fledged adult, I am more aware of other concerns, such as adoption, workplace protections and access to medical care, just to name a few. I understand that equality goes far beyond the legality of same-sex marriage. Some even argue that marriage equality is just the beginning and that we have a long way to go as a nation.
As Millennials, we need to use the momentum that we’ve been building over the past few years as leverage. Whether you want children or not, it’s important that we use our clout to impact public opinion and influence policymakers in order to ensure full equality.
I’m not saying that humans are inherently selfish, but many people often strive for change when it impacts them directly. Do you want to wait to fight for adoption equality when you’re 35 years old and ready to start a family, or would you rather get a jump on the issues when you have time to plan for your future? As adoption laws vary by state, and federal laws impacting the LGBT community seem to be changing weekly, it’s important to safeguard your future so that your dreams can be achieved. Use your selfish Millennial motivation to impact society at large.
Because all Millennials care about is Buzzfeed, Instagram and finding a job after college, right?
Per usual, Americans are misguided on what exactly is going on. When Mitt Romney was running for President, WBTV News in Charlotte, North Carolina, interviewed him about adoption and how it impacts the LGBT community. When asked about the topic, he responded:
"That’s a position that’s been decided by most of the state legislatures, so I simply acknowledge the fact that gay adoption is legal in all of the states but one."
Sadly, that’s not that case. According to the Human Rights Campaign, same-sex couples are unable to adopt in a handful of states, including North Carolina (where the Romney interview took place), Ohio, and Utah. Further, second-parent adoption is only legal in around half of the U.S.
In response to this flub, HRC vice President, Fred Sainz, responded by putting this issue into perspective.
"Every year, there are hundreds of thousands of kids who desperately need their forever family. LGBT individuals and families are perfectly qualified to provide that loving home," Sainz said. "Leading medical, mental health and child welfare organizations have said time and again that sexual orientation and gender identity have absolutely nothing to do with the ability to be a parent to a child in need of a loving home. Governor Romney should clarify his muddled position and embrace adoption by loving and committed gay and lesbian parents."
After the mixer that night in Brooklyn, I walked to the subway and made my way back to Manhattan. I laughed because I must have been the only single person at the party, in addition to the only person without a child.
Later that night, while at a bar in Chelsea, I was introduced to a guy and we began to chat about the event. Most guys my age don’t seem that engaged when talking about adoption, but he seemed interested. He seemed like he cared. Oh, and he was good looking.
“That event sounds cool. Can you tell me more?” He asked quietly.
I smiled and told him more. He seemed like another guy who wanted kids, but not at this point in his life. And for that, I was grateful — especially after he asked for my number.
JEFFREY HARTINGER is a writer and lives in New York City. Visit his website or follow him @BuffaloGuyInNYC.